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The Soil and Health

A Study of Organic Agriculture

Albert Howard

Publication Year: 2010

During his years as a scientist working for the British government in India, Sir Albert Howard conceived of and refined the principles of organic agriculture. Howard's The Soil and Health became a seminal and inspirational text in the organic movement soon after its publication in 1945. The Soil and Health argues that industrial agriculture, emergent in Howard's era and dominant today, disrupts the delicate balance of nature and irrevocably robs the soil of its fertility. Howard's classic treatise links the burgeoning health crises facing crops, livestock, and humanity to this radical degradation of the Earth's soil. His message -- that we must respect and restore the health of the soil for the benefit of future generations -- still resonates among those who are concerned about the effects of chemically enhanced agriculture.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Culture of the Land

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xii

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New Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxiv

In 1964 my wife, Tanya, and I bought a rough and neglected little farm on which we intended to grow as much of our own food as we could. My editor at the time was Dan Wickenden, who was an organic gardener and whose father...

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pp. xxv-xxviii

The Earth's green carpet is the sole source of the food consumed by livestock and mankind. It also furnishes many of the raw materials needed by our factories. The consequence of abusing one of our greatest possessions is disease. This is the punishment meted out by Mother Earth for adopting...

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1. Introduction: An Adventure in Research

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pp. 1-14

My first post was a somewhat unusual one. It included the conventional investigation of plant diseases, but combined these duties with work on general agriculture; officially I was described as Mycologist and Agricultural Lecturer to the Imperial Department of Agriculture...

Part I: The Part Played by Soil Fertility in Agriculture

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pp. 15-81

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2. The Operations of Nature

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pp. 17-32

The introduction to this book describes an adventure in agricultural research and records the conclusions reached. If the somewhat unorthodox views set out are sound, they will not stand alone but will be supported and confirmed in a number of...

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3. Systems of Agriculture

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pp. 33-42

What is agriculture? It is undoubtedly the oldest of the great arts; its beginnings are lost in the mists of man's earliest days. Moreover, it is the foundation of settled life and therefore of all true civilization, for until man had learnt to add the cultivation of plants to his...

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4. The Maintenance of Soil Fertility in Great Britain

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pp. 43-56

Many accounts of the way the present system of farming in Great Britain has arisen have been published. The main facts in its evolution from Saxon times to the present day are well known. Nevertheless. in one important respect these surveys are incomplete...

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5. Industrialism and the Profit Motive

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pp. 57-68

ONE OF THE developments which marks off the modern world is the growth of population. The figures are startling. There were about nine hundred million persons living during the eighteenth century, but over two thousand million at the beginning of the twentieth; in a century...

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6. The Intrusion of Science

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pp. 69-81

It was Francis Bacon who first observed that any species of plants impoverished the soil of the particular elements which they needed, but not necessarily of those required by other species. This true observation might have put subsequent investigators on the right path had their...

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Part II: Disease in Present-Day Farming and Gardening [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 82-189

A SIMPLE METHOD of estimating the success of any method of fanning is to observe how it is affected by disease. If the soil is found to escape the two common ailments--erosion and the formation of alkali salts - which afflict cultivated land; if the crops raised are found to resist...

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7. Some Diseases of the Soil

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pp. 85-102

Perhaps the most widespread and the most important disease of the soil at the present time is soil erosion. a phase of infertility to which great attention is now being paid. Soil erosion in the very mild form of denudation has been in operation since the beginning...

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8. The Diseases of Crops

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pp. 103-157

DISEASE IN CROPS manifests itself in a great variety of ways. Troubles due to parasitic fungi and insects are by far the most common. Many of these troubles have occurred from time to time all through the ages and are by no means confined to modern farming...

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9. Disease and Health in Livestock

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pp. 158-172

ABOUT THE YEAR 1910, after five years' first-hand experience of crop production under Indian conditions, I became convinced that the birthright of every crop is health and that the correct method of dealing with disease at an experiment station is not to destroy the parasite...

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10. Soil Fertility and Human Health

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pp. 173-186

IN THE LAST two chapters the relation between soil fertility and the health of crops and of livestock was discussed. But what of the effect of a fertile soil on human health? How does the produce of an impoverished soil affect the men and women who have to consume...

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11. The Nature of Disease

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pp. 187-189

IN THE FOUR preceding chapters the diseases of the soil, the crop, the animal, and mankind have been discussed, and my observations and reflections on these matters have been recorded. This recital is of necessity somewhat fragmentary, because such a mass of apparently...

Part III: The Problem of Fertilizing

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pp. 191-253

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12. Origins and Scope of the Problem

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pp. 193-210

THE GREAT PROBLEM before agriculture the world over is how best to maintain in health and efficiency the huge human population which has resulted from the Industrial Revolution. As has already been pointed out, this development is based on the transfer of food from the regions...

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13. The Indore Process and its Reception by the Farming and Gardening Worlds

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pp. 211-244

THE SYSTEM of composting which I adopted, known as the Indore Process, has already been fully set forth in 1931 and 1940 in two previous books:1 the detailed description will, therefore, not be repeated here. For those who are not familiar with these accounts it may be briefly...

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14. The Reception of the Indore Process by the Scientists

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pp. 245-253

BEFORE LEAVING India in April 1931 arrangements were made to supply the Indian Central Cotton Committee with a sufficient number of copies of The Waste Products of Agriculture: Their Utilization as Humus, so that they could get composting taken up in all the...

Part IV: Conclusions and Suggestions

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pp. 255-261

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15. A Final Survey

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pp. 257-261

THE NATURAL REACTION to failure is to think again. Perhaps the best known and most vividly expressed example of the ruin which results from choosing the wrong road is that of the Prodigal Son. To-day the realization that there must be something very much amiss somewhere...


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pp. 263-302

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Appendix A: Progress Made on a Tea Estate in North Bengal

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pp. 265-269

GANDRAPARA TEA ESTATE is situated on low rice-growing land south of the Himalayas and in a district which was commonly thought to be incapable of producing teas of a quality equal to those of estates situated on the Red Bank soil. The estate covers...

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Appendix B: Compost Making in Rhodesia

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pp. 270-273

IN 1939, when I last wrote a few notes for An Agricultural Testament, compost making in Rhodesia was in its infancy. Now it has become general. The usual procedure now adopted is to break down the vegetable wastes by spreading them in stock-yards or pens. Here they absorb...

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Appendix C: The Utilization of Municipal Wastes in South Africa

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pp. 274-288

Little was it realized in August 1939, when the first sod was turned for the excavation of an experimental compost pit somewhere on the boundary of the Ficksburg town commonage, that history was being made. Had this been known at the time, the criticism and prejudice...

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Appendix D: Farming for Profit on a 750-Acre Farm in Wiltshire with Organic Manures as the Sole Medium of Fertilization

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pp. 289-302

THE TASK of compressing into an article of 4,000 words and yet doing justice to the story of the enterprise indicated above is no easy undertaking. The whole story needs the book now in course of preparation which is likely to be published by Messrs. Faber and Faber in due course...


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pp. 303-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780813132099
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813191713

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Culture of the Land