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Why measuring soil biology is key for good soil health, sustainability and increased yields

 

Over the past years, soil-health has become a trending topic due to the realisation of an upcoming soil health fertility crisis. During the last 50 years, intensive crop production has exhausted our planet’s soils, endangering their ability to meet future food demands. If no actions are taken now to stop this crisis, then it will be devastating for agricultural yields, with the UN predicting that there are only 60 harvests left before our planet’s soils become too degraded to feed us. The good news is that the Food and Agricultural Organisation has estimated that efforts to sustainably manage the soil will improve soil-health, which could increase food production up to 58%. It is clear that we need to start taking care of the wellbeing of our soils now, in order to improve agricultural yields and guarantee food supply for future generations.

 

A large part of determining the health of soil is gaining an understanding of the soil’s living ecosystem, i.e. the soil biology. FungiAlert has revolutionised soil biology analysis, making it simpler, more cost-effective and faster. FungiAlert’s novel SporSenZ sensors sample in-the-field, giving growers, for the first time, a simple to use tool that can determine the presence of viable pathogens and beneficial microorganism in the soil. Many other soil-health methods require soil samples to be sent to a laboratory, however, this has two inherent problems i) it can lead to changes in the soil ecosystem, as the soil is being tested away from its natural environment, and ii) many methods are based on DNA analysis, meaning that even dead DNA can be picked up. Current methods can lead to a miss-interpretation of the true health of the soil. However, FungiAlert’s in-the-field soil-health test allows for a true profiling of the active soil fungal/oomycetal communities in the soil.

FungiAlert’s revolutionary soil-health test disentangles the complexity of the soil biology, becoming one of the key tools for guiding sustainable disease management strategies. By using this tool as a pre-season soil-health screen’, the grower can determine potential pathogenic threats, and learn how healthy the field’s soil biology is. This information drives key agricultural decisions, such as:

  • What crop to plant and where? If there is a high risk of disease for a particular crop in a field, then growers may choose to plant that crop or choose a resistant variety.
  • What seed variety to use? A grower may choose to use a more profitable seed variety in a lower risk field. 
  • Is a seed treatment necessary? Higher risk fields may benefit from a seed treatment (this could be a biological control treatment). 
  • The best crop protection strategy for the upcoming year. This allows growers to plan better IPM strategies.

 

Furthermore, FungiAlert’s soil-health test allows growers to monitor the health of the field during the growing season and pre-harvest, in order to mitigate losses due to the spread of plant disease and to guide management practices. It also allows users to assess crop protection strategies, as FungiAlert’s soil-health tests determine the soil biology before and after the application of crop protection products (chemical or biological), giving a clear picture of how these treatments have an impact on the pathogens and on the beneficial microorganisms. This could be a key driver for sustainably managing the soil, lead to the reduction of chemical applications and the uptake of more bio-control and bio-stimulant products.

 

The FungiAlert Team

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