Soil: The Foundation of Mineral Nutrition and Optimal Health

Andrew Harley

Andrew Harley

The FAO recently published a great infographic in the link between soil health-plant health-human health, the basis of mineral nutrition.  Animal scientists and veterinarians have known this for years and I have been studying the importance of soil mineral nutrition for almost 2 decades.

In 2004, I was fortunate to spend time with Dr. Joel Wallach, a veterinarian and naturopathic doctor when he was lecturing in Australia.  This meeting brought to life the intricate link between soil health-plant health-human health.  I was able to interview him at that time and I was reminded of this interview after reviewing the FAO infographic.

One of the differences between the FAO graphic and Dr. Wallach’s research is that there are actually 60 nutrient minerals required for optimal health.  The form of minerals is also important.  The body cannot digest ground minerals.  We are designed to absorb minerals in plant form – plants organize minerals in a form that can be readily absorbed and transported directly to the cells for use.

If you have any questions, reach out to me


From the Blog of Soil Ascension and Andrew Harley

Ascension Soil Company was created by Dr. Andrew Harley in 2002, borne out my academic and personal research into methods, techniques and philosophies that helped bring life back to infertile and poorly producing soils, regardless of their land use.

In 1996 I was deeply influenced by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s alternative remedies for restoring soils Secrets of the Soil.  With an undergraduate degree in earth sciences, including soils, I was immediately intrigued by one chapter in particular – Chapter 15, “Dust for Life” – which went on to describe the process of remineralization: adding ground rock to soils to improve soil quality and nutrition.  As a result, I completed a PhD at the University of Western Australia combining mineralogy and geochemistry and producing a thesis on The Evaluation and Improvement of Silicate Mineral Fertilisers.

In addition to remineralization, I have studied a diverse area of soil restoration, including:

• Dr Daniel Hillel’s work on soil and water science;
• Dr Rattan Lal’s work on soil carbon, especially in mine reclamation;
• Water management and the work of P.A. Yeomans (Keyline) and Vicktor Schauberger (Natural Water Management);
• Organic matter management and the work of Alan Savory (Holistic Resource Management);
• Permaculture sytems and the work of Bill Mollison;
• Biodynamics and the work of Rudolf Steiner;
• Nutritional minerals and the work of William Albrecht, Andre Voisin and Joel Wallach; and
• Biochar and the work of Johannes Lehmann et al.

Since graduating in 2002, I have spent a lot of my time consulting for resource companies around the globe, with the objective of more effectively removing our resources from the ground while improving ecosystem services at the end of operations. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that while this is technically feasible, the corporate model will not place the importance of ecosystem services mediated through the soil on equal parity with resource services – extraction will always trump ecosystem.

Through this time, I also came to the conclusion that agriculture is organized the same way as resource extraction and has actually created a greater impact to our landscape than resource extraction. Additionally, while the Green Revolution saved millions of people from starvation, an unforeseen consequence is the increase in micronutrient malnutrition. While much work has been done to develop the marriage of nutrition and agriculture, these two disciplines view hunger differently – nutritionists look it as a nutrition problem while the agriculture community look at is a yield problem. Our work aims to improve the link between quantity (yield) and quality (nutrition value, especially minerals and their role in both plant and animal health).

Visit Andrew Harley’s website and blog here.

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1 Reply to "Soil: The Foundation of Mineral Nutrition and Optimal Health"

  • Roberto Salazar
    October 27, 2016 (10:07 pm)

    Healthy soil is the basis for all nutrient value and making our food better in taste and quality. Plus the bonus of no chemicals pesticides and herbicides to poison out bodies and the soil its used on. Healthy soil equals healthy food truly common sense for those people who care enough to pay attention..

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