David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured in documentary films, network, and cable news, and on a wide variety of TV and radio programs, including NOVA, PBS NewsHour, Fox and Friends, and All Things Considered.
Anne Biklé is an author and biologist who researches and writes about connections between people, health, and the environment. Her expertise is in sharing scientific information about the inner workings of the human body with audiences so people better understand the factors affecting their health. Areas of interest include human and plant microbiome science, cell and molecular biology, soil science, immunology, agronomy, nutrition, and public health. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and radio and documentary films.
A new way of farming is at the heart of a movement to restore health to the soil from which our food comes. Farmers who adopt the practices of no-till planting, cover cropping, and diverse crop rotations feed soil life. And a living soil, in turn yields crops that have less pesticide residue and more desirable flavor and nutritional profiles. From new microbiome science we know that living soils are healthy soils. And so a better metric for crop quality is not a frame of organic versus conventional, but practices that boost and sustain soil health for all forms of agriculture. This is good for farmers,
consumers, and the planet.
A similar situation exists in the realm of human health. Our diet, for better and worse, is what nourishes our gut microbiome. This parallel makes gut health analogous to soil health. And just as a plant’s root microbiome collects and shares intelligence based on the nutrients in the soil, much the same is true of our gut microbiome. This ceaseless process, it turns out, forms the foundation of health and well-being in plants and people. The upshot? The respective microbiomes of both people and crops can function as a built-in health plan—so long as they are well-nourished. And this means it is time to change medical and agricultural practices as well as the American diet so they work better with this hidden half of nature.
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