Animal — Vegetable — Mineral — Microbe
transforming geology into biology
the biological approach to soil fertility
Soil: foundation for life
Thus, a prime priority for sustainable farming, horticulture, nurseries, and forestry is to research, teach and implement sensible, renewable, natural methods to restore genuine soil fertility. In our impending crisis of climate and ecology, the scale of this effort exceeds America's already massive farming and forestry systems. The deadline imposed by this climate change challenge is measured in decades. We have only a few years to reverse centuries of destruction, displacement and damage.
Soil: skin of the planet
It's astonishing to realize Earth's balance of life depends on a very thin skin of living sea and soil that covers most of our planet. Nearly all of Earth's land-based organisms—especially trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses—need nutrients supplied by a very shallow living layer of dirt, duff, fluff, and stuff.
Yet, this is literally true. Globally, the seas and the trees are the lungs and kidneys of our planet. The soil—including bacteria, fungi, amoeba, algae, plants, insects, and animals that live in and on soil—regulates and moderate the balance of moisture, oxygen and heat in Earth's atmosphere, to create climate, and maintain stability of weather. Soils—and all that lives in and from soil—have done this over one billion years. And continue to do so today, despite their continual widespread abuse and destruction by humans.
Soil: health and wealth
For others, deforestation and intensive cultivation have imposed a vicious cycle of soil destruction. In the last century, acid rains and other air pollutants have accelerated the aging of many soils, while farming with soluble chemical fertilizers and pesticides increased the exhaustion of soil nutrients and depletion of biological life.
One consequence of this accelerated aging and exhaustion of soil fertility is that trees growing on depleted, damaged soils do not thrive, are not growing well, and have weakened reproductive potential. Trees growing on depleted soil are less able to produce fertile seeds, and thus less likely to reproduce, and thereby regenerate the forest. Extreme examples of this are forests damaged or dead from acid rain, such as the Black Forest of Europe's northwest Alps, the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York in the United States, and the southern Appalachians in the southeast United States. Although many forests and trees are not diseased and dying, but nonethless are failing to thrive and grow well.
Another consequence of over-aged and depleted soils is that food crops grown on these soils do not contain the full supply of minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients required for optimum nutrition and health. These crops are weaker, and more susceptible to insects, fungus, disease, drought, frost, and other stresses. And the animals and humans that consume these plants grown on depleted soils similarly are subject to mineral deficient diets, which degrades the density and quality of vitamins, sugars, proteins, and other nutrients they obtain from those foods. The multiple results of this include reduced growth and vitality, lessened productivity, weakened reproducitivity, and compromised immune systems.
Soil: roots of culture
Fortunately, this negative process isn't all that is happening. Across 200 years and five continents, careful observers of nature have discovered a biological view of the soil, and left behind records and reflection oftheir insights and inventions. They offer us a glimpse of soil as a living web of organisms feeding and eating each other, eventually bartering themselves as food for larger living organisms like plants, trees and animals. In its simplest form, their message is about micro-nutrients and micro-organisms.
This Living Soil section of the TERRA website is dedicated to remember this small handful of visionaries and geniuses who saw the life beneath their feet, and urged us to collaborate with this micro-scale realm.
shows off giant, sturdy weeds
growing in glacial gravel dust
The Earth Renewal and Restoration Alliance — www.ancientforests.us — www.carbon-negative.us — www.nutrient-dense.info — 2/14/2009