SUPERPHOSPHATE OR N-P-K FERTILIZERS
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© June 2011, The Center For Development
Today, almost all crops are fertilized with what are called superphosphate fertilizers or N-P-K fertilization methods. This applies to organically grown food as well as conventionally raised produce, sadly. This method is so well-entrenched that it would be almost impossible to change it quickly. However, it is not ideal, by any means, and this article explains why.
THE HISTORY OF SUPERPHOSPHATE FERTILIZATION
The use of superphosphates began around 1930 in the United States. Their discovery was somewhat of an accident, in that farmers had earlier observed that where the soil was naturally high in phosphates, which were and are a type of contaminant or pollutant, that certain crops grew very well.
There followed research to find out why, and soil scientists discovered that the combination of the right mineral compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium would indeed stimulate plant growth, producing a much larger plant that appeared to be quite robust, as well. This seemed wonderful for farmers who are paid for their crop by the pound. As a result, this method of fertilizing with superphosphate chemicals took hold and continues today.
N-P-K fertilization literally changed the face of agriculture and ushered in the 20th century chemical-based agriculture. Soon to follow were other soil stimulants, hormone therapy for soils, and pesticides to kill all the new crop diseases that arose. The total of all this is today called the agricultural green revolution.
Today, this is all beginning to backfire, but that is another story. For now, let us understand exactly how the superphosphate chemicals work, and the effects upon the crops, the soil and human and animal species.
PROBLEMS WITH SUPERPHOSPHATE OR N-P-K FERTILIZATION OF THE SOIL
1. More yin and thus more yin-toxic crops. This may sound esoteric, but it is an important truth. Larger species of wheat, soy, corn, fruits, and everything else today are more yin plants. The word yin in Chinese means expanded and centrifugal in nature. This is exactly what happens to these plants under the influence of N-P-K fertilizers. They grow big, tall and expanded.
The problem with this is that the world today is very yin already. To maintain a balance, we do not need more yin crops. In fact, they make us more ill. Please read Yin Disease and Yin And Yang Healing on this website to learn why the world is so yin today, and how this damages health.
2. Depletion of the soil trace minerals. This occurs for at least two reasons:
a) The increased yield of acreage or tonnage of crops means that more trace elements go into the crops, and these trace minerals are then removed from the soil when the crop is harvested. As a result, the soil needs to be replenished with more trace minerals. However, farmers have not done this, in general, as it is very costly and in some cases, quite difficult to accomplish.
b). Superphosphates seem to speed up the oxidation rate of the plants, weeds, and the soil microorganisms. This is a form of stress for the soil, the crops and the soil micro-organisms that leads to harmful changes in the mineral composition of the soil, the crops and the soil micro-organisms themselves.
This reason for trace mineral depletion is so critical and important, it is discussed later in this article in a separate section below.
c) Other damage to the soil micro-organisms. This is often from pesticides, insecticides, the use of other chemicals, and perhaps damage due to topsoil erosion or other causes.
3. Topsoil erosion. Topsoil erosion may not sound serious, but they are. Topsoil takes hundreds of years to form, and any loss of it is catastrophic for agriculture. The reasons for topsoil erosion include reduced soil permeability discussed below, but also changes in the soil flora or micro-organisms that may make the soil dryer and less able to hold together during dust and rain storms. This creates dust bowls when the wind blows, desertification and other horrors for humanity.
4. Reduced soil permeability. This means that rain water just runs off, instead of being absorbed and held in the soil. When the water runs off, first it takes with it valuable topsoil. Some, of course, is deposited downstream, but much is just washed into the oceans where it benefits no one except some fish.
Secondly, it causes far worse flooding problems.
Thirdly, reduced soil permeability can spell disaster for some crops that require a permeable soil.
Fourth, impermeable or hard-pan soil is much more difficult for farmers to till and cultivate. So this is another serious problem in some areas.
Today, farmers may add more chemicals to soften the soil and help it to hold more water. However, adding more chemicals is sometimes dangerous, as the chemicals can be toxic. Allowing animals to graze on the land is another solution, and there are others that are non-toxic.
5. More flooding around the world. I list this problem mentioned above separately, as it is so serious. Many news stories document that flooding is a terrible human and environmental problem today. Few news stories relate it back to modern chemical agriculture, but that is one of its main causes. Flooding is the result of reduced soil permeability and loss of topsoil. When the rains come, the soil cannot absorb the water, so it just forms a torrent and tears through homes and cities.
6. Desertification around the world. I will list this problem separately, as it, too, is so critical to stop. Desertification simply means that as the soil loses fertility, fewer weeds and other plants, bushes and trees grow in the area, and after a while the area turns to desert. This ruins it as an animal habitat, and it cannot be used for farming, ranching, or most other human activities. This is still happening across Africa and parts of Asia thanks to unwise farming practices. Fortunately, this problem is being addressed, more than the others, as it is so serious.
7. Insect and other pest infestations due to imbalanced plant chemistry. Insect infestations have always plagued agriculture. Lately, some of these problems are becoming worse. Once again, this rarely makes the news because mankind is resourceful and often finds solutions. However, the solutions, as with human health problems, are usually more “stimulant or suppressive drugs” for the soil in the form of newer pesticides that themselves are quite toxic and damaging.
8. More severe poisoning of the soil, plants, animals, humans and the environment with newer toxic pesticides and insecticides. The answer for the problems listed above, according to the “factory farming movement”, has been to develop more and more new chemicals such as, pesticides, insecticides, and more recently special genetically-modified strains of seeds that contain pesticides such as Roundup Ready Corn and others that can survive the reduced soil fertility, unbalanced soil and increased pest problems.
This movement has brought great profits to a few biotech companies such as Monsanto and others who genetically design the seeds and then license the farmers to use them. It is all quite despicable, however, as it is not solving the basic problem and it is causing other problems. These include cross-contamination of seeds, more toxic soils, and the production of even less nutritional crops.
The chemicals themselves are also often costly, and quite harmful to the soil, animals, wildlife and humans who must work around the chemicals and eat their residues. These toxic chemicals are much worse than some imagine, and they are contaminating the entire planet more each year.
9. Reduced general soil fertility. This effect is a combination of trace mineral imbalances, reduced soil permeability, toxic soil due to pesticide use, and topsoil erosion. This serious problem is slowly reducing the wonderful crop yields that superphosphates used to produce. It may also threaten starvation for millions of people in the future if certain trends are not reversed.
In some parts of the world, reduced soil fertility is already causing starvation in areas which used to support agriculture.
10. Much poorer quality food. The deterioration in the nutritional quality of our food has been well-documented. In many cases, the trace mineral content, which is just one measure, has declined by over 1000% in the past hundred years. In some cases, it is even worse.
In addition to mineral, vitamin and protein losses, the food is starchier, more sugary, and loaded with chemicals, all of which promote disease in livestock, humans and even the bees and other creatures that eat the food. This is a major contributor to the “diseases of civilization” that now ravage America, Europe and even parts of Asia, which is quickly adopting the N-P-K mentality out of what they believe is sheer economic necessity.
11. More toxic metals in the soil. As is the case with human beings, the soil takes up and utilizes many more toxic metals when there is a shortage of vital trace minerals. This is a final problem that has repercussions throughout the food chain, and at every level of agriculture and human nutrition. The food supply has not only become depleted of certain trace minerals, but it has become more toxic with the heavy metals, as well.
12. Accumulation of the “amigos” or the irritants or oxides in the soil, and thus the food. This is an interesting problem that I first noticed in human beings. Since then, I have found the identical problem in livestock animals, domesticated animal species, and in the soil.
The amigos refers to biounavailable or less bioavailable forms of certain minerals including iron, manganese, aluminum, copper, nickel, boron, molybdenum, chromium, selenium, vanadium, cobalt, lithium and others. Even calcium and magnesium can form these less available compounds.
What appears to occur is that as the soil or the plant and animal bodies become weaker, certain forms of minerals start to accumulate. The soil micro-organisms and the bodies can make these compounds. They have a stimulating effect, so they compensate for certain weaknesses in the soil, the plants, the animals and in human beings and in this way keep the soil and living organisms balanced to a degree. However, they are not healthy at all. To learn more about them in human beings, an in general, read The Amigos - Iron, Manganese and Aluminum on this website.
THE EFFECTS OF SUPERPHOSPHATES ON ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND LIVESTOCK
This has been touched upon, and much more could be written about it. In general, the health of the livestock today is far worse than in the past. The animals are stressed, infected with viri, and their digestion, immune responses, reproduction, energy level and much more is out of balance and weak. Also, their flesh and milk contain pesticide residues, hormone residues and other toxic chemicals.
Many of the livestock, especially dairy cows and beef cattle, are not nearly as healthful today because they are genetic hybrids. The hybrids can survive on the depleted and toxic feed, but they require antibiotics, hormones, vaccines and other toxic drugs to survive. They are like many people today who are so ill that some seem to need half a dozen drugs and several operations just to survive.
THE EFFECTS OF SUPERPHOSPHATES ON WILDLIFE
Wildlife are often decimated by eating the crops in the fields produced with superphosphates. This is because the wildlife is not accustomed to the stimulation of poor quality, low trace-element food and they suffer diseases and death as a result. The wildlife are also often poisoned by the pesticide residues that find their way into the water supplies and the air everywhere on planet earth. They are also decimated by the drying up of their habitats as a result of the soil’s inability to absorb and hold as much water as it did previously. It is a total loss for the wildlife on the planet with few exceptions.
THE EFFECTS OF SUPERPHOSPHATES ON HUMAN BEINGS
The green revolution of the twentieth century has seen a great increase in the amount of food that can be grown per acre of arable land. This has certainly been a blessing for life on earth.
However, there has been a price to pay, and we are now reaping some of the adverse effects of the green revolution. The trace mineral content, protein content and other nutrients in the food are much lower than 100 years ago. While some diseases have been conquered, other diseases have taken their place and the human lifespan has basically stagnated for the past 20 or 30 years. Commentators should mention this fact when people defend the medical system as being so wonderful. It is not.
Imbalances and deficiencies and toxicity related to our agricultural methods contribute to all the major diseases of our day. Fortunately as this website documents, much of the effects can be offset or at least modified if a person will eat a diet of at least 70% cooked vegetables. Also, the ravages of malnutrition continue to plague the world, and some of this, though not all, is due to the wholesale use of superphosphates without much understanding.
MORE DETAILS ON THE OXIDATION RATE OF THE SOIL AND HOW SPEEDING UP THE OXIDATION RATE WITH N-P-K FERTILIZERS UPSETS THE MINERAL BALANCE OF THE SOIL
The oxidation rate is a general term that has to do with the metabolic rate or rate of oxygen burning or usage in a plant, animal or human being.
The concept of stress is used often in relation to human health. However, soils are often stressed as well. They can be stressed by lack of moisture, by insect infestation, or by other factors. Superphosphates exert a stress that speeds up the metabolic rate of all life in the soil.
Interestingly, this stress is very similar to how some of our food habits may speed up the oxidation rate in human beings. Here are some of the human equivalents of N-P-K fertilization:
(N or Nitrogen). This can come from eating too much meat, cheese, eggs, or even too many dried beans or legumes. Overeating on these foods, which is standard in many Western people’s diets, gives the body too much nitrogen compounds, which are rich in protein foods.
(P or phosphorus) This comes from drinking some cola drinks or soda pop. Slightly toxic phosphorus compounds are also rich in all grains. Some colas contain toxic forms of phosphorus such as phosphoric acid. The grains contain phytates and other phosphorus compounds, which can also be easily overdone.
(K or potassium) This comes, unfortunately, from eating fruit today and perhaps some vegetables such as the nightshades, which are actually fruits. All of it, even organically grown fruit, generally contains a lot of this toxic form of potassium. For some reason, fruits pick up a lot of the toxic potassium found in the N-P-K fertilizers used on the fruit trees.
Vegetables do not pick up as much of it, so they are safer, especially if they are cooked. This may be because vegetables are much more yang in Chinese medical terms than fruits. Yang will not attract or pick up as much of yin toxins, of which the potassium used in N-P-K fertilizers is one.
Most everyone, we find, needs to be eating far more cooked vegetables, most likely to counteract the stimulating or unbalanced effect of eating some other foods.
Eating many cooked vegetables also contain “antidotes” for the stimulant foods, every day also provides plenty of “antidotes” for some of the unbalancing effects of other foods. These protective chemicals include plenty of folic acid, TMGor trimethylglycine, many trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, healthful fiber, and other balancing nutrients.
Humans and some animals try to speed up their metabolism with other stimulants, as well, such as sugars, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, fear, worry and other methods. However, the food-based stimulants above are actually among the main metabolic stimulants used by human beings today around the world! It is truly amazing that the same things that stimulate the soil and animal species will also stimulate the human oxidation rate – and with the same harmful consequences.
How speeding up the oxidation rate affects mineral levels in the soil and in human and animal species. Soil stimulants, including N-P-K fertilizers, essentially cause a fight-or-flight response in the soil micro-organisms. The fertilizers act as somewhat yang stressors that initiate this reaction.
According to the stress theory of disease proposed by Dr. Hans Selye, MD, a fight-or-flight reaction always causes the depletion of particular trace minerals, and an overabundance of others. For example, this particular type of stress depletes calcium, magnesium, and zinc quickly and early. Later on, it causes depletion of other trace minerals such as selenium, silicon, manganese, boron and bioavailable forms of copper.
The following is an article by Dr. Mercola from his email newsletter, July 1, 2013:
RUNNING OUT OF SUPERPHOSPHATE FERTILIZERS
By Dr. Mercola
Environmental pollution is a significant problem. But while most of the focus is placed on polluting industries, toxins like mercury and small particle traffic pollution, a major source of environmental devastation is caused by modern food production. Far from being life sustaining, our modern chemical-dependent farming methods:
• Strip soil of nutrients
• Destroy critical soil microbes
• Contribute to desertification and global climate change, and
• Saturate farmlands with toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that then migrate into ground water, rivers, lakes and oceans.
For example, many areas of Minnesota, which is prime farmland, now face the problem of having dangerously elevated levels of nitrogen in their drinking water.
The conversion of grasslands and pastures into chemical-driven, industrial crop land has eliminated much of the natural filtering of ground water that such native landscapes typically provide. Health risks of nitrogen include a potential connection to cancer, as well as thyroid and reproductive problems in both humans and livestock.
Looming Fertilizer Shortage Could Spell the End of Modern Agriculture
Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are believed to be essential for plants to grow, (below, I’ll discuss why NPK may not be as necessary as we think.), and are extracted from the soil with each harvest.
This is why farmers spread fertilizer on their fields, to replace the nutrients lost. It’s certainly not the ideal and sustainable way to farm, but it’s thought to be the most efficient for large-scale farms. Strategies like crop rotation and allowing large fields to rest would cut too deep into profits that are based on quantity, opposed to quality.
Unfortunately, the Earth's soil is now being depleted of nutrients at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced. Not only that, but according to some, we may also be facing looming shortages of two critical fertilizer ingredients: phosphorus and potassium.
A 2012 article in Mother Jones1 discussed “peak phosphorus and potassium,” drawing lines of similarity between the diminishing reserves of these natural elements and “peak oil.”
Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium cannot be synthesized, and our aggressive large-scale farming methods, which deplete soils of nutrients that then must be replaced, are quickly burning through available phosphorus and potassium stores.
According to well-known investor Jeremy Grantham, writing for Nature:
“These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’s a scary set of statements. Former Soviet states and Canada have more than 70 percent of the potash. Morocco has 85 percent of all high-grade phosphates. It is the most important quasi-monopoly in economic history.
What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried. There seems to be only one conclusion: their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.”
This largely unknown issue may end up playing a more significant role than you can currently imagine, because it cuts to the heart of the sustainability of modern agricultural practices, or rather the lack thereof.
“[T]he next time someone facilely insists that the 'industrial farms are the future,' ask what the plan is regarding phosphorus,” Mother Jones writes. “Developing an agriculture that's ready for a phosphorus shortage means a massive focus on recycling the nutrients we take from the soil back into the soil—in other words, composting, not on a backyard level but rather on a society-wide scale.
It also requires policies that give farmers incentives to build up organic matter in soil, so it holds in nutrients instead of letting them leach away... Both of these solutions, of course, are specialties of organic agriculture.”
Monoculture vs. Polyculture
Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. In fact, corn, wheat and rice now account for 60 percent of human caloric intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.2
By contrast, polyculture (the traditional rotation of crops and livestock) better serves both land and people. Polyculture evolved to meet the complete nutritional needs of a local community. Polyculture, when done mindfully, automatically replenishes what is taken out, which makes it sustainable with minimal effort.
If it’s true that we may at some point face a shortage of phosphorus and potassium, large-scale farming facilities would be hard-pressed to produce much of anything after a short while. Such shortages might even lead to geopolitical strife, as phosphate rock is primarily concentrated in the occupied territory of the Western Sahara region of Morocco. It may sound farfetched to some, but how far would a nation go to secure access to such a location if the future of the entire agricultural industry and food supply depended on it?
Monocropping Is NOT the Way to Feed a Growing Population
The evidence tells us that forging more sustainable alternatives is imperative if we hope to survive. Yet proponents of factory farms and genetically engineered crops argue that monocropping, or crop specialization, is the only way to feed the masses and that it's far more profitable than having small independent farms in every township.
But is this really true? A number of studies show just the opposite! In fact, studies are showing that medium-sized organic farms are far more profitable than ANY sized industrial agricultural operation.
For example, researchers at the University of Wisconsin's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute3 (results published in 2008 in the Agronomy Journal)4 found that traditional organic farming techniques of planting a variety of plants to ward off pests is more profitable than monocropping. The organic systems resulted in higher profits than "continuous corn, no-till corn and soybeans, and intensively managed alfalfa."
Not only that, but organic farming practices use natural, time-tested techniques that naturally prevents soil depletion and destruction, and doesn’t use chemical fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals that pollute our soil, air, and waterways.
In the study just mentioned, the researchers concluded that government policies supporting monoculture are "outdated," and that it's time for support to be shifted toward programs that promote crop rotation and organic farming. As it turns out, when you eliminate the agricultural chemicals, specialized machinery and multi-million dollar buildings, fuel costs, insurance costs, and the rest of the steep financial requirements of a big industrial operation, your cost of producing food takes a serious dive into the doable. And did I mention… the food from organic farms tend to be far more nutritious, besides being free of toxic contaminants?
Even the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is starting to question our current path of monoculture. It recently released a report titled: "Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States."5 According to the report, our current agricultural system, which is dominated by corn and soy, is unsustainable in the long term. Should temperatures rise as predicted, the US could expect to see significant declines in yields by the middle of this century. Food shortages would be inevitable, since little besides these crops are grown. (Keep in mind the primary crops grown in the US are used in processed food production, so countless numbers of food products would be affected by massive crop loss.)
Nitrogen Overuse Threatens the Environment
Going back to where we started, the overuse of nitrogen in farming is causing far more environmental devastation than many currently comprehend. A recent National Geographic article6 addresses this issue:
“'Runaway nitrogen is suffocating wildlife in lakes and estuaries, contaminating groundwater, and even warming the globe’s climate. As a hungry world looks ahead to billions more mouths needing nitrogen-rich protein, how much clean water and air will survive our demand for fertile fields?'
China, the world’s largest producer of synthetic nitrogen, has hundreds of nitrogen factories, and the country’s farmers apply vast amounts of nitrogen to their fields. One rice farmer reports spreading no less than 530 pounds of urea, a dry form of nitrogen, on each acre. Vegetable farmers use even more than that. According to the featured article,7 some use upwards of two tons of nitrogen each hectare (2.47 acres).
'Few of them think they’re doing anything harmful. No, no pollution,' says Song, when asked about the environmental effects of fertilizer,' the article states. "Scientists tell a different story. 'Nitrogen fertilizer is overused by 30 to 60 percent' in intensively managed fields, says Xiaotang Ju, of the China Agricultural University in Beijing. 'It’s misuse!' Once spread on fields, nitrogen compounds cascade through the environment, altering our world, often in unwelcome ways. Some of the nitrogen washes directly from fields into streams or escapes into the air. Some is eaten, in the form of grain, by either humans or farm animals, but is then released back into the environment as sewage or manure from the world’s growing number of pig and chicken farms.”
Water pollution, as mentioned earlier, is one of the side effects of such overuse. In a matter of decades, rivers that used to run crystal clear though Chinese provinces are now cloudy from overgrowth of phytoplankton, fed by fertilizer runoff from the fields. According to National Geographic:
“A recent national survey of 40 lakes in China found that more than half of them suffered from too much nitrogen or phosphorus. (Fertilizer containing phosphorus is often to blame for algal growth in lakes.)
The best known case is Lake Tai, China’s third largest freshwater lake, which regularly experiences huge blooms of toxic cyanobacteria. A spreading bloom in 2007 contaminated water supplies for two million people in the nearby city of Wuxi. Excess nutrients are damaging fisheries in China’s coastal areas in the same way that fertilizer runoff flowing down the Mississippi has destroyed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico: by creating dead zones in which algae and phytoplankton bloom, die, and decompose, using up oxygen and suffocating fish.”
Finding the Middle Ground of Good Harvests with Reduced Fertilizer Pollution
National Geographic describes a research project in Michigan that has been ongoing for the past two decades. The project is part of Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, near Kalamazoo. Here, fields that are exactly one hectare in size provide side-by-side comparisons of four different farming methods, ranging from conventional to organic. Everything that is added to or removed from each field is carefully measured, including rainfall, fertilizer, nitrous oxide, water that leaches into groundwater, and the harvest itself. According to the article:
“Each field planted according to standard plowing and fertilizer recommendations released 610 pounds of nitrogen per acre into Michigan’s shallow groundwater over the past 11 years... The organic fields in Robertson’s experiment, which received no commercial fertilizer or manure, lost only a third as much—but those fields also produced 20 percent less grain.
Intriguingly, the 'low input' fields, which received small amounts of fertilizer but were also planted with winter cover crops, offered the best of both worlds: Average yields were about as high as those from the conventional fields, but nitrogen leaching was much reduced, almost to the level of the organic fields.
If America’s farmers could cut their nitrogen losses to something close to this level... restored wetlands and revived small streams could clean up the rest. As in China, though, many farmers find it hard to change. When a family’s livelihood is at stake, it may seem safer to apply too much fertilizer rather than too little. 'Being a good steward currently has economic consequences that are unfair,' says Robertson.”
How Sustainable Soil Science Can Help Rescue Our Environment and Food Supply
I recently interviewed Dr. Elaine Ingham,8 an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. I also recently visited her at her new position at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. According to Dr. Ingham, a key component of successful agriculture lies in having the right helper organisms in the soil; beneficial species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes (not the weedfeeders), microarthropods, and earthworms—all of which contribute to plant growth in a number of different ways.
Nutrient cycling is another major issue. According to Dr. Ingham, there’s no soil on Earth that lacks the nutrients to grow a plant. She believes the concept that your soil is deficient and needs added phosphorus or nitrogen etc in order to grow plants is seriously flawed, and largely orchestrated by the chemical companies, because it’s based on looking at the soluble, inorganic nutrients that are partly present in your soil.
The real nutrition your plants require is actually derived from microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material that’s in your soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, your plants cannot get the nutrients they need. So what you need is not more chemical soil additives, what you need is the proper balance of beneficial soil organisms. According to Dr. Ingham:
“It’s very necessary to have these organisms. They will supply your plant with precisely the right balances of all the nutrients the plant requires. When you start to realize that one of the major roles and functions of life in the soil is to provide nutrients to the plants in the proper forms, then we don’t need inorganic fertilizers. We certainly don’t have to have genetically engineered plants or to utilize inorganic fertilizers if we get this proper biology back in the soil.
If we balance the proper biology, we select against the growth of weeds, so the whole issue with herbicides is done away with. We don’t need the herbicides if we can get the proper life back into the soil and select for the growth of the plants that we want to grow and against the growth of the weedy species.”
Interestingly enough, you can use a starter culture to boost the fermentation and generation of beneficial bacteria much in the same way you can boost the probiotics in your fermented vegetables. For compost, this strategy is used if you want to compost very rapidly. In that case, you can use a starter to inoculate the specific sets of organisms that you need to encourage in that compost.
For optimal physical health, you need plant foods to contain the full set of nutrients that will allow the plant to grow in a healthy fashion, because that’s the proper balance of nutrients for us human beings as well. Dr. Ingham has written several books on this topic, including The Field Guide for Actively Aerated Compost Tea, and The Compost Tea Brewing Manual.
How to Help Support Sustainable Agriculture
If you want to optimize your health, you simply must return to the basics of healthy food choices and typically this includes buying your food from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources. This is why I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area. This includes not only visiting the farm directly, if you have one nearby, but also taking part in farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture programs.
Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier when you get it from sustainable, non-CAFO sources, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket -- home to virtually every CAFO food made -- just can't compete. If you want to experience some of these benefits first-hand, here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:
1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
2. Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
3. Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
6. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
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Pioneers in organic agriculture such as Andre Voisin, William Albrecht, and even as far back as George Carver and other great scientists warned about the consequences of using superphosphate fertilizers. Their warning went unheeded because the increase in crop yield was so amazing and lucrative.
Only now, in the 1990s and later, have more agricultural scientists begun to wonder about what we have lost or created as a result of the green revolution of the 20th century on earth.
This is completely analogous to the questioning that is now occurring concerning the wholesale use of medical drugs that mainly stimulate, suppress and alter the body at symptomatic levels, while intoxicating the person and causing “side effects”, in too many cases. The excitement over drugs is similar to the excitement over superphosphates, and the financial gain for drug companies is similar to the financial gain for some large agricultural firms.
I predict that this questioning will increase in the future, as it must in order to correct the problems that have been caused with our food, our livestock, our soil and our entire environment due to the 20th century green revolution in agriculture.