By Dr Rod Everett, an ecologist and researcher in organic and permaculture systems, Rod runs Backsbottom farm organically, raising sheep and 200 heritage apple varieties.

A healthy soil contains a multitude of living organisms including fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods and earthworms. This food web creates a soil structure that holds and releases nutrients to the plants when they need them. A good soil is generally of dark colour indicating a high level of organic matter. Looking closely at the soil it looks like a lot of little balls stuck together making up each particle. There are many spaces between these soil clusters that allow in air and water. The roots of your food plants cooperate with beneficial fungi and bacteria so they can take up important minerals and nutrients. These microbial actions help the plants gain around 85% of their nutrients. These are essential for your health and help give you a nutrient-rich food. Look at the roots of a plant in a healthy soil and you can see lots of soil particles sticking to small hair-like roots.

The majority of our food plants and the soil are treated with a complex mixture of pesticide, fungicides and herbicides (The average potato is sprayed 16 times), as well as artificial NPK fertilizers. The combination of these, plus repeated cultivation and exposure to erosion from wind and sun has led to a reduction in nutrients in food plants. Today, you need to consume four to five times as many vegetables to obtain the same amount of minerals and trace elements as available in those same foods in 1940.These lower nutrient density foods reduce the diversity of our human gut microbiome, making us prone to many of our modern diseases such as obesity, leaky gut syndrome, diabetes and asthma.

Want to find out more about the gut microbiome? Check out some of Dr Zach Bush’s lectures at

Come back next week for part two…

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