Archive for Soil Quality

The Soil – Its Life and Fertility

– Five to ten tons of animal life can live in an acre of soil. (National Wildlife Federation)

– Worm casts contain five times as much nitrogen, seven times as much available phosphate, eleven times as much available potash, three times as much available magnesium, and one and a third times as much available calcium as the soil of the top six inches. (H.G.M. Jacobson and H.A. Lunt, “Soil Science”)

– All these extreme types (of soil) have one thing in common. They are all improved, cumulatively, by decaying organic matter. They are improved in two ways. By an improvement in structure and an improvement in water-holding capacity. This is brought about by the presence of large numbers of bacteria and fungi and their remains, which are of a mucilaginous or gummy nature. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Soil, particularly a fertile soil, is much more alive than a casual glance would show. We can see the larger insects and worms but the greater bulk of living things is invisible – consisting of bacteria, fungal mycelium, and a variety of less well known organisms. …The population varies according to moisture and warmth of the soil. For bacteria…about 3,000,000,000 per gram of soil, weighing a ton to the acre, in the top 6 inches. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Organisms in the soil in addition to bacteria and earthworms include fungi, actinomycetes, algae, protozoa, centipedes, millipedes, springtails, spiders, mites, eelworms, insects and their larvae. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– It may come as something of a surprise to the farmer to know that he has 30 times as much stock underground as on the field. There have been estimates of 40 tons per acre…. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– The amount of earth moved annually (by earthworms) is prodigious. Recent estimates of the amount of soil cast annually per acre in pastures by worms are between 1 and 25 tons on the surface and 4 to 36 tons underground. This results in a pore space in the soil of between 40 and 67 percent, according to the proportion of surface-casting species. (A.C. Evans, “Annual of Applied Biology”)

– The amount of food consumed by these various organisms (in the soil) is considerable. …Given an annual dressing of manure at 14 tons per acre, (they) used the same number of calories daily as 12 men. While this may seem a great waste of food, it contains almost entirely of cellulose, lignin, and humus, which is inedible, as far as people are concerned. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)

– Conclusive evidence of the release of minerals by microbiological activity on the organic section (of the farm is that) potash and phosphate are at a similar level during winter, but rise rapidly as the crop grows in May and June to a level representing eight times as much by mid-summer. This is followed by an equally swift decline with the ripening of the crop. …The minerals are rendered available as the crop needs them and cease to be so as the crop ripens – a protection against possible loss. P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)

– Green manuring is popularly believed to be a good method of building soil fertility. It can be, but, as practiced today, it is anything but. The ploughing in of a soft, young, green crop adds a large amount of nitrogen to the soil relative to the amount of carbohydrate or plant fiber. Some farmers even add extra nitrogen to rot it down. …This results in a net decrease in the amount of organic matter in the soil. To be effective, the green crop must be allowed to mature. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)

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Why Not Use Chemicals?

It’s all about soil and health…
– Chemical fertilizers cannot restore soil fertility. They do not work on the soil but are enforcedly imbibed by plants, poisoning both plant and soil. They destroy (the soil’s) physical properties, and therefore its life. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, the Unknown”)

– Toxic farm chemicals are radiomimetric in that they ape the character of radiation. The damage (to humans) resulting from nuclear radiation is the same as the use of toxic genetic chemicals. And the use of fungicides of organic synthesis annually causes the same damage to present and future generations as atomic fallout from 29 H-bombs of 14 megatons – damage equal to the fallout of 14,500 atomic bombs of the Hiroshima type. In America, during the 1970’s, yearly use of toxic genetic chemicals was about 453,000 tons, which caused damage equal to atomic fallout from 145 H-bombs of 14 megatons, or 72,000 atomic bombs of the Hiroshima type. (Amerigo Mosca, Italian Chemist)

– Our attempts to grow crops by a system of ‘hydroponics in soil’ are doomed to failure. By adding easily soluble plant foods to the soil we are not, in fact, helping the plant at all, we merely get the worst of both worlds. A fertilizer, in the full sense of the word, renders the soil more fertile. To call nitrogenous (chemicals) fertilizers is a misnomer, they decrease long-term fertility – they are, in fact, merely a stimulant and need to be recognized as such. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– No amount of artificial fertilizer can compensate for the loss (of organic matter in the soil). The collapse of (soil) structure, of course, leads to compacting of the soil and loss of that very vital soil function, aeration, without which plants will not grow. Hence the urge for deeper ploughing to create artificial aeration. Unfortunately, this artificial structure either dries into hard clods or slumps into a semi-liquid mass with the first heavy rain, and, as a result, it is difficult or impossible to get a tilth. Microbial and worm activity is lost and no plant foods are released by natural agencies. Such artificial (fertilizers) as are added are rapidly available for a short time but soon become fixed or are attacked by the denitrifying bacteria (which can work without air), so that long before the crop matures the supply is exhausted, however much is put in. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

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Why Organic?

It’s all about soil and health…
– So long as one feeds on foods from unhealthy soil, the spirit will lack the stamina to free itself from the prison of the body. (Rudolf Steiner – “Agriculture”)

– Soil is the basis for all human life. All of life will be either healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, The Unknown”)

– Malnutrition begins with the soil. Buoyant human health depends on wholesome food, and this can only come from fertile and productive soils. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, The Unknown”)

– In soil properly nourished with adequate supplies of humus, crops do not suffer from disease and do not require poisonous sprays to keep off parasites; that animals fed on those plants develop a high degree of disease resistance; and that man, nurtured with such plants and animals, can reach an extraordinary standard of health, able to resist disease and infection from whatever cause it may derive. (Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird – “Secrets of the Soil’)

– There is now a good deal of evidence from practical results to show that farming methods based on (organic) principles have a value distinctly above normal methods. Such evidence may be found in crop yields, long term fertility, nutritional values of produce, plant and animal health, and cash savings in cultivations. (P. H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– In order to produce good corps, plants need a steady and liberal release of nitrogenous compounds, potash and phosphates, and all other necessary adjuncts to the plant’s health. All this is provided, under natural conditions, by one means – through the activity of soil organisms. These in turn require food, mainly as a source of energy. There is a great distinction here – the plant provides its own energy from light and often some to spare for symbiotic organisms. The microorganism has to find its energy from ready-made materials but can often obtain its own mineral requirements direct from the soil particles….This energy supply consists of carbohydrates which are in turn plant remains, plant skeletons. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Organic matter may be called the constitution of the soil. Insects and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause. The use of poisonous sprays is an act of desperation in a dying agriculture. (Dr. William A. Albrecht, Chairman, Department of Soils, Univ. of Missouri)

– Crop losses in dry weather, or during mild cold snaps, are not so much the result of drought and cold as of nutrient deficiency. NPK formulas, as legislated and enforced by State Departments of Agriculture, mean malnutrition, attack by insects, bacteria, and fungi, weed takeover, crop losses in dry weather, and general loss of mental acuity in the population, leading to degenerative metabolic disease and early death. (Dr. William A. Albrecht, Chairman, Department of Soils, Univ. of Missouri)

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