HOME PAGE    AgricultureCatalog


Agriculture. There seems to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth.The first is by war, as the Romans did in plundering their conquered neighbors. Thisis robbery. The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third byagriculture, the only honest way; wherein man receives a real increase of the seedthrown into the ground in a kind of continual miracle. BenjaminFranklin.

Agriculturalist. The agriculturalist is the servant of the plant. LouiseHoward, wife and research partner of Sir Albert Howard until her death in Indiaabout 1932.

Its not what kind of food you eat, vegetarian or meat. The Eskimos livedhealthy lives on fish and blubber. What matters is that the foods eaten carry forwardthe protoplasm of the microorganisms grown with a natural balance of the elements.Mans' intestinal tract is a root turned inside out. The purpose of eating is to recreatea population of soil organisms in the intestinal tract. Protoplasm from the microorganismscan then be adsorbed right into the blood. Private conversation withJohn Hamaker in Secrets Of The Soil, Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.

Disease. I have learnt more from the diseases of plants and animals than Ihave from all the professors of Cambridge, Rothamsted and other places who gave memy preliminary training. I argued the matter in this way. If diseases attacked mycrops, it was because I was doing something wrong. I therefore used disease to teachme. . . Diseases taught me to understand agriculture. I think if we used diseasesmore instead of running to sprays and killing off pests, and if we let diseases ripand then found out what is wrong and then tried to put it right, we should get muchdeeper into agricultural problems than we shall do by calling in all these artificialaids. After all, the destruction of a pest is the evasion of, rather than the solutionof, all agricultural problems. I recommend very strongly diseases for keeping investigatorsin order. They are the post-graduate teachers of the investigators. Although it wasbitter experience for me, nevertheless it did me a great deal of good and I learnedmuch. Albert Howard, "The Restoration of Soil Fertility,"a paper presented at the Farmers' Club, London, 1 February, 1937.

Drouth. Drouth is said to be the arch enemy of the dry-farmer, but few agreeupon its meaning. For the purposes of this volume, drouth may be defined as a conditionunder which crops fail to mature because of an insufficient supply of water. Providencehas generally been charged with causing drouths, but under the above definition,man is usually the cause. Occasionally, relatively dry years occur, but they areseldom dry enough to cause crop failures if proper methods of farming have been practiced.There are four chief causes of drouth: (1) Improper or careless preparation of thesoil; (2) failure to store the natural precipitation in the soil; (3) failure toapply proper cultural methods for keeping the moisture in the soil until needed byplants, and (4) sowing too much seed for the available soil-moisture.John A. Widtsoe, Dry Farming, 1920.

Erosion. Soil erosion is the natural consequence of the collapse of the compoundsoil particles, on the maintenance of which the well-being both of the soil populationand the crop depends. These compound particles are made up of fragments of mineralmatter glued together by specks of organic matter provided by the activities of theinvisible life of the soil. These soil organisms have to be constantly fed with freshsupplies of humus, otherwise the soil soon wears out. When we attempt to replacethese supplies by means of artificial manures, we accelerate the wearing-out process.Nature in all such cases hits back by leaving the soil an inert mass of mineral fragments,in which the beneficial soil population are deprived of air, water, food, warmth,and shelter. The death of the soil and its population is the natural consequence.Nature finally removes the ruins by wind or water to form either a desert or newsoil somewhere else under the sea.
    How has the United States of America ministered to the country's[soil]? . . . A careful appraisal of the cultivated soils of the country were recorded[in 1938]. It disclosed the alarming fact that no less than 253,000,000 acres, or61 percent of the total area under crops had either been completely or partiallydestroyed, or had lost most of its fertility. Albert Howard's Introductionto Pay Dirt by J.I. Rodale. New York: Devin-Adair, 1945.

Expert. Fragmentation, I take it, arises the invasion and domination of thoughtby specialists. A piece of required knowledge is isolated and is studied with greattechnical skill and intensity by a specialist. This simplification of knowledge bydevotion to only a fragment of it is suitable to the intelligence of the averageman, and, as there are great numbers of average men, it is easy for present-day civilizationto cultivate a number of specialists or simplicists, men to whom thinking is simplifiedby cutting it down to one problem or set of problems, or one technique or even oneparticular part of a technical process. It is not only a division of labour, buta division of knowledge which leads to the separation of the intellect from the widerreality of life. G.T. Wrench, The Wheel of Health.
    The laboratory hermit is someone who knows moreand more about less and less. Sir Albert Howard.

Fertility. The orthodox scientist normally measures the fertility of a soilby its bulk yield, with no relation to effect on the ultimate consumer. I have seencattle slowly lose condition and fall in milk yield when fed entirely on the abundantproduce of an apparently fertile soil. Though the soil was capable of yielding heavycrops, those crops were not adequate in themselves to maintain body-weight and milkproduction in the cow, without supplements. That soil, though capable of above-averageyields, and by the orthodox quantitative measure regarded as fertile, could not,by the more complete measure of ultimate effect on the consumer, be regarded butanything but deficient in fertility.
    Fertility therefore, is the ability to produce at the highestrecognized level of yield, crops of quality which, when consumed over long periodsby animals or man, enable them to sustain health, bodily condition and high levelof production without evidence of disease or deficiency of any kind.
    Fertility cannot be measured quantitatively. Any measureof soil fertility must be related to the quality of its produce. . .the most simplemeasure of soil fertility is its ability to transmit, through its produce, fertilityto the ultimate consumer." Newman Turner, Fertility Pasturesand Cover Crops based on nature's own balanced organic pasture feeds. London: Faberand Faber, 1955, Rateaver reprint, 1975, pg. 20.
    ". . .soil fertility is determined by biological factors,mainly by microorganisms. The development of life in soil endows it with the propertyof fertility. The notion of soil is inseparable from the notion of the developmentof living organisms in it. Soil is created by microorganisms. Were this life deador stopped, the former soil would become an object of geology [not biology]. N. A. Krasilnikov, Soil Microorganisms and Higher Plants. Translatedfrom the Russian by Dr. Y. Halperin. Jerusalem: The Israel Program for ScientificTranslations, 1961.
    "A fertile soil, that is, a soil teeming with healthylife in the shape of abundant microflora and microfauna, will bear healthy plants,and these, when consumed by animals and man, will confer health on animals and man.But an infertile soil, that is, one lacking in sufficient microbial, fungous, andother life, will pass on some form of deficiency to the plants, and such plant, inturn, who pass on some form of deficiency to animal and man. LouiseE. Howard, Sir Albert Howard in India. Emmaus, PA: The Rodale Press, 1954.

Fertilizer. Furthermore, whatever rationale is applied in establishing a prohibitionagainst certain fertilizers should also be applied to all agricultural practices.No fertilizer, for example, has as traumatic an effect on soil structure, moistureand soil life as a rototiller. If we are sensitive to soil processes, we should banthe rototiller. If we are concerned about non-renuable energy use, we should banplastic mulches and gas-powered machinery.Robert Parnes, FertileSoil, A Grower's Guiide To Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers.
    . . . . only after the supply of organic matter has beenadequately provided for, will the full benefit of artificials be realized. Thereappears to be a great field for future experiment in the judicious use of artificialsto land already in a fair state of fertility. Sir Albert Howard,The Waste Products of Agriculture, 1931.

Garden. . . . a garden differs fundamentally from a farm. A farm is a sourceof nutrients, and a garden is a sink for nutrients. A farm produces hay and strawfor mulch, and it produces animal manure, both of which contribute to the fertilityof a garden. A garden takes all that fertility for producing a high intensity ofvaluable crops. Moreover, the tillage required to maintain a garden tends to destroyfertility, whereas the tillage on a farm, under ideal conditions, builds fertility.Robert Parnes, Fertile Soil, A Grower's Guiide To Organic and InorganicFertilizers.
"is the meeting of cow and grass. When we think of the cow, we willnot forget the demands of the grass. When we examine the grass, we will always bearin mind the demands of the cow. . . At an American experimental station they werestudying different types of white clover from a botanical point of view on smallplots. The young professor accompanying us said: 'Strain A gives higher yields thanstrain B, but it is of no interest, because at the beginning of summer it is attackedand destroyed by the Potato Leafhopper. Variety B, on the other hand, is not attacked.
    We went on to another American station which was likewiseexperimenting with the two strains A and B of white clover. This time, however, itwas not a case of botanical experiments on small plots, but an actual grazing trialwith cows. The professor explained to us that the strain B was non-existent by comparisonwith strain A, which gave vastly superior milk yields. 'But,' we said, 'have youno potato leafhopper in this region?'
    'We are infested with it,' was the reply. And the professor,guessing our thoughts, added with a smile: 'Potato leafhopper attacks variety A whenit is NOT grazed. But the reproduction of the leafhopper in a grazed sward is hinderedby the hoof and tooth of the grazing animal.'
    One can therefore understand the errors which might arisefrom a botanical study in itself, forgetting the relations between plant and animal."Andre Voisin, Grass Productivity. Reprint of a 1959 edition atWashington, D.C.: Island Press Reprints, 1988.

Growing. Not the least of these inherent human traits that have served toperpetuate error in the farming business is the incorrigible feeling on the partof people that they can be of assistance to plants in their growth. The statementappears at variance with our basic thinking, but, actually, there is nothing thatanybody can do to assist a plant that is growing in its natural environment. Andwhen we grow plants in an artificial environment, the best we can possibly do iscopy as closely as possible the essentials of the natural environment.WilliamFaulkner, Plowman's Folly. 1943. University of Oklahoma Press.

Humus. Thus, bacteria and animals jointly break down organic substances--particularlyplant debris--in the soil, cooperating in the following manner: (1) Most soil animalseat only those parts of plants that have already been broken down by bacteria (aprocess that, under sufficiently moist conditions, takes place very quickly). (2)The bacteria continue their development in the intestines of soil animals, with theresult that animal excrement is often far richer in bacteria than was the originaldebris. . . . (3) The relatively loose excrement of the generally larger, “primary”breakdown organisms is redigested by progressively smaller soil animals, so thatthe humus crumbs become finer and finer. (4) Earthworms and enchytraeid worms (potworms)devour the more or less decomposed organic “soil-constituents” together with mineralmatter, combining them into argillaceous (clayey) humus we have mentioned, and whichwe know to be of the greatest importance to plant growth.
    In the typical situation, therefore, the formation of humusis not a single, unified process, but one that takes place by stages. As a result,the composition of humus varies with climatic, phyto-sociological, and general soilcondition. Friedrich Schaller, Soil Animals. Ann Arbor: Universityof Michigan Press, 1968, pg. 33.
    Humus is the excrement of soil animals, primarily earthworms,but including that of some other species that, like earthworms, are capable of combiningdecomposed organic matter with clay, creating stable soil crumbs highly resistantto further decomposition. Steve Solomon, 1992
    Humus, which constitutes most of the organic matter in thesoil, is the collection of the remains of soil organisms. Through several cyclesin which some varieties of organisms feed on the remains of others, and by meansof purely chemical reactions, humus becomes increasingly stable. Soil organic mattershould have a balance of partially decomposed substances and the stable humus itself.
    In almost all soils, biological activity is limited by theenergy available from carbonaceous organic residues. Robert Parnes,Fertile Soil, A Grower's Guiide To Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers.

Lime. The Germans say: 'Lime makes the fathers rich but the children poor.'The English saying is: 'Lime and lime without manure, will make both farm and farmerpoor.' Cyril Hopkins, Story of the Soil, 1910.

Natural. "All agriculture was artificial. Therewas nothing more artificial in the world than a field of cultivated potatoes. Forwhat was agriculture, after all, but an attempt to strip areas of the earth's surfaceof its wild mixed flora and fauna, and to reserve such areas exclusively for thegrowth of plant prodigies, most of them brought from foreign lands, and all of themchosen for abnormalities of special utility to man? This agriculture, this exclusivetending of vegetable freaks and monsters, was necessary if the human species wasto survive. But as it was necessary, so there was nowhere at which it was philosophicallypossible to draw a line, and reasonably say that up to such and such a level in itshistorical development agriculture was natural and right, while all beyond becameunnatural and wrong. No one could say, for example, that it was natural and rightand proper to put lime on sour land, as their great-great-grandfathers had done,but wrong to stimulate the growth of plants with synthetic sulfate of ammonia. Bothlime and sulfate of ammonia were products of the chemical industry; both were ultimatelyderived from the waters and rocks of the earth and the constituents of the atmosphere.The best that man could do at any time to defend the health of the hypertrophic agriculturalplants that in his cunning he had sought out or made, was to apply to the work ofrearing them the whole of his science." E.C. Large, The Advanceof the Fungi, 1940.

Organic. The strict principle must be remembered that the exclusive use oforganic fertilizers does not in itself make a farm "organic" or "bio-dynamic."The amounts of organic fertilizer used must also be correct. Koepf,Biodynamic Agriculture.

Organic Matter is the unifying element in the soil, having a prominentinfluence on soil organisms, plant growth and the physical properties of the soil.We might regard the soil as the furnace of life, whereing organic matter is the fuel,soil organisms are the fire consuming the fuel, and the plant nutrients are the ashesof the combustion. The fire needs no matches, only fuel and a modest amount of airand water; it is vigorous at the first addition of residues but slows to a smoulderingoxidation that can last for centuries.Robert Parnes, Fertile Soil,A Grower's Guiide To Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers.

Rotation, Crop (in the garden). "The strip system has also been adoptedfor the allotments round our towns and cities without any provision whatsoever onthe part of the authorities to maintain the land in good heart by such obvious andsimple expedients as subsoiling, followed by a rest under grass grazed by sheep orcattle, ploughing up, and sheet composting the vegetable residues. Land under allotmentsshould not be under vegetables for more than five years at a time: this should befollowed by a similar period under grass and livestock." SirAlbert Howard, The Soil and Health. New York: Devin-Adair, 1952, pg. 53.
    "The interaction of soil microorganisms with higherplants is very complex and multiform. Depending on the plant cover on the same soilunder equal external conditions, the composition of the microflora changes sharply.Plants are a very strong ecological factor, selecting certain species of bacteria,fungi, actinomycetes and other inhabitants of the soil. As a result of wrong agriculturalpractices and crop rotation, the soil becomes infested with harmful microbial forms.Bu use of suitable plants in the crop rotation, one may change the microflora ofsoil in the desired direction, and eliminate harmful organisms, in other words--restorethe health of soil." N. A. Krasilnikov, Soil Microorganismsand Higher Plants. Translated from the Russian by Dr. Y. Halperin. Jerusalem: TheIsrael Program for Scientific Translations, 1961.

Soil "is rock material on its way toward the deep. But soils are considerablyrestrained in . . . going by the action of plants which form a mat upon them. Thepreservation of the food-giving value of the soil as used by civilized man dependson the efficiency of the means by which he keeps the passage of the soil to the seaat a rate no greater than that at which it is restored by the decay of these materialson which it rests." Shaler, Nathaniel S. Man and the Earth.New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1905.

Soil Animals. Ecological studies lead to the following divisions: (1) Large,actively burrowing animals that can move through the soil at will. (2) Extremelyvaried, medium-sized, surface and humus dwellers and those living under loose stones.(3) Small inhabitants of the loose upper and middle layers of the soil. (4) Smalland very small forms inhabiting deeper layers. (5) Microscopic organisms inhabitinginvisible films of moisture and damp substrata of the soil. FriedrichSchaller, Soil Animals. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968, pp. 24-5.

Soil Solution "represents a very dynamic and indeed the most active partof the soil. Different chemical and biological processes take place in it. The compositionof the soil solution is an important factor in the nutrition, growth, and reproductionof organisms. To a great extent it also determines the total productivity of thesoil. G. N. Vysotskii compared the soil solution to the blood of animals.
    The soil solution represents a nutrient medium for the entirepopulation of the soil and especially for the microorganisms. In all cases when themedium is favorable and there are no hindering factors, the amount of organisms isabundant. The more nutrients in the solution, the more intense the development andmetabolism of soil microorganisms. Fertile soils and soils fertilized with largeamounts of humus have a high concentration of nutrients in their solutions. Soilsof low fertility, not containing humus, have small concentrations of nutrients intheir soil solutions and the growth of microbes will be slight." N.A. Krasilnikov, Soil Microorganisms and Higher Plants. Translated from the Russianby Dr. Y. Halperin. Jerusalem: The Israel Program for Scientific Translations, 1961.

HOME PAGE    AgricultureCatalog