Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gene Logsdon, Manure More Precious Than Gold

The possibility that all of agriculture might have to rely on animal and human waste to maintain the necessary fertility to keep the world from starving is not at all something new to civilization. Only in the last century or so has it been possible to lard enough chemical nitrogen on cropland to attain record breaking yields while burning most of the organic matter out of the soil. Before this modern “progress,” human society had no other choice than to consider manure— animal and human— to be more precious than gold. At least humans did so in countries that sustained an ample food supply for very long periods of time, as China and Japan did. We all need to read again Farmers of Forty Centuries, by F.H. King, published in 1911, about oriental agriculture at that time. Manure was treated like a precious gem because it was a precious gem. Every scrap of animal waste, human waste, and plant residue was scrupulously collected, composted, and reapplied to the land. So precious was manure that Chinese farmers stored it in burglar-proof containers.

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