The earth produced bountifully for thousands of years to those people who worked with nature and followed her principles. Then only a little more than 150 or so years ago, a German chemist by the name of Justus Von Liebig mistakenly deduced that nitrogen, phosphorous and potash (potassium carbonate) was what nourished plants.
The NPK of today’s chemical agriculture was born.
Chemical companies jumped right on that wrong assumption. They immediately saw the profitability in the commercial development of synthetic chemicals. With the money to promote heavily, it didn’t take long for most farmers all over the world to become dependent on these chemicals. After all, they were told via marketing that their farms would never produce without them.
Liebig even attacked the (correct) “notion” that humus (decayed organic materials) was the principal source of nourishment for plants. His attack was successful. So much so that the majority of folks considered someone who looked to humus to grow successful crops as being totally unreasonable. (That might still be the case today.)
Ten years later, poor old Liebig finally realized that he had been wrong and that organic matter, not chemicals, was the secret to fertilizing the soil after all. In spite of his efforts to admit he was wrong, it was too late. The chemical companies were off and running and making lots of money. There was no stopping them.
During the two world wars business boomed even more for chemical companies. After the wars they saw a decline in the need for their products. They put their thinking caps on and found ways to take surplus chemicals and harmful waste products and turn them into products like herbicides and medicinal drugs . By the time they finished promoting, folks came to think these poisons were really needed.
Indeed it was and has been “marketing at its finest” in terms of accomplishing their goal of more profit at any cost.
A Reader Writes
I received a most interesting email a few weeks ago from a reader in Sri Lanka, Niwas, who had ordered my book, Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening.
I’ve received the book and already finished up to section vii.. It’s really fantastic. The way that you have made big big garden concepts in a simple but straight forward way is marvelous.
—we who live in this part of the world, what is called THIRD WORLD, witness the environmental degradation due to the blind — use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides which are very attractively and freely promoted by multinational marketers.
Farmers here are not educated enough to understand the cruel intention of these multinational marketers. Even home gardeners are little bothered about these things.
Anyway, I’m happy to get your connection and really appreciate your great service to open the eyes of people all around the world.
My heartfelt thanks and wishes to continue your good work further …
I wrote back to Niwas and mentioned that evidently the vast majority of farmers in the United States are not educated enough to understand it either.
The area in which I live is the perfect example. Soils have been totally depleted and abused through the use of chemicals and bad farming practices of conventional agriculture.
Fortunately, no matter the darkness in this world, we are never left without a light. We just have to be willing to “see” it or “hear” it.
Sadly the concept of needing to add some type of fertilizer to the soil (in addition to organic materials) has spilled over to organic gardeners as well. They want to do the same thing as conventional gardeners do, but they want it “ok for use in an organic garden.” That just might be missing the big picture.
One lady – not a reader of TMG – wrote to me and asked what I added for nitrogen in the spring when I planted crops.
When organic materials decay they become organic matter (humus). That’s the source of nutrients for your plants. The more diverse your organic materials are, the more diverse will be the nutrients in your soil. (This is why planting different cover crops and even perennial grasses where possible is so beneficial to your soil.)
Every year you need to “feed” your soil. If you do that, the living organisms in the soil will “feed” your plants. That’s how nature has it set up.
If soil has been badly abused it may take some time to see the best results. Rest assured all your efforts are cumulative. This means that your good results will increase with every passing year.
This “adding nitrogen” thing is a result of marketing by chemical companies that was started back in the 1800’s as I explained at the beginning of this post.
I never (and never have in almost 40 years of gardening) added a nitrogen “product” to my soil. It’s not necessary.
Sometimes my plants grow slowly for a while and then when conditions are right — they take off! I never “force” them to grow. Forcing the soil (or your plants) is a poor practice.
If you’re following nature and keeping your soil life supplied with organic materials, especially a diversity of materials including various cover crops, you need do nothing else. The soil life will take care of everything for you.
When you want to buy this, that, or the other for your plants or soil, you just might be feeling the results of heavy marketing. Be aware, because ALL of us are subject to it.
Determine ahead of time what you really want for your garden and what your beliefs are. That way at least you won’t be subject to impulse buying.
Related Posts (I have dozens of posts related to this topic, but am only listing a few here.)
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