Soil Genesis and Growing Soil!
“Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil—and the fact that it rains!”—Anonymous
How fortunate we all are that we have farmable soil.
Soil, so easily taken for granted, is truly amazing when we realize how long it takes to “grow” soil in nature—and how fast we use it up growing food. Six inches of farmable soil is needed to grow food and other crops. In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. This means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches. In California, where I live, it takes four times longer due to the original geologic material and our climate—or 2,000 years for one inch and 12,000 years for six inches! We need to learn patience!
Just imagine—a significant part of the soil providing the World’s nourishment was first developing about 1,000 B.C. when the Romans had primitive chariots, and a key part of the soil that a thriving Californian agriculture possible was beginning to grow about 10,000 B.C. during the Stone Age! This—in one way— slender foundation is what makes it possible to fly in jet planes while we are using laptop computers.
A caution, or unfortunate truth, is the fact that globally, farming practices are depleting soil 18 to 80 times faster than it is built in Nature. (This information can be derived from United Nations and California data.) Six to 24 pounds (depending on the world region) of farmable soil are lost per pound of food eaten due to wind and water erosion fostered by conventional farming practices. Some studies even indicate that as little as 36 to 52 years of farmable soil may remain on the planet.
To add to the problem, while soils are becoming increasingly depleted, the world population is growing, water is becoming less available, and other resources are increasingly in short supply. Peak Farmable Soil, Peak Water and Peak Food are new challenges for us to create an even better World.
Biologically Intensive Farming Can Be an Important Step
These problems, inextricably linked and seemingly insurmountable, may feel like too much to contemplate. But what if there were a simple, important first step that we all could take towards our World’s future? What if we didn’t have to wait for thousands of years?
According to a Master’s Thesis, Changes in Carbon Content in a Soil under Intensive Cultivation with Organic Amendments by Douglas Edward Maher at the University of California-Berkeley in 1983, Biointensive farming was able to build one to one-and-a-half inches of farmable soil in as little as 8 1/2 years. This was done in C-horizon material which had had its topsoil and sub-soil removed. This might mean that six inches of farmable soil could be developed with biologically intensive practices in as little as 50 years.
Keeping the above information in mind, consider the following: Why not grow soil while at the same time you are growing food, with the millennia-old farming practices involved in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® (GBI) method—practices that produce higher yields with a fraction of the water, purchased nutrient in organic fertilizer form, and energy per pound of food produced compared with conventional food raising methods. You can grow soil and food in your own yard, mini-farm or farm—right where you are! In addition to fresh, succulent food, and healthy soil, the process provides great exercise, and removes surplus carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It does this because, when you use the GBI method, about four times the plants grow in a given area, so more carbon is tied up in crop material per square foot than in conventional farming. Also, when using this process, the organic matter level in the soil is higher than the average, so more carbon is tied up in the soil through the life-producing compost you create from crop residues that are composted and returned to it.
When we begin, we will be planting the “seed” that will breathe life back into the Planet and into ourselves! It is beginning the journey that matters!