You know that old saying, “truth is stranger than fiction”? I read an article recently which brought me back to a Michael Crichton novel that was published in 2011 but, unlike the Crichton novel, the article was not fiction. The Michael Crichton novel to which I’m referring is entitled “Micro” and was published posthumously, as Crichton died in year 2008. As the story goes, there was a scientist who was working on technology which could shrink things down to microscopic size, including humans. Well, as with any good Michael Crichton novel, the person responsible for the development of this technology ends up trying to use it for personal gain. Long story short, a group of graduate students discovers the scientist has done some dastardly deed and as they start to probe into the situation, the students themselves wind up getting shrunk down to microscopic size. And, from this new perspective, they encounter a world they had never really considered before.
The article that I read which conjured up memories of this particular novel was written about a lecture given by Dr. Cindy Nakatsu, a professor of agronomy from Purdue University. The lecture was about soil microbial communities. She spoke this winter at Iowa State University, explaining to the audience how amazing soil microbial communities are and how little we understand them.
She explained that every soil microbial community can potentially consist of thousands of different species, each performing a unique role in its own ecosystem. In fact, the number of microbes in a shovelful of soil actually exceeds the number of people on the planet! Think of that!! And, when the soil is teeming with life, that is good for everyone! It gives health to the soil.
We all know that soil health is important for life, but what we sometimes forget is that the soil itself is full of its own life. Healthy soil is in everyone’s interest; we all benefit from it, and we are all deprived from its loss.
The next time you are outside, take a look at your feet, and then consider what’s beneath them – a whole world most of us rarely ever think of!
I’ll leave you with two awesome quotes about soil:
“Be it deep or shallow, red or black, sand or clay, the soil is the link between the rock core of the earth and the living things on its surface. It is the foothold for the plants we grow. Therein lies the main reason for our interest in soils.” — Roy W. Simonson, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1957
“… the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil.” — Dr. Daniel Hillel, 2012 World Food Prize Laureate
Enjoy the day, my friends.