Recently, I wrote about the “Green Revolution” (which I called the Greed Revolution), and some not-commonly-published, negative side effects which that revolution may have had on food. I told of studies which indicate that hybrid corn may fall considerably short of the nutrient content of open pollinated (O.P.) corn. I speculated that one reason that botanists began hybridizing plants used for food was so that those plants would not need as many nutrients, of which our soils are deficient in forms available to plants. (That's why our soils are often called “depleted soils.” They're depleted of available nutrients.) In lieu of attempting to raise the quality of our soils to where that quality was when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, or, ideally, to attempt to bring them back to “Garden of Eden” levels of quality, if we could know the condition of soils at that time, we lowered the standards for our sources of food. As we decreased the nutrient requirement of crops, we decreased our nutrient uptake.
Our having lowered the nutrient uptake of plants which we eat (if, indeed, that has occurred), is similar to what we have done with public “schools,” to which we send our children. We tell the kids, “We want 'A's from you.” Then, rather than do all that we can to give students all of the knowledge which they can absorb, we “dumb down” the schools, and fill the day with sex “education,” and with D.A.R.E. programs, which introduce students to drugs, or make them more familiar with drugs. In order to facilitate making an A, we purge most of the “3 Rs” from schools, so that even a delinquent orangutan can make an A in our classrooms. “He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). As we have been sloppy with our schools, and, as a result, unjust with students in those schools, we have been sloppy with our soils, and our food supply, and unjust to those who use “foods” from that food supply for nourishment.
When I took my first soil science class, the professor—Dr. J. Leon Young—tried to make a point with us. He tried to make a distinction between the word, “dirt,” and its connotation, with the word, soil. He said that “dirt” is what gets under your fingernails, and on your clothes. On the other hand, soil is not merely dirt, but is “alive.”
Soil: the Bridge from Mineral to Biological
I'd like to venture into an analogy which is still forming between my ears. I think about plants, and the fact that they take up minerals, and use them to maintain life, or to move it forward. For instance, plants take up the mineral, magnesium. That magnesium in the soil had probably been in ionic form, in soil moisture. The plant takes that magnesium ion, and creates a molecule of chlorophyll, partly by placing magnesium at the “hub” of the chlorophyll molecule. That magnesium, which had formerly borne the image of the mineral world, now bears the image of the plant world...part of the biologically-alive world. In a way, that magnesium is “born again.” That magnesium is no longer merely born of the mineral kingdom. It is now also born of the vegetable kingdom. That which is born of the mineral is mineral, and that which is born of the flora is flora. Unless magnesium is born of the floral, it cannot enter into the vegetable kingdom.
Yahshua (Jesus) answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Yahweh (God). That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5, 6). And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (I Corinthians 15:49).
Just as we can't enter into the kingdom of the Creator, unless we are “born of the spirit,” mineral magnesium cannot make the transition from the mineral kingdom to the vegetable kingdom, unless it is born of the biological world. Magnesium cannot make itself into a plant. It can't gather other minerals together, and create a plant.
I heard, in my animal science class, that, if a person were to kill all of the parasites in a goat, that goat would die. Perhaps the word, parasite, is not the best word to use to describe some of the beneficial organisms which live inside a goat. “Symbiotic” and “mutualistic” are other words used to describe associations between one life form and another. But that point about parasites in goats eventually hit home. Plants are similar. A plant, by itself, has difficulty with extracting minerals from soil. Plant roots are helped by an association with fungi. This association, or combination of plant roots and fungi, is called micorrhiza. Micorrhizae help green plants to extract minerals from soil. Though I have not studied this to any extent, I strongly suspect that, if all micorhizal associations were to disappear suddenly; if all of the fungi associated with roots of green plants suddenly ceased to exist, green plants would suffer, to say the least.
I submit that if soil were “dirt,” if soil were dead; lifeless, there could be no biological activity, as we now know it. It's at least similar to what the Messiah said (still says) about being born of the spirit. If there were no spirit world, we could not escape this existence in flimsy flesh. If there were no life in soil, there would be no green plants. If there were no green plants, magnesium could not escape its existence as a “lifeless” mineral. The same holds true for manganese, iron, cobalt, iodine, and the list of elements goes on and on.
There is some kind of lesson for us in the soil. Read the rest of I Corinthians 15. It makes reference to a terrestrial “glory,” and a celestial glory (v. 40). It makes reference to going from “glory to glory” (from one type of glory to another—II Cor. 3:18). Minerals in soil go “from glory to glory,” by being taken up by plant roots, and joining the kingdom of flora. Soil is FAR, FAR more important that we realize. Dr. Young was right. Soil isn't mere “dirt.” That's the dirt on soil.
One Thing Leads to Another
I now intend to tell of other damage which we have done to our home—the Earth—as a result of having allowed the condition of our soils to deteriorate; a result of thinking of soil as “dirt.” I also wish to begin to give my view of how things would change, if we began treating our soils as we should, and how soils WILL be treated, as the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) begins taking place; as, because of our continuing refusal (inability—Romans 8:7) to exert the willpower to become sensible, we are FORCED, by an outside Source, to become sane.
Of course, if soils worldwide were improved to “Garden-of-Eden” levels, we could raise crops which take up more nutrients. We would not need to be tempted to raise “empty calorie” crops. But there are several more benefits to be derived from improving soils all over the Earth.
Before I continue this, I would like to thank the Dirt Doctor—Dr. Howard Garrett—for his efforts to inform of better, more productive ways to treat Earth—our current home. Further, I would like to give recognition to the similar efforts of Acres U.S.A. Because of the information offered by Acres and Dr. Garrett, I have been able to challenge “mainstream” propaganda about agriculture. (I have a B.S. in agriculture.) Because of Dr. Garrett's work, I have been able, on a small scale, to begin proving, to myself, that there is a better way to treat our environs, specifically, the living things around us. Further, the work of Dr. Garrett and Acres U.S.A. foster my belief that there are those whose efforts work to the destruction of the Earth (Revelation 11:18). As one shred of evidence, don't you have to agree that breeding and mass-producing food crops which do not take up as many different kinds of minerals, and as much quantity of other minerals, is a step toward destruction? Isn’t mass malnourishment going in the direction of destruction?
In the past, a line was drawn (Genesis 2:9b, 16, 17). That line exists today. We can follow the crowd, and remain on the “death” side of the line (Matthew 7:13, 14), or we can step across, and choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).
News sources often tell of property damage caused by floods. Some, by calling any rainfall which causes flooding “excessive,” would blame the Creator (“an act of God”). Others would blame flooding on the increase of paved areas, which, of course, repel rain water, rather than absorb it. Eventually, however, most all water which falls on pavement goes into ditches, or other areas composed of soil. So let's have a closer look at that soil, which, as we know, is not as high in available nutrient content as it has been, in days gone by.
As one can imagine, the Western Hemisphere has changed greatly from the time of the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, in 1620, until now. For starters, I have read that, hypothetically, a squirrel, in what is now the state of Georgia, and in a tree close to the Atlantic Ocean, could have, in 1620, traveled from Georgia to the Mississippi River from one tree branch to another. That squirrel would not have had to set paw on the ground, because of the degree—the thickness—of forestation of the southeastern U.S. (Had that hypothetical squirrel been able to cross the Mississippi, it probably could have resumed its “branch-to-branch” journey perhaps 100-150 miles into what is now Texas.) Because many of the forested areas of the southeastern U.S. were cleared for small-crop agriculture, forests in the southeastern U.S. can no longer afford a squirrel such a journey westward. In their current conditions, most of our soils of the southeastern U.S. probably could not supply the nutrients for such thick forest, even if cleared areas were to be given back to the trees.
I am familiar with one such area, in Nacogdoches County, Texas, and have heard of several other such areas around Cleveland, Tex.
In Nacogdoches Co., an area of forest in the northern part of the county had been clear-cut. The soil supporting that area of forest was a very deep sandy soil, called Tonkawa sand. (For those familiar, Lakeland sand is a similar soil series.) (That Tonkawa sand is also part of a recharge area for the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer under areas of southern and southeastern Texas.) Because rain water which falls on Tonkawa sand goes through that sand almost as quickly as it would through a drain pipe, Tonkawa sand is “droughty.” It is among the first areas to begin showing signs of drought. Before its removal, the forest canopy had helped keep the soil below somewhat cool. Leaf litter had further provided protection from water evaporation, and helped to hold needed moisture which the sand could not hold by itself. Most of the nutrients in that soil came from decayed leaves (similar to the nutrient cycling of Oxisols in rain forests). But after that area had been clear-cut, any rain which fell quickly went through the soil, and no canopy was over head to minimize water evaporation of moisture remaining in the soil. Efforts to re-plant the area in pine trees were almost completely fruitless. In the early '80s (when I saw the area in a Soil Taxonomy class at Stephen F. Austin State University), the former forest had an appearance similar to that of a desert, with only sparse vegetation, and a few small, widely-spaced pine trees, which had managed to survive numerous attempts to re-plant the entire area. As Dr. Kenneth G. Watterston—professor of that Soil Taxonomy class—told the class, man had created a desert in a 50-inch rainfall moisture regime; in an area which receives around an inch of rain per week, or around 50 inches of rain in a year. And, if I remember correctly, Dr. Watterston also said that some soil scientists had warned forestry officials not to allow the clear-cutting of that forest on that Tonkawa sand. Obviously, the warnings from the soil scientists were for naught.
In the cases of the forested areas around Cleveland, Tex., again, according to Dr. Watterston, the B horizons of some of those soils were rich in silt. When bulldozers, skidders, and other heavy equipment were used to help move lumber and stumps from cut areas, the subsoil became compacted. (Silt much more readily lends itself to being “packed down” than does sand.) Newly planted trees grew until the roots hit the compacted subsoil (at about 18 inches below the soil surface), and then the trees “stunted.” Good forest areas were ruined. (The above-mentioned Soil Taxonomy class did not visit any of those sites.)
Still another example shown by Dr. Watterston was an area in southern Nacogdoches County, in the Angelina River bottom, which we, in the Soil Taxonomy class, did visit. A forest in the bottom had been clear-cut. Because the trees had been “sucking” ground water from that area, the trees had kept the water table low (away from the soil's surface). Once the trees had been cut, the water table rose, and newly-planted trees were, once again, stunted, because of a high water table, which most tree roots avoid. Trees which did “catch on” had shallow roots which spread closely to the ground With no “tap” roots, those trees were subject to being blown over by wind, or otherwise falling over in the soft, soggy soil. (I should have asked Dr. Watterston why either baldcypress trees—Taxodium distichum—or water tupelo trees—Nyssa aquatica—weren't planted in that area. Perhaps baldcypress and/or water tupelo could have been used as part of a reclamation effort.)
Soil Organic Matter: the Heartbeat Converting Dirt into Soil
I wish to devote a little time here to basic terms regarding soil.
Because organisms live and die in or on soil, a portion of soil is composed of organic matter (O.M.). Some of that O.M. is in the process of decomposition, as are fallen leaves and animals which have recently died. Another portion of that O.M. is in the form of what is called humus, which is highly decomposed and very stable O.M. Simply stated, humus is generally one of the components which can give soil a dark, or “black” appearance. In the eyes of many, humus can make soil appear to be more fertile, and, indeed, humus contributes favorably to improvement of soil fertility and soil structure.
As agricultural endeavors increased across the U.S., soils in the U.S. have been altered. According to information on page 187 of Eco-Farm: an Acres U.S.A. Primer*, the content of O.M. of a “virgin” soil is between 4% and 6%. So it could be said that, when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, the average content of O.M. in U.S. soils was around 5%. Currently, according to the Primer, that average is at about 1.5%. On page 94 of the Primer is information which states that 100 pounds of soil with an O.M. content of between 1% and 2% can hold 35-45 pounds of water, which is equivalent to a rainfall of 0.5” to 1/5”. A soil with an O.M. of 4% to 5% can hold 165-195 pounds of water, which is equivalent to a rainfall of between 4”-6”. We can deduce that, because there is a correlation between man's activities and a decrease in O.M. content of U.S. soils, man’s activities have decreased the water-holding capacity of most of the soil in the U.S. Formerly, a 4” rainfall remained in the top foot of “average” U.S. soil. Now, most of a 4” rainfall goes through soil, and into the water table, or it runs across soil (erosive force, to be discussed) and into a river. Because of the decreased ability of our soils to hold rainwater, what was once a beneficial amount of rain now is potentially damaging and deadly. Can we blame the Creator for floods due to four-inch rainfalls? Man is responsible for having decreased the water-holding capacity of our soil.
According to the information above, if the citizens of the U.S. were to band together to strive to bring soil O.M. levels back to between 4% and 6%, there would be fewer problems with flooding in the U.S. If water which falls on the soil remains in the soil, we can see that increasing the O.M. content of our soils would also make the plants which bear our agricultural produce less prone to drought.
I say that citizens should band together in an effort to raise soil O.M. levels, because government won’t spearhead this. It’s too sensible and beneficial. “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of (by) them are destroyed” (Isaiah 3:12; 9:16). Regarding some government leaders, if you allow yourself to be led by them, you'll be destroyed. [Rid your mind of what 501(c)(3) churches (state churches, which are the vast majority of churches in the U.S.) are trying to pound into your head—that “submit” in Romans 13 connotes “follow.” If “submit” in Romans 13 means “follow,” then Romans 13 contradicts Isaiah 9:16 and Acts 5:29. In these times, understanding how Romans 13 fits with the rest of the Bible is crucial.] Because government leaders have never expressed concern about soil O.M. levels, you can bet that soil O.M. levels are important. Similarly, because they express concern about global warming, you can suspect that their concerns are overblown, misguided, or are just plain lies. Politicians mainly express concern about things which will get them re-elected, or they express concerns of their handlers—lobbyists, for starters, and those who fund lobbyists. Politicians don't care about soil O.M. levels. Most of them are probably unaware of O.M. in soil. They're waiting for the largest sum of money to program their activities.
I don't say that increasing soil O.M. content worldwide would be inexpensive or easy. I'm saying that, someday, the Creator will send His Son back to Earth, and man will discover that “Replenish the earth, and subdue it,” was not a nice platitude. It was (is) an imperative. It was a command, as a step toward choosing life. I’m also saying that, though raising soil O.M. content is not easy, it is, in the long run, the best way, with more side benefits than I can name. And think of the labor jobs which such an undertaking would (will, someday) create.
We find that the desire to subdue things around us comes easily. We drag our feet, when it comes to replenishing anything. Males like to “subdue” their wives, but they don’t like to put out the energy needed to replenish the relationship to “first love” levels.
Hey, Al! Here’s Where We Can Stow Away the Carbon Dioxide!
Could there be any other benefits derived from improving the condition of soil in the U.S.?
Here’s something to ponder. Again, what is soil O.M.? It is decayed (or decaying) parts of formerly-living things, including green plants. And of what are green plants composed? Remember the experiment of Jan Baptist van Helmont. For five years, van Helmont grew a willow tree in a large container. Before planting the tree, van Helmont weighed the soil in the container. At the end of the experiment, he carefully cleaned the soil from the roots of the tree, and re-weighed the soil in the container. He found that the weight of the soil had undergone but a slight decrease. It had, before van Helmont's experiment, been assumed that most all of the weight and size gained by green plants came from soil, or portions of soil. Though van Helmont wrongly deduced that the tree’s weight and size had come primarily from water uptake, he paved the way for others to come to understand water's function in a plant's increase in size and mass. Later, scientists discovered the process of photosynthesis, or synthesizing sugar, by combining, via use of light energy, water with carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Most of a green plant's increase in weight and size comes from the sugars which it produces from water taken from the soil and atmospheric CO2.
6CO2 +6 H2O -> C6H12O6 + 6O2
Much of the stable O.M.—the humus—in soil was once CO2 in the atmosphere. And, sadly, much more CO2 in the atmosphere was once part of soil O.M.
I admit that I'm not a “scientist.” But I know that green plants take atmospheric CO2 and convert it into sugars. Parts of green plants are eaten by animals. Those sugars in plant parts are used by animals for energy, and/or to maintain/increase mass. Once living things die, and fall to the ground, much of that converted CO2 can remain in the soil as humus.
As the reader is probably aware, much attention is being given to man's “carbon footprint.” Man, with his burning of wood, coal, and natural gas, converts much atmospheric oxygen into CO2.
Just as I'm not a scientist, I'm also not a mathematician. So for me to figure out, with a trebling of the average O.M. content of our soils (1.5% to 4.5%) how many moles, or kilograms, or pounds, or tons, or cubic feet, of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere, and converted into humus, is beyond what time I'm willing to spend. Without saying whether any of this “carbon footprint” attention has, regarding possible peril, any base in fact, I know that tripling the average O.M. content of our soils would remove a nice chunk from the current amount of CO2 now in our atmosphere. No one can deny this rationally. One source which is in agreement with my notion that increasing soil O.M. worldwide will decrease the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere is an online publication entitled, “Building Soil Organic Matter with Organic Amendments. See p. 4 of this publication from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
As far as I know, Al Gore has spent the bulk of his time with attempts to have us believe that, with his attempts to relocate industries which emit CO2 to other countries, he's trying to contribute to reduction of the quantity of atmospheric CO2. (Won't the wind blow the CO2 spewed out in India and China back over here?) I have not heard “peep” from Al Gore about how much CO2 can be removed from our atmosphere by improving our soils with an increase, to “virgin” soil levels, of the O.M. content of our soils. I would think that, if Al Gore truly cares about polar bears, and if he truly believes that decreasing atmospheric CO2 will keep polar bears from drowning, he'd get right on the job of beating the drums to call our attention to soil improvement with an increase in humus content of soils worldwide. Did he, in his An Inconvenient Truth, mention soil humus as a potential CO2 “sink?”
I can tell of another benefit to be derived from working to boost soil O.M. levels. This applies to areas of the southern United States. I heard this tip from Dr. Howard “The Dirt Doctor” Garrett, on his radio program, The Dirt Doctor. (Dr. Garrett's radio program can be heard on its “flagship”' station, KSKY, in Dallas, and on a number of affiliates.) This tip has to do with what is called the “imported” fire ant (Solenopsis invictus), which, according to many, came, in the 1930s, to the U.S., via the port of Mobile, Ala., in a shipment from Brazil.
Most anyone in the South is familiar with fire ants.
In Texas, a female Siamese cat wandered up to where I lived, and she charmed me into allowing her to stay around. She was quite a huntress. One morning, I heard her “meowing” in some tall grass. I went to where she was, and found that she'd killed a rabbit. About five minutes later, she began a mournful “meow.” I went back to see why she was carrying on so. Fire ants had covered her fresh kill. That was but one of countless examples of the nuisance which is having fire ants in an area. Most any person in The South has at least one story about fire ants/”fahr aints.” They have been known to kill newborn calves.
I've heard of many environmentally-harmful approaches to controlling/killing fire ants. Some pour store-bought solutions of sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach for laundry) on their mounds. Others pour gasoline on the mounds. Some people light the gasoline, supposedly for more effect. As you are about to read, in the long run, these approaches probably do more FOR fire ants, though each individual colony so treated is set back.
Back to the “Dirt Doctor,” I heard, on Dr. Garrett's radio program, that fire ants do not like competition. The closer to “dead” an area of soil is, the better it is that fire ants like it. Dr. Garrett recommended that dry molasses be placed on mounds. He said that dry molasses is loaded with things which soil microbes like. Of course, helping soil microbes creates competition, which, according to Dr Garrett, the fire ants dislike. The Dirt Doctor said that, if dry molasses is not available, table sugar can work similarly, though with somewhat lesser effect. (Molasses is loaded with minerals, and, thus, is nutritious. Table sugar has, in the past, been called an anti-nutrient, and is properly so-labeled.) He said that, if a bag of table sugar is left out, the fire ants like that, because they can come and get the sugar, and put it where THEY want it in their mounds. But if the sugar is poured onto the mound, it is largely beyond their control, and soil microbes/competitors have access to the sugar. So I dug a hole in a mound, and poured table sugar into the mound. The next day, I observed that the mound had largely disappeared. What little was left of the colony had moved a few feet from where I'd poured the sugar. I repeated that experiment time and time again, and found that the Dirt Doctor was onto something.
When I put “two and two” together, I realized that, over the years, “imported” fire ants received a lot of help from us. I realized that, as European-descended settlers moved westward across the United States, and as we “farmed-to-death” the soils under our feet, we began rolling out the welcome mat for the fire ant. Had we, in the South, taken care of our soils, the fire ant probably would not have been nearly as prevalent here. The fire ant would not have appreciated fertile soils, which, in fire ant language, spell “competition.”
Looking for America? It’s Almost Washed Away
I've set forth arguments that increasing soil O.M. can decrease flooding, can minimize the effect of drought on plants, can decrease the quantity of atmospheric CO2, and, in Dixie, can even help with control of the imported fire ant. Are there still other potential benefits of increasing worldwide levels of soil O.M.?
Earlier, I mentioned that water running across soil which is unable to retain water causes soil erosion.
How much of a problem is soil erosion in the U.S.? About 25 years ago, I ran across a written claim that enough silt goes, via the Mississippi River, past the city of New Orleans, that a daily load of that amount of silt would cover a 120-acre farm with seven inches of material. At the time that I read that statistic, I was dabbling in the so-called “teaching” field, as a substitute teacher in public schools. I decided to take that statistic and make it into a math problem. Because fewer people now than in years past are exposed to farming, fewer younger people are familiar with the size of an acre (43,560 sq. ft.). I'd heard of an acre since childhood, but I believe that I was in college, and probably had started pursuing a degree in agriculture, before I became familiar with the amount of area in an acre. Had I, as a high-school student, seen that statistic about covering a 120-acre farm with seven inches of silt, I doubt that I could have grasped the volume of “dirt” to which reference was being made. So I decided, in my math problem, to ask students to figure out, given a hole 20 feet long, and 20 feet wide, how deep that hole would have to be, in order to use the top seven inches off a 120-acre farm to fill it. It turns out that that hole would be over 7,000 feet deep. (One mile = 5,280 ft.) Every day, according to that statistic, because of water-borne eroded soil, we dig a hole 20 feet long, 20 feet wide, and well over a mile deep, in our country, and dump what we dug from that hole into the Gulf of Mexico. And that was counting only the Mississippi River watershed. That did not take into consideration waterborne soil in rivers in any area west of the Continental Divide (Columbia River, Colorado River, rivers which drain California's intensely-farmed San Joaquin Valley). That did not bring in the watershed of the Rio Grande, which is almost 1,900 miles in length. That included no river east of the Appalachian Divide (Potomac River, Hudson River, streams in Florida). That did not include the Red River of the North, which flows northward out of the U.S. into Canada. That did not include the St. Laurence River/Seaway, which drains the five Great Lakes of North America.
There are many newer statistics concerning water-borne eroded soil. One piece of information is that 80,000 tons of soil per hour are carried, by the Mississippi River, into the Gulf of Mexico. (Note: the average weight of a cubic foot of soil is 90 pounds.) A look at the Mississippi River, with its muddy appearance, reveals that much silt and clay still travel down the Father of Waters past the city of New Orleans. We are continuing to lose our country, not only from most politicians carving it up and selling it, but also to rivers carrying it away (again, partly due to negligence of politicians, who thrive on the laziness and apathy of citizens, who are hooked on NASCAR, or the NFL, the NBA, or Americans Idle, and who have, for decades, been far too lazy to take concerns to legislatures or Congress, and far too lazy to discover things which should concern them).
If we were to increase the O.M. content of our soils to levels of “virgin” soil, only the heaviest of rains would produce water runoff. Most rains would soak into the soil, and remain there, until a plant’s roots took that water into the plant’s transpiration stream (into the roots, through the plant, and out leaf stomata), or into contact with carbon dioxide and light energy, to form some type of sugar.
Increase in Soil O.M. = Increase in Soil Fertility
Another benefit to be derived from increasing soil O.M. content would be an increase in soil fertility. Increasing and maintaining levels of soil O.M. content at around 5% (again, not a cheap or easy task) would make it no longer “necessary” to apply “bag” fertilizers, which generally supply nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and often supply sulfur [from ammonium sulfate—(NH4)2SO4—in the fertilizer blend]. (Is this another reason for the resistance to increasing the O.M. content of our soils: because we'd swing a wrecking ball into commercial fertilizer production and sales? Don't we ever think about the new jobs which we could create with healthy soil and healthy approaches, rather than worrying about propping up a dinosaur, obsolete, backward, toxic approach to agriculture?)
According to information on pp. 92 and 186 of the aforementioned Primer, published by Acres U.S.A., one percent of O.M. content of soil represents 1,000 pounds of nitrogen in reserve in that soil. Soil with 1% O.M. content has 1,000 pounds of nitrogen in reserve. Soil with 4.5% O.M. content has 4,500 pounds of nitrogen in reserve. Not all of that reserve is readily available, but, it's there. Further, an increase in the O.M. content represents an increase in the amount of nitrogen readily available The O.M. not only gives increased water-holding capacity, but also has nitrogen (and other plant nutrients) available. Kiss the conventional fertilizer salesman goodbye.
Because more available nutrients to plants means healthier plants, still another benefit from increasing soil fertility by increasing soil O.M. content would be a decrease in the “necessity” of applying killer man-made chemicals for pest and disease control. (Here would go another wrecking ball through a dinosaur industry supporting an obsolete approach toward agriculture.) Healthy soil would support healthy plants. They would not have to be kept constantly on life support, with occasional application of death agents to keep bugs away.
Are You Antibiotic, or Probiotic?
In an aside, the word, antibiotic, is revealing, and should awaken us to something broken about our society. The word, antibiotic, means “against life.” Just as penicillin is administered to go against the lives of “bad germs” (but is non-specific, and also goes after good microbes, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus), many man-made insecticides are non-specific antibiotics. They go after cutworms, but they also go after wasps and bees, and, slowly, they go after us.
While making a point about the importance of living things around us, Dr. Watterston, the professor mentioned above, stated that, if the constituents of your body were to disappear suddenly, there would still be a visible shape of your body, because of the bacteria all over and inside your body. There would be an especially thick concentration of bacteria visible in the area of the gastro-intestinal tract. Again, antibiotics go after these beneficial bacteria which the Creator placed in our bodies.
Yahshua, often called Jesus, the Messiah, said that His Father is not the Ultimate Overseer, or “God,” of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32). Can we not see that one reason that so many of us struggle with whether there even is a Creator is because we are going in a direction 180 degrees off the direction of the Creator? The Creator and His Son are interested in promoting life (Deut. 30:19; Ezekiel 18:23; Luke 9:54-56; John 3:16). The Creator is not antibiotic. The Creator is probiotic.
With the Creator and His Son being interested in promoting life, under what category can we place an antibiotic (against life) approach, whether that approach is applied to medicine, or agriculture, or international relations, with the “Kill 'em all; let God sort 'em out; we oughta make the entire Middle East a glowing glass parking lot” approach? I'm not saying that we should never kill anything. David—a man after the Creator's own heart (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)—killed a lion and a bear out to kill sheep of his father's flock (I Samuel 17:34, 35). But David didn't concoct some chemical and spray or disburse it, in order to kill all lions and bears. David didn't wage war against all lions and bears. David's approach was specific. He went after the lion and the bear which went after the sheep. And, apparently, according to v. 35, David did not set out to kill the either the lion or the bear, until David's own life was threatened: “...when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.”
This now-prevalent antibiotic, against-life mentality has soaked how many of us approach life. Rather than maintain small, easy-to-clean dairies, we have huge factory dairies, and, to avoid spreading illness (or to avoid lawsuits), we destroy many of the benefits of milk by “pasteurizing” it. As we clean surfaces in our homes, we often bomb those surfaces with anti-life agents (disinfectants). Rather than simply getting rid of the dirt/grime in which “bad guys” like to live, we think that we have to use a deadly brew on the surfaces of our homes.
The Messiah told about some person from whom a demon (“unclean spirit”) had been cast (Matt. 12:43-45). He said that the demon returned and saw that the “house” (mind of the person?) was “empty, swept, and garnished.” In other words, after the unclean spirit had been cast out, the person did not fill his/her life with anything good. A disinfectant spray was used to get rid of the bad, but it repelled the good, too, so nothing good came in to guard the way, and keep an unclean spirit out. When the unclean spirit saw that that person's life continued to be swept clean of any worthwhile way of life to defend, or for which to stand, or live, the demon brought seven other spirits, even more maligned, and they all took up residence in the formerly-swept-clean mind of that person.
We take our antibiotics. We kill “bugs” good and bad. We temporarily get rid of the illness. Later, the bad bugs return, and they find the gut swept clean of probiotic bacteria mentioned by Dr. Watterston. They bring seven times more bugs which are even worse. We spray our agricultural fields. We kill bad insects. Birds, which would eat the “bad” bugs, are driven away, if they're not killed by spray. In spraying for “bad” bugs, we drive away the beneficial life forms which we don't kill. Later, bad insects return, and see the crops “swept clean,” not only of bad guys, but also of defenders. The bad bugs move back in, and bring seven times more bugs (or breed seven times more bugs, all of which are resistant to man's applied antibiotic), even worse than they. Both in the case of “bad” bugs in our bodies, and “bad” bugs on crops, there is the problem of those few which, not killed by the antibiotic, are made stronger. They spawn generations of resistant “bugs.” We pour bleach on fire ant mounds. We kill fire ants in the mound. We also kill nematodes which would prey on fire ants, and other beneficial life forms in the soil. As soon as the bleach is sufficiently washed/leached from that area, the fire ants find an area which is “swept clean.” They move back into that area with even less competition than before. The same applies to pouring gasoline on fire ant mounds. In the long run, those who use gasoline on fire ant mounds are killing the competition which could otherwise help us in the fight against imported fire ants.
“All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36).
There is a better way than the disinfectant, antibiotic, “kill 'em all” approach.
The Creator is probiotic. Increasingly, man is antibiotic. When I was a very young kid, there was “Bill Haley and the Comets,” and other silly but harmless names for entertainment groups. By the time that I was a teenager, there was, as one example, Bloodrock, out of Fort Worth, Texas. Their big hit was “D.O.A.,” which was released in 1971. The message of Bloodrock's “D.O.A.” was quite different from that of Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World,” released in 1968. In the '70s and '80s, other “music” groups with antibiotic names, such as Megadeth and Poison, became popular. Along with antibiotic names of entertainment groups came antibiotic themes in lyrics of popular “music.” People like to have images of skulls and skeletons tattooed on themselves (tattooing—another subject). When I was a kid, people sometimes called a person who was humorous and unusual a “cutter.” Now, a cutter is a teenager who uses a sharp blade on him/herself. If using a blade on oneself is not an antibiotic, anti-life practice, I don’t know what is.
But don’t think that fixation on themes of death began in the 1960s. In the 2oo4 U.S. presidential election, both major candidates were members of an organization called Skull and Bones. George W. Bush’s father is also a member of Skull and Bones, as was his grandfather, as can be seen in this list of current and past members of Skull and Bones. (In that long list, notice the other government leaders who are “bonesmen.”) Compare the emblem of Skull and Bones with images of skulls sported by military leaders. Read about some of the beliefs of “bonesmen,” and begin to understand why our society is currently obsessed with themes of death. It isn’t a “fad,” started by “the kids.” I submit that it’s one of the wiles of Satan (Ephesians 6:11).
One way or another (either voluntarily or by force), this antibiotic obsession with death will get turned around.
Healthy Plants Need Less Water
Back to the subject of the benefits of increasing the humus content of soils worldwide, according to information on page 66 of Eco-Farm, in addition to increasing the water-holding capacity of soils (making plants less susceptible to drought), increasing the O.M. content of soil, by increasing soil fertility, makes it so that plants need less water, in order to make a crop. Not only is there more water for a crop, but, in a drought, fertile soil decreases a plant’s need for water, again, according to Eco-Farm.
The Straight Poop
You may ask, “Where will we get all of this organic material for soil?” There are several answers to that question, and utilizing certain “unpopular” (but effective) sources of organic material for agricultural use can solve other problems which plague us.
One method of boosting soil O.M. content in soil is, of course, to make the effort of utilizing cover crops, and plowing under those crops. But there is more that we can do, and, again, some of these approaches are unpopular. Try to free your mind.
Paul Simon sang, “One man's ceiling is another man's floor.” “One man's trash is another man's treasure” has the same message.
Scripture has recorded that, when, in the wilderness, the Israelites had to eliminate, they were to go outside the camp, dig a hole, see to it that whatever came out went into the hole, and then bury those digestive by-products (Deuteronomy 23:13). There was no instruction to put those by-products in a stream. It didn't say to try to “sterilize” fecal material. We've already gone over some of the woes created by antibiotic, “kill every germ” approaches. What one form of life considers trash, another form of life considers treasure. What a human is glad to have come out, bugs in the soil are gleeful to see entering their world.
Sadly, much of human fecal material does not go to a place where life forms are glad to see it.
Though I was born and reared in Texas, I currently live about a mile and a half (as the crow flies) from Saginaw Bay, which is a western extension of Lake Huron. From time to time, warnings against swimming in Saginaw Bay are posted, because of concentrations of a harmful strain of E. coli bacteria. Foam (also called “beach muck”) is often visible on shorelines. Of course, the source of the foam and the bacteria can be traced back to human fecal material, which, according to Deuteronomy 23:13, should only be placed in soil.
I’m certain that countless other bodies of water display adverse effects of misplacement of human manure.
A few years ago, I heard a comment by a listener on popular radio talk-show host Michael Savage’s program. The listener said something along the line that one of the worst ecological disasters of the past few centuries was the invention of the flush toilet, with water as the carrier. While I agree with much of what Dr. Savage says on his program, I had to disagree with his response to the caller. Dr. Savage replied that going back to outhouses or dumping chamber pots out windows would be disastrous. In this, Dr. Savage ignored, or was unaware of, much new information about the composting of human manure. In his book, The Humanure Handbook, Joseph Jenkins tells of composting techniques which, with thermophilic organisms, can raise the temperature of composting human manure to temperatures which kill all harmful organisms in human fecal material. Perhaps Dr. Savage is not aware of The Humanure Handbook, or other similar publications. Dr. Savage’s argument against the caller critical of flush toilets reminds me of a person saying that s/he’s through voting for Democrats, and someone responding with, “That’s good. We need more Republicans,” as if there are no alternatives other than Democrats and Republicans. Abandoning flush toilets does not mean having to go back to outhouses, or to having waste products floating down streets.
With the type of approach described by Joseph Jenkins in his book, composted human manure can be a large part of re-supplying soil with O.M. Our mishandling of human “waste” products is one reason that the O.M. content in our soils has decreased.
Decades ago, a man named Fletcher Sims began a composting operation near Canyon, Texas, in the Texas Panhandle. With this type of operation for animal “waste” products, we can supply more O.M. to our soils. The problems with spreading manure which is not composted on soils include, 1) soil, which is in a less-than-optimum condition, as already described, being unable to handle proper breakdown of “raw” manure, and, 2) harmful uncomposted products leaching through that less-than-optimum soil. Composting operations such as the one started by Fletcher Sims can eliminate the problem of spreading partially-composted animal waste products directly on soil. Eventually, when soils are built back up, we may be able to begin freely spreading “fresh” manure on fields, and not have to be concerned with leaching, into water tables and water supplies, of disease-carrying liquids in manure.
A bit of wisdom which I heard from Dr. J. Leon Young—an ag. professor—was, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” I know that some types of pollutants (man-made chlorinated hydrocarbons, for example) should not be tolerated even in “diluted” levels. But substances which the Creator ordained to be put back on soil should be spread as widely as possible, and, rather than having a few large treatment areas, there should be many small treatment areas. In fact, according to The Humanure Handbook, every home should have its own composting equipment. With waste composting equipment in every home, dilution of human fecal material is facilitated. And, of course, there is no reason to use water as a carrier of fecal material, if that material is treated in each home. We need to admit to ourselves that we have become much too lazy and irresponsible.
“Disposal” should not be involved with handling human manure. It belongs somewhere. The word, disposal, connotes getting rid of something. Though it often stinks, human manure is a natural resource.
In an Acres U.S.A. article about a hypothetical eco-friendly university, and what all would be involved with such a university, Joel Salatin wrote that restrooms with composting equipment could be placed so that forklifts could approach from the back of the building, and remove/replace boxes which contain soil for receiving human waste products. This shows that converting existing buildings and structures from conventional methods of handling products of human elimination to better ways will require incalculable amounts of work, just as raising soil O.M. levels worldwide will be a staggering undertaking.
Foam on beaches, depleted soils, breeding inferior plants for crops, creation of new havens for fire ants…these are but a tiny amount of the woes which we have created for ourselves, as we have ignored the command to replenish the earth. The word “replenish” implies something cyclical. As we try to break circles and cycles, we merely prolong the inevitable. Just as trying to be “strong,” and avoiding mourning after a death results in sorrow drawing interest, trying to break cycles initiated by the Creator also results in sorrow and disaster which demands interest payments. Earlier, I stated that the Creator will get our soils straightened out. But don’t sit back and wait for Him to start improvements. Get on board now. People won’t like that you get on board with the Creator. You won’t be popular. In fact, you may end up in a den of lions, as did Daniel, or in a pot of boiling oil, as, according to tradition, happened to the apostle John. But, in the long run, getting on board now will put you ‘way ahead of the hounds.