Foundation Courses. Ch. 1 Lecture 5: What Went Wrong: The History of Agriculture

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Foundation Courses. Ch. 1 Lecture 5: What Went Wrong: The History of Agriculture

Lecture 5 addresses how we got here, with regard to current problems and crises in farming (and ecology), and considers a brief history of agriculture and agricultural practices. An examination of the movement of materials, organisms, water, air, etc., through the Soil Horizons. Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Approach to fertility, based not on Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium values or concentration of organic matter, but based on the Fungal:Bacterial ratio and associated predators.

  • Above quote taken from the course manual of the Foundation courses.

As usual, here is a video for the Cannabis community discussing the subjects on the topics discussed with this lecture!


Tilling using a plow and then beginning of the 19th century, tractors was what destroyed the biology in soils before chemicals were introduced. Even in 1000 BC they would plow once a year but would still destroy the life in the soils even with minimal tillage. Eventually organic matter would be depleted. As the organic matter starts to be depleted, the food to feed the micro-organisms were is lost and the soil life decreases. The only thing left is Bacteria. The bacteria will multiple rapidly in this instance.

Bacteria will blow off carbon dioxide. Bacteria are inefficient because they do not need the carbon. The bacteria needs 30:1 C:N ratios and not 5:1 ratio for food sources. This will deplete the food sources for fungi.

Manure and poorly composted compost would be applied to help this process in the past through out human history. However, manure from animals is mineral heavy and salts will build up. Soil would compact and weeds would become abundant. Through out history civilizations would collapse due to inability to produce food.

Mechanical tractors allowed for more acres to be tilled more often. They believed they were controlling weeds but created more and more weeds. inorganic fertilizers were applied as a result.

Why did we think the Green Revolution worked?

The beneficial organisms were destroyed already in the soils from tillage, toxic chemicals and inorganic fertilizers.

All inorganic fertilizers are salts. Extra moisture and water is needed to break down the salts. Salt is anything that has a - and + charge. Water will be come ineffective when brought into contact of the salts. Example is when humans drink salt water.

If you see an instant response from an inorganic fertilizer, the nutrient cycling system is broken.

Soil Horizons

  • O1 Horizon- Recognizable plant debris

    • O stands for organic.
    • Plant debris fall to the soil
    • Bacteria and fungi breakdown debris into waste products
    • true humus is produced
  • OH Horizon- Dark brown humus (OM organism)

    • Organic Humus
    • No sand silt or clay yet
  • A Horizon- Add sand, silt clay to OM, organisms; color and depth depends on how much humus moves into top layer of soil

    • Organic material is moving into this layer, depends on rain, leeching and earthworms.
    • Earthworms can go up to 20 feet into soil in very health systems.
    • Earthworms act as carriers for the materials in this layer and layers above to lower layers.
  • B Horizon- Less humus movement by water, fewer organisms, roots

    • Color changes to lighter color
  • C Horizon- Much less OM, but is this sterile?

    • There are organisms here. Not sterile in a healthy system. Organisms like earthworms carry life (biology) down here.

USDA Thought that tilling deeper was beneficial.

Each time we tilled we created compaction layers. So over time we thought we needed to till deeper and deeper over time.

  • 1940-1950 - 4 - 6 inches

  • Late 1970's - 12- 18 inches

  • 1994 - 4 feet

Tillage equipment should only be used in extreme conditions.

Undisturbed Soil

  • We want undisturbed soil so the root systems can go as deep as they want to go. The Soil horizon layers become less deep.

Soil Profiles

  • Soil profiles or rather soil horizons become slightly different in different climates. All still require soil life to develop.

Quiz results.

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Be Part of the Soil-ution!


How to develop knowledge and a career in regenerative agriculture with the Soil Food Web School!

From Dr. Elaine Ingham B.A. M.S. Ph.D

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Consultant Kickstarter Bundle

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I am doing the Consultant Kickstarter Bundle for The Soil Food Web School

The First step is to Study the Science by taking the Foundation Courses:

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