Calvin F.Bey CFBey1936@cox.net
Agriculture history goes back thousands of years to the time when the hunter-gatherer people began planting seeds and tending their crops. Although archeologists can trace some of the early agriculture history through seeds, it is the written material of the past 100-200 years that gets most of our attention. So what are the standout agriculture "discoveries" of the past 100 years? History books list machines, genetics, fertilizers, pesticides, and some cultural techniques. No doubt there have been some revolutionary changes, but, unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the integration of basic concepts into holistic systems. What has happened along these lines?
We might begin by asking, "What do Drs. William A. Albrecht, Royal Lee, Cary Reams, Weston A. Price, and Sir Albert Howard have in common?" These were holistic scientists, working in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, establishing the relationships between soils, farming practices, and consumer health. They answered many questions of their day, and in "alternative agriculture" circles today, their approaches and conclusions have great value. If you sum up their contributions in one diagram, it is the following:
Healthy Soils Healthy
Plants Healthy Produce (High
Brix) Healthy Consumers
Dr. William A. Albrecht, a distinguished and well respected soil scientist, worked at the University of Missouri. He wrote volumes of papers, including a major summary on organic matter and nitrogen for the 1938 Yearbook of Agriculture. His studies showed that farming with corn, wheat and oats, (without the addition of manure) drastically reduced the soil organic matter. He showed how nitrogen became depleted, how it related to other minerals, and how it could be maintained and restored. His studies also included how mineral depleted soils adversely affected the plants and health of the animals that ate them.
In a similar vein, many other scientists did essentially the same thing -- showed the relationship of the soil to the health of the plants and the consumers. While this is not a foreign concept, it is rarely the emphasis in commercial agriculture today.
So if this information was so valuable, why was it not incorporated into best-management practices? Unfortunately, the answer lies in the fact that promotion of new products (commercial fertilizers and pesticides) actually pushed out the holistic concepts. In some cases, as with Albrecht, holistic scientists were criticized, demoted, and told to curtail their research. Chemical companies grabbed control of the commercial agriculture industry.
My point in this article is that much of the older research is as valid today as when it was published. Ignoring much of it for generations has not been in the best interest of consumers' health. At the root of fixing health care problems today is the remineralization of our soils. It seems to be a difficult lesson for us to learn. I wonder why. Maybe some reflection on and study of agriculture history would be useful.