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Saturday, March 7, 2015



Carbon, Microbes and Fungi
Our Connection to Mother Earth

Courtesy of

Fertile soil is way more than its geologic, mineral components, clay, silt and sand, infused with air and water. It takes 500 years for 1 inch (2.5 cm) to form naturally, and most soil is many thousands of years old. For soil to be fertile, to be biologically able to grow food, trees and grass, it must be alive, teeming with life. In a handful of healthy soil there are hundreds of millions of microbes of over ten thousand varieties. When you peer through a powerful microscope you’ll find an entire world of perpetually active bacteria and protozoa, a world from which the medical industry has derived many drugs, and that is still virtually unexplored. In the topsoil, the top 6 inches (15 cm) of the most fertile organic soil, called humus, you’ll also find decomposing roots and stalks, and a world of worms and beetles and ants, which form tunnels, so the soil can breathe and retain water.

The worlds of Microbes and Invertebrates within our soil in the Rhizosphere, the Root Zone, are accompanied by another entire world, a network of Fungi, a network that connects the plants or the grass in fields, or the trees in a forest, and through which they communicate in a symbiotic relationship, and again all this having been virtually unexplored. Without these worlds of Microbes and the Mychorrhizal Fungi, you could have the best array of minerals with an abundance of all the necessary nutrients, and still the plants would not grow. Microbes and fungi are necessary to “fix” the nutrients, to turn the nutrients within the soil to a usable organic form, and for conveying these now usable nutrient compounds to the roots of the crops (through the white strings of Fungal Hyphae, part of the Fungal Mycelium network). And nutrition for the plants and for the microbes and fungi fed by the plants provide nutrition for us (and for all land-based creatures).

The quality as well as the taste of the food we eat are directly related to the quality of the soil, and are dependent on the soil microbes and fungi. And just as the plants need carbon dioxide (CO2), air, soil, and water to grow, the microbes and fungi need soil carbon and carbohydrates (exuded from the plants through the roots) for food, and need oxygen (O2) to breathe and water (H2O) to drink. They are living beings, and our survival depends on their nourishment. This constitutes the Food Web upon which we rely, not just to convert the nutrients and convey them to the plants, but also to protect the plants from pathogens and insects that would otherwise harm them, and to protect the soil from erosion. It’s almost as if this Food Web forms a web of sustenance and protection around the crops.

Soil is one of any nation’s most valuable assets. The nation that can feed itself, given a possible global financial crisis, is the nation that can best survive, so Soil provides Security. There are many different kinds of soils, and in the US we are blessed with the majority of our soil being two of the very best soils for agriculture, Mollisol, grassland soil, and Alfisol, forest soil. US farmlands, our soils here in the US, are the envy of the world. In fact, more and more Europeans and Asians are engaged in efforts to purchase land in the US, offering ridiculously high prices, two or three times more than an American farmer could afford.

Yet, in many other ways, we are letting a big component of this wealth of our nation, our farmlands, slip right through our fingers, as every nation of the world is also doing. At a time when we need soil the most, with projections of growing populations, the difficulties of Climate Change, and the threats to our seafood, we are literally watching our soil wash away, or disappear in other ways, as we do nothing about it.

FDR said, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” And that’s exactly what we as a nation are doing, as is every nation in the world that engages in conventional synthetic fertilizer-based and pesticide-based agriculture, and worse yet, GMO and herbicide based monocrop agriculture, with factory farms on huge tracts of land. We and every other nation in the world are literally and functionally losing our soil through erosion, desertification, and degradation, and much of this is owed to the destructive way the world is being farmed. We are doing it all wrong.

It’s not the farmers’ fault. We’ll even give the millionaire large farmers with the big subsidies a pass, because they are just following the suggested methods of the USDA, and the departments of agriculture and bureaucrats around the world, and of Monsanto and all the Chemical and Food Multinational Corporations with whom they are in collusion.

With these Corporations, it’s not about how best to grow nutritious food, or to best “feed the world”. It’s about how they can best profit by perpetuating the status quo in endorsing a system of agriculture that is extremely destructive, responsible for the erosion and degradation of the world’s soil. Together with the bureaucrats and politicians that are “going along with the program”, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont, etc. are all culpable as accessories to the crime of the loss and degradation of our soil, tantamount to treason.


According to the USDA’s own Natural Resources Inventory, the US is losing an average of 5 tons of soil per acre of farmland every year to Erosion. All these millions of tons of soil from every country in the world (example: China is losing 15 tons/acre/year) are literally flowing down our rivers, along with the Fertilizers and Agrochemicals, and you can visually see this entering our Oceans, an environmental disaster with silt clogging gills of fish, and with algae blooms and dead zones.

To further illustrate, the US alone lost 1.7 billion tons of soil to erosion in 2010, and every year, enough soil to fill 15.6 million rail cars, a train that would stretch around the earth almost eight times. Worldwide, 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of farmland per year are being lost or damaged through Erosion.

The mechanized farming with heavy equipment and frequent tillage breaks up the structure of the soil (the decaying roots and fungi held together by Glomalin, a fungal glue), and the lack of cover crops, that also reduces the structure of the soil after harvest, make the soil vulnerable to massive erosion. Torrential downpours of Climate Change in recent years have exacerbated this erosion. The Environmental Working Group has published a study in Iowa, the heart of the Corn Belt, showing very divergent rates of erosion from 5 to 50+ tons of soil/acre/year in various counties depending on the severity and location of that year’s storms. By now, we have all experienced the extreme deluges of Climate Change, where months’ worth of rains fall in hours, and it’s easy to imagine the gullies formed on bare fields tearing them up and pouring the muddy water with all the agro-pollution into streams and rivers, and eventually into our oceans.

Dust Storms have become more common, reminding us of the Dust Bowl days, due to another form of erosion, wind erosion, brought on by drought and bad agricultural practices. Healthy soil has much better moisture retention and structure, so it doesn’t as readily blow away in the wind.

The experts at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and departments of agriculture around the world are aware of the problems of erosion, and of the solutions, “No Till” systems, Cover Crops, and the increase of Soil Carbon, organic matter in soil. The USDA has initiated a program encouraging cover crops, but this practice is still not the norm, and cover crops don’t fit well with the cultivation of herbicide-based GMO monocrops for Biofuel and Animal Feed, as well as Human Feed. And so we’re watching tons of our precious soil flow away, or blowing away, with little effort to make the major changes needed to stop the bleeding.


The farmland soil that is not being physically lost to erosion is being degraded by nutrient depletion. Back when land was cheaper, American farmers were proud to “use up a farm”, and just move on to the next, as a sign of their productivity. Monocropping, without Crop Rotation, uses up nutrients even faster.

But all crops need large quantities of the primary macronutrients, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK), to form proteins and to facilitate the production of Chlorophyll for Photosynthesis. And they need the secondary macronutrients of Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur. They also need seven micronutrients (Boron, Copper, Iron, Chloride, Manganese, Molybdenum and Zinc) in smaller quantities, but each is essential to the nurturing of plants. Unless the soil already has sufficient minerals or is fed them by applications of decomposing plant material and manure, or applications of synthetic fertilizers, the soil loses its ability to support plant growth.


Synthetic Fertilizers are bad news in so many ways. They are expensive to the Farmer, and very expensive to the Climate and to the Environment. The energy use and CO2 emissions of producing tremendous quantities of fertilizers is exorbitant, with the Mining, Refining, Processing, Long Distance Transportation, and  Farm Equipment Application.

Nitrogen fertilizer, in production and after application onto the fields, emits 80% of all nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas 400 times worse than CO2 for global warming, and a gas that kills the ozone layer. Studies have found that farmers are applying way too much of these nitrogen (ammonium/urea/nitric acid) fertilizers, causing the microbes that convert them to organic compounds to emit much more N2O than they would otherwise. When lime is applied to fields in the process of raising the soil pH to a point that best suits the microbes involved and plant growth (slightly acid), the reaction with lime in the acidy soil emits tons of CO2, as much as factories. And the majority of these gas emissions happen within the first six hours after application onto the fields, and this includes any gas emissions from all fertilizers. Besides the greenhouse gas effects, these pollute our air and spread nitrates and phosphates.

 It’s no wonder that most of the world’s farmers have become addicted to fertilizers. They have been encouraged by the Pushers, the Chemical Producers and the bureaucrats in every nation’s departments of agriculture, to use more and more, with the hope of equal or even better results, and with the fear that without their use, yields would diminish. Once you get on it, you can’t get off of it.  Indeed, your soil is by now so degraded that it would not support plant growth without these fertilizers, or so these farmers have come to believe.

And studies have found that the compounds that make up the fertilizers have chemical and antiseptic properties that degrade the communities of microbes and fungi that are necessary to convert the nutrients to a plant usable form. So they are degrading the communities of microbes and fungi that are needed to convert and transport nutrients with the very fertilizers that contain these necessary nutrients.

Much of the fertilizer that doesn’t go up in gas, goes into the water, and leaches into the groundwater. Very little of the Phosphorus mined primarily in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Canada (70% of all known reserves), and the Potassium(Potash) mined primarily in a dangerous part of Morocco (85% of all known reserves), and processed and shipped long distances, ever actually gets absorbed by the crops!  

We discussed the effects of Nitrates and Phosphates and Potash on Algae Blooms and Dead Zones in Closer to the Tipping Point, our previous article. (Also please note that if we continue to farm needing these fertilizers, our reliance on these limited supplies will continue to grow, threatening the Security of every nation of the world, if ever there is an interruption.)

Again the FAO and the USDA and most world experts are aware of everything we’ve mentioned, and know of the organic alternatives of compost and increasing the soil carbon and nutrients organically, but nothing substantial has been done to change from the status quo.


We uncovered in our research that fertilizers are completely unregulated in the US, and that toxic industrial wastes, such as flue ash from steel plants, are being sold to fertilizer manufacturers for use as ingredients, or to agribusinesses to be sprayed directly onto farm fields. If, for an example, the waste contains a nutrient, even a micronutrient such as Zinc, the seller and buyer ignore that the waste may also contain toxic heavy metals like Lead or Arsenic, and might also be radioactive. It’s a win-win for the buyer and the seller. The buyer gets these inputs for next to nothing, and the seller gets to get rid of their toxic waste for free, and maybe even gets paid something for it. If the toxic waste doesn’t kill the crop, which has happened, only the consumer is at risk.

Toxic sewer sludge, again with toxic heavy metals, has also been known to be used as fertilizer.

These morally criminal practices (not legally criminal, only because there is no legal regulation in the US) are taking place routinely in the US, and are presumably prevalent in Mexico, China and in many other nations. Even in nations where there is some regulation, corrupt business people may be bypassing it.

With no indication that food was grown in soil fertilized with toxics, this is another urgent reason to steer clear of any food not labeled as organic.


The conventional methods of agriculture have broken down the Food Web discussed at the beginning of this story rendering the plants defenseless to insects. So farmers have come to believe, with the help of bureaucrats, politicians, and chemical execs, that they need more and more pesticides, herbicides (weed killers) and fungicides, all EDCs, and all derived from gas and oil. Just like with fertilizers, farmers have been encouraged to use more and more, and have become addicted to their use. Not only are they selling the farmers increasingly larger quantities of these poisonous chemicals, but they are getting many new approvals from the USDA (also other countries) for new GMOs that tolerate new or less used poisons (like Dicamba and Dow’s 2,4-D, an ingredient in Vietnam era defoliant, Agent Orange), so the number of different chemicals in use are being increased. Glyphosate and other popular poisonous agrochemicals are measurable in air, water, soil, urine and blood.

These poisons may kill the bugs and weeds which haven’t become resistant (superbugs and superweeds), but they also kill the living soil. The communities of microbes and fungi on which the crops (even conventional crops) rely, (and beneficial earthworms, slugs and snakes) are seriously degraded every time the fields are sprayed, or seeds coated with pesticides are planted. Thankfully, microbes and fungi are resilient enough to survive the chemical onslaught, but they are definitely degraded per multiple studies. When the microbes within the soil are degraded, our soil is degraded, and so is our ability to grow good nutritious non-hormonal food.

All pesticides and herbicides are estrogenic endocrine disrupters (EDCs), affecting hormones in all vertebrates, even fish, as much of these poison sprays end up in streams, groundwater, and eventually our oceans. These poisons accumulate on the farm fields and in the environment, and some bioaccumulate within all creatures. The sooner we stop adding more and different poisons to the environment, the better we’ll all be. We just read a study that Neonicotinoids, used as a coating for seeds sold in the US and Canada and responsible for killing bees, persists in the soil for at least 19 years. This might be the new DDT, a pesticide that has not been used for nearly 40 years, but still is everywhere and in all of us.

If terrorists poisoned our land, our food, and our water supplies, and rendered our soil unfit, we would be up in arms, but when Monsanto and their like do it, the world seems to accept this as necessary and OK.


Agrochemicals are not the only threats to the soil microbes and fungi, to the health of our soil, and to its ability to produce healthy food. There are many other toxins and heavy metals that are polluting farm fields, delivered through air and water pollution. Amongst them are carcinogenic PCBs, Dioxin, Lead and Arsenic, which are very toxic, persistent, and omnipresent, and a plethora of other chemicals, many of which like BPA, have been proven in numerous studies to disrupt hormones with a range of bad outcomes, including cancer, but there has been little research on their effect on soil microbes.

We do know, however, that when our soil is polluted by an oil spill, or by any heavy metal or persistent toxic chemical, there is no way to remediate the soil, no way to ever completely remove the toxin. If soil is found on an industrial site with hydrocarbon (oil) pollution, the DEP in many States demands that this soil be incinerated, rather than landfilled.


There’s nothing benign about salt water. We especially worry about road salt getting onto farms, and worse yet, toxic EDC Frack Brine, as much as twenty times saltier than seawater. All crops and most plants can’t survive in salt water. Believe it or not, just from irrigation, the natural salts in the water accumulate year after year, along with the natural salts in the soil and synthetic fertilizer salts, and the soil reaches a tipping point, where microbes and fungi are too degraded, seeds won’t germinate, and the plants can’t live. When overwatering brings salty water up to the root layer, the plants will die. Not just sodium chloride, but there are also six others, including common salts, such as baking soda and Epsom salts.

And this is happening not just in India, but all over the world. We are losing as much farmland to salinization as we are to erosion, 25 Million acres per year (10 Million hectares per year).

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) is aware of the wasteful irrigation practices of big agriculture, being the biggest consumer worldwide of precious water, huge quantities of water, most of which is being wasted. The utilization of water would be increased substantially, if we would just increase soil carbon by 1%, which would allow each acre to retain as much as 16,500 extra gallons of water.             There are so many improvements that farms could make with water catchment and utilization in agriculture. Water is necessary for crops to grow, but the less irrigation the better, to save our aquifers for the future, and to slow salinization.


Desertification is the biggest loser, 30 million acres (12 million hectares) per year, bigger than Erosion or Salinization, which are both at 25 million acres (10 million hectares) per year. If you add the three figures, that’s 80 million acres (32 million hectares) each and every year of land to farm that we are losing worldwide. This puts even more pressure on Forests, which are being cut down for new agricultural fields, grazing, and for development. In turn, less trees means less rain, as São Paulo, Brazil is finding out, and less rain is detrimental to agriculture.

Desertification is where the farmland becomes desert, and is no longer arable, can no longer support crops. Although Climate Change and Drought are a major component, there are many other factors, including clay and sand content of soil and compaction of the soil. Two pieces of land can have the same exact Climate, yet one of them has desertified, and the other is still yielding crops. One of the differences is soil carbon content. With just one more percent of soil carbon organic content, soil moisture retention is vastly improved.


Not just Housing, but Roads, Schools, Businesses, and Power Stations are growing to accommodate larger populations, and in so doing, they have nowhere to go, but to cut down more forests, or pave some more farm fields. And struggling older farmers, whose children have no interest, are sometimes quick to sell. In the US, we are losing one acre of farmland per minute to development. That’s half a million acres per year, just in the US, and it’s happening even more in parts of the world where the population is exploding.

Concrete puts one ton of CO2 into our atmosphere for every ton of concrete, and you can imagine just how many tons of concrete are in one building or one bridge. We are taking a forest that absorbs CO2 to grow trees, or a farm field which could be absorbing CO2 (if farmed organically), and turning it into a big CO2 producer.

At a time when we will need it the most, we are losing more and more of our farmland all over the world to development. If we don’t make a sea change in the way we treat our soil and farm our food, there will soon be many more starving people in this world. Experts have found the model of small multi-crop organic farms, even urban farms, to be much more productive per acre, (or per square foot, in the case of urban gardens), and much more likely to feed more people sustainably.


As bad as all these losses are for our soil and for our ability to grow nutritious food for our children and for future generations, it would be a lot worse if there were no solutions. As we mentioned more than once earlier in this article, the UN’s FAO, and, in many cases, experts in the USDA and in every other agricultural ministry in the world know of many effective solutions to these problems. Unfortunately, they have not shown the collective will to stand up to Monsanto and Big Chem and Big Ag, and make the fundamental changes from extractive, industrial farming, that they all know are necessary. 

The world is blessed with thousands of experts from every continent, that don’t just know that what we are doing in conventional agriculture is wrong, but have engaged in farming projects for decades proving that organic agriculture can work and thrive without pesticides, weed killers, and synthetic fertilizers, and they are eager to show the world how this works, and to help in its transition to the production of healthy food. Experts like Dr. Elaine Ingham of Soil Foodweb,Inc., ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood and Maria Rodale of the Rodale Institute, and Dr. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya and the Seed Freedom Movement (Soil not Oil) don’t just know about how to farm properly, sustainably, and healthfully, but have experience and track records, and can demonstrate how it all works in the field, not just in the laboratory. And they can also show us, backed by experience, what is meant by Regenerative Agriculture, how to use agriculture to regenerate, to reclaim, extremely degraded land, and to more efficiently utilize water through soil biology.

And then there’s an amazing bonus, of which nobody could have ever dreamed, and that is, by improving the methods by which we farm, one of the multiple positive byproducts is that organic agriculture would actually be able to reverse Climate Change. This is not a pie-in-the-sky wild claim, and no new technology or invention is necessary. The Rodale Institute published a White Paper in 2014 that demonstrates the conclusions that organic agriculture can actually suck up and sequester more CO2 than the world emits, in all sectors, including Energy, Industry and Transportation. The Rodale Institute’s done the math, and it shows organic agriculture can actually remove tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Instead of being one of the largest carbon (CO2) producers, second only to Energy, Agriculture could become a huge Carbon Sink. If the necessary low-tech changes are made, Agriculture could become our savior from Climate Change, or at least slow it down, by sequestering huge amounts of carbon, pulling it right out of the atmosphere, and by increasing soil carbon, and microbial and fungal soil health. This would improve agricultural yield, while wasting less water, due to the improvement in soil moisture retention.


To fully comprehend how all this works, you’ve got to understand the Carbon Cycle, the Circle of Life, of Life, Death, Decomposition, and Re-absorption. All life is based on this process rooted in soil, and all organic compounds on Earth are centered around Carbon, so in that sense, Carbon is the Foundation for Life.

All living creatures depend on eating plant food (Organic Compounds containing Carbon) directly, or through meat, and when they die, they decompose (with the help of aerobic microbes) giving off CO2 (also anaerobic microbes giving off CH4, Methane). Photosynthesis performed by Chlorophyll in the green leaves of plants is the magic that converts CO2, drawn right out of the air, into Oxygen (O2) for all to breathe, and into carbon (C) that is used to form the Organic Compounds, from which the plants are created, and by which they are fed, including the Sugars (Carbohydrates) that flow down the stalks and out of the roots to feed the microbes and fungi upon which the plant depends. So, the Carbon Cycle, the Circle of Life, involves microbes to decompose dead animals and dead roots and plants producing CO2, and it also involves microbes to feed the plants and their green leaves with nutrients, without which Photosynthesis would not be possible, and without which the plants and microbes would not survive to eventually decompose.

The three primary macronutrients, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, each have their own cycles (see NotesForGeeks section for charts on each of these cycles, including the Carbon Cycle), and all these cycles overlap and work in tandem with each other.

Carbon is so essential to life, but if we keep taking it out of the ground, either through conventional agriculture, or through extracting and burning fossil fuels, or through wildfires, or a hundred other ways that pour vast quantities of CO2 into the air, and we don’t replace it back into the ground, we end up with way too much in the atmosphere (causing Global Warming). Photosynthesis, through the nurturing of natural Forests and Agriculture, (so long as we reduce emissions through organic farming), magically cleans the air of CO2, and sequesters the carbon into plants, grass, trees, and into the soil. It’s easy to picture every tree as a ton of carbon sequestered, until the tree dies, or gets cut down or burned. And whether a tree, that has taken twenty or more years to grow, is burned for agricultural land, for development, or by wildfire associated with Climate Change, makes no difference. It reverts in an instant to CO2, and all that carbon goes back into the atmosphere. The trick is to get it out, back into the soil.


Besides CO2, another product of the decomposition of plants and animals is organic matter holding all the macro and micronutrients, which we call Soil Carbon, and it serves as food for the microbes and fungi. You can see in the illustration at the top of this article how through extractive industrial agriculture we have lost a part of our wealth, one more part we haven’t covered yet in this article, and that’s the Soil Carbon, or Humus, in our soil. Over the past 150 years we have lost 70%, going from 5% to 1.5% Humus in our agricultural soil. Most of that loss has been within the past 50 years, since we began our heavy reliance on pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and frequent mechanized tillage. Corresponding to this loss is a rise in CO2 levels in our atmosphere, from 280 ppm to 400 ppm, an increase of 43%, recognizing that this rise is not just from agriculture, but from every sector.

The key to higher yields of healthy food from agriculture, and at the same time, the key to reversing climate change, is to reverse both of these trends. We’ve got a make every effort to increase the use of alternative energy and stop carbon emissions from every sector, including agriculture. And we’ve got to make every effort to put back, to sequester, as much carbon as possible into our soil.

Crops take lots of nutrients out of the soil that must be replaced, and the way to replace them naturally without synthetic fertilizers is to feed the soil with decomposing plant material, Compost, increasing Soil Carbon. The Compost, made from vegetable and plant waste, must be prepared by keeping it damp and occasionally turning it, to be sure there’s enough oxygen in it, so that only aerobic microbes will thrive and be operative. Compost Tea can be prepared to be a plant food, again with lots of oxygen bubbling through it to serve the microbes, and can be sprayed on the leaves to discourage insects and harmful fungal growth..

Green Manure isn’t manure at all. It’s a green crop cut down or turned over to decompose right in the field, and not necessarily in the compost bin. Legumes, bean plants, are especially popular as Green Manure, because they are so rich in nutrients, and this is a very good way to increase Soil Carbon.

If we’re going to attempt to feed the world organically, we’re going to need ever increasing amounts of compost and mulch. What we are doing today burying our kitchen and yard waste in landfills, resulting in Methane (CH4) emissions (anaerobic digestion gives off methane - over 100 times worse than CO2 for Global Warming), or grinding it in waste disposals, and putting it into our sewer systems, is so wasteful. Again, this is one more potential asset we are foolishly forfeiting.


There would be no digestion in any organism without microbial activity, and there are billions of bacteria in our mouths, stomachs, and intestines that facilitate digestion. With all species, including invertebrates like worms, food goes in one end, nutrients are absorbed, and beautifully processed (if healthy) lumps of shit (“castings” from worms) come out the other end. It’s a miracle, and in many religions people say a prayer and thank God each time they go, even for this lowly process.

(So, we’re talking Shit. Don’t wish to offend anyone, but that’s the popular word we use here in America, and I figured that if I kept trying to step around it, I might step in it, so I’m hoping it’s okay to use it.)

Shit is some powerful stuff, not just the smell, and any farmer will tell you, it’s miraculous, but it’ll burn you and your crops, if you don’t use it right, and NEVER to put fresh shit directly onto living crops without first composting it. Farmers sometimes apply fresh shit onto fields, but only in the fall, so it can compost through winter before the crops are planted. (The only exception is when the droppings come directly from free ranging animals, where hoofs can spread it and dung beetles and worms can help compost it where it falls.), The Nitrogen, or Ammonia, in fresh shit will actually burn, or dehydrate, and kill crops, if it’s not first composted aerobically. Not in your Compost Bin, all that means is to leave a small pile for a few months, turning it occasionally to keep enough oxygen in it for the microbes breaking it down. After two or three days, the bad smell goes away, and fully composted shit smells like rich soil and has no bad smell at all.

Never use human, dog, cat, or pig shit, or any from any carnivore (even if vegetarian) for fertilizer, as there are too many problematic pathogens and parasites. (Technological breakthroughs are happening to burn, or “gasify” it, to utilize these “biosolids” for power generation, producing the byproduct, “Biochar”, charcoal to improve Soil Carbon and water retention.)

Cow shit is the best fertilizer for most crops, because it has the least nitrogen, so it’s more balanced with the other nutrients. Horse and sheep shit is hotter, and chicken shit is the hottest with the most nitrogen, and corn loves nitrogen. (Horse shit isn’t recommended, because horses don’t digest the seeds, and you don’t want to be planting hay when fertilizing your fields.)

Most farmers mix some composted shit into their regular compost to supercharge it, rather than apply it solo. It provides essential nutrients, and really works.

But where do you get animal shit? You certainly don’t want to get it from a CAFO (Confined Animal Feed Operation). These are factory facilities where thousands to hundreds of thousands of animals live, are fed GMO grain, grow and die under one roof in a matter of months, producing huge ponds full of toxic shit, with antibiotics, growth hormones, pathogens, and any number of toxic chemicals. (Mountains of shit pose the danger of spontaneous combustion, so it’s normally kept in ponds, including the urine, and any liquids.) What animals are fed comes out in their shit, and we wouldn’t want to risk contaminating crops with antibiotic-resistant germs, toxins and pathogens. These growing ponds of shit are a huge problem threatening air quality, water sources and communities. Many CAFOs actually spray this terrible smelling shit soup up into the air to turn it into an aerosol to blow in the wind to diminish the ponds. When the world ever wakes up and shuts down these immoral dangerous CAFOs, they’ll all have to be treated as Superfund sites.

So the ramping up of lots of biodiverse organic small farms is not just the answer to crop production, but is also the answer to egg, milk and meat production, from which the important byproduct, animal manure, will be safest and most usable, and will be valued like Gold.

THE STORY ON SOIL – Final Thoughts

In August, 2014, after Rodale Institute published in April their White Paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change - A Down-To-Earth Solutionto Global Warming, with 33 years of data backing it up, their executive Director, Mark Smallwood, who we all call “Coach”, decided, after offering this White Paper to the entire world, that, as an American who cared about his country and our children and their children, he wanted to hand deliver it to the USDA and to every member of Congress. Rather than send it by mail, FedEx or email, he decided to walk the 160 miles from Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania Dutch farm country to Washington, DC, starting October 1, 2014 on a Walk for anOrganic Planet.

Walking stick in hand, before Coach climbed the steps of the USDA and presented his paper personally to six officials on October 16, he visited organic farms, and most impressively, urban farms that had just years before been huge vacant lots, garbage and weed ridden and partially desertified, that were now lush, beautiful, productive, organic community plots. They had been regenerated, and were now productive and positive. This embodies everything that Coach stands for, and everyone needs a good Coach.

Download the PDF of the Rodale White Paper, and don’t miss the Executive Summary, at very least. Another “Must Read” is Vandana Shiva’s February 2015 article in Eco-Watch commemorating 2015 as the UN’s International Year of Soils, entitled Vandana Shiva: ‘All Life Depends on Soil’.

Rodale Institute, Navdanya (the name of Vandana Shiva’s community), and dozens of other experts, organizations, and farmers on every continent are offering the world the results of decades of research on a silver platter. Though the need for funding always persists, what they are asking in return is a healthy future for our children, and all agree that this future must be rooted in live, healthy soil.

In late February, 2015, the press release for the first ever Agroecology World Forum that convened in Mali said ,”In fact, the industrial agriculture system based on heavy use of harsh chemicals, which destroys both soils and forests, depletes resources, and affects the health and wellbeing of both small holders and consumers, is being systematically favoured by governments, which serve the interests of multinationals and enact free trade policies dictated by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. As Ibrahima Coulibaly stated: ‘’Humanity went too far, when we thought that we should put the economy before all. This has weakened the world, made it more vulnerable and resulted in climatic change: extreme weather, droughts, and severe water shortages.”

All the delegates to this Forum that highlights indigenous and peasant farming methods and most experts globally agree that extractive, industrial agriculture is destructive and should be abandoned in favour of more agroecological, organic farming, and most are also, by now, aware of how this could mitigate, or, at least, slow Climate Change.

To quote an article in The Ecologist, September, 2014, entitled, UN: Only Small Farmers and Agroecology Can Feed the World, “Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using 'agroecological' methods, according to the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. And as Nafeez Ahmed notes, her call coincides with a new agroecology initiative within the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.” This UN Diplomat, Professor Hilal Elver, further asserts, “This is critical for future agricultural policies. Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small farmers.

It’s a fact that, though globally 70% of human food crops are grown by Small Farmers, 80% of farm subsidies and 90% of research funding in the EU goes to Agribusiness, and not to Small Farming, and this is reflective of the policies of the US and of most countries around the world.

In the US, Mitt Romney, the Republican, grew Bain Capital from the millions he made in proceeds for the handling of Monsanto’s public relations during the big roll-out of GMOs. And Michael Taylor went from working directly for Monsanto to being appointed by Democrat Barack Obama to Food Czar and Deputy Commissioner of the FDA. Whether Republican or Democrat, most politicians and bureaucrats in the US favor agribusiness, with its methods of chemical intensive farming, as does the Farm Bill, rather than help the small farmer, much less, the organic farmer.

In fact, the new inspections and audit costs required though the Food SafetyModernization Act (FSMA), giving FDA authority over farms with sales exceeding $25,000 (other than through farmer’s markets), threaten to make it even more unviable for a small organic farmer to grow and profit enough to feed his or her family in the US. Not only are we not supporting small farmers, but we are throwing roadblocks at them and standing in the way of their success.

This is true for every country in the world where big money from Big Chem, Big Ag, and Big Food is supporting political campaigns and, likely, lining corrupt pockets. Also, out of fear, these politicians and bureaucrats think that if they cross Monsanto and all the huge corporations profiting from this failed method of industrial monocrop agriculture, God forbid, they’ll ruin the Economy. So out of fear, even if they know how wrong it is, they allow the status quo to continue.

The only way the world will make the bold moves required to save our soil and feed the world sustainably with healthy, nutritious food, and do this in such magnitude that it has a chance of making a real effect in mitigating Climate Change, is for the people of the world to band together and demand it, and demand that the politicians and bureaucrats stand up to Monsanto and the big corporations that prefer the status quo, or, otherwise, demand that they be replaced. And the only way this will happen is by increasing awareness, so that all the world’s citizens are aware of the risks of inaction, including the loss of our soil, and the benefits, including the positive effects on climate, of growing healthy food in healthy soil.

Message to our Readers

In writing The Story on Soil, I had to assume that you had already read our story, Messing with Mother Nature - Miracle of Seeds vs GMO and other Freak of NatureFoods, or were familiar with the material.  Though we sometimes refer to a previously written article, we try to not repeat much of the information (in the interest of brevity, lol), even if it is as relevant, as in this case, Soil to Agriculture. If you haven’t already, and you can find the time to read it, you’ll gain an even deeper understanding. Besides the link to Vandana Shiva and friends’, Law of the Seed, this article offers a link to the UNCTAD report, Wake Up Before It Is Too Late!, that has influenced the thinking in the UNFAO, and speaks directly to Soil, Hunger, and Climate Change.

Some of Woodstock Earth Blog’s other previous stories, Weather Extremes and the JetStream, Closer to the Tipping Point, Chemistry Gone Wild, and Fracking the HolyLand with the Holy Water were also very relevant, and again I didn’t include that material already covered in these stories, and if you enjoyed The Story on Soil, you may wish to check these out as well.

Our first video is the trailer for a beautifully shot and produced feature length film by Deborah Koons Garcia. “Filmed on four continents, featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers, Symphony of the Soil is an intriguing presentation that highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet.” This film was an essential part of my research, allowing me to learn directly from the words of experts.

The second video entitled, We Are All Seeds, is a New Year’s Message for 2015 from Dr. Vandana Shiva, the leader of the Seed Freedom Movement, where she encourages our participation in the UN’s International Year of Soils. When she speaks to us with that twinkle in her eye, we get her message on so many levels. She reminds us, “We are all Seeds,” politically, as well as spiritually.

The third video features “Coach” Mark Smallwood, the Executive Director of the Rodale Institute before his Walk for an Organic Planet, which we discussed earlier in the first few paragraphs of our Final Thoughts section. Video production values aren’t the best, but it’s definitely worth your time all the way through to the end, including a very well produced short piece on the Walk. It’s a treat to hear the science directly from Coach’s mouth on Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, and to feel his credibility and encouragement.

One of Coach’s former associates, Dr. Elaine Ingham, who served as Chief Scientist for Rodale Institute,
2011 – 2013, presents the story of soil through the lens of a microbiologist, entitled, Soil not Dirt, our fourth video.  Believe it or not, I found her presentation very enjoyable and also very intelligible, even to the non-scientist.  An author and founder of Foodweb, Inc., on the subject of soil biology, she is the best.

The last video is one of my favorites. It is a half hour PBS Special entitled, Save Our Soil, which tells the story in a fascinating way, including the sequestration of carbon, through actual experts out in the field. A quote from Dr. Whendee Silver, Professor, Ecosystem Ecology, UC Berkeley, “I think this is a game-changer. This is a low-tech solution to a really big problem.” It’s a very engaging video and spot on relative to this piece

After the videos, instead of a NotesForGeeks section, this time it’s GraphicsForGeeks, all in images. These were subjects we planned to cover, but were never able to include. That would be all the Macronutrient Cycles (We did cover the Carbon Cycle, but we thought you may want to see that chart, too.), and the Soil Distribution maps.

We thank our readers in France (In the past two months, we’ve been getting close to 10% of our US views from France alone!), Germany, Canada, the UK, Spain, and Singapore (our biggest audience outside the US), and we thank all of our US and international readers (from over 100 nations). We really appreciate you taking the time to read our articles. And we extra-appreciate when you refer them to friends. Whether we really are able to do something significant to save our soil, feed the world with healthy produce, and to slow Climate Change, depends largely on whether we and others can get this story out, and make citizens of the world aware. That’s where our readers can really make a difference. We love getting feedback. Our email address is:, or if you prefer Twitter, you can use: @Mikethemikeman1. For the sake of our people, our families, and Mother Earth, we encourage all of you, as charter members of Woodstock Earth, to spread the word and help get these stories out.


Symphony of the Soil

A Film by Deborah Koons Garcia

“We Are All Seeds”

A New Year Message from Dr. Vandana Shiva

Regenerative Organic Agriculture

And Climate Change

“Coach” Mark Smallwood

Soil not Dirt

Dr. Elaine Ingham

SOS: Save Our Soil


Courtesy of PBS


Carbon Cycle

Calcium Cycle

US Soil Regions

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