In this episode, we sit down with Didi Pershouse, a soil health educator and author of “The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities”. Didi explains the concept of the “soil sponge”, which refers to the ability of healthy soil to absorb and hold onto water, nutrients, and carbon. She emphasizes that healthy soil is essential for food production, clean water, and a stable climate. She argues that the way we currently manage our soil is contributing to a number of global crises, from food insecurity to climate change.
We dive into the ways in which regenerative agriculture practices can restore soil health and mitigate climate change. Didi shares examples of regenerative practices that will result in increased crop yields, improved soil health, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Didi stresses the need for a paradigm shift in the way we think about agriculture, and a move away from industrial farming practices that prioritize profit over sustainability.
This conversation with Didi Pershouse is a must-listen for anyone interested in the intersection of soil health, human health, and climate change. Join us as we explore how soil can be a powerful tool for healing both the planet and ourselves.
Wonderful conversation. Another example of Didi’s gift for humanizing our fractious climate debates and grounding them where they belong, in life.
Thanks a lot for lovely feedback Rob, and we couldn’t agree more! Was a lovely chat with Didi, it left us full of inspiration and hope for a better future.
Wonderful talk. It is clear that industrial agriculture only added to the damage done. It was not big ag which created the deserts in the Sahara, Madeira, Afghanistan etc. Big ag is busy creating new deserts, but natural farming methods in history did the most terrible damage due to the length of time of these practices were applied. Going organic is not enough. A message one doesn’t ever hear is that regenerative ag methodology is not a universal panacea. In areas of the world which were never grassland with grazing animals we need to be careful applying regenerative agriculture methods. Some of the areas which were not grassland had the greatest biodiversity on the planet, such as rainforest and Mediterranean zones. When allowing the land to re-cover with plants, there is nothing better than native plants. Not only are they adapted and will survive your local climate better than most introduced plants, very often there may be a seed bank in the soil, and they just need to be allowed to recover, and last but not least, they will support much greater insect diversity. Many of these areas have wonderful food plants which are becoming extinct, not because they taste bad or don’t offer excellent nutrient density, but because the commonly known food plants have just swamped agriculture. We need to get back to native food plants in a big way, they will help with food security. Some of these plants can grow on very poor soil. In addition the wild flowers that support many more insects often thrive in poorer soil, as you will find in Prairie, British Wildlife and meadow gardening, German Naturgarten and even north American prairie gardening lore. It seems that planned grazing is not the best answer for increased biodiversity, but some protaganists such as Kiss the Ground and Savory offer it as a universal panacea. There needs to be more soil research in non grassland zones and for it to be added to the soil sponge conversation. There may be ‘natural’ ‘poor’ soils which actually work very well without a deep grassland type of sponge. One example I can think of is in Mediterranean climate fire driven ecology. There is not much talk about what kept these soils functional for millions of years. No one that I know of has investigated the amount of carbon there is underground in such zones, or how deep their organic topsoil layer is, or its nature. I happen to know the Cape Fynbos has its own unique N fixers which are destroyed by the introduction of exotic N fixing plants. Another thing you don’t hear about in public debates, yet, it complexifies the picture too much. There must be a lot of slow, anaerobically burned carbon left behind from fires that burn the roots of the low, scrubby, highly aromatic vegetation found in Mediterranean zones like the Cape and California, and parts of Australia. As for the rainforest, in the Amazon the rapid degradation of the soil when creating pasture is well known. The regenerative story needs to become more context and biodiversity sensitive. Thank you for people like yourself who put plant cover first, before the one size fits all ‘solution’ of planned grazing.
Thank you Didi, always a pleasure to hear your views and how you bring everything together. Great job explaining the soil sponge.