Wednesday, February 11, 2009
For small farmers in developing countries, the high cost of fertilizers and and uncertain price supports in the market result in increasing debt and poverty. Furthermore, chemical fertilizers are one of the most energy intensive inputs to modern agriculture. Extensive and inefficient use of fertilizers creates nutrient runoffs, with disastrous consequences for aquatic ecosystems. Ironically, while these chemicals are pumped into the farm, the natural waste products of a crop are removed and destroyed, taking away the essential nutrients accumulated in the biomass!
However, chemical fertilizers and even prepared compost are completely unnecessary. On a natural farm, a ground cover of white clover or other leguminous plants efficiently fixes nitrogen in the soil. Leguminous nitrogen fixing crops can also be taken concurrently with main grain crops, or once every few seasons. All the plant material except for produce is either left in the field or returned to the field after harvest, to decomposes naturally and return all the essential nutrients to the soil. This is supplemented with manure from chickens, ducks, humans etc, which provides essential nutrients and speeds up the decomposition of the plant matter.
Taking full advantage of natural systems, it is easy to get yields equal to those achievable through artificial fertilizers. Here is Fukuoka in his own words on the ill effects of artificial fertilizers and the natural way of fertilizing soil.