Michael Ash

Soil biodiversity: key to a health

Date Aired: September 29, 2017

Episode Description

The phytobiome, the environment including soil organisms and its link to plants, is a new area of research. The phytobiome has indirect and direct connections to gut health, a healthy microbiome, and over all health. Soil organisms have an impact on human gut microbes which are essential for human health. With current farming practices, the soil nutrients have been depleted leading to less nutritious food. Dr. Ash discusses how a healthy phytobiome affects health and how healthy fertilizers can increase soi biodiversity, plant diversity and have many beneftis to health.


  • biggest influence on health is geography: where you live predicts what you eat
  • we are unique; our microbiomes are unique and soil unique
  • There is a tsunami of chronic diseases which are related to but health
  • The phytobiome (plant environment) directly affects the microbiome which affects chronic diseases
  • We should eat seasonally and regionally to confer geographical immunity
  • We should eat more vegetables, and fiber which depend n biological compounds, water and soil diversity.

Functional Medicine

  • A term to describe principles and practices to communicate about the concerns of someone regaining their health
  • It is tailored to the individual ,
  • Look under the hood to see the root cause or originating triggers for diseases or symptoms
  • It will address the underlying cause rather than focusing on r symptom repression.
  • Looks at underlying causes of diseases
  • Can find out years ahead of time which biological pathways are going in the wrong direction.
    • It looks at interventions to reduce risks in developing health problems later and to reverse bad patterns..
  • Uses concepts from integrative medicine, complementary/ alternative medicine., and allopathic medicine
  • This is a flexible model that can help people who are well and those with chronic diseases.
  • Creates a relationship between the health care provider and patient so they patient becomes a participant with some level of control and participation

Gastro intestinal Tract

  • Where the inside meets the outside
  • Is a repository on information exchange contact with that which is not us
  • Gut is highly specialized to facilitate a change in the food item that arrives and becomes us
  • In a single day, the mucosal immune system makes more immune decisions than the rest of your bod makes in a life time.
  • The number of cells in the GI tract is roughly equal to the total number of other cells in the body
  • The gut has to have proper nutrients or it “goes on strike” and does not perform optimally
  • The gut is intimately connected to the rest of he body including the brain.
  • If he gut becomes permeable, then the blood brain barrier becomes permeable as well resulting in unwanted substances going into the brain
  • A permeable gut leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction
  • A permeable blood brain barrier leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction within the brain.
  • An unhealthy gut is involved in most chronic diseases
    • In the UK, Male Fertility male decreased 50 % over least 20 years with a decreased sperm count and less motility

The Microbiome

  • collection organisms present in GI tract includes fungi bacteria and viruses
  • Changes in the microbiome can have profound changes and can lead  to depression mood, affect  anxiety and neurodegeneration
  • Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) and associated immunological particulates can either worsen or improve health
  • How we maintain immunology depends on what we consume and what is in food we choose.  Components of food recognized by receptors
  • Microbiome diversity is important for health
  • A varied diet is important for the health of the microbiome
    • In Tanzania Hadza tribe  nomadic, hunter gatherer  have range  8000 different plants and food groups
    • Italy Europe, most people 6 common foods wheat, soy


  • Consists of plants, their environment, and associated communities of organisms
  • Interactions within the phytobiome have profound effects on soil, plans and he agro-ecosystem health
  • Relates to environment within the soil ecological mix of biodiversity and environment around plants
  • Healthy soil has a similar level of complexity as in GI tract
  • Like the microbiome, the organisms need to be well fed
  • A well fed phytobiome that plants receive a different set of signals than plants that have been fed fertilizers
  • Plants in a healthy phytobiome, have a robust resistance to the environment
  • Plants extract chemicals from the soil they are in.
  • The soil and hence the plans have fewer nutrients than in the past.

Microbiome Relationship to the Phytobiome

  • The nutrients in the soil affect the health of produce which affects the health of our microbiome.
  • Both are comprised of many different organisms that live in symbiotic relationships.
  • The gut and soil require similar things in a different deliver system
  • Both have decreased in biodiversity
    • lost 40 – 50 % biodiversity in the GI system has been lost in last 200 years
  • There is a relationship between food we consume and immune receptors in our gut because of something called secondary metabolites. We convert small chemicals produced by plants as a defensive mechanism  into different types of events inside gut
  • 70 % of soils we use to grow plants are nutritionally depleted
  • Soils have gotten worse due to poor replenishment and mono-crop production
  • There has been a loss of nitrates and phosphates through environmental and water pollution
  • farming has become major contributor to ill health
  • Farming used methodology from post World War II (Haber Bosch Process) where nitrogen is used to make urea and fertilizers are made. (Some of this technology was previously applied to arms production.)
  • This method has a huge cost and is responsible for one percent of all the global energy produced
  • 50 % of this is lost to the atmosphere or water ways

Feeding the World

  • We are faced with growing population have to increase food 2.5 % per year
  • The current method of farming is flat lining
  • We can feed ourselves on less land if we farmed land in a different way
  • Plants release compounds that are poisonous to defend themselves from being eaten
  • Plants that are less immunologically able to defend themselves so the plants will be more dependent of fungicides, herbicides
  • We are losing soil diversity
  • We need to increase crop rotation and reduce he chemicals involved
  • Some have promoted the idea that without the use of GM crops, there will not be enough food to meet the population growth.  Ash does no believe this to be true.
  • We need to improve soil, water, and air quality for food security and disease control.
  • if diminish choice of plants, will have a loss of diversity
  • plants will have less plasticity and less adaptability
  • Our current farming practices contribute to the population being less able to survive
    • In the UK, Male Fertility male decreased 50 % over least 20 years with a decreased sperm count and less motility

The US Role in Feeding the World

  • US top down agriculture policy suppresses food diversity
  • Reducing the number of different crops reduced soil diversity
  • Has drive toward mono crop and towards seed control
    • This results in a loss of soil biodiversity
  • Has had a strong move for seeds to be owned by a few profit oriented companies
    • Some falsely state that GM crops are needed to feed the increasing population.
    • In the UK, 80 % of the farms (55,000) are under 200 acres

 Dr Ash Developing a New Fertilizer

  • Ash is looking at ways to restore the soil in a delivery system that is favourable to the bio diversity of the soil. This includes
    • generating organisms in the soil
    • capturing nutrients previously lost through evaporation tonnage (soil turnover) and reintroduce them into the soil
    • capturing nutrients from animal by products
  • He is developing a new kind of fertilizer which
    • slowly releases 50 different nutrients and high concentration organic solvents
    • Impacts soil quality, plant resilience and plant health.