In this book we discuss the ecological management of soils. And although the same basic principles discussed here apply to all soils around the world, the problems may differ in specifics and intensity and different mixes of solutions may be needed on any particular farm or in any ecological zone.

It is estimated that close to half the people in the world are deficient in nutrients and vitamins and that half the premature deaths that occur globally are associated with malnutrition. Part of the problem is the low amount of nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and fruits in diets. When grains form too large a part of the diet, even if people obtain sufficient calories and some protein, the lack of other nutrients results in health problems. Although iron, selenium, cobalt, and iodine deficiencies in humans are rare in the U.S., they may occur in developing countries whose soils are depleted and nutrient poor. It frequently is an easier and healthier solution to get these nutrients into people’s diets by increasing plant content through adding these essential elements to the soil (or through irrigation water for iodine) rather than to try to provide everyone with supplements.

Enhancing soil health—in all its aspects, not just nutrient levels—is probably one of the most essential strategies for providing nutritious food to all the people in the world and ending the scourge of hunger and malnutrition.