Sounding Soil – Listening to the soil

Can you actually hear grass growing? What does the earthworm say to the centipede when they meet beneath the carrot field? What is the difference in sound from a vegetable field with organic soil and one with conventional ones? Biovision is one of those listening carefully as it is using the installation “Sounding Soil” to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of our soils.

Sounding Soil is an inter and trans-disciplinary research project to increase our understanding of soil ecosystems. To date more than 20 soil areas in Switzerland have been recorded, including intensively and extensively used agriculture land, Alpine meadows and woodland soils. The sound recordings include the animals that live in the soil, such as springtails


Climate change and the world's growing population is further increasing the importance of food security. Healthy soils are crucial as they underpin food security and biodiversity. This was why special recording and measurement techniques were developed for the Sounding Soil project in order to provide a quick and simple way to measure and analyse soil activity and biodiversity in future.

“In contrast to air pollution or clean (drinking) water, people have little understanding of the soil on or in which their food is grown,” says Sabine Lerch, Project Manager at Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development. In fact, the amount of healthy soil in Switzerland has dramatically declined in recent decades. Intensive cultivation, the use of mineral fertilisers and chemical pesticides together with developments that seal off soils are all reducing soil fertility. The initial results from Sounding Soil demonstrate a difference between extensively and intensively cultivated soils. Whereas recordings from organic soils with their countless living organisms produce a diverse soundscape, there is a silence from a field of conventional sugar beet or industrial-scale potatoes. 

Sounding Soil is a cooperation between the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Swiss Soil Monitoring Network (NABO) at Agroscope, ETH Zurich and the Biovision Foundation.