In a single gram of fertile soil, there are up to one hundred million bacteria present, accompanied by hundreds of fungi and microscopic beings. Soil is the reservoir of at least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity, and it is this life that allows us to produce 95% of our food. These organisms are responsible for maintaining nutrient cycles, decomposing organic matter, playing a key role in providing clean water, increasing resilience against floods and drought, and keeping soil diseases and pests at bay, among other essential functions.
And all this biodiversity needs a respite from the soil degradation that has been taking place in recent years, which has now reached one third of the total agricultural area. Without this life, soils will die, as these organisms sustain agroecosystems. “This is why it is necessary to introduce agricultural practices that work in favour of biodiversity,” explains Jordi Domingo, coordinator of the agricultural area of the Fundación Global Nature.
“It is essential to understand the soil as an ecosystem and not as a mere support for our production, which is to say, to understand soils for what they really are: complex (eco)systems. This implies considering agricultural activity as a whole, with the fragile and numerous interactions of all the living beings involved,” adds Laura García, coordinator of the livestock farming area of the Fundación Global Nature.
Specifically, in projects such as Interreg SUDOE Fleurs Locales, results are expected after working with soil samples from areas with native flora and different management practices. “As we measure microbial diversity and activity, we want to check whether the native flora increases this activity and richness, which indicates a higher soil quality, compared to the previous situation,” adds García, who explains that it is “in the rhizosphere, the environment next to the plant roots, where most interactions between plants and microorganisms take place. The plants themselves stimulate the growth of beneficial microbiota through their root exudates to attract allies.”