Man is made of the "dust of the ground." What he is must depend very largely upon the kind of soil of which he is made. We get our soil after it has been prepared for us by the plant kingdom. The plant is limited in its preparation to the soil at hand.
The composition of the soil not only determines to a large extent the character of plant development, but it equally determines the character of the development of man. Soil culture will finally come to be recognized to be equally as important as soul culture. Someday the ethnologist and the preacher will come to the trophologist and agriculturist and ask to be taught of these. Sylvester Graham, who was among the first to point out the evils of our present fertilizer follies, declared plants are deteriorated on such soil and that the meat, milk and butter of animals fed on these plants are deteriorated and adds:
"Surely the immediate effects of such deteriorated vegetable aliment on the human system must be very considerable." He also declared that it is "most certain, that until the agriculture of our country is conducted in strict accordance with physiological truth, it is not possible for us to realize those physical and intellectual and moral and social and civil blessings for which the human constitution and our soil and climate are naturally capacitated."
When vegetables are grown in soil and their produce removed each year, the soil is sapped of its minerals: the soil is denatured. Efforts to restore a denatured soil by the use of an even more denatured fertilizer is as absurd as would be the effort to restore a body, suffering from mineral deficiencies, to normal by feeding it white flour, polished rice, canned goods and pasteurized milk. Sylvester Graham, Baron von Liebig, Dr. Julius Hensel. Dr. Lahmann, Otto Carque, Professor Frank M. Keith, Sampson Morgan and others, have warned of the evils of our present agricultural madness.
Plants derive their carbon and nitrogen largely from the air, their minerals from the soil. A crop of wheat yielding 20 bushels of wheat and 2 tons of straw per acre removes 259.2 pounds of minerals from an acre of land. A crop of oats yielding 40 bushels of oats and 2 tons of straw per acre removes from an acre of soil 283.6 pounds of minerals. Some crops cause a greater drain upon the soil than do wheat and oats. The growing and harvesting of crops represents a steady drain on the minerals of the soil and a steadily diminishing fertility until, finally, it becomes incapable of producing wholesome foods.
Much of our soil is denatured. Our crops are being fed a "white flour" diet. They are suffering from "scurvy." An orthodox food scientist says:
"Vegetables may be lacking in those necessary proximate principles if grown upon soil unsuited for their proper nutrition, or if deprived of sunlight. Milk may be lacking in these principles if the cow is fed upon provender grown upon impoverished soil. The same is true of the meat of animals fed upon faulty provender."
The health and development of man and animal is determined by the soil upon which they feed.
The fertilizing of the ground of Warnham Park (England) with bone dirt every alternate year,
"added 70% to the nutrimental qualities of the grass, accounting for the immense improvement since Mr. F. M. Luca's plan was tried, a four-year-old Warnham stag being better than an adult animal in most other English parks."
Texas cattle are, on an average, much larger than Florida cattle, but there are differences almost as great between the cattle in one county and those of another, and perhaps adjoining county in Texas. In a county where the soil is poor, cattle are smaller than those in a county possessing fertile soil.
These facts teach us that the proper fertilization of land is of most importance to those of us who eat the produce of the soil. If the soil is poor, our foods will be poor and our health and development will be correspondingly poor.
The food value of vegetables depends largely upon the soil in which they are grown. Continued cultivation depletes and impoverishes the soil. So does the washing away of the soil by water which is unimpeded by timber. Prevailing methods of fertilization actually unbalance the soil and introduce into it three or four elements only. Most of the valuable minerals needed by plant life are not returned to the soil by commercial and barn yard fertilizers.
Our farmers and agricultural experts insist on making us out of manure and animal waste from the packing houses. Manure-fed plants mean manure-fed minds and bodies. For many years agricultural ex-spurts have taught that nitrogen, potash and phosphoric acid are the three elements necessary to add to the soil in order to assure maximum crop yields. During the same period farmers have had to deal with ever lessening crop yields despite the unlimited use of manures and fertilizers. They are also confronted with a progressive lessening of the resistance of their crops to insect pests and plant diseases.
Nitrogen-potash-phosphoric acid fertilizers act largely as stimulants. They produce rapid, rank growth, but the plant is lacking in strength, stability and resistance to insect pests. The plants do not acquire stiffness and strength and their organs lack
"a certain solidity and power of resistance against those external causes which endanger their existence."
Plants really need but little phosphoric acid and an excess does them harm. The first world war cut of our potash supply and we learned that we could grow crops without this.
Animal fertilizers introduce an excess of nitrogen into the soil. This lays the plants liable to insect pests and deteriorates their qualities in every important particular. Luther Burbank says:
"What happens when we overfeed a plant, especially an unbalanced ration? Its root system, its leaf system, its trunk, its whole body is impaired. It becomes engorged. Following this, comes devitalization. It is open to attacks of disease. It will be easily assailed by fungus diseases and insect pests. It rapidly and abnormally grows onward to its death."
An excess of nitrogen retards the formation of roots, tubers and grains and produces sickly plants. In cereals it
"leads to a bright green color, to a copious growth of soft sappy tissues, liable in insect and fungoid pests (apparently because of the thinning of the walls and some change in the composition of the sap), and to retarded ripening."
Too much straw is produced and the grain is of poor quality. A similar thing is seen in clover.
Potato plants produce more leaves as the nitrogen supply is increased, but no more roots and no more tubers. Under like conditions tomato plants produce an abundance of leaves, but very little fruit. Excess nitrogen unfits cabbage, spinach, lettuce, etc., to withstand the rough handling of the market.
Plants are cross-feeders and thrive best on mineral food. Soil is disintegrated rock (mineral) and vegetable amalgamations (humus). It is clean, as Mr. Morgan points out. This kind of soil does not produce the weak, watery, unhealthy plants of the food market. Mineralized humus will produce clean soil. Nothing else will.
Soil is not an inert mass. It is teeming with life and pulsating with change. Purification of the soil, as of sewage, is a biological rather than a physical and chemical process. Plants thrive in active symbiosis with soil bacteria.
Mineral fertilizers — rock, volcanic lava, wood and coal ashes, saw filings, etc., — if added to the soil, in connection with leaves and other plant substances, give a better yield of food stuffs — foods that are richer in minerals and which possess greater resistance to parasites than do those raised on manure-fed lands.
The application of mineral fertilizers to the soil raises the "ash" content of plants. Stone dust fertilizers have been repeatedly shown to cause worms to cease infecting fruits. The use of stable manure as fertilizer deteriorates their quality and causes them to become infested with bugs and worms.
"The New Soil Culture," clean culture," as Sampson Morgan, of England, often called it, produces from six to eight times as much per acre as does the old filth fertilizer—"animal, bird and human excrement, reinforced with nitrates and phosphates."
Without sufficient calcium no sugar or starch can be formed; without iron and lime no albumen can be formed; without silica no fibre, or plant skeleton, can be formed; and so on to end of the list of plant minerals: sodium, magnesia, manganese, iodine, etc.
Our denatured soils are lacking in iron, sulphur, silicon, magnesia, lime, manganese, sodium, chlorine, iodine. If these are not present in the soil in sufficient quantities, they will not be present in our foods.
Berg, Ritter, Truninger and Liechti have shown that cultivated plants, when "too exclusively manured with nitrogeneous fertilizers," or when treated with liquid manure (poor in alkalies), or with ammonium sulphate, are greatly deficient in bases and become positively acid.
An acid grass is produced in a soil rich in nitrogen, but poor in minerals. Grasses ordinarily rich in alkaline salts acquire an acid reaction if grown in deficient soils. Animals fed upon pastures, the soil of which is deficient in lime and potassium, become seriously ill.
Foods grown on such soils are not proper foods upon which to feed our bodies and those of our children. In accordance with the Law of the Minimum, the development of our bodies must correspond to the character of the soil upon which we feed.
A complete growth depends upon a complete diet. Perfect fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals and other eatables, depend, not upon an oversupply of one or two of the minerals as our potash-phosphorus fertilizers seem to indicate, but upon a proper proportion of till of them.
Pfeifer prepared various solutions of the minerals that are contained in plants and placed seeds in these to grow. He proved that the absence of only one of these elements, from the solution, injured the plant.
Chlorophyl, the green coloring matter of plants, corresponds with the hemoglobin, or red coloring matter of the blood. Without chlorophyll plants cannot live. Like hemoglobin, it depends upon the presence of iron. Pfeifer found that plants grown in solutions devoid of iron suffer from faulty nutrition. Potassium leads to the development of stems, flowers and fruits; its absence stimulates the growth of leaves. In the absence of potassium, the crop remains backward and the fruit does not develop. The absence of any element from the soil means that it will also be absent from the plant and, therefore, absent from our food.
Dr. Lahmann was right when he wrote:
"What is wanting in the plants? Mineral substances. These have in many places been entirely drawn out of the soil, which has been exhausted through generations, . . . . and yet these mineral substances are absolutely indispensable for the formation of healthy cells and tissues."
"To remedy the present degenerative condition of agriculture we should plough and dig deeper and use mineral manure, that is supply the soil in natura, those mineral substances which are wanting in it."
Soils in various parts of our country vary in fertility, largely as a result of erosion and of faulty agricultural methods. In many parts of the country, due to the wasteful destruction of our forests, the rains have washed the soluble elements of the soil into the sea. Some parts of the earth have been so completely demineralized by ages of washing away of their minerals by water, that they have little left for plant life.
So great has been the mineral loss in the soil of certain of our Middle-Western states, due to washing of the soil by rains, this washing unimpeded by forests, that one of the State Agricultural Experiment stations of one of these states, found it necessary to secure and analyze specimens of foods from many parts of the country in their efforts to determine a fair average content of such foods. These averages are very low and will not sustain life and growth in an ideal manner, while the present methods of fertilizing the land only assist in further denaturing the soil. Our North Central states are also badly depleted.
Professor George W. Cavanaugh, head of the Agricultural Department of Chemistry, Cornell University, says:
"I have experimented with vegetables grown in different parts of the country and have found carrots, for instance, as unlike each other as they would be were they unrelated. It is the same with beans, squash, rhubarb — with every vegetable. They can only be as rich in minerals as is the soil in which they are grown. A man may starve to death while eating them."
Early American colonists settled along the Atlantic coast, farmed it for a few generations and then moved back as far as the Appalachian Mountains where they exhausted the fertility of that vast region. From there they swarmed into the fertile Ohio and Mississippi valleys and after skimming the cream off the rich soils here they totally abandoned many farms here just as had previously been done in New England. Some of these New England farms remain abandoned to this day.
From here our soil-wasting farmers swarmed to the virgin lands east of the Rocky Mountains, where they soon greatly reduced some of these seemingly inexhaustible soils and practically ruined others. They swarmed over the Rockies into the fertile valleys of the Pacific Coast. Reducing these valleys, they then started northward into the fertile plains of Canada.
They surged westward until they could go no farther and turned north. When they could not go farther north then, like a receding wave, they rolled back East and sought out and soon exhausted portions of the various states that had been previously overlooked in their westward march of destruction.
They entered the mountains, cut down the trees of the rich forests, scratched the sloping earth with a plough and planted beans and corn. Rains came in the form of tearing, pouring, thunderstorms and let loose from one hundred to four hundred tons of rushing water per acre in a single hour and the loose earth, deprived of its protection from trees was washed away and fertile hills that, with proper cultivation, might easily have nourished a thousand or ten thousand crops, became so poor in a few seasons that the laborious work of the poor mountaineer now gets only a meagre crop.
Nature put trees there, but the farmer wanted a level-land agriculture. Tree agriculture alone is fitted for the hills. The hillside was certainly never meant for the plough.
Modern agriculture is all in the direction of exploitation, rather than of concern for the well-being of the soil, the animal or the plant, or man, and we frequently run in opposition to natural forces and cosmic influences in our desire to exploit Nature. There is a limit to the stimulus that may be applied to soils for the forcing of crops. Animals instinctively avoid eating grasses and vegetables growing on dung-heaps and heavily manured places, such as an old cow-lot.
What has happened to the soil of America? It has gone the way of her forests and the bison — wasted by the most extravagant people of all human history. In the short time that has elapsed since Europeans first began colonizing the North American continent, we have lost an average of over three feet of the top soil of the whole United States. Erosion by wind and water is blamed for this loss, but back of the wind and water has been the destruction of the forests and ploughing of the land. What Faulkner properly calls the Ploughman's Folly prepared the soil for water and wind erosion. Carelessness has caused many forest fires that has destroyed many thousands of acres of productive land. Much of the rich Everglades of Florida were destroyed by fire. Every year our irrational methods of sewage disposal sends millions of tons of the best top soil of the country out to sea. Year by year our land grows less and less fertile.
To offset this, we resort to commercial fertilizers that poison the plants, undecayed animal offal that sour the soul, and have neglected the true sources of soil. Soil is disintegrated rock. From the rock and from humus or properly decomposed compost comes the finest fertilizer for our soils. We prefer to enrich the manufacturers of chemical fertilizers.
Coupled with this diabolical agriculture, are the devastation of forests, destruction of wild life and the reckless waste of earth's mineral resources. If this folly continues for another five hundred years, the earth will have become uninhabitable.
Dr. Rudolph Steiner, of Germany, late founder of the Anthroposophical Society, and his students, have presented evidence to show that there is benefit to be derived from planting fruits and vegetables in juxtaposition instead of, as at present, growing only one thing in a field or patch. For example, they plant nasturtiums among the apple trees and horse radish by the potatoes and claim that the flavor of both fruit and vegetable is improved thereby. There may be some symbiotic counter-service rendered by plants to each other that has heretofore been over-looked.
More valuable to the health-seeker than climate is soil. He should go where he is sure that the fruits and vegetables of the region are rich in the health-giving, body-building minerals, rather than to a popular resort where climate is the only appeal. The Southwest offers the health-seeker both soil and climate. Sunshine and an abundance of excellent fresh fruits and vegetables are available the year around.
Bulletins No. 94-95 of the Defensive Diet League of America say:
"We know definitely that lettuce, spinach and other products grown on the comparatively exhaustless soil of Texas and the far West are so much more valuable as food that is seems almost unbelievable, as, for instance, such a comparison of vitality as one to ten thousand. Of course, loss in shipping long distances must be taken into account."
The Rio Grande Valley is fertilized from the mineral laden waters of the Rio Grande River, as these bring the minerals from the mountains which they drain. This soil, the richest in the world, produces oranges, grapefruit and other fruits, as well as vegetables, that cannot be surpassed in flavor and food value. The Winter Garden district, lying south of San Antonio, produces fruits and vegetables that supply the health seeker with the precious minerals of life in great profusion. The year around abundance of sunshine assures, not merely mineral assimilation by these fruits and vegetables, but, richness in vitamins and deliciousness of flavor. As rainfall is not excessive, vegetables and fruits are not rank watery, tasteless, food-less foods.
This is not a book on agriculture, else would this chapter be greatly extended. I include this brief chapter merely to aid in arousing our readers to an awareness of the need for agricultural reform as a part of dietary reform.