Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Life and Energy In Agriculture - Agricultural Industry

Life & Energy in Agriculture, by Arden B. Anderson

A Summary

This is a book report of sorts. I quote Dr. Anderson frequently but condense and summarize significantly from the original text. This book a gem on the role of energy on soil health and produce quality. The original is a quick read and very engaging if you want to learn about the path less taken in agriculture.

The Agricultural Industry

Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy-rich organic compounds. All organic matter in living things is ultimately provided through photosynthesis.

The reverse of photosynthesis is respiration The useful energy is channeled into chemical work, as high-energy phosphates. The irony of the system is that plant scientists understand these principles but this understanding is not transferred to field application.

It takes 30 to 100 years to build one inch of top soil in nature and soil is currently being lost at 5 to 8 times this rate. Why are soils being lost? Conventional fertilization practices have reduced the magnetic properties of the soil to the point where it cannot hold itself together. Here are some major culprits of this degradation.

Potassium chloride is one of the most common potash fertilizers, it contains 40% chlorine, which when it comes in contact with other fertilizers forms hydrochloric acid which will destroy any bacteria it contacts and will acidify the soil. What does not become an acid becomes various salts or chlorine gas, which are hostile to bacteria. This destroys soil tilth and causes compaction, which leads to increased erosion and eventually desertification from salinization. But most important it leads to mineral deficient crops. Interestingly farmers are told KCL is not detrimental to the soils even though professional chemists and petroleum engineers insist that chlorine is extremely harmful. Some argue that such small amounts of chlorine are used that no harm is done. Municipal water supplies use 1-2 parts per million and if you do the math the farmer using the recommended amount of KCL applies 20 60 parts per million, about ten times what is needed to kill the microorganisms.

Anhydrous ammonia is an extremely dangerous form of agricultural nitrogen. It can severly burn the skin and lungs, and rapidly displace oxygen. It is so effective in destroying organics that the army used it in the jungles in WWII to make emergency air strips. The farmer applying this to his soils has the same effect.

Chemical farmers have often said they aren't concerned with quality just volume because they are just going to sell the crop. What would you think of a doctor or a pharmaceutical company with that attitude? If the facts are understood, you can get more tons and bushels from a high quality crop than a low quality one, and do it much more economically.

No comments:

Post a Comment