Biology is the key to agriculture
Ever since 1840, the idea that plants could be grown using chemicals has dominated agricultural thinking. Government officials, crop advisors and companies were attracted to the convenient simplicity of using chemicals to grow plants, and not needing to deal with the messy and inconsistent results of biology. And when farmers began using chemical fertilizers on already nutrient-depleted North American and European soils, they became instantly addicted.
But this neglect of soil biology is catching up with us.
New research that is finally opening our eyes to what is truly going on underneath the soil is showing that microbes are, and always have been, the key to healthy, hearty and high yield plants. We're also realizing that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are essentially like drugs that have bolstered agricultural yields in the short run, but are contributing to the depletion of long-term fertility.
And in fact, healthy soil enriched by humus, bacteria and fungi can produce the same or better yields than chemically fertilized soils when the right farming practices are used. For a more in-depth discussion of these issues, check out Growing A Revolution, by David Montgomery, The Soil Will Save Us, by Kristin Ohlson, and Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.