What's Wrong With Agriculture?
By Dale Schurter, Eugene Walter, Colin Sutcliffe and others
The sad story about farming in general today is that farm foreclosures are at alarmingly high levels. Topsoil by the ton is eroding around the world. Powerful pesticides and herbicides pollute the land. Hybrid crops destroy our health and vitality. Modern, high-yield crop varieties are more susceptible to weather and diseases than older, less productive varieties. And, where agriculture is incompetently managed, massive famines kill millions. Why? What's wrong with agriculture? Why hasn't modern agriculture rescued us from these evils? The truth is that Satan, as the god of this world and the arch-deceiver (2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9), has influenced man to follow wrong farming principles -- principles based on rebellion against God's law, principles that bring only unhappiness and destruction. The way to success is to work with natural laws, not defy them.
"Cursed Shalt Thou Be in the Field ... Our Crops Are Smitten "With Blasting and With Mildew"
There are two ways of dealing with our agricultural environment. One way involves altering genetic structure, manipulating natural forms. Experimenters have chosen, as a whole, to follow this course. The other is to get in step with the laws in nature regulating growth and reproduction, to dress the garden and the farm as an effective husbandman. Man has not contented himself with being a husbandman, looking after his land -- dressing it and keeping it. He has not generally been concerned with seeking out the physical laws which guarantee abundant and healthy crops. Rather, scientific experimenters have manipulated and destroyed the life of the soil. They have tampered with the natural genetic structure in such a way as to produce weak crops, and increase the threat of disease. Must the prophecy "Cursed shalt thou be in the field" apply to us? Will we continue to break sound agricultural principles so that our crops must be smitten "with blasting and with mildew [a disease of plants consumed by fungi] until [we] perish"? (Deuteronomy 28:16,22.)
We are already cursed in the field, our crops are already smitten with diseases. There is yet time to avoid the final catastrophe. But the solution will come only if agricultural experts become willing to totally revise their concepts concerning the use of the land and methods of crop growth -- and if they open their minds to a new source of understanding. Every seed producer religiously provides the farmer a catalogue offering detailed guidelines and planting instructions. Yet, the very most important and fundamental Guidebook to agriculture is shamelessly ignored. Even the answers and solution to the corn blight problems are there - right on the first page. Notice what this Guidebook says. "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit AFTER HIS KIND, whose SEED IS IN ITSELF ..." (Gen. 1:11). Did you catch it? Seed that reseeds itself, reproduces its own kind -- NOT A HYBRID, but OPEN POLLINATED by another of the same genetic background. Seed saved from hybrid plants will not properly reproduce its own kind. To stress its importance, this instruction was reiterated ten different times. It is all in the first chapter of that forgotten Guidebook to living - the Bible. If seeds are properly selected and reproduced they will maintain quality and productivity. Hybrid plants do not yield seed that reproduces AFTER ITS KIND. Instead, they produce deceptive freaks that look good but can be devastated by one season's disease.
LAW ONE: Hybrid Crops and Hybrid Livestock Are Forbidden (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:9).
"Ye shall keep my statutes . .. thou shalt not sow thy field with MINGLED seed" (Leviticus 19:19). "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with DIVERS SEEDS: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be DEFILED" (Deut. 22:9). Vegetables such as squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelon should not be planted near eachother because the wind will cross-pollinate them and produce inferior quality and flavor (Lev. 19:19). However, Cantaloupes will not mix and may be planted next to most any vegetable.
Today we rely heavily on hybrid crops grown in chemically fertilized soil and sprayed with powerful pesticides. This pollutes the environment and lowers food quality. Animals are crossbred or inbred, reared on concentrated feed, injected with powerful drugs and kept tightly confined. The result? Reduced meat quality and lowered natural resistance to disease. These wrong practices will cease in the Millenium. Hybrids will no longer be used (Leviticus 19:19). This will improve food quality and decrease genetic vulnerability by providing a wider selection of varieties. Organically grown crops will eliminate pollution and increase produce quality. This will also help in pest control. Listen to British agriculturist Sir Albert Howard: "Insects and fungi are not the real cause of plant diseases but only attack unsuitable varieties, or crops imperfectly grown" (An Agricultural Testament, page 161).
Further control over agricultural pests will be achieved through natural predators (ladybugs, praying mantises, lace-wing flies and orange and black spotted beetles), crop diversification and rotation and use of nontoxic substances. What about weeds? Like pests, they tend to thrive where conditions are not right. As Dr. Harold Willis says in his book The Coming Revolution in Agriculture: "In general, weeds grow best on poor, out-of-balance soil. This is their function in nature, to cover bare spots and waste places and prevent erosion. When they die they help build humus." As soil conditions improve, weeds tend to disappear. Those that don't can be eliminated by cultivation and mulching. Livestock will be raised far differently than it is today. Selective breeding, but not cross-breeding or inbreeding, will enhance the quality of animals raised for food (Leviticus 19:19, Genesis 30:41-43). Foraging in large, lush pastures so they can move about as they should will improve the health and vitality of animals. So will their diet of top-quality grain feed (Isaiah 30:23-24). Many animals will be put to use doing farm work (Deuteronomy 22:10). This will end our dependence on farm machinery, which produces pollution rather than manure, and requires a mechanic and fuel rather than providing meat and milk while mowing the grass.
Open-Pollinated Diversity Not Hybrid Monoculture
"Hybrids...are more UNIFORM from plant to plant than non-hybrids. Other benefits of hybrids may be ...higher yields, improved disease resistance ... hybrids ... grow larger and stronger than non-hybrids ... The primary disadvantage of hybrids is the seeds cannot be saved from year to year. Seeds saved from hybrid plants usually will not produce the same plant the following year because most varieties are NOT SELF-SUSTAINING. Offspring of hybrids usually show an UNPREDICTABLE MIXTURE of characteristics from the grandparent plants instead of being similar to the parent.... the TASTE of hybrid vegetables does not equal that of heirloom varieties.... Open-pollinated, also known as heirloom or standard, plants are varieties that have STABLE TRAITS from one generation to the next. Open pollinated plants are fairly similar to each other but not as uniform as hybrids. Because most were originally chosen for only one or two specific characteristics, individual plants of older heirloom varieties may DIFFER GREATLY in size, shape, or other traits. Open pollinated varieties are usually grown in fields where they self and cross-pollinate. Wind and insects carry the pollen from one plant to another. Plants that cross-pollinate MUST BE ISOLATED from other plants of different varieties so they will produce seed that is "true to type." Beans, lettuce, peas, and tomatoes are self-pollinating so they are easier to continue year to year without having to isolate them from other varieties of plants. Genetic "drift" can occur over a period of time. Plants that deviate too far from the accepted standard are removed from commercial nursery fields of open pollinated varieties. Likewise, home gardeners should DESTROY HIGHLY UNUSUAL PLANTS if you are trying to preserve an open pollinated variety. Removal of these rogue plants prevents them from pollinating other plants and producing too much variation. The advantage of open pollinated seeds is that the home gardener from year to year and generation to generation may continue heirloom plants by careful seed saving. Open pollinated plants provide a LARGER GENE POOL for future breeding." (Hybrids & Heirlooms by Barbara Larson; emphasis added)
The serious Southern Corn Leaf Blight of 1970 affected only certain HYBRID strains of corn in the U.S. But because of the NARROW GENETIC BASE over a wide spread area, 20% of the total U.S. corn crop was destroyed. All plants had IDENTICAL parentage and therefore were all subject to the same strain of disease. It was reported that it didn't affect OPEN-POLLINATED varieties grown on soil properly fertilized with ORGANIC FERTILIZERS. Some hybrid lines were tolerant to the blight. But an alarming 90% of HYBRID seed corn used in the United States was apparently susceptible. Heavy applications of expensive chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are essential for the HYBRIDS to perform. Insect pests and plant diseases increase where HYBRIDS are grown. Diseases such as corn and rice blight are one of the hazards of HYBRID varieties. HYBRIDS are nutritionally inferior and unable to utilize some of the minerals that are available to a pure variety. "DIVERSITY provides stability in biological systems, a resistance to biological and environmental catastrophes or upsets," writes Dr. Richard J. Vogl, Professor of Botany at California State College, Los Angeles. By contrast, "MONOCULTURES lead to ecological complications" (Ecology Today, May 1971). Monocultures are single crops planted over large acreages, the opposite of diversity. Monoculture is the basis of modern agriculture. Corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and just about every commercial crop is grown in this manner.
The Armour Institute of Research in Chicago conducted tests on 16 farms and found that hybrid corn failed to absorb adequate amounts of the necessary trace minerals through its roots. No cobalt was absorbed by the hybrid corn tested. The open-pollinated corn did absorb the necessary amount of trace minerals, including cobalt. The lack of cobalt is instrumental in the cause of Brucellosis and Undulant Fever. The experiment also proved that just as the hybrid corn was lacking in minerals, so it was lacking in adequate protein. No hybrid showed more than than seven or eight percent protein, whereas the open-pollinated corn tested 13 percent protein.
The real basis of health and resistance to disease is proper maintenance of soil fertility. But when plants are bred to disallow the intake of balanced plant food from fertile soil, the result is an inferior product. The crop becomes diseased and is effectively labeled so by such diseases as rust, smut, mildew, root-rot or insects which attack it.
Insects and fungi are not the real cause of plant diseases. Rather, they attack only unsuitable hybrids, or crops imperfectly grown. Their true role and purpose is is that of censors, pointing out improperly nourished crops that would otherwise pass on malnutrition to animals and humans.
Both fertile soil and pure seed are necessary for a plant to resist disease and to produce truly quality seed for the next generation. Hybridization is an attempt to pass off the abnormal -- the sterile, the "odd-ball," the reject of nature - as normal and acceptable even desirable. The corn blight pestilence was caused -- it did not just happen. It is the warning of nature that we are perverting our food crops and undermining our health.
LAW TWO: Since Soil "Wears Out", Let It Rest On the Seventh Year Land Sabbath So Nutrients Can Be Restored (Ex. 23:10-11: Lev. 25:4)
We read that "six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard" (Ex. 23:10-11). The commencement of the SABBATH YEAR is in the fall, on Rosh HaShanah -- the beginning of the agricultural year. But what is the penalty for failure to obey this law? "I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you ... Then shall the LAND enjoy her SABBATHS, as long as it lieth DESOLATE ... even then shall the LAND rest, and enjoy her SABBATHS" (Lev. 26:33-34).
Today the land is BEING DESTROYED rapidly. Through EROSION, a third of the topsoil in the United States alone has been lost. It has been made DESOLATE. What remains is LOSING FERTILITY and soil life. This tragic example is being repeated around the world, with many areas in even worse shape already. With the biblical farming methods, these problems will end. Needed microorganisms and worms -- nature's plows -- will abound. No longer will they be destroyed by harmful chemicals. The emphasis will be on organic farming that builds soil fertility. Proper crop selection, diversification and rotation will be practiced. Minimum tillage will replace today's destructive cultivation practices. Contour cultivation will be the rule. Hedgerows, windbreaks and wildlife areas will eliminate farming one field right next to another (Isaiah 5:8).
Every seventh year, the LAND SABBATH will give the land a chance to rest and restore its nutrients: " But in the seventh year there shall be a SABBATH of solemn rest for the LAND, a SABBATH to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard" (Leviticus 25:4). As God said, "The SABBATH of the LAND shall be meat (food) for ... thy CATTLE and for the BEAST that are in thy land" (Lev. 25:6-7). The SABBATICAL YEAR works against the monoculture of grain since it is compulsory "free-range" GRAZING which provides manure fertilization. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth" (Ps. 104:14).
Furthermore, if legumes such as American Sweet Clover, are planted just BEFORE the Sabbath Year begins on Rosh Hashanah, they can be mown regularly DURING the Sabbath Year and left on the field as green manure. This is not harvesting. "That which groweth of its own accord of your harvest, thou shalt not reap" (Lev. 25:5). Massive top-cover left on the field keeps the soil warm all winter and promotes continuous soil building by earthworms and micro-organisms. "Topping" with a mower should be done perhaps as many as three or four times during the Sabbatical Year. The more often it is cut, the more often it needs cutting. This is a first class source of food for earthworms and micro-organisms. Increased growth above ground is accompanied by an increase in root growth below ground and together they add many tons of of additional manure to the soil during the year of rest. That tonnage is over and above what the grazing animals return in wastes from their own bodies. What effect does the return of all this plant and animal manure have? It improves the texture and moisture-holding ability of the soil. These qualities provide a favorable environment in which earthworms and micro-organisms multiply as they decompose the dead plant matter. This in turn provides the nutrition for healthy plant growth. The more a farmer gives to the soil, the more it will return to him in abundant crops and health and strength (Gal. 6:7). It is the CONTINUOUS HARVESTING of crops-- especially grains -- that destroys soil. "God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15). The Hebrew means to serve, protect, and preserve the garden. Poor can come and take whatever they need. Following a grain harvest, many fields may be almost devoid of volunteer new growth. The farmer will then often need to sow the legumes to help along the process of soil fertility. As a nitrogen-fixing legume, American Sweet Clover does much to raise soil fertility. Dead plant matter is vital because it is the food for the soil and if the soil is to stay alive -- it must be fed. Tests have shown that seven years are the precise time it takes for complete organic decomposition in the average climate. Furthermore, farmers are plagued today with insects. Yet God gave a sure-fire remedy to control pests centuries ago. Moses commanded Israel to set aside one year in seven when no crops were raised. Insects winter in the stalks of last year’s harvest, hatch in the spring, and are perpetuated by laying eggs in the new crop. If the crop is denied one year in seven, the pests have nothing to subsist upon, and are thereby controlled. And this promoted soil conservation.
God promises the obedient that He will "satisfy your soul in drought ... and you shall be like an irrigated garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Isa. 58:11). God says, "You shall serve the Eternal your God and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you. None shall cast her young or be barren in your land" (Lev. 23:35-36).
Again, in 2 Chronicles 6:13-14 God promised us, “When I shut up the heavens that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people [Christians today] who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and HEAL THEIR LAND.” There it is! God’s people must obey God -- and that includes the keeping of the SABBATH YEAR which HEALS THE LAND. He even promises, "I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year; and it shall bring forth produce for three years" (Lev. 25:20-22) -- harvested crops.
In the past when Israel refused to obey the SEVENTH YEAR SABBATH, notice what happened: We have a record of this in 2 Chronicles 36:20-21: “And them that had escaped from the sword carried he (Nebuchadnezzar) away to Babylon; where they were servants of him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the Word of the Eternal by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the LAND had enjoyed her SABBATHS: for as long as she [the LAND] lay desolate she kept SABBATH, to fulfill threescore and ten years.” Every SABBATICAL YEAR unkept meant a year in captivity for Judah! God's corrective measures are sure -- Israel, too, will be desolate and the LAND will soon enjoy her SABBATHS because the people refuse to turn to God and keep His SABBATICAL YEARS. God warned Israel in Leviticus 26:14-25 what would happen if they disobeyed this law. Israel was to receive severe punishments in four progressively worsening stages unless the nation repented.
Some have thought this prophecy applies only to Israel’s first punishment, and isn’t for us today. They quote verse 22: “I will also send WILD BEASTS among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you FEW in number; and your ways (roads) shall be desolate.” Those who are scoffers will say, “That is no concern of ours: there are not enough WILD BEASTS in this nation to do any serious damage.” Don’t you believe it! We are already getting a foretaste of this condition. Peoria, Illinois was recently invaded by MUSKRATS (rabbit-sized marsh dwellers) which were driven by hunger to leave the Illinois River. They came into the city and attacked several people (from Pasadena Independent, news item). Another similar incident, of greater danger and longer duration, is happening on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, at the southwestern corner of Canada. The island’s large COUGAR population is suffering from a shortage of deer and other natural prey. As a result of their hunger, many COUGARS, especially the half-starved females, have gone into the towns, even entering houses, to attack people, watchdogs, and housecats
(Field and Stream magazine, December, 1955, page 46, article, “Crazy Cougars” by Frank Dufresne). Also there are more than 20 million DOGS in the United States. When our national food supply diminished to famine proportions, many of these DOGS may shift for themselves and run in packs, attacking sheep, poultry and cattle.
If a man or his family were poor managers of the land, or failed in operating their inheritance, they were given a fresh start every fifty years (Lev. 25:10-16) in the Jubilee Year. This was a measure to cut down land-grabbing absentee landlords from building real estate empires. "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth" (Isa. 5:8)
You Are What You Eat
The soil is the foundation of health. It is the soil that is the basis for either good health or poor health. No matter who you are or where you live, your food comes directly or indirectly from the ground. The soil makes available to plants the essential elements needed for their growth. In turn, man and the ani- mals man eats depend on these plants for their nutrients. In other words, you are, in a sense, physically, emotionally and mentally what you eat. If you eat foods which lack nutritional value, your body and emotions pay the penalty. Plants and animals raised on weak, unbalanced soil are inferior food products. Such foods result in weak, degenerate and disease-prone human beings. Deficient soils produce deficient men. It's just that simple - and that sure. Add to this soil deficiency the daily stress of modern life, highly processed and refined foods, smoking, pill popping, drug taking, etc., consequently the shameful state of our collective health isn't surprising. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye" (1 Cor. 3:17). Peter set us an example here since he was able to boast that he had never eaten corrupt food (Acts 10:14). But just what IS this miracle we call soil? How does it work? What is its function in the cycle of life? This is basic knowledge we all ought to possess.
What Soil IS
Fertile topsoil is by far man's most valuable and indispensable natural resource. It lies at an average depth of seven or eight inches over the face of the land. In some few areas, this life-sustaining layer of earth may be several feet deep; in many other areas it is considerably less than even seven or eight inches. "If that layer of topsoil could be represented on a 24-inch globe it would be as a film three-millionths of one inch thick. That thin film is all that stands between man and extinction" (Mickey, Man and the Soil, pages 17-18). This thin layer of earth sustains ALL PLANT, ANIMAL AND HUMAN LIFE!
The soil is not, as many suppose, a dead, inert substance which merely supplies mineral elements to plants and gives them a place to anchor their roots. A healthy soil is vibrantly "alive" and dynamic. It teems with bacteria, fungi, molds, yeasts, protozoa, algae, worms, insects and other minute organisms which live mostly in its top few inches. This hive of living creatures in the soil, the eaters and the eaten, adds up to incredible numbers. The bacteria alone may range from a comparative few up to three or four billion in a single gram of soil. In good soil the bacterial matter, living and dead, may weigh as much as 5,600 pounds per acre.
The fungi in a gram of soil may weigh over 1,000 pounds to the acre. It is estimated that about 95 percent of the roughly one million insect species spend part of their lives in the soil. And then there is the humble earth- worm. He is nature's plow, chemist, cultivator, maker and distributor of plant food. Rich soil easily supports a worm population of 26,000 per acre. All this teeming soil life plays a vital role in keeping the soil healthy and building it up. The soil is not solid. It is actually composed of billions of grains or soil particles. These range in size from smaller than 1/2000 of an inch up to 1/12 of an inch in diameter. Each of these tiny soil particles is covered with a tight-fitting film of oxides, water and bits of organic matter, which provides a habitation for the teeming soil life. The surface area of these particles is staggering. One ounce of soil can easily have surfaces adding up to 250,000 square feet - about six acres!
Of what, then, is soil composed? It is composed of 1) minerals, dirt or disintegrated rock particles; 2) organic matter -- dead remains of plants and animal wastes; and 3 ) a vast community of living organisms. When organic matter is decaying by the action of soil life upon it, it is a most important substance, known as humus.
Why Humus Vital to Soil
Organic matter is obtained from living and dead plants and animals, plant roots, green manure crops! animal manures, crop residues, fungi, bacteria, worms, insects, etc. This organic matter is the raw material that is spoken of as humus while it is being broken down and decaying through the action of the complex mass of soil microorganisms and earthworms upon it. This digestive action produces humic acids which make minerals soluble. The end result of this blended mixture is true plant food. The importance of humus cannot be stressed too strongly. The more humus a soil contains, the healthier it is. Here are a few reasons why: When it rains, soils with humus soak up the water. Humus is so porous it can hold at least its own volume in water. A
four-inch rain on humus-rich soil causes little or no runoff; one-half inch on humus-poor land will cause erosion and some flooding in lower areas. Humus improves the physical condition of the soil, supports the soil's organisms, increases improves aeration and stabilizes the soil's temperature. Yet to do all this, humus need not be more than five percent of the topsoil in most instances.
Why Soil "Wears Out"
When minerals, organic matter and soil microorganisms are present in balance for a particular type of soil, that soil is fertile and healthy. But all too often this balance is upset. How? By the serious depletion of humus, due to improper cultivation practices, unchecked erosion, continued monoculture and failure to restore to the soil what the preceding harvests have taken from it. Modern agriculture practices the substitution of synthetic fertilizers for humus that is not being replenished in the soil. The "replacing" of humus by artificial means does stimulate plant growth, but it also continues to upset the vitally needed balance and blended mixture of minerals, organic matter and soil life found only in humus. Chemical fertilizers add only a part of the mineral portion of the critically important soil mixture essential to good health. But an unbalanced soil is not normally caused by a lack of minerals, as many believe. Even in relatively poor soils there is normally a large reserve of minerals. Noted soil scientist Eric Eweson states that the supply of major minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium is normally a hundred to a thousand times more than the seasonal requirements of most crops. The supply of the vital trace minerals -- boron, iron, copper, nickel, fluorine, manganese, iodine, etc. -- is also generally more than adequate. What is most often missing is sufficient organic matter and the soil life which is necessary to break down the permeability, dirt materials into food forms the plants can assimilate and use. Even mineral-rich soil usually lacks enough nutrients in available form for vigorous plant growth. Humus, then, is a key to soil balance and fertility.
Types of Fertilizers
True fertilization is the addition to the soil of that which is conducive to increasing soil life. Fertilizers are generally recognized in two groups -- organic and inorganic. The organic are made up of organic matter and microbes. Inorganic fertilizers are basically comprised of minerals and are available in two major types. One type is made up simply of ground-up minerals such as rock phosphate, rock potash, lime-stone and rock salt as they are found in their natural state. This type of fertilizer is not generally dissolved by water, but is gradually changed into plant food by the action of microbes, earthworms and organic acids that are formed by the decomposition of organic matter. The other type of inorganic fertilizers consists of chemical fertilizers. These are easily soluble in water and cause corrosive action. Chemical fertilizers are manufactured products and are commonly advertised and sold on the market for quick results. Most farmers and gardeners use them, and feel they could not get along without them.
When Nature Is Unspoiled
In nature there is no need for special fertilizers. Plants and animals live together and their litter accumulates on the surface to compost and decay, thus making a health-sustaining, humus-rich soil. The whole life cycle in the soil becomes a self-regulating system as long as it is undisturbed by outside forces.
When man enters the picture, however, it becomes a different story. He plows up virgin land to grow crops. The increased oxygen made available by plowing stimulates the bacteria into breaking down the organic matter more rapidly. Then man removes his crops from the soil, thus further taking from its reserves. When he has thus "mined" the soil until it can no longer produce profitably, he moves on -- or at least he did until this century. But now there are no new lands to exploit. Since 1880, it is estimated that about half of the humus in the Midwest has been lost -- the loss greatly intensifying in recent years. The situation is probably equally bad or worse in many other heavily farmed regions of the world.
It doesn't have to be this way. With a little more effort and a lot less greed, man could return organic matter to the soil and build humus. But he seems to be hopelessly greedy and short-sighted. He would rather borrow from the soil's capital and ignore repaying this debt until necessity demands it. Necessity is now banging on the door! Desperately, man is looking to chemical fertilizers to bail him out and to repay his debt to the soil. But is this possible? Can chemical fertilizers truly restore soil fertility? No! Such was never intended.
LAW THREE: Avoid Pesticides and Herbicides -- They Commit Murder All The Way Up the Food Chain (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17)
Factory farms have perverted the food supply (1 Tim. 6:20). They are diabolically oriented toward the ultimate destruction of mankind. Chemical pesticides and herbicides affect not only insects and plants, but man himself. They don't know when to stop killing. They affect everyone -- and that includes you. No matter who you are or where you live, you consume, in your food, pesticides originally meant for insects. And you carry these chemicals around in your body. More than a billion pounds of pesticides have already accumulated in the earth's air, water, soil, living plants and animals; and the amount grows daily. What these POISONS are doing to the entire web of life -- and to personal health -- is only beginning to be known. Pesticides such as DDT were passed up the food chain -- from phytoplankton to zoo-plankton, shrimp, small fish, larger fish and then fish-eating birds. By the time we get to the birds, the concentration may have accumulated an astounding 10 million times over the original amount present in the ocean water. Likewise on land, these poisons are extremely destructive to microorganisms and other minute forms of life and life-processes in the soil. Interference with these little-understood -- but vitally important -- links in the ecological cycle have profound effects. Land birds, for example, accumulate DDT by eating DDT-affected earthworms, caterpillars, etc. Since man eats some animals high up on the food chain, the potential danger to man is obvious. Those pesticides that do break down, don't just "disappear." As each pesticide breaks down "It becomes another chemical that may be less or more toxic than its parent," warns Dr. Alice Ottoboni of the California State Public Health Dept. "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8) by POISON.
Another major problem with using pesticides is that natural enemies of the pest are often killed along with the pest. Since these natural enemies were par- tially successful in controlling the pest population, wiping them out temporarily leaves the pest free of important natural restraints. Under these circumstances, the pest will develop a resistance through mutation and again multiply before the natural enemies can multiply to control them. This resistance of insects to pesticides is a mounting worldwide problem. Between 1908 and 1945 only 13 species of insects had developed resistance. Now the figure stands at almost 150! The current practice employed to control these new hardy pests is to develop a new, more potent pesticide. Instead of controlling or killing the insect pests, a vicious cycle is created -- stronger insects, more toxic pesticides -- and an increasing threat to all life forms.
Do insects have a purpose? Natural checks and controls limit the population of insects. Man should encourage this natural balance rather than devastate it. Less than one percent of the whole insect species are considered "pests" to man. But the positive benefits of insects are often overlooked. Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and other insects pollinate plants that provide us with fruits and vegetables. Some insects are vital links in the food chains of fish, birds and land animals. Others act as scavengers of animal and vegetable debris and others as aerators of soil. Still others are parasites or predators of damaging insects.
What is the Purpose of "Pests"?
What causes insects to attack plants and become "pests"? Research shows that unhealthy soil produces unhealthy plants, and weak or unhealthy plants are usually attacked by pests. Why Insect "Pests"? In his landmark book An Agricultural Testament, the famous British agriculturist Sir Albert Howard relates how in five years' time at a research station in India he "had learnt how to grow healthy crops, practically free from disease, without the slightest help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists, agricultural chemists, statisticians, clearing-houses of information, artificial manures, spraying machines, insecticides, fungicides, germicides, and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern Experiment Station." In other words, Sir Albert worked with the principles any small farmer could use economically. From his experience, he observed that: "Insects and fungi are not the real cause of plant diseases but only attack unsuitable varieties or crops imperfectly grown. Their true role is that of censors for pointing out the crops that are improperly nourished and so keeping our agriculture up to the mark. In other words, the pests must be looked upon as Nature's professors of agriculture: as an integral portion of any rational system of farming. "The policy of protecting crops from pests by means of sprays, powders, and so forth, is unscientific and unsound as, even when successful, such procedure merely preserves the unfit and obscures the real problem -- how to grow healthy crops" (p. 161).
These conclusions are not dreams of a man who failed. Sir Albert was knighted for these very agricultural researches -- for effectively proving the usefulness of the system. Many who have worked with the soil have noticed the tendency of insect pests to prefer plants that are weak, sickly, unhealthy, unbalanced or just a little "under the weather." This deficiency or imbalance may be so subtle or so slight that it cannot be measured or analyzed by present scientific methods. Because science cannot ascertain this imperfection -- and, judging by the paltry amount of research being done in this area, is not interested in finding out -- it usually pretends that no imperfection exists. But it does exist. And the bugs know it! Now take the cause-effect relationship a step further. What is it that causes plants to be weak and inferior -- prone to insect attack? Why Inferior Plants?
A number of factors may cause weak and inferior plants. But one of the most important factors is a depleted or unbalanced soil. A professional soils consultant for Brookside Laboratories of New Knoxville, Ohio has stated: "We are proving today that sick soils produce sick plants and sick plants produce sick animals and humans. There are about one hundred of us who work with about 10,000 farmers at the present time. The overwhelming majority of them have already discovered that in a truly healthy soil our crops are not attacked by insects because God created these pests to destroy sick plants so that they cannot reproduce themselves." In times past, this interrelationship of soil, plants and insects was recognized. In 1870 the American journalist Horace Greeley reported: "Multiplication of insects and their devastations are largely incited by the degeneracy of our plants caused by the badness of our culture. I presume that wheat and other crops could not be devastated by insects if there were no slovenly, niggard, exhausting tillage methods used. But when the fields of western New York were first tilled there were few insects; but after crops of wheat had been taken from those fields until they had been well-nigh exhausted of crop-forming elements, we began to hear of the deso- lation wrought by insects." Mr. Greeley had understanding that most seem to lack today. In this day and age ever so few see any relationship between our depleted soils, the use of incomplete synthetic fertilizers and the alarming increase in insect pests. It is to their great shame that most agricultural institutions have been pre-occupied with research involving palliatives such as pesticides. They have utterly neglected research into how to correct the CAUSE of insect pests.
Dr. William Albrecht of the University of Missouri showed that spinach grown in fertile soil resisted the attack of thrips, while that grown on poor soil was destroyed by these insects. Dr. Leonard Haseman, also of the University of Missouri, found that the greenhouse white fly attacked tomatoes only where there was a phosphorus or magnesium deficiency in the soil. Chinch bugs thrive and multiply where corn is grown under conditions of nitrogen deficiency such as on eroded and poor hillsides (Journal of Economic Entomology, Feb. 1946). Work done at the University of Florida shows that both the rate and the source of nitrogen has a pronounced effect on the susceptibility of grass to chinch bug damage. Grass receiving high rates of inorganic nitrogen was severely damaged by the bugs, in contrast with the grass receiving nitrogen from an organic source (Wallace, Nemato-ligica 6, 1961). The Haughley Research Farms in England, operated over four decades, now under the world-renowned Soil Association, has found in actual practice that crops grown on soil built up by natural manures were much more resistant to pest-inviting weaknesses than crops grown with the aid of chemicals.
Even under the best conditions, insects may destroy a small percentage of the crop. But is this in itself bad? The loss of the weakest part of the crop assures the food value of the remaining part. You would think that the prospect of growing quality products which resist insects and render pesticides unnecessary would cause great excitement. But not so. This solution -- the only REAL solution -- runs counter to the greed of human nature and the vested interests of our social and economic system. And it appears that man would rather perish than change that! Now note another pest-producing practice which is so near and dear to modern agriculture.
Sick Soil Produces Sick Plants; Sick Plants Produce Sick Animals; Sick Plants & Animals Produce Sick Humans
Deficient soils induce sickness in plants, animals and humans. Unlike cows, we humans do not have the built-in instinct to select QUALITY in our diet. Cows do have this natural ability. It's just that men deny them the chance to exercise it. Far too many people have the idea that cows survive because men take care of them. On the contrary. They have managed to survive (so far) in spite of men taking care of them. Man will one day be forced to wake up and realize that the further animals are removed from their natural environment, the more husbandry problems increase. Because men are trying to suspend the laws established by the Creator and replace them with greedy practices, they pay a penalty. It is the plunging level of SOIL FERTILITY! Poor soil produces poor plants. Poor plants produce poor animals. Poor animals and plants produce poor humans. Truly healthy animals don't contract disease. Disease only attacks animals and plants fed on poor soil.
Sir Albert Howard - a man who dared to examine the facts - cites his example in India of grazing organically managed pastures (no drugs and chemical fertilizers). "As my small farmyard at Pusa was only separated by a low hedge from one of the large cattle sheds on the Pusa estate) in which outbreaks of foot-aod-mouth disease often occurred, I have several times seen my oxen rubbing noses with foot-and-mouth cases. Nothing happened ... no infection took place" (An Agricultural Testament, by Sir Albert Howard, p. 162). Bad management and dietary deficiencies are contributing causes of sickness and disease.
Consider these facts: "All orthodox treatment," says Newman Turner in Fertility Farming, pp. 212, 213, "is based on the assumption that disease is caused by bacteria; ... In my experience these assumptions have been shown to be wildly wide of the mark." He continues: "Bacteria which are found to be active in diseased animals are secondary to the unhealthy condition in the animal body, and not themselves the cause. I came to the conclusion that abortion, mastitis, sterility and tuberculosis, as well as most other diseases of cattle, had their real foundation in the toxic condition of the animal body, brought about by unnatural methods of management."
Attention has recently been drawn to the work of Dr. Hans Muller in Switzerland. He is supervising 600 men farming organically (some of them up to 30 years). Foot-and-mouth disease is endemic on the European Continent and some two years ago Switzerland had its worst outbreak ever, but not one animal was lost by any of these men.' The Swiss, German, and French approach to crop and animal production is the same upside-down attitude that is followed throughout the English-speaking world. Nevertheless a member of the Swiss House of Commons has been so struck by this unusual animal health record he has pressed the Swiss Parliament to enquire into it -- just in case there is something in this idea.
God says, "I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet (right) to me" (Jer. 27:5). Because men have chosen to deplete the soil of its life-giving nutrients, and have not rested the land every seventh year, "cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine (cattle), and the flocks of thy sheep" (Deut. 28:15,18). Because men have forced the land to produce with artificial fertilizers instead of organic fertilizers, Isaiah 17:10-11 says: "though you plant gardens ... forcing the growth, the very day you plant them, till they bloom for you the next morning, all that you get from them shall vanish on your day of dole and desperate pain." (Moffatt) Forcing growth only produces inferior quality, though in some cases it may temporarily produce more quantity. Poor quality food leads to poor quality animals -- more susceptible to disease! We are seeing the result of this today! As the quality of the food decreases, the quality of the animals decreases; resistance is lowered. and diseases increase. "How long is the land to lie woebegone, and the green growth all to wither? Birds and beasts are perishing by the wickedness of the natives, who say, 'God never sees what we do!'" (Jeremiah 12:4 - Moffatt translation.) But God does see! And what He sees - man's sins - He doesn't like! That's why God declares: "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He have consumed thee from off the land ... all these curses shall ... overtake thee till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord thy God to keep His Commandments and His statutes" (Deut. 28 :21,45). God says: "But whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil" (Prov. 1:33). Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
Monoculture Upsets Natural Balance
In the natural state, the earth always raises varied crops. But in some areas of our modern world, it is a rare sight to see mixed-crop cultures. Yet it is well known that growing plants in large tracts of uniform crops is not natural and will attract abnormal amounts of insects. The greater the area under one crop and the extent to which that crop is grown exclusively year after year, reducing soil quality, the greater the potential problem.
The Colorado beetle is an example of what happens when man begins to simplify agriculture and farm one crop exclusively. This beetle used to be harmless, feeding principally on smart weed which it hunted out from among many other plants. When huge fields of potatoes were newly introduced to Colorado, however, the beetle suddenly found itself in the midst of mile after mile of green potato fields - a beetle's "paradise." As a result, this beetle mul- tiplied so rapidly that within a few short decades it literally ate its way 2,000 miles to the Atlantic coast! Similar examples could be repeated many times from all parts of the earth. Yet unfortunately, our entire modern farming method IS geared toward extensive crop monoculture. To many it would be unthinkable to even suggest that this practice be changed! Yet many have successfully changed of their own free will. Huge tracts of monoculture should be broken up and planted into smaller fields on a crop rotation basis. Rotating the crop to minimize insect reproduction is another sound principle. Also to observe the correct time for planting; and to grow trees and hedges which encourage insect-eating birds to visit the farm.
Crop rotation is the practice of growing different types of crops in the same area in sequenced seasons. It is done so that the soil of farms is not used for only one set of nutrients. It helps in reducing soil erosion and increases soil fertility and crop yield. Growing the same crop in the same place for many years in a row disproportionately depletes the soil of certain nutrients. With rotation, a crop that leaches the soil of one kind of nutrient is followed during the next growing season by a dissimilar crop that returns that nutrient to the soil or draws a different ratio of nutrients. In addition, crop rotation mitigates the buildup of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped, and can also improve soil structure and fertility by increasing biomass from varied root structures. Crop rotation practices exist to strike a balance between short-term profitability and long-term productivity. Between nutrient-depleting grains that are nitrigen-demanding and legumes (like alfalfa, clover, peanuts, peas, etc.), that are nitrogen-fixing crops that collect available nitrogen from the soil in nodules on their root structure. When the plant is harvested, the biomass of uncollected roots breaks down, making the stored nitrogen available to future crops. Legumes are also a valued green manure: a crop that collects nutrients and fixes them at soil depths accessible to future crops. In addition, legumes have heavy tap roots that burrow deep into the ground, lifting soil for better tilth and absorption of water.Cereal and grasses are frequent cover crops because of the many advantages they supply to soil quality and structure. The dense and far-reaching root systems give ample structure to surrounding soil and provide significant biomass for soil organic matter. Grasses and cereals are key in weed management as they compete with undesired plants for soil space and nutrients.
Weeds and Herbicides
Herbicides to kill weeds are another major segment of the poison-spray pollution problem in agriculture. In the U. S., crop losses from weeds equal the combined losses from insects and diseases and run second only to those caused by soil erosion. American farmers lose about $2.5 billion annually to weeds and spend another $2.5 billion fighting weeds. For example, corn acreage treated with herbicides rose from 10 percent in 1950 to almost 60 percent in 1966. Many other crops showed similar increases (1966 USDA Survey). Discovery and exploitation of herbicides -- weeds killers -- has been both rapid and recent. About half of the present commercial herbicides were unknown ten years ago! Some experts predict the number of herbicides will
double in the next ten years and perhaps double again in the following decade. So we see here the same vicious cycle as with the pesticides.
The Purpose of Weeds
As with insect pests, few seem to realize that weeds have a purpose. In the preface to his book Weeds, Guardians of the Soil, Joseph Cocannouer lists some of the purposes of weeds:
1. They bring minerals, especially those which have been depleted, up from the subsoil to the topsoil and make them available to crops. This is particularly important with regard to trace elements.
2. When used in crop rotation they break up hardpans and allow subsequent crop roots to feed deeply.
3. They fiberize and condition the soil and provide a good environment for the minute but important animal and plant life that make any soil productive.
4. They are good indicators of soil condition, both as to variety of weed present and to condition of the individual plant. Certain weeds appear when certain deficiencies occur.
5. Weeds are deep divers and feeders and through soil capillarity they enable the less hardy, surface feeding crops to withstand drought better than the crop alone could.
6. As companion crops they enable our domesticated plants to get their roots to otherwise unavailable food.
7. Weeds store up minerals and nutrients thar would be washed, blown or leached away from bare ground and keep them readily available.
Obviously, these purposes and benefits are listed only as general guidelines and do not apply to all weeds under all conditions.
F. C. King in his book The Weed Problem: A New Approach also reveals that weeds build up and protect the soil and, co-existing with domestic crops, can help make soil nutrients available to
these crops. This author states that we are "hopelessly wrong in believing weeds to be useless plants and in devoting our energy to their suppression, instead of studying to employ them" (p. 17).
In England it has been reported that when lawns become deficient in lime, daisies appear. The daisies are found to be rich in lime which they manufacture in their tissues. Lime is inserted into the soil when the daisies die and decay.
When the soil becomes sufficiently enriched with lime, the daisy "problem" disappears.
When weeds become so abundant that they interfere with crop production, it ought to be recognized that the cause of the problem is not the weeds, but the depleted soil which the weeds are trying to protect and build up. Instead of destroying such weeds wholesale with herbicides while our soil continues to be degraded, we need to get busy and build up the soil so the weeds will naturally reduce themselves.
The solution to the problem is to restore natural fertility to the soil.
LAW FOUR: Avoid Chemical Fertilizers Like NPK and Use Organic Compost (Lev. 23:22; 17:13-14; Deut. 23:12-15)
Not only was the land to lay fallow every seventh year, but God also instructed farmers to leave the GLEANINGS when reaping their fields, and not to reap the CORNERS (sides) of their fields. This served several purposes: 1) Vital soil minerals would be maintained. 2) The hedge row would limit wind erosion. 3) The poor could eat the gleanings. Today, approximately four billion metric tons of soil are lost from U.S. crop lands each year. Much of this soil depletion could be avoided if God’s commands were followed. Latrines must be outside the camp -- preferably moved daily around a farmer's fields (Deut. 23:12-15) and away from food and water, wells and streams (Ez. 4:12). The excrement was covered with earth using a shovel (Deut. 23:12-15) to prevent flies from spreading germs from feces to food. The blood of slaughtered animals was also covered with dust (Lev. 17:13-14).
Plants and animals raised on eroded and depleted soil are inferior producers of foods. And such foods result in sick, degenerate and disease-prone human beings. It's just th at simple - and that sure. "The most serious loss resulting from . . . soil exhaustion," warns Mickey, " is not quantitative, but qualitative. It has to do with the quality of life the soil supports" (Man and the Soil, p. 33). For example, both the birthrate and the virility of the population declined because of soil depletion in all parts of the Roman Empire except Egypt. It is recorded that the Romans marveled at the birthrate in Egypt, whose soil was fertilized each year by the Nile (Simkhovitch, Rome's Fall Reconsidered, p. 112). Soil lacking in calcium and phosphorus lacks the elements of proper bone growth of both animals and humans. Soils lacking in organically produced nitrates and other minerals produce vegetation lacking in the proteins essential to the building and repair of body tissues. It has long been known that animals raised on the world's choice limestone soils like those around Lexington, Kentucky and Florida's uplands, for example, have stronger bones, sounder flesh, greater endurance, and longer lives than animals raised on soils less rich in bone and muscle-building minerals. That is why breeders of race horses in the U.S. have practically taken over the Kentucky bluegrass region and much of FIorida's limestone land. The same applies to humans. The baby won't have good bones if fed a formula made of milk from a cow whose feed came from a soil deficient in calcium and phosphorus. And the adult won't build muscle and good red blood by eating a steak from a steer fed on grasses and grain from leached and eroded soils devoid of protein-building minerals and iron. "Much remains to be done in the study of the relationship of the soil to the mineral and vitamin requirements of human diet, but much has been done. And what is known points unequivocally to the fact that deficient soils produce deficient men" (Man and the Soil, pp. 3-4).
We need to GIVE BACK to the soil by replacing and building up the supply of humus. Basically this can be done through heavy green manure cropping and the returning of other organic material such as crop residues, animal manures, etc. to the soil. Instead of bare fallow between grain cash crops, plant legumes to reduce the impact of wind and water erosion of the soil. Legumes add free symbiotically-fixed nitrogen. Rotate crops between grains and legumes each season. Details on building the humus supply are commonly available. Animal waste in the U. S. alone is equal to the sewage of two billion people. It amounts to a billion tons per year! "Waste" is not really the right word, for these by-products of the life process are not to be wasted but carefully used to maintain soil fertility. Manure used to be carefully collected, composted and used on the land. Today its disposal is one of the livestock industry's biggest headaches. Instead of being a pollutant, as it is now assumed to be, it should be looked upon and handled as an asset and returned to the soil. We need to make efficient use of all organic refuse. Why pollute our rivers and lakes with organic wastes when such material could be used to enrich the land? It doesn't make sense!
Careful attention also needs to be given to soil ecology. For example, the earth renews itself from top to bottom. The biological activity of the soil takes place somewhat in layers. If this layer-type activity is inverted the renewal process is interrupted. Therefore, any practice which inverts the soil should not be continued. Thus manures and other matter should be added to the soil's surface.
In the 1840's, von Liebig in Germany noticed the regular presence of certain mineral elements - especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potash - in the ashes of burnt plants. Since these had to be drawn from the soil, he concluded that soil fertility depended primarily on the
presence of these elements in the soil. He further suggested that fertility could be maintained or improved by adding these elements in suitable forms to the soil. About the same time an English- man, Lawes, was experimenting along similar lines.It was found that when nitrogen, phosphorus and potash were added to depleted soil, in the form of water- soluble chemicals, production was in- creased like magic! Soon farmers the world over were adopting this method as a shortcut to soil fertility -- or at least so they thought.
It should be noted that the early advocates of chemical fertilizers only intended that these fertilizers supplement the use of organic matter. For a time this continued to be the case. For example, Lord Hankey, in a speech in the House of Lords when soil fertility was debated said: "There is more common ground to begin with in this matter than is generally realized ... There is common ground as to the great importance of humus in the soil. There is common ground also that, whether you have artificials or not, you must have an adequate supply of organic fertilizers . Again, compost is admitted by the supporters of chemicals to be a very valuable form of organic fertilizer...." In Lord Hankey's thinking -- and the thinking of many others -- chemicals were not intended to replace the function of organic matter, but to complement it -- to help it feed crops.
But were these chemicals really necessary? Were they really needed to complement the organic matter? There is no question whatsoever about the fact that humus-rich soil can provide everything needed to maintain and build soil fertility -- including nitrogen, phosphorus and potash (abbreviated NPK). But because of changing social and economic conditions, men found it much more expedient to provide plant nutrients by organic matter and chemical fertilizers instead of just by organic matter alone.
Intensive specialized farming became more and more popular. This method of farming, for the most part, does not allow for crop rotation and periodical planting of soil-building legumes. By this time, also, the internal combustion engine was gradually replacing the horse. There were labor problems with mass migration to the cities. Farm size was increasing along with economic pressures on the farmer. And then there was industry. Astutely sensing big business, industry did not wait to be asked to provide artificial fertilizers to the farmer. Through intensive advertising it urged and "educated" the farmer into believing that artificial fertilizers was his panacea. Under these conditions, the use of chemical fertilizers skyrocketed! Soon many farmers forgot all about organic matter! As a result, our husbandry has been invaded by pests, parasites and diseases; but industry, unashamed, has provided an arsenal of more than 50,000 chemical formulations to fight them.
What Chemical Fertilizers Do
Chemical fertilizers are like shots in the arm to the soil. They stimulate a much greater plant growth. This growth means a speeded-up consumption of organic matter. But, and never forget this, chemical fertilizers can neither add to the humus content nor replace it. They do much more than just speed up the consumption of humus, however. They also destroy the physical properties of the soil and its life. When they are put into the soil, they dissolve and seek natural combinations with other minerals already in the soil. Some of these new combinations glut the plants, causing them to become unbalanced. Others remain in the soil, many in the form of poisons. For example, when sulphate of ammonia is used as a fertilizer, the ammonia is taken into the plant, while the sulphate, left free, joins itself to hydrogen in the soil and becomes sulphuric acid, a combination that is deadly to the natural organisms in the soil. Use of nitrate of soda brings similar results. Plants use the nitrogen and reject the sodium, which then joins with carbon dioxide to form sodium carbonate, which is washing soda. This compound is likewise poisonous to the soil. Other chemicals used as fertilizers follow the same pattern in adding various pollutants to the soil.
Further, manufactured fertilizers alone cannot supply what the soil needs to produce abundant, healthy crops. Plants need much more than NPK! They need many other secondary and trace elements -- all in the proper balance. And they need the teeming microbial life that helps them absorb the minerals.
The margin between too much and too little is often very slight. Mineral excesses in plants -- now common -- are often more dangerous than deficiencies.
Too much nitrogen weakens the plant. It grows lush and watery tissue, becomes more susceptible to disease, and the protein quality suffers.
There is no artificial fertilizer on earth that can supply a completely balanced diet for plants in the way that humus-rich soil can. Chemical fertilizer companies blend and formulate mixtures, but they simply cannot mechanically formulate humus. Plants were not designed to get their nutrients by being force-fed. Quoting soil scientist Eric Eweson: "Even if we possessed sufficient knowledge and it were practical to provide chemical fertilizers containing some 20 or 30 elements in the infinitely varying proportions required by plants -- instead of just NPK -- this would not solve our soil problem. Forcing upon the plants immediately available food in the form of water-soluble chemicals, which they cannot reject but must absorb, constitutes a by-passing of the soil's extremely important functions in relation to plant life and all other life, in the same manner as intravenous injections of sugar or protein by-pass the digestive system of the human body. Neither can contribute to normal, vigorous life."
Nitrogen-fixing bacteria in humus-rich soil supply nitrogen to the plants as needed; they don't force-feed the plant like chemicals do. To force a plant to grow more bulk will cause the plant to change its inner biochemistry. As Professor Albrecht of the Missouri Experimental Station has shown, more carbohydrates and less proteins will develop in such plants. Insects are out for unbalanced plants and find these a well-prepared table and a suitable diet.
The purpose of insects is to remove weak and sickly plants so that quality can be maintained. The alarming increase in pests shows that something is wrong with an increasing number of our crops. Laboratory tests have shown that seeds from plants grown on water-soluble nutrients are often incapable of germination. Even now many farmers cannot continuously use their own crops for seed because of poor germination. After a few years their seed stock "runs out" -- as farmers express it -- and they are forced to obtain fresh seed produced on better soil. Seed that cannot reproduce is certainly lacking
Decline in Food Value
As crops are grown in humus-deficient soil with the aid of increasing quantities of chemical fertilizers, the crops become increasingly deficient in proteins, vitamins and minerals. This has been proved repeatedly by comparative analysis of grains, vegetables, eggs, miIk and other products produced on humus-rich soil and on chemically fertilized soil.
According to Kansas surveys by the USDA between 1940 and 1951, while total annual state wheat yields increased during this period, protein content dropped from a high of nearly 19 per-cent in 1940 to a high of 14 percent by 1951 (Albrecht, Soil Science Looks to the Cow). By 1969 the protein content of wheat had dropped to an average of 10.5% in the U. S. Midwest. Protein content in corn and other feed crops have often dropped even more remarkably than wheat. This is one reason farmers today have to feed larger quantities of feed to livestock than they did in times past. While this protein drop may not appear too serious, we don't fully understand what it entails. Protein quantity is easily measured, but protein quality is more difficult to measure. Proteins are as complex as life itself. They often carry the trace minerals and the vitamins. But many of these building blocks of all living substances are still a deep secret in respect to their detailed molecular structure. This is why there is great danger in carelessly raising our food - of which proteins are a most important component -- on depleted soil and with the aid of chemical fertilizers.
In recent years another major problem has been developing as a direct result of chemical fertilizer use. That problem is pollution of water, air and food by excesses of a form of nitrogen called nitrate. Nitrogen, together with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, are the four chemical elements that make up the bulk of living matter. But the nitrogen cycle, which vitally affects protein quality, is very vulnerable to human intervention. Today the nitrogen cycle in the U. S. is being thrown out of balance by two main factors: nitrogen fertilizers and nitrogen oxides from cars and other combustion processes.
Dr. Barry Commoner is an eminent scientist who early brought us forcefully to an awareness of this danger. Actually, we should have been aware of it long before now. More than 75 years ago research stations such as the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station undertook long-term experiments to study the effects of different agricultural practices on crop yield and on the nature of the soil. When the 50-year Sanborn Field Study from Missouri was published in 1942, it showed that nitrogen was an effective means of maintaining good crop yields. But the report also showed that the soil suffered important changes.
The organic matter content and the physical conditions of the soil on the chemically treated plots declined rapidly. These altered conditions prevented sufficient water from percolating into the soil, where it could be stored for drought periods. A condition had also apparently developed in which the nutrients applied were not delivered to the plant when needed for optimum growth. Most of the nitrogen not used by the immediate crop was removed from the soil by leaching or denitrification.
This Sanborn Field Study, and others elsewhere, were a warning that in humus-depleted soil, fertilizer nitrate tends to break out of the natural self- containment of the soil system. But this warning was ignored. Today it can be ignored no longer. Some seven million tons of nitrogen fertilizer are used annually in the U. S. alone -- a 14-fold increase in about 25 years. Roughly half of this fertilizer leaves the soil in some way. Much is leached out and drains into water supplies.
In heavily farmed areas, the nitrate level of surface waters and wells often exceeds the public health standards for acceptable potable water, resulting in a risk to human health from nitrate poisoning. Also, when large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous drain into surface water, they create an algal build-up that can and does destroy entire bodies of water. The oxygen in the water is depleted; fish and other animal life forms begin to die. Excessive nitrates in plants cause similar problems. Some vegetable products in the U.S. often exceed the recommended nitrate levels for infant feeding. Research indicates this is usually the result of intensive use of nitrogen fertilizer. Some of the nitrate pollutants found in the nation's atmosphere also come from agriculture sources. The nitrate problem is so serious that it cannot continue -- if we are to survive.
This leads to the question of what can be done to solve the problems caused by chemical fertilizers. And more important than that, what can be done to solve the entire problem of decreasing soil fertility and its resultant effect on human health?
The Bible prophesies that farming will become a highly successful and respected way of life. For a thousand years, during Jesus Christ's millennial rule on earth (Revelation 20:6), agriculture will flourish with bumper crops and great prosperity. "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it' '' (Amos 9:13). "Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the Lord -- for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd; their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all" (Jeremiah 31:12).
But how will these prophecies be fulfilled? What changes will transform today's failing agriculture into tomorrow's flourishing farming? Just after the return of Jesus Christ, the world will be in shambles, demolished by the horrors of warfare. Events during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord will have destroyed much of agriculture. Land will be barren, charred, unable to support plant life. To prepare for millennial agriculture, Jesus Christ will institute many changes. In addition to the laws given above, valleys will be raised and mountains lowered (Isaiah 40:4). Lands long submerged under vast oceans will be raised to be put into production. Vast deserts will be transformed by abundant water resources (Isaiah 41:18-19). This land will then be given to the nations for an inheritance. But how will it be allocated to individuals? By looking to the example of how Israel will be divided, we see the answer. Boundary lines will be established and the land given to families (Ezekiel 48:1). Amounts will vary depending on the area and its productivity. Holdings of around 20 acres could easily supply basic needs without being too burdensome for individual families, working together, to cultivate. With so many farmers, there won't be a need for each to produce huge quantities of food. To protect their land for future generations, the Jubilee will be declared every 50 years. This will restore to its original owners whatever land might have been sold, but not redeemed: "And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family" (Leviticus 25:10). Think what this will mean! No longer will people be forced off the land. Each 50 years they will have a chance to start over, thereby preventing control of most of the land from falling into the hands of just a few people.
Record Yields and Profits
What will result from these changed conditions? What will happen to yields and profits? Consider this: Since farmers will be obeying God, they will reap the blessings of good weather and financial prosperity: "And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heav- ens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand" (Deuteronomy 28:11-12). No longer will farm families struggle and slave and sweat from dawn to dusk without time for relaxation, enjoyment or personal development. No more will fear of farm failures threaten farmers' peace of mind. The pace of life will be slower and more balanced. Time for family togetherness will abound. Raising bounteous crops and healthy animals will produce great pleasure (Jeremiah 31: 12- 13). Farmers, whose profession will then be highly respected, will have abundant crops to share with travelers and needy people (Leviticus 19:9-10, Matthew 12:1). Natural areas surrounding farms will provide restful, peaceful settings. Just imagine: color- ful woodlands, walking trails, pleasant meadows and tame animals, including snakes and lions (Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:1-2).
Nearby cities will offer a rich variety of cultural, recreational, educational and social activities. Here, farm families will be deeply respected, understood and appreciated (Ezekiel 36:10-11, 25-26, 34-35). One reason for this: City dwellers will be growing some of their own produce (Zechariah 3:10). Every seventh year, during the land Sabbath, farm families will have an entire year off that can be used for farm improvements, travel, education and other creative opportunities (Leviticus 25:1-7). "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26). This includes power over agricultural policy!