RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A free 60-minute documentary about soil health is available for anyone to view online.
The Soil Health Institute released “Living Soil” on Nov. 15. It describes the history and significance of the soil health movement.
“Never have I seen, among farmers, such a broad quest for (soil health) knowledge as I’m seeing now,” said Barry Fisher, soil health team leader at Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The documentary begins with historical images of the Dust Bowl, showing how important soil has always been to American farmers.
It transitions to telling the stories of urban and rural farmers from across the country.
It also tells the stories of scientists and policymakers involved in soil health.
Dan DeSutter, who farms 4,5000 acres near Attica, Indiana, is featured in the film.
“Most of the problems that plague modern agriculture are really the result of a lack of diversity,” DeSutter said.
“Nature abhors a monocrop. Nowhere in nature do you see a monocrop. We’re imposing our will on her over time, and her response is disease-resistant bugs and weeds. When we start to bring the diversity back it’s incredible how quickly these problems go away.”
The good news, he said, is that there are many win-win situations when you take care of soil health.
“When we quit tilling, when we build our organic matter, our production goes up, our costs go down. We clean up the rivers, lakes, oceans. We keep these off-site pollution problems from happening. All these things come together — those are the reasons why we want to do it.”
His personal goal is to see organic matter levels be what they were before men disturbed the soils.
According to the documentary, soils support 95 percent of all food production.
“They filter our water,” the documentary states. “They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre.
“Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive. The societal and environmental costs of soil loss and degradation in the United States alone are now estimated to be as high as $85 billion every single year.
“Like any relationship, our living soil needs our tenderness. It’s time we changed everything we thought we knew about soil. Let’s make this the century of living soil.”