Healthy Soil, Healthy People?

So an article in last Sunday’s Washington Post talked about how there is a growing body of scientific evidence that healthy soil makes for healthier people. Healthy soil is understood to mean soil that is teaming with a diversity of bacteria and fungi.


Another scientific discovery of note: healthy soil will eat your underwear. But don’t worry, that’s only if you are in the habit of burying your underwear in the garden.

The article quotes one researcher looking into why farm children have lower rates of asthma and allergies. According to the article, scientists are finding that “the constellation of organisms found in soil and on farm animals programs how a child responds to allergens throughout her lifetime.”

Another researcher, Robert Beelman, found that oats grown on tilled fields have 25% less of an anti-oxidant known informally as ergo. Ergo deficiency is linked to inflammation and premature aging in people. According to the article, Beelman “believes this is because tillage disrupts networks of bacteria and fungi.”

As for that underwear thing, it’s based on a soil test developed by a scientist at the University of Arkansas named Bill Robertson. He buries cotton briefs a couple of inches down. After five weeks, the microbes in healthy soil have eaten the cellulose in the cotton and the briefs are falling apart. In soil lacking in bacteria, you’ll just have dirty, but intact, underpants.

Anyhow, go read the whole article. It provides more evidence, if you need any, that gardening is good for you – and so is soil rich in microbes and organic matter.


28 Comments on “Healthy Soil, Healthy People?”

  1. Lee Reich puts his worn out jeans in his compost pile, or so I read. 😊
    You’re going to have all your followers out “planting” their skivvies!
    Don’t get me started on how Americans try to hyper sanitize their environments and then wonder why they’re sick all the time! The human body needs some exposure to germs, bacteria, microbes, etc. in order to develop resistance. There’s wisdom in the old adage “ya gotta eat a peck of dirt before ya die”! Sorry… I’ll get off my soapbox now. I missed that article in my WaPo, I need to go read it. Good post, Jason.

  2. Great post! I really do think that the whole sanitize everything movement is losing ground – I haven’t purchased antibacterial soap for over 12 years now for that very reason. Just plain soap is more than enough around here. And I may just have to bury some underwear to see how my soil is doing πŸ˜‰

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: