Originally published by Eco Farming Daily
National consciousness has recently become aware of the great losses from soil erosion. We have also come to give more than passive attention to malnutrition on a national scale. Not yet, however, have we recognized soil fertility as the food-producing source that reveals national and international patterns of weakness or strength. Soil fertility, in the last analysis, must not only be mobilized to win wars, but must also be preserved as the standing army opposing starvation for the maintenance of peace.
What is soil fertility? In simple words, it is some dozen chemical elements in mineral and rock combinations that are slowly broken out of the earth’s crust and hustled off to the sea. Enjoying a temporary rest stop enroute, they become part of the soil and serve their essential roles in nourishing all the different life forms. They are the soil’s contribution — from a large mass of organic essentials — to the germinating seeds which empower the growing plants to use sunshine energy in the synthesis of atmospheric elements and rainfall into a wide variety of plant food. The atmospheric and rainfall elements are carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, so common everywhere.
Soil minerals constitute the 5% that is plant ash. It is this small handful of dust that also makes up the corresponding percentage in the human body. Yet it is the controlling force that determines whether Nature shall construct plant foods of only fuel and fattening values, or of body service in growth and reproduction. Because soil minerals make up only 5% of our bodies, we are not generally aware of the fact that they dictate the fabrication of the other 95% into something more than mere fuel.
We are in the habit of speaking about vegetation by names of crop species and tonnage yields per acre. We do not yet consider plants for their chemical composition and nutritive value according to the fertility in the soil producing them. This failure has left us in confusion about crops and has put plant varieties into competition with, rather than in support of, one another. Now that the subject of nutrition is on most every tongue, we are about ready for the report that vegetation as a creator of essential food products is limited by soil fertility.
Protein rich vegetation, and its synthesis by many unknowns which also help to remove hidden hungers and encourage fecundity of both man and animal, are common in the prairie regions marked by moderate rainfalls. It is the soil fertility, rather than the low rainfall, that gives the midwest, or those areas bordering along approximately the 97th meridian, these distinctions:
- Its selection by the bison in thundering herds for the “buffalo grass.”
- Its wheat which, taken as a whole rather than as refined flour, is truly the “staff of life.”
- Animals on its range nourish themselves so well that they reproduce regularly.
- The greater number of more able-bodied selectees for military service, of whom 7 out of 10 were chosen in Colorado in contrast to 7 rejected out of 10 in one of the southern states.