Farm Land Mineral Depletion
Depletion of Soils
1992 Earth Summit statistics indicate that the mineral content of the world's farm and range soil has decreased dramatically.
In June of 1992, an Earth Summit Report was issued in RIO that documented the decline in numbers of various rare and endangered species, enlarging holes in the ozone layer, disappearance of tropical rain forests and indigenous peoples - yet the most important and immediate crisis factor the human race was glossed over and relegated to the rear pages of the voluminous report - the decline of nutritional minerals in farm and range soils by continent over the last hundred years. The results of the Earth Summit report on the decline of mineral values in our farm and range soils show that North America (United States, Canada and Mexico) is far more affected than all other continents.
Percentage of Mineral Depletion From Soil During The Past 100 Years, by Continent:
North America - 85%
South America - 76%
Asia - 76%
Africa - 74%
Europe - 72%
Australia - 55%
The settling of the Americas by Europeans introduced dry land farming that relied on rain and snow as water sources for agriculture - land was free for the taking all one had to do was clear the forests or plow the prairies. Unfortunately, without the annual flooding and supply of silt supplied in the great flood plains of the hydraulic societies and smaller river bottoms the land "played out" in five to ten years forcing the small farm family to pack up and move west to new still "virgin" or untilled soils.
The first signs that the soil was "played out" did not appear as obvious changes in the crops, but rather in the humans and livestock relying on the land as a food source. The newborn infants, calves, lambs and pigs were underweight, weak and died, the women, cows, ewes and sows became infertile, pneumonia and flu killed people and animals of all ages during the winter, adult humans and animals died of new unheard of diseases many years before their expected time for death. To escape these terrible places of death and despair people unceremoniously packed up and left.
Those who could not or would not leave their exhausted homesteads finally observed declines in production, followed by outright crop failure, erosion and dust bowl formation. This scenario occurred over and over on small individual farms of America finally culminating in a total ecological collapse that produced the great dust bowls of Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas in the 1930's.
The problem of the soil "playing out" was not a mystery but an accepted part of the process of life and death in dry land farming plains communities. There were numerous ways in which to slow the process including the biblical method of letting the land rest every seventh year, the application of animal manure to replace used up organic matter, green manure (plant debris or ground cover crops grown to specifically protect against wind erosion, hold moisture and add nitrogen to the soil), composting plant and animal wastes to add to the humus of the soil and the application of guano (large quantities of nitrogen rich droppings from shore birds) and lastly the commercial fertilizers. These procedures and applications only slowed or delayed the process of crop failure while initially keeping tonnage and bushel production up.
While nearly all farmers understand the necessity to maintain the optimal level of organic material and humus in their fields to sustain tonnage production, very few realize the slow insidious leaching and depletion of the life giving minerals (mining) from their land - after all we pay them for tons and bushels, not for an analysis of minimal levels of various minerals in each carrot, potato, broccoli, or bushel of wheat or rice! This belief is summed up in a statement by a professor of soils from Iowa State College of Agriculture Henry Cantwell Wallace (George Washington Carver's favorite teacher and editor of the Wallace's Farmer ),
"Nations endure only as long as their topsoil."
The statement should relay the message that
"Nations endure only as long as nutritional minerals are available in their top soils!"