1. Agriculture World

Farms That Use Soil-Friendly Practices Produce Healthy Food

A recent study published in the journal PeerJ in January examines how regenerative farming strategies, such as minimising ploughing, using cover crops, and planting a variety of crops, affect the nutritional value of food.

Shivam Dwivedi
Healthy Food
Healthy Food

Everyone is aware that eating fruits and vegetables is beneficial to one's health. However, nowadays, supermarkets provide a bewildering assortment of choices: organic, conventional, CSAs, and local agriculture. Which ones are the most beneficial to your health?

A recent study published in the journal PeerJ in January examines how regenerative farming strategies, such as minimizing ploughing, using cover crops, and planting a variety of crops, affect the nutritional value of food.

Findings of Study

The early investigation, which comprised 10 farms across the United States, found that crops grown on soil-friendly farms for at least five years had a richer nutritional profile than crops cultivated on conventional farms nearby. Certain minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals that are beneficial to human health increased as a result of the study.

"We couldn't find studies that directly related to how soil health affects what gets into crops," said lead author David Montgomery, a UW Earth and space sciences professor. "So we carried out the experiment that we wished existed."

To conduct an experiment, the authors worked with farmers who practiced regenerative farming practices. All of the participating farms, mostly in the Midwest and the Eastern United States, agreed to grow one acre of a test crop – peas, sorghum, corn, or soybeans – for comparison with the same crop grown on a neighbouring farm using conventional farming.

In the summer of 2019, co-author Ray Archuleta, a retired soil conservation scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), visited all of the farms and sampled their soil. Farmers then sent samples of their crops in for analysis.

"The goal was to get some direct comparisons where you controlled for key variables: the crop is the same, the climate is the same, the weather is the same because they're right next to each other, the soil is the same in terms of soil type, but it's been farmed quite differently for at least five years," Montgomery explained.

According to the findings of the new study, farms that practice regenerative agriculture have healthier soils, as measured by organic matter, or carbon, content and a standard test.

"What we're seeing is that regeneratively farmed soils have twice as much carbon in their topsoil and a threefold increase in soil health score," Montgomery said. Crop samples were analyzed in laboratories at the UW, Oregon State University and Iowa State University.

Food grown using regenerative practises contained more magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc on average; more vitamins, including B1, B12, C, E, and K; and more phytochemicals, which are not typically tracked for food but have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve human health.

Crops grown in regenerative farms also had lower levels of elements that are generally harmful to human health, such as sodium, cadmium, and nickel, when compared to conventionally grown neighbours.

Organic farms do not use chemical pesticides, but their other farming practises may differ, such as whether they grow a variety of crops or till the soil to control weeds. According to the findings of a previous review study published in the fall by Montgomery and Bikle, organic crops have higher levels of beneficial phytochemicals than crops grown on conventional farms. in general.

The researchers believe the key is in soil biology, specifically microbes, and fungi that are part of the soil ecosystem because these organisms, directly and indirectly, help boost beneficial compounds in crops.

(Source: University of Washington)

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