WUR researchers collaborate on underground film

March 1, 2023

The nature documentary Living Soil was in cinemas in march 2023. The film takes the audience on an underground journey, to the world of worms, moles and fungi. Multiple WUR researchers were involved in the production, including soil experts Ingrid Lubbers and Jan Willem van Groenigen. They both feature in the film, and are very excited about the final product.

Living Soil is a production by EMS Films, the creators of nature films like Wild Amsterdam and The New Wilderness. Lubbers and Van Groenigen, who worked on episodes of the Klokhuis and De Kennis van Nu, were asked to once more share their knowledge of rainworms. In the film, they dig up some soil to show viewers just how many worms can be found below a vegetable garden or a field.

It’s beautiful footage. Rainworms are shown in great detail, and the fungi are visible in 3D. I don’t even know how they managed that.
Jan Willem van Groenigen

Rainworms in the spotlight

The WUR researchers involved were shown the film during a busy pre-release screening in Wageningen. ‘The soil footage is incredibly impressive’, Lubbers says. ‘And the film is educational as well! After the screening, lots of people told me they had gained a new perspective on life in the soil. Van Groenigen is likewise enthusiastic about the film. ‘It’s beautiful footage. Rainworms are shown in great detail, and the fungi are visible in 3D. I don’t even know how they managed that.’

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The researchers applaud the footage shot by Wim van Egmond, a ‘micro photographer’ who worked with WUR in the past to record life in the soil. WUR researchers Simone Brandt and Gerard Korthals also contributed to the film. Nonetheless, Van Groeningen stresses, it is hardly an academic work. ‘The filmmakers show a number of people with a somewhat romanticised, activist perspective on certain matters. For instance, someone claims artificial fertiliser poisons the soil. As a general statement, that is complete nonsense. In the end, it is a film, and not a scientific document, after all.’

More biodiversity than the jungle

The soil experts are especially happy that the film puts life in the soil in the spotlight. ‘We know that the soil below our feet holds more biodiversity than a tropical jungle’, says Van Groenigen. ‘The soil is crucial as a base for our existence, to combat climate change and far more. However, we know that soils all over the world are degrading. As such, any extra attention to our soils is highly welcome.’ Lubbers is also happy with the attention: ‘It is fantastic to see that life in the soil is given a platform like this. Worms are charismatic animals, and they’ve now been given a lovely spotlight.’