The focus of my research is “Creating Health from the Soil Up”.
Sustainable agriculture encompasses many aspects of raising food, fiber and fuel products. We must care take our soils, water and air while monitoring impacts of methods of production on agricultural workers and consumers. Ideally, we as a global community should be able to produce high quality, abundant agricultural products which enable humans and animals to thrive from generation to generation without damaging our environment. I felt compelled to study the problems in detail in a university setting and build on the work of other researchers in discovering solutions. Research done with appropriate controls and approved methodology is important for broad acceptance.
My research focuses on bridging an understanding from soil health, through plant health to animal and human health. I have been encouraged by various professors and agriculture professionals around our country and the globe who are excited about my research of comparing sustainable organic/biological cultivation systems to conventional systems and testing the effects in humans. My aim is to highlight differences that production management systems have on produce quality, emphasizing nutritional differences and direct effects on human metabolism.
For example, field observations and pilot data suggest that human blood glucose responses differ between fruits of the same cultivar grown under these different methods. It is reported that diabetics can eat high quality, biologically-produced fruit without a large glycemic fluctuation, yet the same cultivar conventionally grown causes a spike in blood glucose. What makes these observations even more intriguing is that the biologically-produced fruits typically have a higher percentage of sugars than the conventional counterparts. In addition, the biologically-produced fruits are reported to taste better and have a much longer shelf life.
The implications of this research are vast. The underlying principles can be applied to any crop.
The roadmap to sustainability starts with soil health, which implies balanced, full-spectrum minerals, active microbial and earthworm populations, and high organic matter content. Some attributes of healthy soil are:
- Healthy soil supports healthy plant growth. An ideal microbial population helps make nutrients available to the plants.
- Microbes “glue” soil particles together which decreases erosion and toxic run-off, decreases needed inputs, decreases costs, and saves our top soil. The producers will have good land to pass on to their heirs.
- Selected microbes trap nitrogen from air which decreases nitrogen inputs, decreases costs, and decreases pollution.
- Microbial activity keeps the soil temperature more constant (warmer in winter, cooler in summer) which equates to longer growing seasons. More stable ground temperatures may also influence the stability of the air temperature over the land. This may equate to less extreme weather patterns, which would bring better farming and living conditions. Currently, due to extreme weather patterns, some producers are feeling forced to expend large sums of money for greenhouses to protect their crops.
- Selected microbes clean up toxic conditions, such as “chemically-burned” fields.
- Microbes and earthworms recycle nutrients in the soil and improve soil tilth.
- Beneficial microbes and soil organic matter help modulate soil moisture content allowing crops to better withstand fluctuations in moisture.
Moving on to plant health—
Through superior farming practices and wise choices of cultivars, some producers have been able to produce abundant, award-winning crops without harmful chemicals. These truly healthy crops exhibit ideal tissue pH levels, soluble solids concentrations, and mineral balances, along with low nitrates, ammonia, free amino acids and reducing sugars. Fortunately, technology has provided producers with affordable, easy-to-use tools and tests for monitoring soil and plant health. When superior plant health is achieved, then:
- Insects are less attracted to the plants, so fewer pesticides are needed. This equates to less expense, decreased crop losses, decreased environmental pollution (air, water, soil), and fewer health risks for agricultural workers. Pesticide-free produce may also bring premium prices.
- Plants are more disease and pest resistant, so fewer sprays will be needed. Again, less expense, decreased crop losses, decreased pollution, and fewer health risks, along with possible premiums.
- Plants may realize their genetic potential with increased yields (increased profits) and higher quality produce (which brings premiums for the producers, sometimes huge premiums).
Quality produce has:
- High antioxidant and nutrient density which makes it healthful and satisfying.
- An exceptionally long shelf life which decreases losses for producers, packers, shippers, and consumers.
- Superior taste and sensory appeal, which increases consumer demand and, again, brings premium prices.
- A proud producer who feels good about what he does for the world as he leans against his well-padded wallet. 😉
High quality feedstuffs for animals equate to:
- Healthier, happier animals resulting in decreased need for medication and decreased losses.
- Increased production and profits.
- Healthier animal food products for consumers.
- Improved food flavor and satisfaction.
- Better-tasting produce may increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, which may in turn equate to better health.
- Decreased levels of harmful agricultural chemicals means decreased toxins in food and the environment.
- Longer shelf life leading to decreased losses after purchasing foods.
- Full-spectrum nutrition equates to better health. This decreases healthcare costs while increasing human productivity and quality of life.
I see this as a win-win-win-win situation—for producers, animals, human consumers, and the environment. Already, in several parts of the world, some producers are “nutrition farming” and contracting with grocery stores to market their superior products to grateful consumers.
Plans for the future include:
- expansion of on-farm and university-associated research
- labeling program for “Nutrient-Rich” foods that have met high standards of quality including nutrient content, sensory perception parameters, shelf-life values and freedom from toxic contaminants
- establishment of a model farm for educational purposes
- commercial production of nutrient-rich foods
- marketing and distribution of these high quality foods
- involvement with industry and governmental leaders in promoting nutrient-dense sustainable agriculture
My vision is that more educators will share vital crop-improvement information in an effective manner to many producers, who will in turn supply improved nutrition within a sustainable context, making a positive impact on the health of a multitude of people and animals.
For a Healthier World, Jana D. Bogs, PhD
For more information on soil/plant testing and sustainable production practices contact:
Dr. Jana Bogs (located on the Big Island of Hawaii)