The concept and future prospects of soil health

The concept and future prospects of soil health

The importance of soil goes beyond its ability to support plant growth; it is a central axis in the maintenance of ecosystems, water quality, human health and climate change mitigation. In this context, researchers such as Johannes Lehmann, Deborah A. Bossio, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner and Matthias C. Rillig have explored the relationship between soil health management and these crucial aspects.

Soil is the basis of our food production and a key ally in the fight against climate change. NOVASOIL highlights the urgency of adopting agricultural practices that regenerate and maintain the vitality of our soil, from managing payments for ecosystem services to participating in carbon credit markets.


At the heart of this study, the research team took a multidisciplinary approach to examining soil health, highlighting the interrelationship between biological, chemical and physical indicators. This comprehensive methodology highlights not only the relevance of each type of indicator in isolation, but also the need to integrate them to gain a holistic understanding of soil health.

In particular, the research highlights the importance of biological indicators. These indicators, ranging from microbial biodiversity to enzyme activity, are crucial for understanding biogeochemical processes and soil resilience to disturbance. Despite their importance, they have historically been less considered in soil health assessments than physical and chemical indicators.

To address this challenge and facilitate greater incorporation of biological indicators into soil health assessments, the team discusses the development and application of recent technologies. These include advanced genetic sequencing techniques, remote sensing and image analysis, and artificial intelligence platforms for complex data analysis. These technologies not only allow more accurate and complete coverage of soil biodiversity and its functions, but also more efficient and accessible assessment of overall soil health.

By addressing both the inherent complexity of soil and the practical challenges of studying it, this advanced methodology establishes a new frontier in soil health research. In doing so, it paves the way for more informed and sustainable land management practices, aligned with the goals of sustainable crop production, improved water quality, human health benefits and climate change mitigation.


The results section of the article provides a detailed and multi-faceted look at how soil health management affects key ecosystem services, including sustainable crop production, water quality, human health and climate change mitigation. An expanded and detailed version of the findings focusing on these aspects is presented below:

Detailed results

The study showed that soil management practices aimed at improving soil health have a significant impact on several ecosystem services:

  • Sustainable crop production: Management focused on soil health contributes to more sustainable crop production by demonstrating how managing nutrient availability beyond the exclusive use of agrochemicals optimises plant growth. Practices such as reduced tillage, composting and crop rotation not only improve biodiversity and soil structure, but also increase microbial biomass, which is essential for soil health and agricultural production.
  • Water quality: Research shows that healthy soil acts as a natural filter, retaining pollutants and improving water quality. The incorporation of organic matter into the soil and the promotion of healthy biodiversity are essential to maintain and improve this ecosystem service, demonstrating a direct link between soil management practices and the reduction of water pollution.
  • Human health: The results highlight the direct link between soil health and human health, primarily through the production of more nutritious and safer food. Soils rich in biodiversity and organic matter not only improve the nutritional value of crops, but also reduce the presence of pathogens and contaminants in food, contributing to better human health.
  • Climate change mitigation: Effective management of soil health is emerging as a key strategy for climate change mitigation. By sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, practices such as the application of organic matter and reduced tillage make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change, underlining the role of soil as a key ally in this global effort.


The results of this study mark a milestone in our understanding of soil health and call for a revolution in the way we manage it. It is not just about maximising agricultural yields; it is a call to recognise and harness soil as a multifaceted resource that supports myriad ecosystem functions essential to our survival and well-being.

The research highlights the urgent need for a holistic approach to land management, one that embraces and prioritises the full range of ecosystem services it provides, from being the basis for food production to playing a crucial role in regulating climate and water cycles, and maintaining biodiversity. and water cycles, and maintaining biodiversity. This broad vision challenges us to think of soil not just as a medium for agriculture, but as a vital resource that needs to be managed with a long-term vision in line with the principles of global sustainability.

More fundamentally, the study highlights the importance of integrating biological indicators into the assessment of soil health. This inclusion not only refines our ability to measure soil health more accurately, but also highlights the critical role of soil biodiversity in maintaining healthy and resilient ecosystems. By aligning soil management practices with global sustainability goals, we are taking firm steps towards a future where soil is recognised and valued as the heart of our ecosystems.

This document is an invitation to rethink, reassess and revolutionise our soil management practices and policies. It is essential reading for anyone interested in sustainability, agriculture, soil science and the future of our planet. By delving into its findings, we join a growing movement that sees soil health as one of the keys to solving some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.

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