Soil: The Foundation of Human Nutritional Health
I recently came across an article on soil quality and amendments. In it the author points out the ultimate purpose of soil nutrition, which modern soil research seems to verify. This article points to a research study done during World War II (pre-chemical fertilizer and pest control) which demonstrated the nutrient deficiencies of rural soldiers compared to urban G.I.’s I’m sure most organic farmers would have thought the opposite, but in fact, our own nutritional balance is subject to our own regional and local soil composure and balance. In almost every case, amendments MUST be added to those soils that are gardened / farmed organically in order for us to get the most complete balanced nutrition available; this is most especially true for growing children.
Land that was previously “Forested” and cleared is usually poor soil initially for vegetable gardening, even when adding compost and manure. Forested land is fertile when many years of plant residue build up naturally, and then fertile for more trees and brush only usually, but lacking in desired nutrients for vegetable crops. Without the natural “compost” layer the trees provide the soil will become barren quickly from erosion etc. Essential nutrients/minerals to provide a balanced diet for both the vegetable plants one wants to grow to be able to grow “well” will either be lacking or “unavailable” in the form their in for the plant to “use”. The human consumption for sustenance of vegetables grown in these soils frequently will be lacking desirable/necessary nutrients, especially for young children. Local manures and compost will often not add these nutrients (though soil tilth will be much improved) as the manure and compost that come from the “same” soils (local area) so to speak will be lacking in these nutrients as well, unless the animals diets have been supplemented. The quality of the feed the manure producing animal gets in turn affects the quality of the manure you get. It is the same for plant compost.
This is the case generally all around the country. Even on many “organic” farms unless soil amendments are added. This is not a criticism of organic farming, but rather something every organic farmer already (hopefully) knows are adjusts for. Accurate soil testing at various points throughout the land/garden/orchard is necessary to determine mineral content of soil, and to know what amendments will need to be added. Test your soils now if possible. These amendments can often be “natural / organic” but will often need to be brought in from elsewhere and stockpiled.
Tests done on “farm boys” entering the military years ago showed many deficiencies in minerals/nutrients. These guys worked hard on the farm, ate local produce, and meats, used manures heavily, and still were found to have skeletal problems, bad teeth, etc. due to minerals lacking in their soils where they grew up. But they ate “healthy and natural” to a point. I mention this only to make people aware, not to criticize anything in this fine letter George H wrote which I liked, (or to raise anyone’s dander that grew up on a farm!) I hope to simply allow people who are planning ahead to incorporate the need for “good soil” in their planning now before they rely on a subsistence source.
This article is most interesting because it presents soil fertility in terms of human health and not just nutrition of the vegetables themselves. I’m sure unconsciously most organic growers realize that ultimately it does come back to human nutrition, but this article brings this goal to the forefront. In fact, consciously or not the whole organic and natural nutrition and gardening movement is best understood from a human nutritional prospective. Once understood in this way soil husbandry will help to improve not just human nutrition but also the stewardship of the land as God intended. Perhaps now is a good time to review my previous articles on soil health and fertility.
Essentially, these above referenced articles on CRS Yahoo Group use only natural materials and minerals. While some crops are crops, such as corn, for instance, require much more of one mineral over another, (in the case of corn it is high nitrogen), it is best to use a natural occurring mineral additive rather than a chemical; blood meal or cottonseed meal verses urea for example. While the urea does provide a large dose of nitrogen it can easily offset the soil balance creating deficiencies in other nutrients or soil microorganisms, which can have lasting effects on the soils health and in turn on human nutrition. Keep in mind that the American Indian only used natural material yet he was easily able to grow and store vast quantities of the staple “three sister” vegetables, that is, corn-beans-squash.
I don’t believe that it can’t be emphasized enough the relation of good quality soil health to human health and nutrition. This is especially true for growing children and adolescence. The greater the diversity of nutrients the more efficient is the nutritional value of the vegetable grown. Needless to say, that any soil amendments should be natural and organic to get the most optimum nutritional value.
Thou hast visited the earth, and hast plentifully watered it; thou hast many ways enriched it. The river of God is filled with water, thou hast prepared their food: for so is its preparation. Fill up plentifully the streams thereof, multiply its fruits; it shall spring up and rejoice in its showers. Thou shalt bless the crown of the year of thy goodness: and thy fields shall be filled with plenty. The beautiful places of the wilderness shall grow fat: and the hills shall be girded about with joy, the rams of the flock are clothed, and the vales shall abound with corn: they shall shout, yea they shall sing a hymn. Ps.65:9:13
Richard of Danbury. D.S.G.