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The Benefits Of Organic Growing For Soil Health & The Environment

The Benefits Of Organic Growing For Soil Health & The Environment

Our top soil represents such a small fraction of our planet, yet we rely on it to sustain our life and the lives of future generations. The earths crust has a layer of healthy soil which is just 10-30cm deep.

The quality of soil dictates the quality of the plants we grow and eat, which in turn dictates our health and wellbeing. It is perhaps our most important resource.

Healthy soil has a healthy level of nutrients. These nutrients are made up of minerals from the earth, and also from dead plants and animals. Plants can’t use these nutrients directly, they have to be broken down into a useable form by the insects and organisms which live in the soil. In return plants help soil organisms by secreting sugars and enzymes back into the soil. An example of nature in it’s perfect balance.

Since the end of the world wars industry has found new uses for chemicals created originally for our defence. These chemicals have found alternative uses as pesticides and herbicides. Marketed as a farmers best friend, they have long term negative consequences for the quality and natural balance of healthy soil. Soil nutrients have declined in the last 60 years between 30 to 60%. In turn this also negatively affects our health.

Organic farming on the other hand seeks to improve the quality of soil, for both the present and the future. It’s a much healthier and more sustainable route to growing healthy plants. Healthy plants make healthy people and this is largely due to quality of soil used to grow the plants.

Organic Farming Improves Soil Health

Organic farming contributes to improved soil health in a number of ways:

No chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

This means that the soil has the ability to maintain it’s natural balance of minerals in the soil, rather than becoming rich in nitrates as is often the case in chemical farming which alters the natural mineral balance of the soil and reduces soil fertility over time. Organic farming on the other hand increases soil fertility over time.

Compost is added to the soil

Compost is added to the soil and this adds ‘life’ to the soil. Compost contains ‘organic matter’ ie. derived from living things (usually plant life). Compost then helps the soils structure (it can boost moisture in dryer soils, and improve drainage in heavy/wet/clay soils). It can also be used as a mulch to help maintain water in summer, protect roots in winter and reduce weed growth). Using compost provides nutrients to the soil and to the plants. This is of huge importance in organic farming as the soil is being improved, rather than depleted.

One of the most important factors is that compost add ‘humus’ to the soil. Humus is the term used to describe ‘leaf litter’ - leaves, twigs and other plant material, which has decomposed and returned to it’s most basic chemical elements. These chemical elements are in fact the important nutrients that the soil and plants rely on for their life. Humus is a thick black or brown substance and is full of nutrients. Microbes, nematodes and earthworms bring more life to the humus by releasing the nutrients locked up in the humus. The earthworms eat the humus and break it down into smaller pieces, allowing the microbes and nematodes to feed on it and release the nutrients. Humus contains nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, magnesium and potassium which are all essential for healthy soils and healthy plants.

The presence of humus in soil makes the soil more fertile and provides nutrition to all life. Healthier soil in turn can defend itself better against pests.

This process on a continual basis also increases top soil over time.

Supports The Soils Eco System

Soil has it’s own natural eco system and organic farming supports rather than kills this. This eco system comprises the microbes and nematodes essential for soil quality. They inoculate the soil with enzymes and minerals that support healthy plant growth. Plants then secrete enzymes and sugars back into the soil to support the soils microbes.

Crop Rotation

The practice of crop rotation is used in organic farming, different crops are planted each year. This ensures the soil doesn’t become depleted in nutrients, prevents soil erosion and avoids pests and diseases associated with monoculture farming.

Rest periods

Organic farms allow periodical ‘resting’ of fields to allow nutrients to be returned to the soil. This is done by planting a crop that adds nutrients to the soil rather than taking from it. One example is clover. This is known as ‘planting a ley’.


Farms that grow many crops increase local biodiversity and this in turn improves soil. Diverse plant and microbial communities contribute to soil health by hosting differing species of microbes, more variety of nutrients and this in turn makes healthier soil

Resistance to Environmental Stressors

Because organic farming means healthier soil that is better draining, absorbs and holds water better, should drought or flooding be an issue the soil is better able to protect itself. Thus environmental stressors and less of a problem for organic farm soils.

Why Go Organic
Reasons to Buy Organic

About the Author

Kylie Williams is a Co-Director of Therapy Organics, and also a Bowen Technique Therapist. She is passionate about natural medicine to optimise health.

See more Articles by Kylie

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