Critical Feeding V Organics, Microbes & better Soil Management

Farmers found out a long time ago that critical feeding (feeding excessive amounts of 'synthetic' fertiliser) results in bumper yields. So who can blame them, when the world is run by the dollar, when they do exactly that year after excruciating year. Counting the dollars whilst the land behind them pays a devastating cost.
The full cost we can only guess at... but for starters much of the land now needs to be rotated, with some of it barely farm-able at all. Lots of locked out P and K, making land deficient in iron and other micros, nitrates almost literally poured into the water supply.
Dare I even mention soil bacteria and the recent e.coli outbreaks?
Are we really upsetting the balance and need to add back what we have taken away in an attempt to re-address it? Or, do we carry on as usual, chasing the dollar and slaughtering the bio-diversity?
Hydroponics has shown us that sterile growing and artificial fertilisation in the form of synthetic nutrients will result in amazing harvests. Maybe we should just get out of soil altogether?
I'd be very interested in hearing the thoughts of some of you here... thank you for reading.
--
VickyN


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VickyN wrote:

The cost in buying fertiliser and applying it is not always justified by even the short-term returns, that is it is applied in excess of the optimum in some cases for reasons other than being demonstrated to be cost effective. OTOH I know of no analysis that shows we could feed the world's population by organic methods. There may be some focus on this issue over the next few decades as sources of mineral phosphorus compound become exhausted and the cost of nitrogen fixing rises with energy costs.

Land always needs rotation, especially so if you grow a monoculture. This is not limited to where chemical fertilisers have been applied.

Dare you explain the connection between the state of soil bacteria and humans poisoning themselves by employing poor food handling practices?

This question cannot be addressed until our collective decision making processes adequately take into account long term effects. Many current problems in the developed world with resource management, agribusiness and the balance between development and the environment are tied to what the PR companies can crank out before the next election, not what may happen in a generation.

Please provide some evidence for that claim. What are the costs of that method compared to others? How do you feed cattle or sheep hydroponically? Would that be cost effective?
David
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I saw something just recently that said it could be done. I was surprised by the comment and meant to follow up on it, but didn't. I'll have to try to figure out where I saw the comment and let you know. I do remember thinking that the source wasn't silly so it was worth following up on.

It ain't, so we'd all have to be vegetarians/vegans and I'm a confirmed carnivore.
I know there is one cattle feeding hydroponicy gizmo out there as a neighbour bought one. He's one of those dopes who buys every possible thing that could ever be needed on a farm including a 150K John Deere Tractor (for a cattle farm!!!). Even he found the hydroponic unit was too expensive to run to feed his cattle from it.
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Hmmm... How about laboratory meat? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat
Could be perfected someday. Who needs nature? See the movie "Silent Running"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Running
I know, I know, I have been reading too much science fiction, way too much science fiction :)
The future is a hard one to predict.
--
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)

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Nad R wrote:

Any laboratory grown meat has to have an energy source to build the tissue. Theoretically it could come from come atomic reactors but would that be more efficient than taking it from the sun? Farmers spend their lives bottling sunshine. We need to learn how to do it sustainably.
D
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I'm not sure what exactly you're getting at here. How is the cost of buying fertiliser not justified by the short term returns? I also don't understand your take on phosphorus as there is plenty sitting in soils all over the world already.

Surely we can either harvest it, or implement solubilising bacteria to help break down the unavailable forms of P. How can there be a P shortage, even in a few decades, when there is so much in the land already?

Land still needs to be rotated because of high application of fertilisers building to toxic levels... particulalry P (locks out iron). Ah, maybe rotated is the wrong word, easy to confuse with ordinary crop rotation I suppose. So let's just say land is left unusable for certain periods of time.

Bacteria is a very basic form of life, capable of genetic shifts that will change it from one thing into another. we eat e.coli all the time. our stomach acids kill it usually... but something is causing to e.coli to become virulent, and it is becoming virulent with greater frequency. There are some that suggest this is down to artificial fertilisation by man. The reasoning being, I believe, that the fertilisation is killing off the friendly bacteria and fungi, the beneficials... it is killing them off because they haven't anything to do. This shift is having a knock on effect with the bad microbes which is why we're seeing more cases of virulent e.coli. I'm not sure i agree with this, but it does make some logical sense so I cannot discount it easily.

I meant only in regards to crop farming. Leaving the land alone for a while would leave plenty to feed cattle or sheep. we could also still crop farm, only doing it organically, at least more intelligently. cash crops could be left to sterile hydroponic growing. Hydroponic systems may be expensive to set up but are not very expensive to maintain. If built in the right way you can have hydroponic systems that run with minimal power. All it takes to keep enough o2 in the water is the continual motion of that water.
--
VickyN

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The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan <(Amazon.com product link shortened) 583/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid06815576&sr=1-1> (Available at a library near you, as long as they remain open.)
p.45 - 46 it takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of food; before the advent of chemical fertilizer [a] farm produced more than two calories of food energy for every calorie of energy invested.
or <http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/energy/ A 2002 study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated that, using our current system, three calories of energy were needed to create one calorie of edible food. And that was on average. Some foods take far more, for instance grain-fed beef, which requires thirty-five calories for every calorie of beef produced. x Whats more, the John Hopkins study didnt include the energy used in processing and transporting food. Studies that do estimate that it takes an average of seven to ten calories of input energy to produce one calorie of food.xi

<http://agroeco.org/doc/organic_feed_world.pdf "Conversion to small organic farms therefore, would lead to sizeable increases of food production worldwide. Only organic methods can help small family farms survive, increase farm productivity, repair decades of environmental damage and knit communities into smaller, more sustainable distribution networks all leading to improved food security around the world." - Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

<http://westernfarmpress.com/management/experts-fear-critical-phosphorus - shortage> Experts fear critical phosphorus shortage Jim Langcuster, Auburn University Oct. 19, 2010 3:34pm
There are estimates we have as little as 50 years left in the current phosphate mines, says Charles Mitchell, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agronomist and Auburn university professor of agronomy."
--
Farmers may need to go back to the habit of keeping birds (pigeons,
chickens) as a source for phosphorus.
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'Billy[_10_ Wrote:

This is an excellent post altogether Billy, and you've given me much to digest. thank you very much.
In regards to P depletion though, as I must take your post a piece at a time, I found this link here that claims the opposite:
'The Unbroken Window Blog Archive We Are All Going to Starve To Death in 38 Years' (http://tinyurl.com/6jlr8n9 )
Often statistics can be twisted to create panic, sell newspapers, add a little drama. I hit google and it takes a while to find something saying the opposite, funny how website after website will take the same story, well it's not funny... it turns the internet into a quagmire of mis-information. If 10 links say one thing and only one link says the other, what are you more inclined to believe?
I don't know, not saying you're wrong... I'm just not sold on the idea 100%.
--
VickyN

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I was never selling the idea that we were going to starve to death for the lack of phosphates. What I reported was that there were going to be shortages when our phosphate strip mines are depleted. I also mentioned the use of birds as a source of phosphates.
At present, the idea of extracting phosphate, an atom at a time from the soil seems fanciful. If you look at the "Dead Zones" <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_(ecology)> (caused by agricultural run-off) around the world, you will see that they are quite large, and then the dying algea drifts with the currents. Mining the sea floor won't be as simple, or as rewarding as open pit extraction of phosphates. At present, the power for this extraction of phosphates comes from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource, outside of geological time. As the price of petroleum goes up, the price of most other things do to, including phosphates.
This factory approach to farming (adding chemical salts to a medium [soil for example] in which you grow crops) is killing the topsoil which is the real basis for soil fertility. Petroleum is becoming more expensive. Phosphates will be more expensive. You may be able to survive, but one sixth of the world population is living on less than $2/day. If Pakistan were to become a failed state, we would all have more to worry about than phosphorus shortages.
There is a great BBC production called Farm for a Future. It comes in 5 parts. Parts 1 & 2 outline farming problems, and parts 3, 4, and 5 address the problems with permaculture farming. Part 1 <
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xShCEKL-mQ8

The subject of phosphorus is addressed in part 4 <
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxsPfeSRIFo&feature=related

Were it only so easy to get the blood sucking oligarchs off our backs, this could be a wonderful world.
--
- Billy

Mad dog Republicans to the right. Democratic spider webs to the left. True
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'Billy[_10_ Wrote:

By this do you mean we replace the organic material directly in the top few inches of soil? Micro deficiencies arrive slowly usually because they are immobile in the first place. Very hard to correct once set in in certain cases.
'Billy[_10_ Wrote:

Thank you for the information... and as e.coli lives in soil and soils are becoming more acidic, couldn't this too contribute to mutant strains of e.coli?
--
VickyN

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Nitrogen is used for making protein, which promotes an increased population of microorganisms. The more organisms there are, the more food (organic material) they need. Conversely, the more organic material you have in the soil, wood chips for example, the more nitrogen the microorganisms will need, even restricting what is available to a gardeners plants.
Micronutrients, as their name implies are needed in only very small amounts. This can usually be corrected with mulching of the use of compost. <http://www.indoor-gardening-guide.com/articles/plant-care/Plant-Nutrient -Primary-secondary-and-micro-nutrients.html>

No. Escherichia coli, lives only in intestines. Outside of the gut, Escherichia coli may last 3 months, which is the minimum suggested time to let fresh manure age before it is used in the garden. Escherichia coli won't propagate in the soil. Escherichia coli is an enteric bacteria. Escherichia coli is an indicator of feces, and the government has set limits on how much feces may be present in the foods that we eat.
--
- Billy

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In article

That should have been: "This can usually be corrected with mulching, and the use of compost."

--
- Billy

Mad dog Republicans to the right. Democratic spider webs to the left. True
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VickyN wrote:

Decisions about applying fertiliser are not always made considering cost-benefit analysis but on other considerations such as the fertiliser salesman told me so, or Grandpa always did it, or I want to get a better yield than my neighbour. Fertilisers have been subsidised in the past corrupting the market.

Millions of tons of superphosphate has been applied to the soils of Australia but still they apply more.

The fertiliser companies will tell you it ain't so. Add more, and more. Quick!

An open question then.

Why is hydroponics only done now for high value cash crops if it is so cheap? Will the nutrient fluids remain cheap? Where will the cheap energy come from to make your N components? Where will the P components come from if all the cheap phosphate rock is exhausted?
D
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Every field and every subject on the planet Earth has it's politics. Learn to accept it and be happy. Take what you want and ignore the rest. In my view when one starts the name calling, one has already lost the discussion because of their inability to use reason.
--
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)

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Derald wrote:

So better soil managment is off topic?
D
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Lost in admiration of your command of epithets, as well as your tunnel vision; your politically-induced blindness to the realities of what was once a democracy, but which is now rapidly careening toward plutocracy.
HB
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Pretty much my take, but I would have thrown in some Anglo-Saxon invectives.
--
- Billy

Mad dog Republicans to the right. Democratic spider webs to the left. True
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