FERTILITY OF SOILS.
The well being of plants depends largely on what they absorb, just as human beings depend on what they eat. In addition to water and air, plant food consists of organic material and inorganic rock minerals. Healthy plant bodies contain various minerals which endow them with hardiness, power to resist fungus diseases and pests, and contribute to their content of vitamins.
Virgin soils are fertile only when they contain a variety of suitable rock minerals and organic materials chiefly from decayed plants. Correct mineralization restores the fertility of virgin soils and imparts the delicious flavour of vitalized and correctly mineralized foods to the produce.
In Nature, the minerals are returned to the soil on the death of the plant. In civilized countries the crops extract these minerals from the soil to the extent of about 5 cwt. per acre per annum. The produce is taken away to towns, and only a portion of the mineral content is replaced by farmyard manure. Some minerals are washed out by rain especially from the bare soil of cultivated fields and gardens, and when these minerals become scarce fertility decreases. We should remedy this by restoring not only the usual potash, phosphates and lime, but also all the rock minerals found in fertile virgin soils.
ARTIFICIAL OR NATURAL NITRATES.
In Nature nitrates are obtained by plants as a result of the action of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in soils and by nitrate- forming bacteria acting on decayed vegetable and animal matter in the presence of air, also by symbiotic bacteria and fungi. The good work of these bacteria is shown by luxuriant forest growth, and by majestic trees.
These bacteria flourish best in sweet soil and in the natural conditions to which they are habituated. When the soil is contaminated by fumigants, poison sprays, etc., or when chemical fertilizers, not natural components of the soil, are added, these helpful micro-organisms are reduced in numbers. The bacterial flora of the soil is changed by these unnatural procedures.
For this reason we do not agree with the usual method of adding artificial nitrates and recommend that nitrates should be obtained from decayed organic matter (chiefly vegetable) such as compost heaps, digging in partly-grown green crops which rot rapidly (“green manuring”) [See Food Gardening. Published by G. Bell. IS., and The Manuring of Soils on No-Animal Lines. The Vegetarian Society, Manchester. 7d. post free.] lead mould, certain types of peat and vegetable refuse such as hops; guano and farmyard manure, but not in excess.
When for special reasons very large size or quantity is required, and the food quality or flavour of the produce is not important, liberal dressings of nitrates may be added. These give large crops and hasten their growth but the plants do not seem to have time to absorb from the soil sufficient of the other minerals which give them tone and vigour. Soft sappy tissue is growth with thin cell walls easily attacked by insect and fungoid pests. That is why city dwellers are familiar with vegetables of poor quality, sometimes potatoes which turn dark, cabbage that has bad odour and lettuce that quickly decays.
On the other hand vegetables and fruits grown under properly mineralized conditions are delicious in flavour; very sweet, firm of flesh, deeply coloured, not watery and of course more nutritious and wholesome.
VITALITY OF PLANTS.
Diseases of cultivated plants are on the increase on account of the weak constitutions of over-stimulated plants. These are then protected by various poison sprays which are bad for bees, distasteful to wild birds and to the valuable earth worm. We are thus getting into a vicious circle, for during spraying as much poison generally falls on the soil as on the foliage, producing cumulative toxic effects, which eventually endanger the fertility of our fields and gardens. A sufficiency of lime and other minerals sweetens the soil, diminishes pests by means of clean vigorous growth, and enables us to reduce all poison sprays to a minimum.
Correctly mineralized plants are full of vigour and able to resist disease attacks, therefore such fertilization is of great value to all growers of pedigree plants and of disease-resistant seeds.
It is not usually appreciated that vitamins are just as essential to plants as they are to men, and they cannot be properly secreted without a varied supply of rock minerals. Hence the feeble constitution of over stimulated plants. We secure our vitamins mainly from vegetables. When these lack minerals or are over stimulated by nitrogenous manures, vitamins are necessarily deficient in the plants, just as vitality is at a low ebb in men and animals when synthetic or chemicalized foods are eaten.