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Title: Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease
Author: Sir Albert Howard
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Honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of Science,
Formerly Director of the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore,
and Agricultural Adviser to States in Central India and Rajputana

'The civilized nations--Greece, Rome, England--have been sustained by
the primitive forests which anciently rotted where they stood. They
survive as long as the soil is not exhausted.'

--THOREAU, Walking and the Wild.

'The staple foods may not contain the same nutritive substances as in
former times. . . . Chemical fertilizers, by increasing the abundance of
the crops without replacing all the exhausted elements of the soil, have
indirectly contributed to change the nutritive value of cereal grains
and of vegetables. . . . Hygienists have not paid sufficient attention
to the genesis of diseases. Their studies of conditions of life and
diet, and of their effects on the physiological and mental state of
modern man, are superficial, incomplete, and of too short duration. They
have, thus, contributed to the weakening of our body and our soul.'

--ALEXIS CARREL, Man the Unknown.

The preservation of fertility is the first duty of all that live by the
land. . . . There is only one rule of good husbandry--leave the land far
better than you found it.'

--GEORGE HENDERSON, The Farming Ladder.

assisted by LOUISE E. HOWARD


The earth's green carpet is the sole source of the food consumed by
livestock and mankind. It also furnishes many of the raw materials
needed by our factories. The consequence of abusing one of our greatest
possessions is disease. This is the punishment meted out by Mother Earth
for adopting methods of agriculture which are not in accordance with
Nature's law of return. We can begin to reverse this adverse verdict and
transform disease into health by the proper use of the green carpet--by
the faithful return to the soil of all available vegetable, animal, and
human wastes.

The purpose of this book is threefold: to emphasize the importance of
solar energy and the vegetable kingdom in human affairs; to record my
own observations and reflections, which have accumulated during some
forty-five years, on the occurrence and prevention of disease; to
establish the thesis that most of this disease can be traced to an
impoverished soil, which then leads to imperfectly synthesized protein
in the green leaf and finally to the breakdown of those protective
arrangements which Nature has designed for us.

During the course of the campaign for the reform of agriculture, now in
active progress all over the world, I have not hesitated to question the
soundness of present-day agricultural teaching and research--due to
failure to realize that the problems of the farm and garden are
biological rather than chemical. It follows, therefore, that the
foundations on which the artificial manure and poison spray industries
are based are also unsound. As a result of this onslaught, what has been
described as the war in the soil has broken out in many countries and
continues to spread. The first of the great battles now being fought
began in South Africa some ten years ago and has ended in a clear-cut
victory for organic farming. In New Zealand the struggle closely follows
the course of the South African conflict. The contest in Great Britain
and the United States of America has only now emerged from the initial
phase of reconnaissance, in the course of which the manifold weaknesses
of the fortress to be stormed have been discovered and laid bare.

I am indebted to some hundreds of correspondents all over the world for
sending me reports of the observations, experiments, and results which
have followed the faithful adoption of Nature's great law of return.
Some of this information is embodied and acknowledged in the pages of
this book. A great deal still remains to be summarized and reduced to
order--a labour which I hope soon to begin. When it is completed, a vast
mass of material will be available which will confirm and extend what is
to be found in these pages. Meanwhile a portion of this evidence is
being recorded by Dr. Lionel J. Picton, O.B.E., in the News-Letter on
Compost issued three times a year by the County Palatine of Chester
Local Medical and Panel Committees at Holmes Chapel, Cheshire. By this
means the story begun in their Medical Testament of 1939 is being
continued and the pioneers of organic farming and gardening are kept in
touch with events.

The fourth chapter on 'The Maintenance of Soil Fertility in Great
Britain' is very largely based on the labours of a friend and former
colleague, the late Mr. George Clarke, C.I.E., who, a few days before
his untimely death in May 1944, sent me the results of his study of the
various authorities on the Saxon Conquest, the evolution of the manor,
the changes it underwent as the result of the Domesday Book, and the
enthronement of the Feudal System till the decay of the open-field
system and its replacement by enclosure.

The spectacular progress in organic farming and gardening which has
taken place in South Africa and Rhodesia during the last few years owes
much to the work of Captain Moubray, Mr. J. P. J. van Vuren, and Mr. G.
C. Dymond, who have very generously placed their results at my disposal.
Captain Moubray and Mr. van Vuren have contributed two valuable
appendices, while Mr. Dymond's pioneering work on virus disease in the
cane and on composting at the Springfield Sugar Estate in Natal has been
embodied in the text. For the details relating to the breakdown of the
cacao industry in Trinidad and on the Gold Coast and for a number of
other suggestions on African and West Indian agriculture I am indebted
to Dr. H. Martin Leake, formerly Principal of the Imperial College of
Tropical Agriculture, Trinidad. have been kept in constant touch with
the progress of organic farming and gardening in the United States of
America by Mr. J. I. Rodale of Emmaus, Pa., the editor of Organic
Gardening, who has started a movement in the New World which promises
soon to become an avalanche. Mr. Rodale was the prime mover in bringing
out the first American edition of An Agricultural Testament and is
responsible for the simultaneous publication of this present book in the
United States and of a special American issue of Lady Eve Balfour's
stimulating work--The Living Soil.

In India I have made full use of the experience of Colonel Sir Edward
Hearle Cole, C.B., C.M.G., on the Coleyana Estate in the Punjab, and of
Mr. E. F. Watson's work on the composting of water hyacinth at
Barrackpore. Messrs. Walter Duncan & Company have generously permitted
Mr. J. C. Watson to contribute an appendix on the remarkable results he
has obtained on the Gandrapara Tea Estate in North Bengal. In this fine
property India and the rest of the Empire possess a perfect example of
the way Nature's law of return should be obeyed and of what freshly
prepared humus by itself can achieve.

I owe much to a number of the active members of the New Zealand Compost
Club, and in particular to its former Honorary Secretary, Mr. T. W. M.
Ashby, who have kept me fully informed of the results obtained by this
vigorous association. The nutritional results obtained by Dr. G. B.
Chapman, the President, at the Mount Albert Grammar School, which show
how profoundly the fresh produce of fertile soil influences the health
of schoolboys, have been of the greatest use. In Eire the Rev. C. W.
Sowby, Warden of the College of St. Columba, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin,
and the Rev. W. S. Airy, Head Master of St. Martin's School, Sidmouth,
have placed at my disposal the results of similar work at their
respective schools. These pioneering efforts are certain to be copied
and to be developed far and wide. Similar ideas are now being applied to
factory canteen meals in Great Britain with great success, as will be
evident from what Mr. George Wood has already accomplished at the
Co-operative Wholesale Society's bacon factory at Winsford in Cheshire.

For furnishing full details of a large-scale example of successful
mechanized organic farming in this country and of the great
possibilities of our almost unused downlands I owe much to Mr. Friend
Sykes. The story of Chantry, where the results of humus without any help
from artificial manures are written on the land itself, provides a
fitting conclusion to this volume.

In the heavy task of getting this book into its final shape I owe much
to the care and devotion of my private secretary, Miss Ellinor Kirkham.

A.H. 14 Liskeard Gardens,
Blackheath, London, S.E.3.



Chapter I. INTRODUCTION: An Adventure in Research


Chapter II. THE OPERATIONS OF NATURE: The Life of the Plant,
The Living Soil, The Significance of Humus, The Importance of Minerals,

Chapter III. SYSTEMS OP AGRICULTURE: Primitive Forms of Agriculture,
Shifting Cultivation, The Harnessing of the Nile, Staircase Cultivation,
The Agriculture of China, The Agriculture of Greece and Rome, Farming
in the Middle Ages

Occupation, The Saxon Conquest, The Open-Field System, The Depreciation
of Soil Fertility, The Low Yield of Wheat, The Black Death, Enclosure,
The Industrial Revolution and Soil Fertility, The Great Depression of
1879, The Second World War

Chapter V. INDUSTRIALISM AND THE PROFIT MOTIVE: The Exploitation of Virgin
Soil, The Profit Motive, The Consequence of Soil Exploitation, The Easy
Transfer of Fertility, The Road Farming Has Travelled

Chapter VI. THE INTRUSION OF SCIENCE: The Origin of Artificial Manures,
The Advent of the Laboratory Hermit, The Unsoundness of Rothamsted,
Artificials during the Two World Wars, The Shortcomings of Present-day
Agricultural Research


Chapter VII. SOME DISEASES OF THE SOIL: Soil Erosion, The Formation
of Alkali Land

Chapter VIII. THE DISEASES OF CROPS: Sugar Cane, Coffee, Tea, Cacao,
Cotton, Rice, Wheat, Vine, Fruit, Tobacco, Leguminous Crops, Potato, Some
Parasitic Flowering Plants

Chapter IX. DISEASE AND HEALTH IN LIVESTOCK: Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Soil
Fertility and Disease, Concentrates and Contagious Abortion, Selective
Feeding by Instinct, Herbs and Livestock, The Maintenance of Our Breeds
of Poultry




Chapter XII. ORIGINS AND SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM: The Phosphate Problem and
Its Solution, The Reform of the Manure Heap, Sheet-Composting and Nitrogen
Fixation, The Utilization of Town Wastes, Summary

AND GARDENING WORLDS: Some Practical Points, The New Zealand Compost Box,
Mechanization, The Spread of the Indore Process in the Farming and
Plantation Worlds, South Africa, Rhodesia, Malaya, India, New Zealand,
The United States of America, Great Britain









My first post was a somewhat unusual one. It included the conventional
investigation of plant diseases, but combined these duties with work on
general agriculture; officially I was described as Mycologist and
Agricultural Lecturer to the Imperial Department of Agriculture for the
West Indies.

The headquarters of the department were at Barbados. While I was here
provided with a laboratory for investigating the fungous diseases of
crops (mycology) and was given special facilities for the study of the
sugar-cane, in the Windward and Leeward Islands my main work was much
more general--the delivery of lectures on agricultural science to groups
of schoolmasters to help them to take up nature study and to make the
fullest use of school gardens.

Looking back I can now see where the emphasis of my job rightly lay. In
Barbados I was a laboratory hermit, a specialist of specialists, intent
on learning more and more about less and less: but in my tours of the
various islands I was forced to forget my specialist studies and become
interested in the growing of crops, which in these districts were
principally cacao, arrowroot, ground nuts, sugar-cane, bananas, limes,
oranges, and nutmegs. This contact with the land itself and with the
practical men working on it laid the foundations of my knowledge of
tropical agriculture.

This dual experience had not long been mine before I became aware of one
disconcerting circumstance. I began to detect a fundamental weakness in
the organization of that research which constituted officially the more
important part of my work. I was an investigator of plant diseases, but
I had myself no crops on which I could try out the remedies I advocated:
I could not take my own advice before offering it to other people. It
was borne in on me that there was a wide chasm between science in the
laboratory and practice in the field, and I began to suspect that unless
this gap could be bridged no real progress could be made in the control
of plant diseases: research and practice would remain apart: mycological
work threatened to degenerate into little more than a convenient agency
by which--provided I issued a sufficient supply of learned reports
fortified by a judicious mixture of scientific jargon--practical
difficulties could be side-tracked.

Towards the end of 1902, therefore, I took steps which terminated my
appointment and gave me a fresh start. My next post was more
promising--that of Botanist to the South-Eastern Agricultural College at
Wye in Kent, where in addition to teaching I was placed in charge of the
experiments on the growing and drying of hops which had been started by
the former Principal, Mr. A. D. (later Sir Daniel) Hall. These
experiments brought me in contact with a number of the leading hop
growers, notably Mr. Walter (afterwards Sir Walter) Berry, Mr. Alfred
Amos, and Colonel Honyball--all of whom spared no pains in helping me to
understand the cultivation of this most interesting crop. I began to
raise new varieties of hops by hybridization and at once made a
significant practical discovery--the almost magical effect of
pollination in speeding up the growth and also in increasing the
resistance of the developing female flowers (the hops of commerce) to
green-fly and mildew (a fungous disease) which often did considerable
damage. The significant thing about this work was that I was meeting the
practical men on their own ground. Actually their practice--that of
eliminating the male plant altogether from their hop gardens--was a wide
departure from natural law. My suggestion amounted to a demand that
Nature be no longer defied. It was for this reason highly successful. By
restoring pollination the health, the rate of growth, and finally the
yield of hops were improved. Soon the growers all over the hop-growing
areas of England saw to it that their gardens were provided with male
hops, which liberated ample pollen just as it was needed.

This, my first piece of really successful work, was done during the
summer of 1904--five years after I began research. It was obtained by
happy chance and gave me a glimpse of the way Nature regulates her
kingdom: it also did much to strengthen my conviction that the most
promising method of dealing with plant diseases lay in prevention--by
tuning up agricultural practice. But to continue such work the
investigator would need land and hops of his own with complete freedom
to grow them in his own way. Such facilities were not available and did
not seem possible at Wye.

Then my chance came. Early in 1905 I was offered and accepted the post
of Economic Botanist at the Agricultural Research Institute about to be
founded by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, at Pusa in Bengal. On
arrival in India in May 1905 the new institute only existed on paper,
but an area of about seventy-five acres of land at one end of the Pusa
Estate had not yet been allocated. I secured it instantly and spent my
first five years in India learning how to grow the crops which it was my
duty to improve by modern plant-breeding methods.

It was a decided advantage that officially my work was now no longer
concerned merely with the narrow problem of disease My main duties at
Pusa were the improvement of crops and the production of new varieties.
Over a period of nineteen years (1905-24) my time was devoted to this
task, in the course of which many new types of wheat (including
rust-resistant varieties), of tobacco, gram, and linseed were isolated,
tested, and widely distributed.

In pursuance of the principle I had adopted of joining practice to my
theory, the first step was to grow the crops I had to improve. I
determined to do so in close conformity with local methods. Indian
agriculture can point to a history of many centuries: there are records
of the same rice fields being farmed in north-east India which go back
for hundreds of years. What could be more sensible than to watch and
learn from an experience which had passed so prolonged a test of time? I
therefore set myself to make a preliminary study of Indian agriculture
and speedily found my reward.

Now the crops grown by the cultivators in the neighbourhood of Pusa were
remarkably free from pests: such things as insecticides and fungicides
found no place in this ancient system of cultivation. This was a very
striking fact, and I decided to break new ground and try out an idea
which had first occurred to me in the West Indies and had forced itself
on my attention at Wye, namely, to observe what happened when insect and
fungous diseases were left alone and allowed to develop unchecked,
indirect methods only, such as improved cultivation and more efficient
varieties, being employed to prevent attacks.

In pursuit of this idea I found I could do no better than watch the
operations of the peasants as aforesaid and regard them and the pests
for the time being as my best instructors.

In order to give my crops every chance of being attacked by parasites
nothing was done in the way of direct prevention; no insecticides and
fungicides were used; no diseased material was ever destroyed. As my
understanding of Indian agriculture progressed and as my practice
improved, a marked diminution of disease in my crops occurred. At the
end of five years' tuition under my new professors--the peasants and the
pests--the attacks of insects and fungi on all crops whose root systems
suited the local soil conditions became negligible. By 1910 I had learnt
how to grow healthy crops, practically free from disease, without the
slightest help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists,
agricultural chemists, statisticians, clearing-houses of information,
artificial manures, spraying machines, insecticides, fungicides,
germicides, and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern
experiment station.

This preliminary exploration of the ground suggested that the birthright
of every crop is health.

In the course of the cultivation of the seventy-five acres at my
disposal I had to make use of the ordinary power unit in Indian
agriculture, which is oxen. It occurred to me that the same practices
which had been so successful in the growing of my crops might be worth
while if applied to my animals. To carry out such an idea it was
necessary to have these work cattle under my own charge, to design their
accommodation, and to arrange for their feeding, hygiene, and
management. At first this was refused, but after persistent importunity
backed by the powerful support of the Member of the Viceroy's Council in
charge of Agriculture (the late Sir Robert Carlyle, K.C.S.I.), I was
allowed to have charge of six pairs of oxen. I had little to learn in
this matter, as I belong to an old agricultural family and was brought
up on a farm which had made for itself a local reputation in the
management of cattle. My work animals were most carefully selected and
everything was done to provide them with suitable housing and with fresh
green fodder, silage, and grain, all produced from fertile land. I was
naturally intensely interested in watching the reaction of these
well-chosen and well-fed oxen to diseases like rinderpest, septicaemia,
and foot-and-mouth disease which frequently devastated the countryside.
(These epidemics are the result of starvation, due to the intense
pressure of the bovine population on the limited food supply.) None of
my animals were segregated; none were inoculated; they frequently came
in contact with diseased stock. As my small farmyard at Pusa was only
separated by a low hedge from one of the large cattle-sheds on the Pusa
estate, in which outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease often occurred, I
have several times seen my oxen rubbing noses with foot-and-mouth cases.
Nothing happened. The healthy, well-fed animals failed to react to this
disease exactly as suitable varieties of crops, when properly grown, did
to insect and fungous pests--no infection took place. These experiences
were afterwards repeated at Indore in Central India, but here I had
forty not twelve oxen. A more detailed account of the prevention and
cure of foot-and-mouth disease is given in a later chapter (p. 153).

These observations, important as they appeared both at the time and in
retrospect, were however only incidental to my main work which was, as
already stated, the improvement of the varieties of Indian crops,
especially wheat. It was in the testing of the new kinds, which in the
case of wheat soon began to spread over some millions of acres of India,
that there gradually emerged the principle of which my observations
about disease did but supply the first links in evidence: namely, that
the foundations of all good cultivation lie not so much in the plant as
in the soil itself: there is so intimate a connection between the state
of the soil, i.e. its fertility, and the growth and health of the plant
as to outweigh every other factor. Thus on the capital point of increase
of yield, if by improvement in selection and breeding my new special
varieties of wheat, etc., might be estimated to produce an increase of
10 to 15 per cent, such yields could at once be increased not by this
paltry margin, but doubled or even trebled, when the new variety was
grown in soil brought up to the highest state of fertility. My results
were afterwards amply confirmed by my colleague, the late Mr. George
Clarke, C.I.E., who, by building up the humus content of his experiment
station at Shahjahanpur in the United Provinces and by adopting simple
improvements in cultivation and green-manuring, was able to treble the
yields of sugar-cane and wheat.

Between the years 1911 and 1918 my experience was considerably enlarged
by the study of the problems underlying irrigation and fruit growing.
For this purpose I was provided with a small experimental farm on the
loess soils of the Quetta valley in Baluchistan where, till 1918, the
summer months were spent. After a supply of moisture had been provided
to supplement the scanty winter rainfall, the limiting factors in crop
production proved to be soil aeration and the humus content of the land.
Failure to maintain aeration was indicated by a disease of the soil
itself. The soil flora became anaerobic: alkali salts developed: the
land died. The tribesmen kept the alkali condition at bay in their fruit
orchards in a very suggestive manner--by means of the deep-rooting
system of lucerne combined with surface dressings of farmyard manure.
Moreover they invariably combined their fruit growing with mixed farming
and livestock. Nowhere, as in the West, did one find the whole farm
devoted to fruit with no provision for an adequate supply of animal
manure. This method of fruit growing was accompanied by an absence of
insect and fungoid diseases: spraying machines and poison sprays were
unheard of: artificial manures were never used. The local methods of
grape growing were also intensely interesting. To save the precious
irrigation water and as a protection from the hot, dry winds, the vines
were planted in narrow ditches dug on the slopes of the valley and were
always manured with farmyard manure. Irrigation water was led along the
ditches and the vines were supported by the steep sides of the trenches.
At first sight all the conditions for insect and fungous diseases seemed
to be provided, but the plants were remarkably healthy. I never found
even a trace of disease. The quality of the produce was excellent: the
varieties grown were those which had been in cultivation in Afghanistan
for centuries. No signs of running out were observed. Here were results
in disease resistance and in the stability of the variety in striking
contrast to those of western Europe, where disease is notorious, the use
of artificial manures and poison sprays is universal, and where the
running out of the variety is constantly taking place (see also p. 135).

These results and observations taken together and prolonged over a
period of nineteen years at length indicated what should be the right
method of approach to the work I was doing. Improvement of varieties,
increased yields, freedom from disease were not distinct problems, but
formed parts of one subject and, so to speak, were members one of
another, all arising out of the great linkage between the soil, the
plant, and the animal. The line of advance lay not in dealing with these
factors separately but together. If this were to be the path of progress
and if it was useless to proceed except on the basis of crops grown on
fertile land, then the first prerequisite for all subsequent work would
be just the bringing of the experiment station area to the highest state
of fertility and maintaining it in that condition.

This, however, opened up a further problem. The only manure at the
command of the Indian cultivator was farmyard manure. Farmyard manure
was therefore essential, but even on the experiment stations the supply
of this material was always insufficient. The problem was how to
increase it in a country where a good deal of the cattle-dung has to be
burnt for fuel. No lasting good could be achieved unless this problem
were overcome, for no results could be applied to the country at large.

The solution was suggested by the age-long practices of China, where a
system of utilizing farm wastes and turning them into humus had been
evolved which, if applied to India, would make every Indian holding
self-supporting as regards manure. This idea called for investigation.

I now came up against a very great difficulty. Such a problem did not
fall within my official sphere of work. It obviously necessitated a
great deal of chemical and agricultural investigation under my personal
control and complete freedom to study all aspects of the question. But
while my idea was taking shape, the organization of agricultural
research at Pusa had also developed. A series of watertight
compartments--plant breeding, mycology, entomology, bacteriology,
agricultural chemistry, and practical agriculture--had become firmly
established. Vested interests were created which regarded the
organization as more important than its purpose. There was no room in it
for a comprehensive study of soil fertility and its many implications by
one member of the staff with complete freedom of action. My proposals
involved 'overlapping', a defect which was anathema both to the official
mind (which controlled finance) and to a research institute subdivided
as Pusa always had been.

The obvious course was to leave the institute and to collect the funds
to found a new centre where I could follow the gleam unhampered and
undisturbed. After a delay of six precious years, 1918-24, the Indore
Institute of Plant Industry (at which cotton was the principal crop) was
founded, where I was provided with land, ample money, and complete
freedom. Now the fundamental factor underlying the problems of Indian
cotton was none other than the raising of soil fertility. I might
therefore kill two birds with one stone. I could solve the cotton
problem if I could increase the amount of farmyard manure for India as a

At Indore I had a considerably larger area at my disposal, namely, 300
acres. From the outset the principles which I had worked out at Pusa
were applied to cotton. The results were even better. The yield of
cotton was almost trebled and the whole experiment station area stood
out from the surrounding countryside by reason of the fine crops grown.
Moreover these crops were free from disease, with only two exceptions,
during the whole eight years of my work there, exceptions in themselves
highly significant. A small field of gram, which had become accidentally
waterlogged three months before the crop was sown, was, a month after
sowing, found to be heavily attacked by the gram caterpillar, the
infected areas corresponding with the waterlogged areas with great
exactness, while the rest of the plot remained unaffected: the
caterpillar did not spread, though nothing was done to check it. In the
second case a field of san hemp (Crotalaria juncea, L.), originally
intended for green-manuring, was allowed to flower for seed; after
flowering it was smothered in mildew and insect pests and no seed set.
Subsequent trials showed that this crop will set seed and be disease
free on black soils only if the land is previously well manured with
farmyard manure or compost.

These results were progressive confirmation of the principle I was
working out--the connection between land in good heart and disease-free
crops: they were proof that as soon as land drops below par, disease may
set in. The first case showed the supreme importance of keeping the
physical texture of the soil right, the second was an interesting
example of the refusal of Mother Earth to be overworked, of her
unbreakable rule to limit herself strictly to that volume of operations
for which she has sufficient reserves: flowers were formed, but seed
refused to set and the mildew and insects were called in to remove the
imperfect product.

These were the exceptions to prove the rule, for during the eight years
of my work at Indore it was assumed by me as a preliminary condition to
all experiments that my fields must be fertile. This was brought about
by supplying them with heavy dressings of compost made on a simple
development of the Chinese system. As I was now free, it was possible
for me to make these arrangements on a large scale, and in the course of
doing so it seemed well worth while to work out the theory that underlay
the empiric Chinese practice. A complete series of experiments and
investigations were carried out, establishing the main chemical,
physical, and biological processes which go to humus formation in the
making of compost. In this work I received valuable help from Mr. Y. D.
Wad who was in charge of the chemical side of the investigation. On my
retirement from official service in 1931 I assumed that the publication
of this joint work in book form would be the last scientific task which
I should ever undertake.

It proved instead to be the beginning of a new period which has been
based on the long preparation which preceded it: the years of work and
experiment carried out in the tropics had gradually but inevitably led
me up to the threshold of ideas which embrace and explain the facts and
the practices, the theory and also the failures, which had met me in the
course of these thirty-two years. Our book on The Waste Products of
Agriculture; Their Utilization as Humus, designed to be a practical
guide to assist the Indian cotton cultivators, evoked a much wider
interest. The so-called Indore Process of making compost was started at
a number of centres in other countries and interesting results began to
be reported, very much like what I had obtained at Indore.

Two years after publication, in February 1933, I saw the inception of a
compost-making scheme at Colonel Grogan's estate not far from Nairobi in
Kenya Colony. During this visit it first occurred to me gradually to
terminate all my other activities and to confine myself to encouraging
the pioneers engaged in agriculture all over the world to restore and
maintain the fertility of their land. This would involve a campaign to
be carried out single-handed at my own expense as no official funds
could be expected for a project such as mine. Even if I could have
obtained the means needed it would have been necessary to work with
research organizations I had long regarded not only as obsolete, but as
the perfect means of preventing progress. A soil fertility campaign
carried on by a retired official would also throw light on another
question, namely, the relative value of complete freedom and
independence in getting things done in farming, as compared with the
present cumbrous and expensive governmental organization.

By the end of 1933 matters had progressed far enough to introduce the
Indore Process to a wider public. This was done by means of two lectures
before the Royal Society of Arts in 1933 and 1935, some thousands of
extra copies of both of which were distributed all over the world, and
subsequent contributions to the Journal of that society, to a German
periodical--Der Tropenflanzer--and a Spanish review--the Revista del
Instituto de Defensa del Cafe of Costa Rica. The process became
generally known and was found to be a most advantageous proposition in
the big plantation industries--coffee, tea, sugar, maize, tobacco,
sisal, rice, and vine--yields and quality alike being notably improved.
I devoted my energies to advising and assisting those interested, and
during this period became greatly indebted to the tea industry for
material help and encouragement.

In 1937 results were reported in the case of tea which were difficult to
explain. Single light dressings of Indore compost improved the yield of
leaf and increased the resistance of the bush to insect attacks in a way
which much surpassed what was normally to be expected from a first
application. While considering these cases I happened to read an account
of Dr. Rayner's work on conifers at Wareham in Dorsetshire, where small
applications of humus had also produced spectacular results. Normally
humus is considered to act on the plant indirectly: the oxidation of the
substances composing it ultimately forming salts in the soil, which are
then absorbed by the root hairs in the usual processes of nutrition. Was
there here, however, something more than this, some direct action having
an immediate effect and one very powerful?

Such indeed has proved to be the case and the explanation can now be set
forth of the wonderful double process by which Nature causes the plant
to draw its nurture from the soil. The mechanism by which living fungous
threads (mycelium) invade the cells of the young roots and are gradually
digested by these is described in detail in a later chapter (p. 28). It
was this, the mycorrhizal association, which was the explanation of what
had happened to the conifers and the tea shrubs, both forest plants, a
form of vegetation in which this association of root and fungus has been
known for a long time. This direct method of feeding would account for
the results observed (p. 33).

A number of inquiries which I was now able to set on foot revealed the
existence of this natural feeding mechanism in plant after plant, where
it had hitherto neither been observed nor looked for, but only, be it
noted, where there was ample humus in the soil. Where humus was wanting,
the mechanism was either absent or ineffective: the plant was limited to
the nurture derived by absorption of the salts in the soil solution: it
could not draw on these rich living threads, abounding in protein.

The importance of the opening up of this aspect of plant nutrition was
quite obvious. Here at last was a full and sufficient explanation of the
facts governing the health of plants. From this point on evidence began
to accumulate to illumine the new path of inquiry, which in my opinion
is destined to lead us a very long way indeed. It was clear that the
doubling of the processes of plant nutrition was one of those reserve
devices on which rests the permanence and stability of Nature. Plants
deprived of the mycorrhizal association continue to exist, but they lose
both their power to resist shock and their capacity to reproduce
themselves. A new set of facts suddenly fell into place: the running out
of varieties, a marked phenomenon of modern agriculture, to answer which
new varieties of the important crops have constantly to be bred--hence
the modern plant breeding station--could without hesitation be
attributed to the continued impoverishment of modern soils owing to the
prolonged negligence of the Western farmer to feed his fields with
humus. By contrast the maintenance of century-old varieties in the East,
so old that in India they bear ancient Sanskrit names, was proof of the
unimpaired capacity of the plant to breed in those countries where humus
was abundantly supplied.

The mycorrhizal association may not prove to be the only path by which
the nitrogen complexes derived from the digestion of proteins reach the
sap. Humus also nourishes countless millions of bacteria whose dead
bodies leave specks of protein thickly strewn throughout the soil. But
these complex bodies are not permanent: they are reduced by other soil
organisms to simpler and simpler bodies which finally become mineralized
to form the salts taken up by the roots for use in the green leaves. May
not some of the very early stages in the oxidation of these specks of
protein be absorbed by the root hairs from the soil water? It would seem
so, because a few crops exist, like the tomato, which although reacting
to humus are not provided with the mycorrhizal association. This matter
is discussed in the next chapter (p. 28).

These results set up a whole train of thought. The problem of disease
and health took on a wider scope. In March 1939 new ground was broken.
The Local Medical and Panel Committees of Cheshire, summing up their
experience of the working of the National Health Insurance Act for over
a quarter of a century in the county, did not hesitate to link up their
judgment on the unsatisfactory state of health of the human population
under their care with the problem of nutrition, tracing the line of
fault right back to an impoverished soil and supporting their
contentions by reference to the ideas which I had for some time been
advocating. Their arguments were powerfully supported by the results
obtained at the Peckham Health Centre and by the work, already
published, of Sir Robert McCarrison, which latter told the story from
the other side of the world and from a precisely opposite angle--he was
able to instance an Eastern people, the Hunzas, who were the direct
embodiment of an ideal of health and whose food was derived from soil
kept in a state of the highest natural fertility.

By these contemporaneous pioneering efforts the way was blazed for
treating the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man as
one great subject, calling for a boldly revised point of view and
entirely fresh investigations.

By this time sufficient evidence had accumulated for setting out the
case for soil fertility in book form. This was published in June 1940 by
the Oxford University Press under the title of An Agricultural
Testament. This book, now in its fourth English and second American
edition, set forth the whole gamut of connected problems as far as can
at present be done--what wider revelations the future holds is not yet
fully disclosed. In it I summed up my life's work and advanced the
following views:

1. The birthright of all living things is health.

2. This law is true for soil, plant, animal, and man: the health of
these four is one connected chain.

3. Any weakness or defect in the health of any earlier link in the chain
is carried on to the next and succeeding links, until it reaches the
last, namely, man.

4. The widespread vegetable and animal pests and diseases, which are
such a bane to modern agriculture, are evidence of a great failure of
health in the second (plant) and third (animal) links of the chain.

5. The impaired health of human populations (the fourth link) in modern
civilized countries is a consequence of this failure in the second and
third links.

6. This general failure in the last three links is to be attributed to
failure in the first link, the soil: the undernourishment of the soil is
at the root of all. The failure to maintain a healthy agriculture has
largely cancelled out all the advantages we have gained from our
improvements in hygiene, in housing, and our medical discoveries.

7. To retrace our steps is not really difficult if once we set our minds
to the problem. We have to bear in mind Nature's dictates, and we must
conform to her imperious demand: (e) for the return of all wastes to the
land; (b) for the mixture of the animal and vegetable existence; (c) for
the maintaining of an adequate reserve system of feeding the plant, i.e.
we must not interrupt the mycorrhizal association. If we are willing so
far to conform to natural law, we shall rapidly reap our reward not only
in a flourishing agriculture, but in the immense asset of an abounding
health in ourselves and in our children's children.

These ideas, straightforward as they appear when set forth in the form
given above, conflict with a number of vested interests. It has been my
self-appointed task during the last few years of my life to join hands
with those who are convinced of their truth to fight the forces impeding
progress. So large has been the flow of evidence accumulating that in
1941 it was decided to publish a News-Letter on Compost, embodying the
most interesting of the facts and opinions reaching me or others in the
campaign. The News-Letter, which appears three times a year under the
aegis of the Cheshire Local Medical and Panel Committees, has grown from
eight to sixty-four pages and is daily gaining new readers.

The general thesis that no one generation has a right to exhaust the
soil from which humanity must draw its sustenance has received further
powerful support from religious bodies. The clearest short exposition of
this idea is contained in one of the five fundamental principles adopted
by the recent Malvern Conference of the Christian Churches held with the
support of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Temple. It is as
follows: 'The resources of the earth should be used as God's gifts to
the whole human race and used with due consideration for the needs of
the present and future generations.'

Food is the chief necessity of life. The plans for social security which
are now being discussed merely guarantee to the population a share in a
variable and, in present circumstances, an uncertain quantity of food,
most of it of very doubtful quality. Real security against want and ill
health can only be assured by an abundant supply of fresh food properly
grown in soil in good heart. The first place in post-war plans of
reconstruction must be given to soil fertility in every part of the
world. The land of this country and the Colonial Empire, which is the
direct responsibility of Parliament, must be raised to a higher level of
productivity by a rational system of farming which puts a stop to the
exploitation of land for the purpose of profit and takes into account
the importance of humus in producing food of good quality. The
electorate alone has the power of enforcing this and to do so it must
first realize the full implications of the problem.

They and they alone possess the power to insist that every boy and every
girl shall enter into their birthright--health, and that efficiency,
well-being, and contentment which depend thereon. One of the objects of
this book is to show the man in the street how this England of ours can
be born again. He can help in this task, which depends at least as much
on the plain efforts of the plain man in his own farm, garden, or
allotment as on all the expensive paraphernalia, apparatus, and
elaboration of the modern scientist: more so in all probability,
inasmuch as one small example always outweighs a ton of theory. If this
sort of effort can be made and the main outline of the problems at stake
are grasped, nothing can stop an immense advance in the well-being of
this island. A healthy population will be no mean achievement, for our
greatest possession is ourselves.

The man in the street will have to do three things:

1. He must create in his own farm, garden, or allotment examples without
end of what a fertile soil can do.

2. He must insist that the public meals in which he is directly
interested, such as those served in boarding schools, in the canteens of
day schools and of factories, in popular restaurants and tea shops, and
at the seaside resorts at which he takes his holidays are composed of
the fresh produce of fertile soil.

3. He must use his vote to compel his various
representatives--municipal, county, and parliamentary--to see to it: (a)
that the soil of this island is made fertile and maintained in this
condition; (b) that the public health system of the future is based on
the fresh produce of land in good heart.

This introduction started with the training of an agricultural
investigator: it ends with the principles underlying the public health
system of to-morrow. It has, therefore, covered much ground in
describing what is nothing less than an adventure in scientific
research. One lesson must be stressed. The difficulties met with and
overcome in the official portion of this journey were not part of the
subject investigated. They were man made and created by the research
organization itself. More time and energy had to be expended in
side-tracking the lets and hindrances freely strewn along the road by
the various well-meaning agencies Which controlled discovery than in
conducting the investigations themselves. When the day of retirement
came, all these obstacles vanished and the delights of complete freedom
were enjoyed. Progress was instantly accelerated. Results were soon
obtained throughout the length and breadth of the English-speaking
world, which make crystal clear the great role which soil fertility must
play in the future of mankind.

The real Arsenal of Democracy is a fertile soil, the fresh produce of
which is the birthright of the nations.




The introduction to this book describes an adventure in agricultural
research and records the conclusions reached. If the somewhat unorthodox
views set out are sound, they will not stand alone but will be supported
and confirmed in a number of directions--by the farming experience of
the past and above all by the way Nature, the supreme farmer, manages
her kingdom. In this chapter the manner in which she conducts her
various agricultural operations will be briefly reviewed. In surveying
the significant characteristics of the life--vegetable and animal--met
with in Nature particular attention will be paid to the importance of
fertility in the soil and to the occurrence and elimination of disease
in plants and animals.

What is the character of life on this planet? What are its great
qualities? The answer is simple. The outstanding characteristics of
Nature are variety and stability.

The variety of the natural life around us is such as to strike even the
child's imagination, who sees in the fields and copses near his home, in
the ponds and streams and seaside pools round which he plays, or, if
being city-born he be deprived of these delightful playgrounds, even in
his poor back-garden or in the neighbouring park, an infinite choice of
different flowers and plants and trees, coupled with an animal world
full of rich changes and surprises, in fact, a plenitude of the forms of
living things constituting the first and probably the most powerful
introduction he will ever receive into the nature of the universe of
which he is himself a part.

The infinite variety of forms visible to the naked eye is carried much
farther by the microscope. When, for example, the green slime in
stagnant water is examined, a new world is disclosed--a multitude of
simple flowerless plants--the blue-green and the green algae--always
accompanied by the lower forms of animal life. We shall see in a later
chapter (p. 126) that on the operations of these green algae the
well-being of the rice crop, which nourishes countless millions of the
human race, depends. If a fragment of mouldy bread is suitably
magnified, members of still another group of flowerless plants, made up
of fine, transparent threads entirely devoid of green colouring matter,
come into view. These belong to the fungi, a large section of the
vegetable kingdom, which are of supreme importance in farming and

It needs a more refined perception to recognize throughout this
stupendous wealth of varying shapes and forms the principle of
stability. Yet this principle dominates. It dominates by means of an
ever-recurring cycle, a cycle which, repeating itself silently and
ceaselessly, ensures the continuation of living matter. This cycle is
constituted of the successive and repeated processes of birth, growth,
maturity, death, and decay.

An eastern religion calls this cycle the Wheel of Life and no better
name could be given to it. The revolutions of this Wheel never falter
and are perfect. Death supersedes life and life rises again from what is
dead and decayed.

Because we are ourselves alive we are much more conscious of the
processes of growth than we are of the processes involved in death and
decay. This is perfectly natural and justifiable. Indeed, it is a very
powerful instinct in us and a healthy one. Yet, if we are fully grown
human beings, our education should have developed in our minds so much
of knowledge and reflection as to enable us to grasp intelligently the
vast role played in the universe by the processes making up the other or
more hidden half of the Wheel. In this respect, however, our general
education in the past has been gravely defective partly because science
itself has so sadly misled us. Those branches of knowledge dealing with
the vegetable and animal kingdoms--botany and zoology--have confined
themselves almost entirely to a study of living things and have given
little or no attention to what happens to these units of the universe
when they die and to the way in which their waste products and remains
affect the general environment on which both the plant and animal world
depend. When science itself is unbalanced, how can we blame education
for omitting in her teaching one of the things that really matter

For though the phases which are preparatory to life are, as a rule, less
obvious than the phases associated with the moment of birth and the
periods of growth, they are not less important. If once we can grasp
this and think in terms of ever-repeated advance and recession,
recession and advance, we have a truer view of the universe than if we
define death merely as an ending of what has been alive.

Nature herself is never satisfied except by an even balancing of her
processes--growth and decay. It is precisely this even balancing which
gives her unchallengeable stability. That stability is rock-like.
Indeed, this figure of speech is a poor one, for the stability of Nature
is far more permanent than anything we can call a rock--rocks being
creations which themselves are subject to the great stream of
dissolution and rebirth, seeing that they suffer from weathering and are
formed again, that they can be changed into other substances and caught
up in the grand process of living: they too, as we shall see (p. 88),
are part of the Wheel of Life. However, we may at a first glance omit
the changes which affect the inert masses of this planet, petrological
and mineralogical: though very soon we shall realize how intimate is the
connection even between these and what is, in the common parlance,
alive. There is a direct bridge between things inorganic and things
organic and this too is part of the Wheel.

But before we start on our examination of that part of the great process
which now concerns us--namely, plant and animal life and the use man
makes of them--there is one further idea which we must master. It is
this. The stability of Nature is secured not only by means of a very
even balancing of her Wheel, by a perfect timing, so to say, of her
mechanisms, but also rests on a basis of enormous reserves. Nature is
never a hand-to-mouth practitioner. She is often called lavish and
wasteful, and at first sight one can be bewildered and astonished at the
apparent waste and extravagance which accompany the carrying on of
vegetable and animal existence. Yet a more exact examination shows her
working with an assured background of accumulated reserves, which are
stupendous and also essential. The least depletion in these reserves
induces vast changes and not until she has built them up again does she
resume the particular process on which she was engaged. A realization of
this principle of reserves is thus a further necessary item in a wide
view of natural law. Anyone who has recovered from a serious illness,
during which the human body lives partly on its own reserves, will
realize how Nature afterwards deals with such situations. During the
period of convalescence the patient appears to make little progress till
suddenly he resumes his old-time activities. During this waiting period
the reserves used up during illness are being replenished.


A survey of the Wheel of Nature will best start from that rather rapid
series of processes which cause what we commonly call living matter to
come into active existence; that is, in fact, from the point where life
most obviously, to our eyes, begins. The section of the Wheel embracing
these processes is studied in physiology from the Greek, meaning to bring
to life, to grow.

But how does life begin on this planet? We can only say this: that the
prime agency in carrying it on is sunlight, because it is the source of
energy, and that the instrument for intercepting this energy and turning
it to account is the green leaf.

This wonderful little example of Nature's invention is a battery of
intricate mechanisms. Each cell in the interior of a green leaf contains
minute specks of a substance called chlorophyll and it is this
chlorophyll which enables the plant to grow. Growth implies a continuous
supply of nourishment. Now plants do not merely collect their food: they
manufacture it before they can feed. In this they differ from animals
and man, who search for what they can pass through their stomachs and
alimentary systems, but cannot do more; if they are unable to find what
is suitable to their natures and ready for them, they perish. A plant
is, in a way, a more wonderful instrument. It is an actual food factory,
making what it requires before it begins the processes of feeding and
digestion. The chlorophyll in the green leaf, with its capacity for
intercepting the energy of the sun, is the power unit that, so to say,
runs the machine. The green leaf enables the plant to draw simple raw
materials from diverse sources and to work them up into complex

Thus from the air it absorbs carbon-dioxide (a compound of two parts of
oxygen to one of carbon), which is combined with more oxygen from the
atmosphere and with other substances, both living and inert, drawn from
the soil and from the water which permeates the soil. All these raw
materials are then assimilated in the plant and made into food. They
become organic compounds, i.e. compounds of carbon, classified
conveniently into groups known as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats;
together with an enormous volume of water (often over 90 per cent of the
whole plant) and interspersed with small quantities of chemical salts
which have not yet been converted into the organic phase, they make up
the whole structure of the plant--root, stem, leaf, flower, and seed.
This structure includes a big food reserve. The life principle, the
nature of which evades us and in all probability always will, resides in
the proteins looked at in the mass. These proteins carry on their work
in a cellulose framework made up of cells protected by an outer
integument and supported by a set of structures known as the vascular
bundles, which also conduct the sap from the roots to the leaves and
distribute the food manufactured there to the various centres of growth.
The whole of the plant structures are kept turgid by means of water.

The green leaf, with its chlorophyll battery, is therefore a perfectly
adapted agency for continuing life. It is, speaking plainly, the only
agency that can do this and is unique. Its efficiency is of supreme
importance. Because animals, including man, feed eventually on green
vegetation, either directly or through the bodies of other animals, it
is our sole final source of nutriment. There is no alternative supply.
Without sunlight and the capacity of the earth's green carpet to
intercept its energy for us, our industries, our trade, and our
possessions would soon be useless. It follows therefore that everything
on this planet must depend on the way mankind makes use of this green
carpet, in other words on its efficiency.

The green leaf does not, however, work by itself. It is only a part of
the plant. It is curious how easy it is to forget that normally we see
only one-half of each flowering plant, shrub, or tree: the rest is
buried in the ground. Yet the dying down of the visible growth of many
plants in the winter, their quick reappearance in the spring, should
teach us how essential and important a portion of all vegetation lives
out of our sight; it is evident that the root system, buried in the
ground, also holds the life of the plant in its grasp. It is therefore
not surprising to find that leaves and roots work together, forming a
partnership which must be put into fresh working order each season if
the plant is to live and grow,

If the function of the green leaf armed with its chlorophyll is to
manufacture the food the plant needs, the purpose of the roots is to
obtain the water and most of the raw materials required--the sap of the
plant being the medium by which these raw materials (collected from the
soil by the roots) are moved to the leaf. The work of the leaf we found
to be intricate: that of the roots is not less so. What is surprising is
to come upon two quite distinct ways in which the roots set about
collecting the materials which it is their business to supply to the
leaf; these two methods are carried on simultaneously. We can make a
very shrewd guess at the master principle which has put the second
method alongside the first: it is again the principle of providing a
reserve--this time of the vital proteins.

None of the materials that reach the green leaf by whatever method is
food: it is only the raw stuff from which food can be manufactured. By
the first method, which is the most obvious one, the root hairs search
out and pass into the transpiration current of the plant dissolved
substances which they find in the thin films of water spread between and
around each particle of earth; this film is known as the soil solution.
The substances dissolved in it include gases (mainly carbon dioxide and
oxygen) and a series of other substances known as chemical salts like
nitrates, compounds of potassium and phosphorus, and so forth, all
obtained by the breaking down of organic matter or from the destruction
of the mineral portions of the soil. In this breaking down of organic
matter we see in operation the reverse of the building-up process which
takes place in the leaf. Organic matter is continuously reverting to the
inorganic state: it becomes mineralized: nitrates are one form of the
outcome. It is the business of the root hairs to absorb these substances
from the soil solution and to pass them into the sap, so that the new
life-building process can start up again. In a soil in good heart the
soil solution will be well supplied with these salts. Incidentally we
may note that it has been the proved existence of these mineral chemical
constituents in the soil which, since the time of Liebig, has focused
attention on soil chemistry and has emphasized the passage of chemical
food materials from soil to plant to the neglect of other

But the earth's green carpet is not confined to its remarkable power of
transforming the inert nitrates and mineral contents of the soil into an
active organic phase: it is utilized by Nature to establish for itself,
in addition, a direct connection, a kind of living bridge, between its
own life and the living portion of the soil. This is the second method
by which plants feed themselves. The importance of this process,
physiological in nature and not merely chemical, cannot be
over-emphasized and some description of it will now be attempted.


The soil is, as a matter of fact, full of live organisms. It is
essential to conceive of it as something pulsating with life, not as a
dead or inert mass. There could be no greater misconception than to
regard the earth as dead: a handful of soil is teeming with life. The
living fungi, bacteria, and protozoa, invisibly present in the soil
complex, are known as the soil population. This population of millions
and millions of minute existences, quite invisible to our eyes of
course, pursue their own lives. They come into being, grow, work, and
die: they sometimes fight each other, win victories, or perish; for they
are divided into groups and families fitted to exist under all sorts of
conditions. The state of a soil will change with the victories won or
the losses sustained, and in one or other soil, or at one or other
moment, different groups will predominate.

This lively and exciting life of the soil is the first thing that sets
in motion the great Wheel of Life. Not without truth have poets and
priests paid worship to 'Mother Earth', the source of our being. What
poetry or religion have vaguely celebrated, science has minutely
examined, and very complete descriptions now exist of the character and
nature of the soil population, the various species of which have been
classified, labelled, and carefully observed. It is this life which is
continually being passed into the plant.

The process can actually be followed under the microscope. Some of the
individuals belonging to one of the most important groups in this mixed
population--the soil fungi--can be seen functioning. If we arrange a
vertical darkened glass window on the side of a deep pit in an orchard,
it is not difficult to see with the help of a good lens or a low-power
horizontal microscope (arranged to travel up and down a vertical fixed
rod) some of these soil fungi at work. They are visible in the
interstices of the soil as glistening white branching threads,
reminiscent of cobwebs. In Dr. Rogers's interesting experiments on the
root systems of fruit trees at East Malling Research Station, where this
method of observing them was initiated and demonstrated to me, these
fungous threads could be seen approaching the young apple roots in the
absorbing region (just behind the advancing root tips) on which the root
hairs are to be found. Dr. Rogers very kindly presented me with two
excellent photographs--one showing the general arrangement of his
observation chamber (Plate I), the other, taken on 6th July 1933, of a
root tip (magnified by about twelve) of Lane's Prince Albert (grafted on
root stock XVI) at sixteen inches below the surface, showing abundant
fungous strands running in the soil and coming into direct contact with
the growing root (Plate II).


But this is only the beginning of the story. When a suitable section of
one of these young apple roots, growing in fertile soil and bearing
active root hairs, is examined, it will be found that these fine fungous
threads actually invade the cells of the root, where they can easily be
observed passing from one cell to another. But they do not remain there
very long. After a time the apple roots absorb these threads. All stages
of the actual digestion can be seen.

The significance of this process needs no argument. Here we have a
simple arrangement on the part of Nature by which the soil material on
which these fungi feed can be joined up, as it were, with the sap of the
tree. These fungous threads are very rich in protein and may contain as
much as 10 per cent of organic nitrogen; this protein is easily digested
by the ferments (enzymes) in the cells of the root; the resulting
nitrogen complexes, which are readily soluble, are then passed into the
sap current and so into the green leaf. An easy passage, as it were, has
been provided for food material to move from soil to plant in the form
of proteins and their digestion products, which latter in due course
reach the green leaf. The marriage of a fertile soil and the tree it
nourishes is thus arranged. Science calls these fungous threads mycelium
(again from a Greek word, xxxxx ), and as the Greek for root is xxx
(rhiza, cf. rhizome), the whole process is known as the mycorrhizal

The reader who wishes to delve into the technical details relating to
the mycorrhizal association and its bearing on forestry and agriculture
should consult the following works:--

1. Rayner, M. C. and Neilson-Jones, W.--Problems in Tree Nutrition,
Faber & Faber, London, 1944.

2. Balfour, Lady Eve--The Living Soil, Faber & Faber, London, 1944.

3. Howard, Sir Albert--An Agricultural Testament, Oxford Press, 1940.

What is urgently needed at the moment is an account in simple,
non-technical language, of this remarkable link between a fertile soil
and the roots of the vast majority of flowering plants and its
significance in nutrition and disease resistance.

Root-tip (x 12) of Lane's Prince Albert on root-stock M XVI at sixteen
inches below the surface, showing root-cap (A), young root hairs (C),
and older root hairs with drops of exudate (Cl). The cobweb-like
mycelial strands are well seen approaching the rootlet in the region
marked (C).

This partnership is universal in the forest and is general throughout
the vegetable kingdom. A few exceptions, however, exist which will be
referred to in the next paragraph.

Among the plants in which this mycorrhizal association has hitherto not
been observed are the tomato and certain cultivated members of the
cabbage family, many of which possess a very diffuse root system and
exceptionally elongated root hairs. Nevertheless, all these examples
respond very markedly to the condition of the soil in which they are
grown and if fed with dressings of humus will prosper. The question
naturally arises: Exactly how does this take place? What is the
alternative mechanism that replaces the absent mycorrhizal association?

A simple explanation would appear to be this. Fertile soils invariably
contain a greatly enhanced bacterial population whose dead remains must
be profusely scattered in the water films which bathe the compound soil
particles and the root hairs of the crops themselves; these specks of
dead organic matter, rich in protein, are finally mineralized into
simple salts like nitrates. We have already mentioned this breaking-down
process of the soil population. What is here to be noted is that it is
no sudden transformation, but takes place in stages. May not, therefore,
some at least of the first-formed nitrogen complexes, which result from
this breaking down, be absorbed by the root hairs and so added to the
sap current? That is to say that the non-mycorrhiza-forming plants, not
drawing on the soil fungi, do compensate themselves by absorbing organic
nitrogen in this form--they catch the bacterial soil population, as it
were, before it has been reduced to an entirely inert phase and so have
their link also with the biological life of the soil. That there must be
some such passage of matter on a biological basis is suggested by the
fact that only in fertile soil, i.e. in soils teeming with bacteria, do
these non-mycorrhiza formers reveal resistance to disease and high
quality in the produce, which means that only in these soils are they
really properly fed.

This would be a third method used by plants for feeding themselves, a
sort of half-way method between the absorption powers exercised by the
root hairs and the direct digestive capacity of the roots: as the
mechanism used in this method is presumably the root hairs, the
diffuseness of the root system of plants of the cabbage family would be
explained. It is possible that even mycorrhiza formers use this
alternative passage for organic nitrogen. There seems no reason at all
why this should not be so.

But how do the various agencies concerned in these intricate operations
manage to carry on their work, buried as they are away from the light
and thus unable to derive anything from the source of energy, the sun?
How do they do their initial work at all until they can hand over to the
green leaf? They derive their energy by oxidising (i.e. burning up) the
stores of organic matter in the soil. As in an ordinary fire, this
process of oxidation releases energy. The oxygen needed for this slow
combustion is drawn from the air, in part washed down by the rain, which
dissolves it from the atmosphere in its descent. Incidentally this
explains why rain is so superior as a moistening agency for plants to
any form of watering from a can: incidentally, again, we can understand
the need for cultivating the soil and keeping it open, so that the
drawing in of oxygen, or the respiration of the soil, can proceed and
the excess carbon dioxide can be expelled into the atmosphere.

Humus is the Latin word for soil or earth. But as used by the husbandman
humus nowadays does not mean just earth in general, but indicates that
undecayed residue of vegetable and animal waste lying on the surface,
combined with the dead bodies of these bacteria and fungi themselves
when they have done their work, the whole being a highly complex and
somewhat varying substance which is, so to say, the mine or store or
bank from which the organisms of the soil and then, in direct
succession, the plant, the tree, and thereafter the animal draw what
they need for their existence. This store is all important.


Humus is the most significant of all Nature's reserves and as such
deserves a detailed examination.

A very perfect example of the methods by which Nature makes humus and
thus initiates the turning of her Wheel is afforded by the floor of the
forest. Dig down idly with a stick under any forest tree: first there
will be a rich, loose, accumulation of litter made up of dead leaves,
flowers, twigs, fragments of bark, bits of decaying wood, and so forth,
passing gradually as the material becomes more tightly packed into rich,
moist, sweet-smelling earth, which continues downwards for some inches
and which, when disturbed, reveals many forms of tiny insect and animal
life. We have been given here a glimpse of the way Nature makes
humus--the source from which the trunk of the tree has drawn its
resisting strength, its leaves their glittering beauty.

Throughout the year, endlessly and continuously, though faster at some
seasons than at others, the wastes of the forest thus accumulate and at
once undergo transformation. These wastes are of many kinds and mix as
they fall; for leaf mingles with twig and stem, flower with moss, and
bark with seed-coats. Moreover, vegetable mingles with animal. Let us
beware of the false idea that the forest is a part of the vegetable
kingdom only. Millions of animal existences are housed in it; mammals
and birds are everywhere and can be seen with the naked eye. The lower
forms of animal life--the invertebrates--are even more numerous.
Insects, earthworms, and so forth are obvious: the microscope reveals
new worlds of animal life down to simple protozoa. The excrete of these
animals while living and their dead bodies constitute an important
component of what lies on the forest floor; even the bodies of insects
form in the mass a constituent element not without importance, so that
in the end the two sources of waste are completely represented and are,
above all, completely mingled. But the volume of the vegetable wastes is
several times greater than that of the animal residues.

These wastes lie gently, only disturbed by wind or by the foot of a
passing animal. The top layer is thus very loose; ample air circulates
for several inches downwards: the conditions for the fermentation by the
moulds and microbes (which feed on the litter) are, as the scientist
would say, aerobic. But partly by pressure from above and partly as the
result of fermentation the lower layers are forced to pack more closely
and the final manufacture of humus goes on without much air: the
conditions are now anaerobic. This is a succession of two modes of
manufacture which we shall do well to remember, as in our practical work
it has to be imitated (p. 198).

This mass of accumulated wastes is acted on by the sunlight and the
rain; both are dispersed and fragmented by the leaf canopy of the trees
and undergrowth. The sunlight warms the litter; the rain keeps it moist.
The rain does not reach the litter as a driving sheet, but is split up
into small drops the impetus of whose fall is well broken. Nor does the
sunlight burn without shade; it is tempered. Finally, though air
circulates freely, there is perfect protection from the cooling and
drying effects of strong wind.

With abundant air, warmth, and water at their disposal the fungi and
bacteria, with which, as we have already noted, the soil is teeming, do
their work. The fallen mixed wastes are broken up; some passes through
the bodies of earthworms and insects: all is imperceptibly crumbled and
changed until it decomposes into that rich mass of dark colour and
earthy smell which is so characteristic of the forest 'door and which
holds such a wealth of potential plant nourishment.

The process that takes place in a prairie, a meadow, or a steppe is
similar; perhaps slower, and the richness of the layer of humus will
depend on a good many factors. One, in particular, has an obvious
effect, namely, the supply of air. If, for some reason, this is cut off,
the formation of humus is greatly impeded. Areas, therefore, that are
partly or completely waterlogged will not form humus as the forest does:
the upper portion of the soil will not have access to sufficient free
oxygen, nor will there be much oxygen in the standing water. In the
first case a moor will result; in the second a bog or morass will be
formed. In both these the conditions are anaerobic: the organisms derive
their oxygen not from the air but from the vegetable and animal residues
including the proteins. In this fermentation nitrogen is always lost and
the resulting low-quality humus is known as peat.

But the forest, the prairie, the moor, and the bog are not the only
areas where humus formation is in progress. It is constantly going on in
the most unlikely places--on exposed rock surfaces, on old walls, on the
trunks and branches of trees, and indeed wherever the lower forms of
plant life--algae, lichens, mosses, and liverworts--can live and then
slowly build up a small store of humus.

Nature, in fact, conforming to that principle of reserves, does not
attempt to create the higher forms of plant life until she has secured a
good store of humus. Watch how the small bits of decayed vegetation fall
into some crack in the rock and decompose: here is the little fern, the
tiny flower, secure of its supply of food and well able to look after
itself, as it thrusts its roots down into the rich pocket of
nourishment. Nature adapts her flora very carefully to her varying
supplies of humus. The plant above is the indicator of what the soil
below is like, and a trained observer, sweeping his eye over the
countryside, will be able to read it like the pages of a book and to
tell without troubling to cross a valley exactly where the ground is
waterlogged, where it is accumulating humus, where it is being eroded.
He looks at the kind and type of plant, and infers from their species
and condition the nature of the soil which they at once cover and

But we are not at the end of the mechanisms employed by Nature to get
her great Wheel to revolve with smooth efficiency. The humus that lies
on the surface must be distributed and made accessible to the roots of
plants and especially to the absorbing portions of the roots and their
tiny prolongations known as root hairs--for it is these which do the
delicate work of absorption. How can this be done? Nature has, perforce,
laid her accumulation on the surface of the soil. But she has no fork or
spade: she cannot dig a trench and lay the food materials at the bottom
where the plant root can strike down and get them. It seems an impasse,
but the solution is again curiously simple and complete. Nature has her
own labour force--ants, termites, and above all earthworms. These carry
the humus down to the required deeper levels where the thrusting roots
can have access to it. This distribution process goes on continually,
varying in intensity with night and day, with wetness or dryness, heat
or cold, which alternately brings the worms to the surface for fresh
supplies or sends them down many feet. It is interesting to note how a
little heap of leaves in the garden disappears in the course of a night
or two when the earthworms are actively at work. The mechanism of humus
distribution is a give and take, for where a root has died the earthworm
or the termite will often follow the minute channel thus created a long

Actually the earthworm eats of the humus and of the soil and passes them
through its body, leaving behind the casts which are really enriched
earth--perfectly conditioned for the use of plants. Analyses of these
casts show that they are some 40 per cent richer in humus than the
surface soil, but very much richer in such essential food materials as
combined nitrogen, phosphate, and potash. Recent results obtained by
Lunt and Jacobson of the Connecticut Experiment Station show that the
casts of earthworms are five times richer in combined nitrogen, seven
times richer in available phosphate, and eleven times richer in potash
than the upper six inches of soil.

It is estimated that on each acre of fertile land no less than
twenty-five tons of fresh worm casts are deposited each year. Besides
this the dead bodies of the earthworms must make an appreciable
contribution to the supply of manure. In these ways Nature in her
farming has arranged that the earth itself shall be her manure factory.

As the humus is continually being created, so it is continually being
used up. Not more than a certain depth accumulates on the surface,
normally anything from a few inches to two or three feet. For after a
time the process ceases to be additive and becomes simply continuous:
the growing plants use up the product at a rate equalling the rate of
manufacture--the even turning of the Wheel of Life--the perfect example
of balanced manuring. A reserve, however, is at all times present, and
on virgin and undisturbed land it may be very great indeed. This is an
important asset in man's husbandry; we shall later see how important.


Is the humus the only source from which the plant draws its nourishment?
That is not so. The subsoil, i.e. that part of the soil derived from the
decay of rocks, which lies below the layer of humus, also has its part
to play. The subsoil is, as it were, a depository of raw material. It
may be of many types, clay, sand, etc.; the geological formation will
vary widely. It always includes a mineral content--potash, phosphates,
and many rarer elements.

Now these minerals play an important part in the life of living things
They have to be conveyed to us in our food in an organic form, and it is
from the plant, which transforms them into an organic phase and holds
them thus, that we and the other animals derive them for our well-being.

How does the plant obtain them? We have seen that there is a power in
the roots of all plants, even the tiniest, of absorbing them from the
soil solution. But how is the soil solution itself impregnated with
these substances? Mainly through the dissolving power of the soil water,
which contains carbon dioxide in solution and so acts as a weak solvent.
It would appear that the roots of trees, which thrust down into the
subsoil, draw on the dissolved mineral wealth there stored and absorb
this wealth into their structure. In tapping the lower levels of water
present in the subsoil--for trees are like great pumps drawing at a deep
well--they also tap the minerals dissolved therein. These minerals are
then passed into all parts of the tree, including the foliage. When in
the autumn the foliage decays and falls, the stored minerals, now in an
organic phase, are dropped too and become available on the top layers of
the soil: they become incorporated in the humus. This explains the
importance of the leaf-fall in preserving the land in good heart and
incidentally is one reason why gardeners love to accumulate leaf-mould.
By this means they feed their vegetables, fruit, and flowers with the
minerals they need.

The tree has acted as a great circulatory system, and its importance in
this direction is to be stressed. The destruction of trees and forests
is therefore most injurious to the land, for not only are the physical
effects harmful--the anchoring roots and the sheltering leaf canopy
being alike removed--but the necessary circulation of minerals is put
out of action. It is at least possible that the present mineral poverty
of certain tracts of the earth's surface, e.g. on the South African
veldt, is due to the destruction over wide areas and for long periods of
all forest growth, both by the wasteful practices of indigenous tribes
and latterly sometimes by exploiting Western interests.


Before we turn to consider the ways in which man has delved and dug
into all these riches and disturbed them for his own benefit, let us sum
up with one final glance at the operations of Nature. Perhaps one fact
will strike us as symptomatic of what we have been reviewing, namely,
the enormous care bestowed by Nature on the processes both of
destruction and of storage. She is as minute and careful, as generous in
her intentions, and as lavish in breaking down what she has created as
she was originally in building it up. The subsoil is called upon for
some of its water and minerals, the leaf has to decay and fall, the twig
is snapped by the wind, the very stem of the tree must break, lie, and
gradually be eaten away by minute vegetable or animal agents; these in
turn die, their bodies are acted on by quite invisible fungi and
bacteria; these also die, they are added to all the other wastes, and
the earthworm or ant begins to carry this accumulated reserve of all
earthly decay away. This accumulated reserve--humus--is the very
beginning of vegetable life and therefore of animal life and of our own
being. Such care, such intricate arrangements are surely worth studying,
as they are the basis of all Nature's farming and can be summed up in a
phrase--the Law of Return.

We have thus seen that one of the outstanding features of Nature's
farming is the care devoted to the manufacture of humus and to the
building up of a reserve. What does she do to control such things as
insect, fungous, and virus diseases in plants and the various
afflictions of her animal kingdom? What provision is to be found for
plans protection or for checking the diseases of animals? How is the
work of mycologists, entomologists, and veterinarians done by Mother
Earth? Is there any special method of dealing with diseased material
such as destruction by fire? For many years I have diligently searched
for some answer to these questions, or for some light on these matters.
My quest has produced only negative evidence. There appears to be no
special natural provision for controlling pests, for the destruction of
diseased material, or for protecting plants and animals against
infection. All manner of pests and diseases can be found here and there
in any wood or forest; the disease-infected wastes find their way into
the litter and are duly converted into humus. Methods designed for the
protection of plants and animals against infection do not appear to have
been provided. It would seem that the provision of humus is all that
Nature needs to protect her vegetation; and, nourished by the food thus
grown, in due course the animals look after themselves.

In their survey of world agriculture--past and present--the various
schools of agricultural science might be expected to include these
operations of Nature in their teaching. But when we examine the
syllabuses of these schools, we find hardly any references to this
subject and nothing whatever about the great Law of Return. The great
principle underlying Nature's farming has been ignored. Nay more, it has
been flouted and the cheapest method of transferring the reserves of
humus (left by the prairie and the forest) to the profit and loss
account of homo sapiens has been stressed instead. Surely there must be
something wrong somewhere with our agricultural education.



What is agriculture? It is undoubtedly the oldest of the great arts; its
beginnings are lost in the mists of man's earliest days. Moreover, it is
the foundation of settled life and therefore of all true civilization,
for until man had learnt to add the cultivation of plants to his
knowledge of hunting and fishing, he could not emerge from his savage
existence. This is no mere surmise: observation of surviving primitive
tribes, still in the hunting and fishing stage like the Bushmen and
Hottentots of Africa, show them unable to progress because they have not
mastered and developed the principle of cultivation of the soil.


The earliest forms of agriculture were simple processes of gathering or
reaping. Man waited until Nature had perfected the fruits of the earth
and then seized them for his own use. It is to be noted that what is
intercepted is often some form of Nature's storage of reserves; more
especially are most ripe seeds the perfect arsenals of natural reserves.
Interception may, however, take other forms. A well-developed example of
human existence based on a technique of interception is the nomadic
pastoral tribe. Pastoral peoples are found all over the world; they have
played some part in the history of the human race and often exhibit an
advanced degree of culture in certain limited directions, not only
material. Their physical existence is sustained on what their flocks and
herds produce. To secure adequate grazing for their animals they wander,
sometimes to and fro between recognized summer and winter pastures,
sometimes over still greater distances. In this way they intercept the
fresh vegetable growths brought to birth season by season out of the
living earth; however successful, it is nothing more than a harvesting

It is presumed rather than known that at some period man extended his
idea of harvesting to the gathering of the heads of certain plants, thus
adding a vegetable element to the milk, meat, and fish he had been
deriving from his animals and the chase. Wild barley, rice, and wheat
are all supposed to have been gathered in this way in different parts of
the earth. But real agriculture only began when, observing the
phenomenon of the germination of seeds, instead of consuming all that
they had gathered, men began to save some part of what they had in store
for sowing in the ground. This forced them to settlement, for they had
to wait until the plants grew from the seed and matured.

If at first the small store of gathered seed was sown in any bare and
handy patch, the convenience of clearing away forest growths so as to
extend the space for sowing soon became apparent. The next stage was to
prepare the ground thus won. The art of tillage has progressed over the
centuries. The use of a pointed stick drawn through the ground is still
quite common. The first ploughs were drawn by human labour--a practice
which survived even in such countries as Hungary and Romania into the
nineteenth century. But the use of animals, tamed for their muscular
strength to replace the human team, became the normal and world-wide
practice, until ousted in certain continents first by the still more
powerful steam engine and now by the internal combustion engine.

What was the purpose of this tillage, which is still the prime
agricultural process? The first effect is, of course, physical. The
loosened soil makes room for the seed, which thus can grow in abundance,
while to cover the sowing with scattered earth or to press it into the
ground protects it from the ravages of birds or insects. Secondly,
tillage gives access to the air--and the process of soil respiration
starts up, followed by the nitrification of organic matter and the
production of soluble nitrates. The rain, too, can penetrate better. In
this way physical, biological, and chemical effects are set in motion
and a series of lively physiological changes and transformations result
from the partnership between soil and plant. The soil produces food
materials: the plants begin to grow: the harvest is assured: the sowing
has become a crop.

Yet this is not the way in which Nature is accustomed to work. She does
not, as a rule, collect her plants, the same plants, in one spot and
practice monoculture, but scatters them: her mechanisms for scattering
seed are marvellous and most effective. Man's habit, so convenient, of
collecting a specified seed and sowing it in a specified area implies,
it must be acknowledged, a definite interference with Nature's habits.
Moreover, by consuming the harvest and thus removing it from the place
where it had grown he for the time being interrupts the round of natural

In fact, man has laid his hand on the great Wheel and for a moment has
stopped or deflected its turning. To put it in another way, he has for
his own use withdrawn from the soil the products of its fertility. That
man is entitled to put his hand on the Wheel has never been doubted,
except by such sects as the Doukhobors who argued themselves into a
state of declaring it a sin to wound the earth with spades or tools. But
if he is to continue to exist, he must send the Wheel forward again on
its revolutions. This is a necessary part of all primitive cultivation
practices and perhaps a tenet of all true early religions as soon as
they lift themselves from the stages of mere animism or fetish worship;
at any rate, all the great agricultural systems which have survived have
made it their business never to deplete the earth of its fertility
without at the same time beginning the process of restoration. This
becomes a veritable preoccupation.


The simplest way of doing this is after a time to leave the cultivated
patch and thus stop the process of interference. Nature will overrun it
again with scrub or forest: soon the green carpet is re-established: in
due course humus will accumulate: it will be as it was--the earth's
fruitfulness will be restored. To pass on, therefore, from one patch to
another, and again to another and another, is a common primitive
practice found in Africa, India, Ceylon, and many other parts of the
world, and is known as shifting cultivation. It even occurred in the
American continent some ten years or so ago before the Tennessee Valley
Authority was constituted by the late President of the United States of
America. In this shifting cultivation the fresh patch is usually cleared
by burning the jungle: this leaves the ash in situ, and thus retains
some of the mineral contents of the burnt vegetation for the benefit of
the coming crop. But it is a wasteful method, for a large aggregate area
is required to feed a small group, while a long period has to be
reckoned to replace the lost fertility. Indeed, this replacement is
seldom consummated. The larger trees suffer, the best part of the forest
is virtually destroyed. It will also be observed that after using up the
riches of the soil man actually does nothing to restore it--he merely
leaves it. This lazy practice constitutes the least satisfactory of many
agricultural systems and, entailing constant small movements of working
area on the part of those practicing it, is no foundation for a settled
civilization. It does, however, show that primitive tribes not only
realized the fact that fertility can be exhausted, but also understood
how it could be restored.


A much more satisfactory method of restoring soil fertility was evolved
in the great river valley of the Nile which, according to some
theorists, was the original home of agriculture proper. It is the
peculiarity of this great river that it overflows once a year with great
regularity, bearing suspended in its flood an accumulation of fertile
silt washed down from its catchment basin; this accumulation, rich in
both mineral and organic matter, is gently deposited and is capable of
yielding an abundant harvest. The process continued for centuries. Early
engineering skill led the silt-laden water to embanked fields by means
of inundation canals. The deposit was trapped just where it was needed
and the land was at the same time saturated with water. When the
embanked fields were dry enough, they were ploughed and sown: no rain
fell and no more water was needed for a full crop. The annual additions
of rich silt made this method of farming permanent. In this way there
grew up settled habitations, a great civilization, an historic people.

This basin system of irrigation in Egypt, which is perhaps the best and
most permanent that can be devised, has of recent years been replaced by
another--perennial irrigation--by which the same field can be watered
periodically to allow of cotton being grown. For this purpose the Nile
has been impounded and a vast reservoir has been created for feeding the
canals. But unless the very greatest care is taken to restore and then
to maintain the compound soil particles by means of constant dressings
of freshly prepared humus these modern methods are doomed. The too
frequent flooding of the close silts of this river valley will lead to
the formation of alkali salts and then to the death of the soil. This
will be the fate of Egypt if the powers-that-be persist in the present
methods of cultivation of cotton and do not realize before it is too
late that their ancient system of irrigation is, after all, the best.
Will a few years of cotton growing make up for the loss of the soil on
which the yew, life of Egypt is based? On the answer to this question
the future of the Nile valley will depend.


Few areas on the earth's surface are so fortunate. What the great river
bestowed on the lucky Egyptians has had to be created in other parts of
the world, sometimes in the most unpromising conditions. The so-called
staircase cultivation of the ancient Peruvians is regarded as one of the
oldest forms of agriculture known to us--it dates from the Stone Age.
Without metal tools this people could not remove the dense forest
growths of the humid South American valleys. They were driven to the
upland areas under grass, scrub, or stone. Here they constructed
terraced fields up the slopes of the mountains, tier upon tier,
sometimes as many as fifty tiers rising one above the other. The outer
retaining walls of these terraces were made of large stones fitted into
each other with such accuracy that even at the present day a knife blade
cannot be inserted between them. Inside these walls were laid coarse
stones and over these clay, then layers of soil several feet thick, all
of which had to be imported from beyond the mountains. Just sufficient
slope was given to each tiny field for watering, water also being
brought in stone aqueducts from immense distances--one aqueduct of
between 400 and 500 miles has been found traversing the mountain slope
many hundreds of feet above the valley. Thus a series of gigantic flower
pots were formed and in these were grown the crops to nourish a nation
and to establish a civilization.

The results of such incredible labour are still to be seen, but the Inca
nation itself has vanished. However, in the Hunzas living in a high
mountain valley of the Gilgit Agency on the Indian frontier we have an
existing demonstration of what a primitive system of agriculture can do
if the basic laws of Nature are faithfully followed. The Hunzas are
described as far surpassing in health and strength the inhabitants of
most other countries; a Hunza can walk across the mountains to Gilgit
sixty miles away, transact his business, and return forthwith without
feeling unduly fatigued. In a later chapter we shall point to this as
illustrative of the vital connection between a sound agriculture and
good health. The Hunzas have no great area from which to feed
themselves, but for thousands of years they have evolved a system of
farming which is perfect. Like the ancient Peruvians they have built
stone terraces, whose construction admits of admirable soil drainage and
therefore of admirable soil aeration--for where water drains away
properly air is abundantly drawn in. As in the ancient Peruvian system,
irrigation is employed to obtain the water and it is not without
interest that this water is glacier water bringing down continual
additions of fine silt ground out from the rocks by the great cap of
ice. It is probable, though it has not been investigated, that the
mineral requirements of the fields are thus replenished to a remarkable
degree. To provide the essential humus every kind of waste, vegetable,
animal, and human, is mixed and decayed together by the cultivators and
incorporated into the soil; the law of return is obeyed, the unseen part
of the revolution of the great Wheel is faithfully accomplished.


It is this return of all wastes to the soil, including the mud of ponds,
canals, and ditches, which is the secret of the successful agriculture
of the Chinese. The startling thing to realize about this peasant nation
of over four hundred million souls is the immense period of time over
which they have continued to cultivate their fields and keep them
fertile, at least 4,000 years. This is indeed a contrast to the shifting
cultivation of the African and it may be observed here that the greatest
misfortune of the African continent has been that it never came into
contact with the agricultural peoples of the Far East and never revised
its systems of cultivation in the light of the knowledge it might
thereby have gained--the great lesson of the Nile basin was not truly
apprehended and has had no influence outside Egypt, whereas over large
parts of eastern Asia the central problem of agriculture was solved very
early, empirically and not by a process of scientific investigation, yet
with outstanding success.

The Chinese peasant has hit on a way of supplying his fields with humus
by the device of making compost. Compost is the name given to the result
of any system of mixing and decaying natural wastes in a heap or pit so
as to obtain a product resembling what the forest makes on its floor:
this product is then put on the fields and is rich in humus. The Chinese
pay great attention to the making of their compost. Every twig, every
dead leaf, every unused stalk is gathered up and every bit of animal
excrete and the urine, together with all the wastes of the human
population, are incorporated. The device of a compost heap is clever. By
treating this part of the revolution of the Wheel as a special process,
separated from the details of cultivation, time is gained, for the
wastes mixed in a heap and kept to the right degree of moisture decay
very quickly, and successive dressings can be put on the soil, which
thus is kept fed with just what it needs: there is no pause while the
soil itself manufactures from the raw wastes the finished humus. On the
contrary, everything being ready and the humus being regularly renewed
at frequent intervals, the soil is able to feed an uninterrupted
succession of plants, and it is a feature of Chinese cultivation that
one crop follows another without a pause, indeed crops usually overlap,
the ripe crop being skilfully removed by hand from among the young
growing plants of the succeeding planting or sowing. In short, what the
Chinese farmer really does is ingeniously to extend his area. He, so to
say, rolls up the floor of the forest and arranges it in a heap. The
great processes of decay go on throughout that heap, spreading
themselves over the whole of the internal surface of the heap, that is,
over the whole of the surfaces implied in the juxtaposition of every
piece of waste against every other. He also overcomes the smallness of
the superficial area of his holding by increasing the internal surface
of the pore spaces of his soil. This is what matters from the point of
view of the crop--the maximum possible area on which the root hairs can
collect water and food materials for the green leaf. To establish and to
maintain this maximum pore space there must be abundant humus, as well
as a large and active soil population.

Thus is created the most intensive agriculture which the world has so
far seen. Each Chinese family lives on the produce of a very tiny piece
of ground, an area which would mean downright starvation in most other
countries. In spite of great calamities which repeat themselves,
principally floods, the causes of which will be mentioned hereafter, the
Chinese peasant may be said to be, on the whole, well nourished. His
resisting power to the many frightful diseases, sufficient to kill off
most other populations, has been noted, while the standard of culture
which he has reached and has maintained over the long period of his
existence rivals the contributions of Western civilization.

He is indeed the classic example of a nation which has conserved the
fertility of its soil. Other nations have done the same, but none over
so long a period or on so vast an area. Is it legitimate to interpret
the history of the nations by the way in which they have made use of the
land which chance or their own velour assigned to them? We have
considered some instances where attempts have been made to conserve
fertility with greater or lesser success. Let us now turn to some
different examples.


The agricultural history of the ancient Greeks is not altogether clear.
But one thing is certain: in common with most other Mediterranean
peoples they permitted an extraordinary amount of destruction of forest
growths over some of the areas bordering on this great inland sea.
Greece is now a land bare of trees and the continued depredations of the
goat have done untold harm to any young growths that have attempted to
survive. Whether this process began on a large scale very early and
whether the result was a severe disturbance of the drainage of a not
very fruitful country, extending on the one hand the area of marsh and
on the other inviting erosion, is not certain. Such conditions would
affect first the crops and then those who fed off them--subtle forms of
undernourishment and disease would appear. The theory has been put
forward that the extraordinary and unexplained collapse of the Greek
nation in the fourth and third centuries B.C., after a period of the
highest vigour and culture, was due to the spread of malaria. It is a
theory which is very reasonable and would explain much.

The case of the Romans, another Mediterranean people, is not quite the
same. For many centuries they maintained a flourishing agriculture to
which they paid great attention. The backbone of the nation throughout
its greatest period was the staunch mass of smallholders, each engaged
on cultivating his own farm and only breaking off at intervals to pursue
political matters with great vigour or to fight short summer campaigns
with the utmost zest. In spite of the attractions of the metropolis and
of the wonderful educational influence with which city life shaped law,
thought, and conduct, the rural background was conserved and valued;
religion remained rather rural throughout and never got very much beyond
the peasant outlook. It was the necessity for fighting prolonged foreign
campaigns which destroyed all this. Then came the fatal attractions of
slave labour. The smallholder was tempted or indeed was obliged to
desert his holding for years. Such holdings began to be bought up, for
wealth accumulated from the spoils of the East. Slaves were drafted in
to work these agglomerations of great estates: the evil latifundium,
which means the plantation in its worst form, spread everywhere. The
final phase was reached when tillage was given up for the cheaper
pastoral industry: where there had been countless flourishing homesteads
now ranged great herds of cattle tended by a few nomadic shepherd

This disastrous change, which was deeply deplored by such writers as
Cicero, lasted and, except in northern Italy, was not made good. A few
years ago it was possible to see on a mere day's excursion away from
Rome a wild shepherd tending his sheep over a ruined countryside which
might have been carved out of the most ancient of wildernesses, so
entirely was it denuded of all traces of tillage or of the care of man.
There must have been some profound upsetting of the balanced processes
of Nature to reduce so fertile a country as Italy to such a state and
Nature in revenge has preferred to continue her revolution of the Wheel
on the lowest gear, spreading her marsh, her scrub, and her desert,
where once there were fields and meadows.

Having largely destroyed the food-bearing capacity of the Italian
peninsula, the Romans were forced to feed their swollen cities from
elsewhere. For the dispossessed rural population drifted to the towns,
which became further congested with a great influx of foreigners and
foreign slaves: all had to be fed, and Alexandria and Antioch were
problems no less great than Rome. First Sicily and then North Africa, at
that time great wheat-growing countries, were exhausted. We cannot trace
the process and do not know how much to attribute to a false economy,
how much to the ravages of centuries of war, as wave after wave of
conquerors disputed possession. When these countries reappear after such
cataclysms, Sicily is a wild pastoral country, North Africa, except for
a few coastal tracts and, of course, always Egypt, a desert.


The rest of the continent of Europe was more fortunate. Out of the
lingering shadows of the Roman Empire there finally emerged into
medieval times a system of agriculture which held its own well into the
nineteenth century. Such a long history is an honourable one and we may
agree that this system, that of mixed husbandry, was in many essentials
excellent. Except where a frozen legal system ground down the
cultivator--'trembling peasants gathering piteous harvests'--both the
large farm and the smallholding, the landlord and the tenant, survived
in good health and considerable comfort. Food was abundant and
nourishing, and above all the soil remained in good heart.

The system depended on certain principles. In the first place, animal
husbandry was practiced alongside of the production of vegetable crops:
there was thus a supply of manure. The manure was not made on the most
perfect system. The European manure heap, normally regarded as the
inevitable method of collecting and storing animal wastes, is
nevertheless most inefficient, as will be pointed out in a later chapter
(p. 192). But it has played a prime role in maintaining the fertility of
our continent, although it is wasteful and extravagant, unhealthy, and
unnatural: with the help of the manure heap the return of much of the
wastes of farming was assured to the land.

The use of the cesspit was even less successful and it is not surprising
that water-borne sewage, when once invented, rapidly replaced it:
unfortunately this permitted the final escape of valuable wastes to the
sea. To this came to be added, also in the course of the nineteenth
century, the further loss of all dustbin refuse which, again on the
dictates of the new sanitary science, was destroyed by burning or was
buried in unused tips. Nevertheless, until these modern sewage disposal
methods were developed, it is significant that all material wastes went
back to the soil in however imperfect a way.

A third principle in conserving fertility was the fallow. Arable land
was rested by allowing it to remain idle for a year or for a longer
period by the establishment of a temporary carpet of grass and weeds. A
part at least of the advantage of the bare fallow was the benefit
conferred by the weeds. When laid down to grass for sheep, the green
carpet rapidly deposited a mass of vegetable wastes under the turf
which, with the turf and the animal wastes deposited thereon, provided
all the raw materials for sheet-composting when the land came under the
plough. Both these methods have been employed in European farming for
many centuries and did much to conserve the fertility of the soil.

As long as all these principles governed European farming it could
roughly hold its own, although a slow running down of soil fertility
remained at all times a possibility, as will be seen in the next
chapter. It began to break down seriously with the advent of the
Industrial Revolution. But before dealing with the changes thus brought
about in European agriculture it will be illuminating to examine in
greater detail the story of one people, our own, in terms of the use
made by the community of soil fertility. We shall see that, in spite of
the great and advantageous practices to which we have alluded, soil
fertility was subtly and gradually used up. This has determined much in
our national affairs.



Many accounts of the way the present system of farming in Great Britain
has arisen have been published. The main facts in its evolution from
Saxon times to the present day are well known. Nevertheless, in one
important respect these surveys are incomplete. Nowhere has any attempt
been made to bring out the soil fertility aspect of this history and to
show what has happened all down the centuries to that factor in crop
production and animal husbandry--the humus content of the soil--on which
so much depends. The present chapter should be regarded as an attempt to
make good this omission.


At the time of the Roman invasion most of the island in which we are
living was under forest or marsh: only a portion of the uplands was
under grass or crops: the population was very small. After the conquest
of the country the Romans began to develop it by the creation on the
areas already cleared of an agricultural unit--new to Great
Britain--known as the villa. These villas were large farms under single
ownership run by functionaries each responsible for a particular type of
animal or crop and worked by slave labour. These units followed to some
extent the methods of the latifundia of Italy and were designed for the
production of food for the legions garrisoning the island and those
stationed in Gaul. Wheat--an exhausting crop--was an important item in
Roman agriculture, for the reason that this cereal provided the chief
food (frumentum) of the soldiers. The extent of the export of grain to
Gaul will be evident from the fact that in the reign of the Emperor
Julian no less than 800 wheat ships were sent from Britain to the

The exhaustion of the soils of the island began even before the Roman
occupation. The heavy soil-inverting mould board plough, which
invariably wears out the land, was already in use when the Romans
arrived, and was probably brought by the Belgic tribes who conquered and
settled in the south-eastern part of the country. They lived in
farmsteads and cultivated large open fields. They were highly skilled
agriculturists and exported to Gaul a considerable quantity of their
main product--wheat. This practice was developed by the Roman villas
which followed and in this way the slow exhaustion of the lighter soils
of the downlands of the south-east became inevitable.

After an occupation which lasted some 400 years and which contributed
little or nothing of permanent value to the agriculture of the island
beyond some well-designed roads, the legions evacuated the island and
left the Romanized population to look after itself. This they failed to
do: the country was soon conquered by the Saxon invaders, in the course
of which much destruction of life and property took place. One result
was the creation of a new type of farming.


The settlement of Nordic people in our island is the governing event
both of British history and of British agriculture. The new settlers had
inhabited the belts of land around the Weser and the Elbe and their
first contact with Britain was as raiders; their operations were in the
nature of reconnaissance to ascertain the chances of settlement. The
Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain was a colonization preceded by
conquest, in which the farming system of the Romanized population was,
in the midland area at any rate, destroyed. In the east, south-east, and
western portions of the island some relics of Roman and Celtic methods

Our forefathers brought with them from the opposite shores of the North
Sea their wives, children, livestock, and a complete fabric of village
life. The immigrants, being country folk, wanted to live in rural huts
with their cattle round them and their land nearby, as they did in
Germany. The numerous villages they formed reproduced in all essentials
those they had left behind on the mainland. Our true English villages
are, therefore, not Celtic, are not Roman, but purely and typically

The Roman villas were replaced by a new system of farming--the Saxon
manor--in which the tenants held land in return for service. The lord
and his retainers shared the land, each bound to perform certain duties
determined by custom. The manors took centuries to evolve. By A.D. 800
they had developed into a permanent system which provided the material
for the Domesday Book of the Normans, by which taxation was assessed and
a rigid feudal system became firmly established.


The first general feature that strikes us in early Anglo-Saxon England
is the strip cultivation of the arable land on the open-field system.
This system was a communal agricultural institution started by people
who had to get a living out of the soil. They had progressed as far as
to use the plough and had a common fund of experience. Everyone pursued
the same system of farming. The arrangement of the open fields was,
however, by no means uniform. No fewer than three distinct types arose,
corresponding to as many different influences exerted by people who had
early occupied the country. The large central midland area, stretching
from Durham to the Channel and from Cambridgeshire to Wales, is the
region where Germanic usage prevailed. The south-east was characterized
by the persistence of Roman influence, a circumstance which implies that
the conquest was less destructive there than in the north and west. The
counties of the south-west, north-west, and the north retained Celtic
agrarian usages in one form or another, which is easily understood in
view of the difficulty with which, as we know, these districts were
slowly overpowered by the invaders. The midland area was thus the region
where the Anglo-Saxons were most firmly established and where the
subjugation of the fifth century was most thorough. The Romano-Celtic
people who remained were not numerous enough to preserve any traces of
Roman or Celtic methods of tilling the soil.

Throughout this extensive region a two-field and a three-field system,
or sometimes a mixture of the two, prevailed. This field arrangement was
a custom prevalent in Germany, especially east and south of the Weser.
The chief characteristic of the two-and three-field type of tillage was
the distribution of the parcels of arable land (which made up the
holdings of the customary tenants) equally amongst the two or three
fields. The cropping was so arranged that one field in the two-field
system and two fields in the three-field system were cropped every year,
and thus one-half or one-third of the township's arable land lay fallow
and was used for common grazing--a point which is always emphasized in
the midland system.

Besides the cultivated open fields, for which the best land was always
used, the village lands consisted of grassland for mowing on the wetter
parts, and commons or woodlands on the poorer parts.

Ploughing was the all-important operation of medieval tillage and was
carried out on a co-operative basis, and demanded a team of eight
draught animals yoked to a heavy plough. This, of course, was beyond the
reach of any but the largest and most prosperous tenants. Communal
ploughing in Saxon times was, therefore, inevitable. It was the
difficulty of replacing this communal ploughing that delayed
agricultural progress in many parts of the country.

The open-field system repeated itself for centuries, not only in England
but in a great part of Europe--nations living under very different
conditions, in very different climates, and on very different soils
adopted the open-field system again and again without having borrowed it
from each other. This could not but proceed from some pressing
necessity. The open-field system is communal in its very essence. Every
trait which makes it strange and inconvenient from the point of view of
individualistic interests renders it highly appropriate to a state of
things ruled by communal conceptions--right of common usage--communal
arrangements of ways and time of cultivation. These are the main
features of open-field husbandry and all point to one origin--the
formation in early Anglo-Saxon society of a village community of
shareholders of free and independent growth.

It must be borne in mind that the open-field prevailed during the period
of national formation of the English people and its influence on the
life of the village community must have been very great. The sense of
personal responsibility, which the system of communal work created, made
it a vital factor in the social education of the people.


Open-field farming is, as a rule, balanced: the fertility used up in
growth is made good before the next crop is sown. Compared with our
modern standards, however, the yield is remarkably low and the removal
of fertility by such small crops is made up for by the recuperative
processes operating in the soil (non-symbiotic fixation of nitrogen and
so forth). The surplus of available humus originally left by the forest
is depleted at an early stage and an equilibrium is established, the
yield adjusting itself to the amount of fertility added each year by
natural processes, this in its turn is influenced by climate and methods
of cultivation.

For example, in the peasant cultivation of north-west India at the
present day a perfect balance has been established between losses and
gains of fertility. The village land on which corn crops are grown has
been cultivated for upwards of 2,000 years without manure beyond the
droppings of the livestock during the fallow period between harvest and
the rains. But the Indian cultivators use primitive scratch ploughs and
are most careful not to draw on the reserves of organic material in the
soil, as its texture depends on this. They produce crops entirely on the
current account provided by the annual increments of fertility. The
yield has settled down to 8 maunds (658 lb. per acre) of wheat on
unirrigated land, and 12 maunds (987 lb.) of wheat on irrigated land,
and this yield has been constant for many centuries.

The same processes were operating in the English open fields. The
reserve of humus in the soils originally under forest, which the Saxons
brought into cultivation, was soon used up and the yield was determined
by the annual additions of fertility to the soil by natural means. But
in our cold and sunless climate and on our ill-drained, poorly aerated
soils this is far less than in the semi-tropical conditions of northern

Moreover, and this point must be stressed, the Saxons from the earliest
times used a soil-inverting plough, which has a marked tendency to
exhaust the humus in the soil if provision is not made for the regular
supply of sufficient farmyard manure. In fact, recent experience in many
parts of the world is proving that the continued use of heavy
soil-inverting, tractor-driven implements, without sufficient farmyard
manure to manure the land, promptly leads to catastrophic consequences.

The first recorded references to the mould board plough speak of it in
Gaul, but some authorities quoted by Vinogradoff (The Growth of the
Manor) suggest that it was borrowed by the Germanic people from the
Slavs, and in view of the soil types found in Slav territory this may
easily be so. The evolution of the big plough was due to soil
requirements as settled agricultural life developed in the heavy, moist
soils of north Europe after the forests had been cleared.

The mould board plough determined the lay-out of the open fields. It
divided the arable areas into a succession of lands. It needed a
headland to turn on, and there was a limit to the length of furrow a
team of oxen could plough before needing the relief got by stopping and
turning. This furrow-long or furlong became one of our units of length.
It was usual to keep the land in high ridges running along the slopes to
facilitate surface drainage, an important point in England. The ridges
varied in width according to the nature of the soil. In very heavy clays
they were sometimes no more than three yards wide. In lighter soils they
might be twenty-two yards wide. These ridges may be seen in many places
to-day on grassland which was under the plough in earlier centuries.
From this brief description it will be seen that the open fields
cultivated with the heavy medieval plough were laid out in strips.

The main feature of the heavy mould board plough was its high
penetrating power, and it could be used on the heavier types of soil
where the light scratch plough of the Celts and Italians would be
useless. It thus enabled the cropped area in England to be greatly
extended by the cultivation of the heavy soil of the valleys and plains
which first had to be slowly carved out of the forest. It owed its
superiority to an iron share, a courter, and a wooden mould board so
suitable on wet land. This primitive implement gave us the plough as we
know it to-day. The principle of our modern plough is identical and,
except for the fact that it is now made entirely of iron, it is almost
the same in detail.

The open-field system of the Middle Ages was bound to fail because it
involved burning the candle at both ends and also in the middle. First
the natural recuperation processes in the soil were hampered by low
temperatures and poor soil aeration; second, such supplies of farmyard
manure as were available were by custom mostly bestowed on the lord's
demesne lands, and besides were inadequate because only a portion of the
livestock could be wintered; finally the soil-inverting plough led to
the oxidation of the stores of soil humus faster than it could be
recreated and was bound to wear out the land.


The failure of the open-field system is proved by the low yield of
wheat. All authorities agree that the yield of wheat in England during
the Middle Ages was at a very low level, though it does not appear to
have varied greatly. It may be noted that there was never any question
of complete exhaustion of the wheat-growing land, such as occurred in
Mesopotamia and in the Roman wheat-growing regions of North Africa,
where the soil, owing to over-cropping and in some instances to
over-irrigation aggravated by special climatic conditions, became
sterile and was transformed into desert. This could not so easily happen
in the moist, temperate climate of Great Britain. What happened in the
Middle Ages in England was that the yield of corn was not high enough
for the requirements of the growing social and economic life of the

The material for a quantitative estimate of wheat yields in this period
is necessarily very scanty, but in the case of some large estates
records are available for a considerable period of years of the seed
sown in one year and the grain threshed in the following year, and these
form the basis of the best estimates of medieval yields. Sir William
Beveridge (Economic Journal Supplement, May 1927), using this method,
investigated the yield of wheat for the years 1200 to 1450 on eight
manors, including that of Wargrave, situated in seven different counties
belonging to the Bishop of Winchester. The average yield per acre was
1.17 quarters or 9.36 measured bushels, equivalent to 7.48 bushels of 60
lb. It is to be noted that these estimates were all from demesne lands
which were probably better cultivated and better manured than the land
of the customary tenants. Other authorities confirm these figures.

The figures of yield given above help to account for the changes which
marked the end of the Middle Ages. The amount of food was becoming
insufficient for the growing population. But another factor was steadily
developing, which finally assumed the dimensions of an avalanche and led
to the reform of manorial farming. This was disease, a matter which must
now be discussed.


That the agriculture of the Middle Ages was unable to keep the
population in health was first indicated by the frequent indications of
rural unrest. But these were soon followed by the writing on the wall in
the shape of the Black Death in 1348-9. This outbreak had been preceded
by several years of dearth and pestilence, and it was succeeded by four
visitations of similar disease before the end of the century. During its
ravages it destroyed from one-third to one-half of the population. This
seriously affected the labour supply, which was no longer sufficient to
carry on the traditional methods of manorial farming, already beginning
to be undermined by the growing tendency to replace service by money

Land which could no longer be ploughed had to be laid down to grass and
used for feeding sheep to produce more of the wool so urgently needed in
Flanders and Lombardy. For the new farming the countryside had to be
enclosed: first the lord's demesne and then the area under open fields
began to be laid down to grass. The earth's green carpet not only fed
the sheep, but gave the land a long rest: large reserves of humus were
gradually built up under the turf: the fertility of the soil, which had
been imperceptibly worn out by the mould board plough and the constant
cropping of the manorial system, was gradually restored.

After a long period of rest of a century the land no longer returned
only seven and a half bushels to the acre. The figures given above for
the years 1200 to 1450 may be contrasted with the figures from a farm at
Wargrave from 1612-20: in these years the average was 25.6 bushels of 60
lb. per acre (Beveridge, loc. cit.). In the latter part of the sixteenth
century the general average was eighteen bushels to the acre and even
more. That this significant change was due to the restoration of soil
fertility by humus formation under the turf there can be no doubt.

It is more than probable that the slow regeneration of the soils of this
country, which began after the Black Death, produced other results
besides the improvement of crops and livestock. What of the effect of
the produce of land in good heart on the most important crop of all--men
and women? Were the outstanding achievements of the Tudor period one of
the natural consequences of a restored agriculture? It may well be so.


When increasing population led once more to the breaking up of the
grassland and the farmer returned to tillage, the land, after its long
rest of upwards of a century, was again capable of responding to the
demands made upon it. One result of this experience was an increased
interest in enclosure. Instinct was leading to a search for an economic
arrangement which would prevent soil exhaustion from being repeated in
succeeding ages. Enclosed farms offered a solution, as they gave the
farmer the chance of keeping his land in good condition by individual
management in place of the easy-going farming of the open fields of old
English village agriculture. They also offered to the enclosed farmer
the opportunity of composting his straw in his cattle yards and
producing as much farmyard manure as possible. This, in most cases, he
did, and the plan succeeded.

Nevertheless, the ancient open-field tillage husbandry had had in its
favour the authority of long tradition--a potent force with a suspicious
and conservative peasantry. The peasant asked himself: In the case of a
readjustment of holdings would not the strong profit and the weak
suffer? There grew up a popular prejudice against enclosure and the
improvement of the common fields, but in the end, after some centuries
of contest, enclosure won.

The form which the enclosure movement took before it was completed was
due to the peculiar form of government which came in with the English
Revolution of 1688. By that event the landed gentry became supreme. The
national and local administration was entirely in their hands, and land,
being the foundation of social and political influence, was eagerly
sought by them. They not unnaturally wished to direct the enclosure
movement into channels which were in the interests of their estates. But
in doing so they made some of the most outstanding contributions to
farming ever made in our history.

The restoration of soil fertility which resulted from enclosure had a
profound influence on both livestock and crops. The provision of more
and better forage and fodder which followed the cultivation of clover
and artificial grasses, coupled with the popularization of the turnip
crop by Townshend in 1730, opened the door for the continuous
improvement of livestock by pioneers like Bakewell. The result was that
our livestock improved in size and in the quality of the meat. Between
1710 and 1795 the weights of cattle sold at Smithfield more than
doubled. By 1795 beeves weighed 800 lb. as compared with 370 lb.; sheep
went up from 28 lb. to 80 lb. The improvement in the yield of cereals
was no less significant. That of rye or wheat rose from 6-8 bushels to
the acre in the Middle Ages to 15-20 bushels; barley yielded up to 36
bushels, oats 32-40 bushels. All this was due to more and better food
for the livestock and more manure for the land. More manure raised
larger crops: larger crops supported much bigger flocks and herds.

Another change in the countryside accompanied the enclosures. The
forests, which since Saxon times had been gradually cleared and
converted into manorial lands, had by this process become exhausted.
After the Civil War it was realized that the country was running short
of the hardwoods needed for maintaining the fleet and for buildings and
so forth. An era of tree planting, which continued for two hundred
years, was inaugurated by the publication of Evelyn's Sylva in 1678. It
was during this period that the English landscape as we know it to-day
was created by the judicious laying out of parks, artificial lakes,
groups of trees, and woods. All this planting provided an important
factor in the maintenance of soil fertility. The roots of the trees and
the hedges combed the subsoil for minerals, embodied these in the fallen
leaves and other wastes of the trees and shrubs, and so helped to
maintain the humus in the soil, as well as the circulation of minerals.
The roots also acted as subsoil ploughs and aerating agencies. The
cumulative effect of the trees and hedges, which accompanied enclosure,
in maintaining soil fertility has passed almost unnoticed. Nevertheless,
its importance in humus production and in the availability of minerals
must be considerable.

While the policy of enclosure, combined with tree-planting and the
creation of the existing English landscape, arrested the fall in soil
fertility which was inherent in the open-field system, the freedom of
action which followed enclosure afforded full scope to the improver. The
restoration of British agriculture owes much to the pioneers among the
landlords themselves, particularly to Coke of Holkham (1776-1816), who
did much to introduce the Norfolk four-course system--(1) turnips, (2)
barley, (3) seeds (clover and rye grass), (4) wheat--into general
practice and so to achieve at long last an approach to Nature's law of
return. Besides his championship of the Norfolk four-course system, his
achievements include the conversion of 2,000,000 acres of waste into
well-farmed and productive land, the prevention of famine in England
during the Napoleonic Wars, the solution of the rural labour problem in
his locality by means of a fertile soil, the demonstration of the
principle that money well laid out in land improvement is an excellent
investment. He invested half a million sterling in his own property and
thereby raised the rent roll of his estate from 2,200 pounds a year to
20,000 pounds. He transformed agriculture in this country by the simple
process of first writing his message on the land and then, by means of
his famous sheep-shearing meetings, bringing it to the notice of the
farming community.

But the replacement of the manorial system by individual farming in
fenced fields was attended by some grave disadvantages. The large
profits obtained from the sale of wool, for example, while they enriched
the few, led to a new conception of agriculture. The profit motive began
to rule the farmer; farming ceased to be a way of life and soon became a
means of enrichment. Enterprising individuals were afforded considerable
scope for using their farms to make money. At the same time, large
numbers of less fortunate individuals deprived of their land had either
to work for wages or seek a living in the towns.

The various Enclosure Acts, which covered a period of more than 600
years, 1235-1845, therefore led to a new agriculture, the enthronement
of the profit motive in the national life, and to the exploitation of
coal, iron, and minerals, which is customarily referred to as the
Industrial Revolution. This arose from the activities of the tradesmen
of the manor, whose calling was destroyed by the Enclosure Acts.

The last of the Enclosure Acts, which finally put an end to the strip
system of the open fields, was passed in 1845. About the same time the
celebrated Broadbalk wheat plots of the Rothamsted Experimental Station
were laid out. This field is divided into permanent parallel strips and
cultivated on even more rigid lines than anything to be found in the
annals of manorial farming. These plots never enjoy the droppings of
livestock: till recently they never had the benefit of the annual rest
provided by a fallow. Practically every agricultural experiment station
all over the world has copied Rothamsted and adopted the strip system of
cultivation. How can such experiments, based on an obsolete method of
farming, ever hope to give a safe lead to practice? How can the higher
mathematics and the ablest statistician overcome such a fundamental
blunder in the original planning of these trials?

The strip system has also been adopted for the allotments round our
towns and cities without any provision whatsoever on the part of the
authorities to maintain the land in good heart by such obvious and
simple expedients as subsoiling, followed by a rest under grass grazed
by sheep or cattle, ploughing up, and sheet-composting the vegetable
residues. Land under allotments should not be under vegetables for more
than five years at a time; this should be followed by a similar period
under grass and livestock.


The released initiative which accompanied the collapse of the manorial
system was by no means confined to the restoration of soil fertility and
the development of the countryside. The dispossessed craftsmen started
all kinds of industries, in which they used as labour-saving devices
first water power, then the steam engine, the internal combustion
engine, and finally electrical energy. By these agencies the Industrial
Revolution, which continues till this day, was set in motion. It has
influenced farming in many directions. In the first place, industries
have encroached on and seriously reduced the area under cultivation. But
by far the most important demand of the Industrial Revolution was the
creation of two new hungers--the hunger of a rapidly increasing urban
population and the hunger of its machines. Both needed the things raised
on the land: both have seriously depleted the reserves of fertility in
our soils. Neither of these hungers has been accompanied by the return
of the respective wastes to the land. Instead, vast sums of money were
spent in completely side-tracking these wastes and preventing their
return to the land which so sadly needed them. Much ingenuity was
devoted to developing an effective method of removing the human wastes
to the rivers and seas. These finally took the shape of our present-day
water-borne sewage system. The contents of the dustbins of house and
factory first found their way into huge dumps and then into incinerators
or into refuse tips sealed by a thin covering of cinders or soil.

At first the additional demands for food and raw materials were met by
the restored agriculture and the periodical ploughing up of grass. One
of these demands was the vast quantities of corn needed to feed the
urban population. The price of wheat was regulated for more than 150
years by a series of Corn Laws, which attempted to hold the balance
between the claims of the farmers who produced the grain and those of
the consumers and the industrialists who advocated cheap food for their
workers, so that they could export their produce at a profit. But as the
urban population expanded, the pressure on the fertility of the soil
increased until, in 1845, a disastrous harvest and the potato famine
compelled the Government in 1846 to yield. The 'rain rained away' the
Corn Laws (Prothero).

Deprived of protection, farmers were forced to adopt new methods and to
farm intensively. Many developments in farming occurred. Particular
attention was paid to drainage: the first drain pipe was made in 1843;
two years later the pipes were turned out by a machine. Liebig's famous
essay in 1843 drew attention to the importance of manures, While better
farm buildings and the preparation of better farmyard manure were
adopted, two fatal mistakes were made. Artificial manures like nitrate
of soda and superphosphate came into use: imported feeding stuffs for
livestock began to take the place of home-grown food. British farming,
in adopting these two expedients, because they appeared for the moment
to be profitable, laid the foundations of much future trouble But in the
use of better implements for the land and the provision of improved
transport facilities the countryside was on firmer ground. The result of
all these and other developments was a period of great prosperity for
farming which lasted till late in the seventies of the last century.


Then the blow fell. The year 1879, which I remember so vividly, was one
of the wettest and coldest on record. The average yield of wheat fell to
about fifteen bushels to the acre: large numbers of sheep and cattle
were destroyed by disease: the price of wheat fell to an undreamt-of
level as the result of large importations from the virgin lands of the
New World. The great depression of 1879 not only ruined many farmers,
but it dealt the industry a mortal blow. Farmers were compelled to meet
a new set of conditions--impossible from the point of view of the
maintenance of soil fertility--which have been more or less the rule
till the Great War of 1914-18 and the World War which began in 1939
provided a temporary alleviation as far as the sale of produce and
satisfactory prices were concerned.

Since 1879 the standard of real farming in this country has steadily
fallen. The labour force, particularly the supply of men with experience
of and sympathy with livestock, markedly diminished and deteriorated in
quality. Rural housing left much to be desired. Drainage was sadly
neglected. The small hill farms, which are essential for producing
cattle possessing real bone and stamina, fell on evil days. Our flocks
of folded sheep, so essential for the upkeep of downland, dwindled.
Diseases like foot-and-mouth, tuberculosis, mastitis, and contagious
abortion became rampant. Less and less attention was paid to the care of
the manure heap and to the maintenance of the humus content of the soil.
The NPK mentality (p. 77) replaced the muck mentality of our fathers and
grandfathers. Murdered bread, deprived of the essential germ, replaced
the real bread of the last century and seriously lowered the efficiency
of our rural population. The general well-being of our flocks and herds
fell far below that of some of our overseas competitors like the

But in this dark picture some rays of light could be detected. The
pioneers were busy demonstrating important advances. Among these two are
outstanding: (1) the Clifton Park system of farming based on
deep-rooting plants in the grass carpet, and (2) the use of the
subsoiler for breaking up pans under arable and grass, and so preparing
the ground for another great advance--the mechanized organic farming of


Such, generally speaking, was the condition of British agriculture in
September 1939, when the second world war began and the submarine menace
for the second time brought national starvation into the picture. What
an opportunity was provided for a Coke of Norfolk for making use of a
portion of the resources of a great nation to set British farming on its
feet for all time by the simple expedient of restoring and maintaining
soil fertility! What an opening was given to the pioneers of human
nutrition and the apostles of preventive medicine for feeding the men
and women defending the country on the fresh produce of fertile soil and
so initiating the greatest food reform in our history! But the potential
Cokes of Norfolk had been liquidated or discouraged by many years of
death duties, which had destroyed most of our agricultural capital and
deprived the countryside of its natural leaders who, in years gone by,
had done so much for farming. The apostles of real nutrition and of
preventive medicine, such as the panel doctors of Cheshire, were

A much easier road was taken. The vast stores of fertility, which had
accumulated after the long rest under grass, were cashed in and
converted into corn crops. The seed so obtained saved the population
from starvation, but most of the resulting straw could not be used
because of the shortage of labour to handle it and of insufficient
cattle to convert it into humus. The grow-more-food policy was,
therefore, based on the exhaustion of the soil's capital. It is a
perfect example of unbalanced farming. It is therefore certain to sow
the seeds of future trouble, which will be duly registered by Mother
Earth in the form of malnutrition and disease of crops, livestock, and



One of the developments which marks off the modern world is the growth
of population. The figures are startling. There were about nine hundred
million persons living during the eighteenth century, but over two
thousand million at the beginning of the twentieth; in a century and a
half world population, therefore, more than doubled. The principal
increases took place in Europe.

The first effect of this is obvious--there were many more mouths to
feed. Had no other changes accompanied this rise in population, we can
guess what might have happened. The density of the peoples in rural
Europe might have rivalled that in peasant China, and European
agriculture would either have had to evolve methods of intensive
cultivation similar to those of the Chinese or the additional population
could not have survived.

Fate or their own ingenuity has sent the Western nations along another
path. The picture has become quite different from that of the Far East
and a very remarkable picture it is. We are so accustomed to it that we
scarcely grasp the anomalies which it represents or the dangers into
which it is leading us.


The new populations did not, as a matter of fact, remain in Europe in
their entirety. The Western peoples reached forth and put themselves in
possession of vast areas of virgin soil in North America, Australia, New
Zealand, and South Africa. Naturally agriculture became extensive, which
word means that the cultivator prefers to get a smaller volume of
produce per acre off a larger area rather than a great deal from a
smaller area more intensively worked. The tracts seized were so enormous
that each settler had at his disposal not a tiny piece of ground from
which to raise as much produce as possible, but a huge section--running
into hundreds of acres for the growing of crops, into thousands for the
raising of cattle or sheep. The amount of human effort to be put into
each acre became indeed the crucial question--in contrast with Europe
the new populations were thin and a thin population means few hands, and
few hands can do little manual work. The first significant fact we have
to note is the uneven distribution of the enlarged population as between
the old and the new countries.

It was in these circumstances that the machine came to the help of
agriculture The outcome of the use of machines in farming was
revolutionary; this is not always realized. Five men working with the
most modern combine (So called because it is a machine combining cutting
and threshing. A header is another form of the combine.) can harvest and
thresh fifty acres of wheat in the same number of hours as would require
320 persons working with old-fashioned hand tools; two men working with
a header can replace 200 working with sickles; other calculations show
for certain specified jobs only one-twentieth or even only one-eightieth
of the amount of human labour formerly employed. (Howard, Louise E.,
Labour in Agriculture (Oxford University Press and Royal Institute of
International Affairs, 1935), pp. 244-5). If these particular
calculations apply exclusively to the easier processes of crop
cultivation and reaping, it may also be pointed out that the cream
separator and machine milking have effected a dramatic augmentation of
the dairy industry by saving human labour.

We have reason to be grateful to those who invented the powerful devices
which made possible these results. The food which has fed the great
populations of Western civilization has been, in part, machine-produced
food; without these machines such populations must have starved. But
there is another side to the picture. The ease with which agriculture
was mechanized was in itself a temptation and this temptation the
Western nations have not been able to withstand. It has seemed so easy
to provide enough food with comparatively little human labour, and not
only this, but also to supply with raw materials those other machines,
industrial in character and situated in manufacturing districts, which
have been the invention of an ingenuity even more refined than has gone
to the making of the agricultural harvester or combine. From these
machines, continuously fed with the wool, cotton, silk, jute, hemp,
sisal, rubber, timber, and the oil seeds of the whole world, has flowed
a vast stream of industrial articles which have been at the disposal of
all and which have given a quite special character to our modern

The result has been inevitable. The hunger of the urban populations and
the hunger of the machines has become inordinate. The land has been
sadly overworked to satisfy all these demands which steadily increase as
the years pass.

Not even the power of the machine would have been sufficient to feed and
supply the immense populations of the nineteenth century, had it not
been for the vast natural capital in the shape of the humus stored in
the soils or the new continents now opened up. The general exploitation
of these soils did not take place until the nineteenth century was well
on its way. Then the settlers who had poured westwards in North America,
trekked northwards from the coast of South Africa, landed by the
boatload in the harbours of New Zealand and Australia, set themselves to
exploit this natural wealth with zest: they were eager to follow the
covered wagon and to draw the plough over the prairies where once only
herds of bison had roamed. Meanwhile in South and Central America,
Ceylon, Assam, South India, the Dutch East Indies, and East Africa the
plantation system, already known in the eighteenth century in the West
Indies, took on a magnitude and an aspect which made it a new
phenomenon. From all these sources immense volumes of food and raw
materials reached Europe in such abundance that no one stopped to ask
whether the stream could continue for ever.

Yet all these processes were almost pure harvesting, a mere interception
and conversion of Nature's reserves into another form. It is true the
land was tilled after a fashion, cultivated and sown, though in such
industries as timber and rubber not even that, the ancient riches of the
forest being for many years merely plundered. But whatever cultivation
processes were undertaken did not amount to much more than a slight,
necessary disturbance of those rich stores of accumulated humus which
Nature had for hundreds of years been collecting under the prairie or
the forest. So enormous were these reserves that the land bore crop
after crop without faltering. In such regions as the great wheat belt of
North America fifty years of wealth was available and the farmer knew
well how to dig into these riches.

The phrase mining the land is now recognized as a very accurate
description of what takes place when the human race flings itself on an
area of stored fertility and uses it up without thought of the future.
In the mid-nineteenth century this began to take place on an
unprecedented scale. For if agriculture was, so to say, the nurse of
industry, she was persuaded to learn one salient lesson from her
nursling. This was the lesson of the profit motive.


Of course, ever since the decay and final collapse of the Feudal System,
when service steadily gave place to rents, European agriculture has been
working for profit; it was already in Tudor times a feature of the
British wool trade which preceded and followed enclosure; the great
English agricultural pioneers of the eighteenth century were also
perfectly alive to the question of the monetary return for their
reforms. Indeed, as soon as any harvest is sold rather than consumed,
the question of profit must arise. The problem is one of degree and
emphasis. Is profit to be the master? Is it to direct and tyrannize over
the aims of the farmer? Is it to distort those aims and make them injure
the farmer's way of living? Is it to be pushed even further and to make
him forgetful of the conditions laid down for the cultivation of the
earth's surface, so that he actually comes to defy those great natural
laws which are the very foundation and origin of all that he attempts?
If this is so, then the profit principle has outrun its usefulness: it
has been dragged from its allotted niche in the world's economy, set on
a high altar, and worshipped as a golden calf.

At first sight the profit motive does not seem to have taken modern
farming very far. The farmers of the new countries opened up in the
nineteenth century did not make vast fortunes. Perhaps in sheep farming
and without doubt in the plantation industries large money was at one
time made. But on the whole the monetary rewards of the new farming were
not impressive. They never bore comparison with the colossal fortunes
which nineteenth-century manufacture produced for the factory owner.
Unlike the cotton spinner, the North American farmer did not exchange
his shack for a huge and luxurious mansion. He remains to this day a
dirt farmer, and is proud to call himself so, in close contact with his
work and doing it with his own hands. It is, therefore, not easy to
grasp that without great personal wealth and with no harmful intentions
he was, nevertheless, a true despoiler, and that in so far as the
occupation on which he was engaged is the first occupation in the world,
while the means which he handled--the soil--is the most sacred of all
trusts, he did more harm in his two or three generations than might be
thought possible.

The ease with which crops could be grown year after year on new soil
tempted the farmer to forget the law about restoring that fertility
which he was rapidly using up in his farming operations. The soil
responded again and again. Crop after crop of wheat was raised. Labour,
as we have seen, was scarce and animals require much knowledge and much
attention. As manure did not seem to be required, animals were
discarded. Thus the straw could not be rotted down and the normal
practice was to burn it off where it stood. In effect this was to repeat
that old wasteful practice of the primitive shifting cultivator who
renders the tropical forest into ash: in both cases a potentially rich
organic matter was reduced to the inert inorganic phase and so deprived
of its duty to the soil population. In short, the old mixed husbandry,
which had maintained Europe and which not long before the settlers
migrated had been so notably improved as really to achieve something
approaching a balance of the processes of growth and decay, was never
brought across the waters--its principles slipped from the settler's
mind: he was unaware of his loss.


The result of the exploitation of the soil has been the destruction of
soil fertility on a colossal scale. This has taken place in the areas to
which we have been referring at different rates over different periods
and in response to various factors. The net result of a century's
mismanagement in the United States was summed up in 1937 as either the
complete or partial destruction of the fertility of over 250,000,000
acres, i.e. 61 per cent of the total area under crops: three-fifths of
the original agricultural capital of this great country has been
forfeited in less than a century. But New Zealand where a systematic
burning of the rich forest to form pasture which in its turn was soon
exhausted, parts of Africa where overstocking has ruined much natural
grazing, Ceylon where a criminal failure to follow the native practice
of terracing for rice has denuded the mountain slopes of their glorious
forest humus, would probably show consequences just as startling. Almost
everywhere the same dismal story could be related.

When stockbreeding in its turn began to offer strong monetary
inducements, especially in Australia and New Zealand in the 1880's and
1890's, another phase set in. Animals were kept in enormous
numbers--some sheep runs owned hundreds of thousands of sheep--but scant
regard was paid to their nurture; the natural herbage, untouched for
centuries, was counted upon and as long as the humus held out such
specialized animal husbandry could continue. But when the stores of
humus were worked out, trouble began. Disease appeared. Inevitable
accidents, especially drought, brought utter disaster: there was
colossal mortality. No doubt Nature is prepared for such waste: but man
is not. It is a setback for him. The right provision against such
emergencies would have been a reserve of fodder in the form of
cultivated roots or hay, for drought kills not so much by want of water
as by starvation. But as crops were not grown alongside of the animals,
there were no such reserves, while the natural remedy of wandering to a
new pasture, which might have mitigated the catastrophe for the much
smaller numbers of wild animals, was no longer possible. Thousands of
sheep or cattle therefore perished: the profit motive had become a

As the years have passed, the toll of animal disease has become so
severe that Governments feel obliged to compute it statistically and
grasp at all remedies. The figures rival in their intrinsic importance
the figures of erosion. Actually it is the same bad effect in each case:
we are looking at the results of mono-crop farming so called.

Let us recall our examination of the methods of Nature. We had noted
among other things that her mechanisms for dispelling and scattering
seeds were singularly perfect. Is it not obvious that Nature refuses to
grow on any one spot the same crop without other intermixtures? Some
aggregation of identical plants may take place: so does some collection
of animal life: Nature knows the herd, the swarm--these are her own
inventions, but they are set to carry out their lives in a mixed
environment of other existences. It is to be noted that in the case of
animals their natural range is great, involving change of habitat. It is
also, perhaps, worth pondering over that when Nature does breed in one
locality a large number of the same animals, these aggregations are
particularly liable to be decimated by such diseases as she chooses to
introduce; it is as though she herself repented of this principle of
aggregation and in her own ruthless way chose for the time being to
terminate it. But allowing for these slight modifications, the general
economy of Nature is mixed in an extraordinary way. Her sowings and
harvestings are intermingled to the last degree, not only spatially, but
in succession of time, each plant seizing its indicated opportunity to
catch at the nutrient elements in air, earth, or water, and then giving
place to another, while some phases of all these growing things and of
the animals, birds, and parasites which feed on them are going on
together all the time. Thus the prairie, the forest, the moor, the
marsh, the river, the lake, the ocean include in their several ways an
interweaving of existences which is a dramatic lesson; in their lives,
as in their decay and death, beasts and plants are absolutely
interlocked. Above all, never does Nature separate the animal and
vegetable worlds. This is a mistake she cannot endure, and of all the
errors which modern agriculture has committed this abandonment of mixed
husbandry has been the most fatal.

It would be to distort the picture unfairly if we were to assume that
these mistakes were to be found only in the farming of the new
countries. That was by no means the case. The thirst for profit
profoundly affected European husbandry also. The yield became
everything; quality was sacrificed for quantity. The merest glance at
any recent set of agricultural statistics will reveal how wholly this
factor of quantity is now insisted upon, indeed is made a boast. Rises
in the yield of cereals per acre are everlastingly cited; yields of milk
per cow become an obsession. There is, no doubt, virtue in increased
volume of produce; it is the aim of agriculture to produce largely, and
such increase is useful to mankind. But if the profit and loss account
is made to look brilliant merely because capital has been transferred
and then regarded as dividend, what business is sound?


The using up of fertility is a transfer of past capital and of future
possibilities to enrich a dishonest present: it is banditry pure and
simple. Moreover, it is a particularly mean form of banditry because it
involves the robbing of future generations which are not here to defend

It is, perhaps, not realized over what distances the transfer of
fertility can now take place. This final aspect is an unforeseen
consequence of the vast improvement in means of communication. It is not
necessary for the modern farmer to cash in his own fertility to make a
good income; he has a more subtle means at hand. Before the present
world war the telephone farmer, as he was sometimes called, had merely
to ring up his agent and the needed quantity of imported foodstuffs,
oil-cakes, or whatever it may be, was delivered by lorry the next
morning. It was claimed that the dung of his animals was thereby
enriched and that whatever fields he condescended to cultivate were thus
improved. This is true. But what does it amount to? Merely that the
accumulated fertility of those distant regions of the earth which have
produced the materials for the oil-cake is being robbed in order to
bolster up a worn-out European soil: the same bad process of exhaustion
is going on, but at the moment so far away that it can be temporarily
ignored. On such a system of imported foodstuffs the whole of the dairy
industry of Denmark was built up. The Danish farmer was not carrying on
agriculture at all: he was devoting himself to a mere finishing process
and what he built up was a conversion industry. It is an astonishing
sidelight that before the present war the Danish farmer frequently sold
his good butter to the London market and bought the cheaper margarine
for his children's use. The pursuit of profit had invaded not only his
farming methods but his way of life and had even encroached on the
health and well-being of his family.

The transfer of fertility to current account, as it were, has not
ceased: soil erosion and the toll of animal disease continue. Two recent
writers calculate that erosion is even now proceeding 'at a rate and on
a scale unparalleled in history': between 1914 and 1934, they declare,
more soil was lost to the world than in all the previous ages of
mankind, (Jacks, G. V. and Whyte, R. O., The Rape of the Earth Faber and
Faber, London, 1939.) while a host of learned papers are evidence that
new diseases of stock are being discovered day after day, baffling both
farmer and veterinary surgeon.

The remedy is simple. We must look at our present civilization as a
whole and realize once and for all the great principle that the
activities of homo sapiens, which have created the machine age in which
we are now living, are based on a very insecure basis--the surplus food
made available by the plunder of the stores of soil fertility which are
not ours but the property of generations yet to come. In a thoughtful
article by Mr. H. R. Broadbent recently published in the Contemporary
Review (December 1943, pp. 361-4) this aspect of progress is discussed
and the conclusion is reached that:

'The whole world has shared, either directly or indirectly, with the
United States and British Commonwealth of Nations in the use of the
surplus from the eroded lands. It has enabled us to build up our
engineering knowledge and technique. Our buildings, engines, and
machinery are material evidence of its consumption; but the foundation
has been impoverishment of the soil. The food was cheap--the products
were cheap because the fertility of the land was neglected. We in
England have often been puzzled by the arrival of cheap goods when it
was known that high wages were paid to the makers. We had not seen the
land which had produced not only the food for those makers, but also the
organic material which they processed. . . . We had not seen the gullies
torn out from the land by unabsorbed rains and melting snows. We had not
seen the dust storms of the wind seeping out the goodness from the soils
and carrying it hundreds of miles from its old resting place. When we
look on Battersea Power Station or our reclaimed land, the great
railroads of the United States or London's Underground, or consider such
wonders as the general use of electricity and mechanical transport, the
spread of broadcasting and mass-production of clothes, we must also see
the devastated lands which have yielded the surplus to make them
possible. These things in which we take pride were built on an
unbalanced surplus, the unmaintained capital of the soil. No country can
continue indefinitely to provide food and material at such a cost. Under
extraordinary conditions, as in war, the land must be driven beyond the
normal to provide an extravagant surplus. But war is abnormal, and the
normality at which we aim is peace which implies stability of
foundations. Raymond Gram Swing broadcast that at the rate of soil and
water depletion occurring when the 1934 survey was made in fifty years
the fertile soil of the United States would be one-quarter of what was
present originally, and that in a hundred years at the same rate of
depletion the American continent would turn into another Sahara. Perhaps
he was thinking of other civilizations buried in the sands; the ruins of
ancient towns and villages in the Gobi desert, Palestine, and
Mesopotamia. Perhaps he feared the fate of the country north of the
Nigerian boundary, where an area as large as the Union of South Africa
has become depopulated in the last two hundred years. Perhaps he
remembered the malaria-ridden marshes of Greece and Rome which came with
the decline of their agricultural population and loss of vigour.'


What is the outcome of our arguments? We started our investigations by
considering the operations of Nature and continued them by summarizing
human action in relation to those operations. It is our actions, when
confronted with forms of natural wealth, which have shaped the modern
world in its economic, financial, and political contours. The
harvesting, distribution, and use of natural resources is the first
condition which determines human societies.

The supplies provided by Nature are the starting point for everything.
Primitive societies have to adapt themselves to what supplies lie
readily to hand; they sometimes use severe processes of self-correction,
e.g. infanticide, in order to do so. But a further stage is usually
reached. Nature's supplies are not static; they appear as actual
surpluses, and by a bold use of these surpluses societies emerge from
the primitive stage. This use later becomes crystallized as the profit

To eliminate this would be impossible. In advanced societies it would be
a retrograde step. The profit motive, however far it may have led us
astray, is founded on physical realities. It is wiser to go back to
those realities, reconsider them, and seek any necessary correction from
a better understanding of them.

What are the exact conditions attaching to the creation of the surpluses
which Nature accumulates?

In spite of the fact that we speak of her lavishness, Nature is not
really luxurious: she works on very small margins. Natural surpluses are
made up of minute individual items: the amount contributed by each plant
or animal is quite tiny: it is the additive total which impresses us.
The further result is that the gross amounts of these surpluses are not
disproportionate to their environment: harvests are only a small part of
natural existences.

The farmer is apt to disregard these facts. His object is to produce
more. It pays him to select a smaller number of plants or animals and
make each of these produce more intensively: he counts on the elasticity
of Nature. If he kept his harvests to the very small proportions usual
in wild existences, his farming would be exceedingly laborious and
scarcely worth while: farming improves in proportion to the extra
amounts which the cultivator manages to elicit by stimulating rates and
intensities of growth. Up to a point he can do this with safety. After
that Nature refuses to help him: she simply kills off the
over-stimulated existence. Her elasticity is great, but it is not

Here we may find our principal warning. The pursuit of quantity at all
costs is dangerous in farming. Quantity should be aimed at only in
strict conformity with natural law, especially must the law of the
return of all wastes to the land be faithfully observed. In other words,
a firm line needs to be drawn between a legitimate use of natural
abundance and exploitation.

Modern opinion is now set against all forms of exploitation. The
limitation of money dividends, the disciplining of capital investments
have begun. Undertaken originally only from the point of view of
economic order, then continued for political and national motives, these
measures bear in themselves further possibilities; it would be easy to
give them wide moral significance.

In agriculture, which is so much more fundamental than industrial
economics, the field is still uncharted. The agricultural expert still
holds out the ideal of quantity as the highest aim. Helpless under this
leadership, the farmer has first himself been exploited and has then
almost automatically become an exploiter. A vicious round has been set
up, resistance to which is only just showing itself.

The first pressure has been the pressure of urban demand. This pressure
is of long standing and has been very greedy. It has been exercised in
strange contradiction to another tendency: while the farmer was asked to
produce more, the man-power needed for greater production was enticed
away to the cities, there to add to the number of mouths to be fed. The
farmer was always being asked to do more with less man-power to do it.
This absurdity has not passed unnoticed. Severe criticisms have been
enunciated; everyone would agree to any reasonable measures to restore
the balance of population. That the balance of physical resources has
also been disturbed is only just beginning to be realized. The
transference of the wealth of the soil to the towns in the shape of
immense supplies of food and raw materials has not been made good by a
return of town wastes to the country. This return is a sine qua non and
should at all costs include the crude sewage, which is by no means
impossible even with modern systems of drainage. If this can be
arranged, the existence of cities will cease to be a menace:
exploitation will stop, legitimate use will return. Nevertheless, it
will always be important to exercise some control over the volume of
urban demand, probably by some restrictions on the size of the urban
community, which means some restrictions on the launching of new
industries or the expansion of old ones. However far off this sort of
control may seem at the present time, it must at some future date rank
among the preoccupations of the statesman. Otherwise there will never be
any protection for the farming world from the incredible demand for

It has been under the pressure of this insatiable demand that the farmer
has himself become an exploiter: in two ways. Having exhausted the
possibilities of production from his own fields, he has actually had the
temerity to transfer to those fields the stored-up natural wealth,
representing centuries of accumulation, lying many thousand miles away.
The importation of feeding stuffs, of guanos and manures of all kinds
from distant parts of the world to intensify European farming is only
robbery on a vast scale. It is not necessary to claim that every
national agriculture must be completely self-contained: this would be a
great pity. But the tide has been all one way. While from the economic
and financial point of view the return flow of manufactured goods is
supposed to be a quid pro quo, from the point of view of ultimate
realities this type of return is perfectly useless. The draining away of
natural fertility from tropical and sub-tropical regions is exceedingly
dangerous. It is a point on which the peoples of these regions may later
come to put a colossal question to the conscience of the so-called
civilized countries: Why has the stored-up wealth of our lands been
taken away to distant parts of the world which offer us no means of
replacing it?

Even this dangerous expedient has been insufficient. Faced with the
demand for higher yields, the farmer has grasped at the most desperate
of all methods: he has robbed the future. He has provided the huge
output demanded of him, but only at the cost of cashing in the future
fertility of the land he cultivates. In this he has been the rather
unwilling, but also the rather blind, pupil of an authority he has been
taught to respect: the pundits of science have urged him to go forward
and have made it a matter of boasting that they have done so. How this
has come about will be described in our next chapter.



It was Francis Bacon who first observed that any species of plants
impoverished the soil of the particular elements which they needed, but
not necessarily of those required by other species. This true
observation might have put subsequent investigators on the right path
had their general knowledge of scientific law been less fragmentary. As
it was, many ingenious guesses were made in the course of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as to the nurture and growth of
plants, some near the truth, some wide of the mark. Confusedly it began
to be recognized that plants draw their food from several sources and
that water, earth, air, and sunlight all contribute. Priestley's
discovery of oxygen towards the end of the eighteenth century opened up
a new vista and the principles of plant assimilation soon came to be
firmly established, by which is meant the fact that under the influence
of light the green leaves absorb carbon-dioxide, break it up, retaining
the carbon and emitting the oxygen (hence their purifying effect on the
atmosphere)--what is more delicious than the air of the forest, garden,
or field?--while without light, i.e. during the night-time, plants
reverse the process and emit carbon-dioxide. Though the investigation of
the parallel processes of root respiration, i.e. the use made by the
roots of the oxygen available from the soil-air or the soil-solution,
did not follow until a good deal later, yet the foundations of knowledge
about the life of plants were at least thus laid on sound lines.


It was at this juncture that a special direction was given to
investigation by Liebig. Liebig is counted the pioneer of agricultural
chemistry. His Chemistry in Its Application to Agriculture, contributed
to the British Association in 1840, was the starting point of this new
science. His inquiries into general organic chemistry were so vast and
so illuminating that scientists and farmers alike naturally yielded to
the influence of his teaching. His views throughout his life remained
those of a chemist and he vigorously combated the so-called humus
theory, which attributed the nourishment of plants to the presence of
humus. At that time the soil in general and the humus in it were looked
on as mere collections of material without organic growth of their own;
there was no conception of their living nature and no knowledge whatever
of fungous or bacterial rganisms, of which humus is the habitat. Liebig
had no difficulty in disproving the role of humus when presented in this
faulty way as dead matter almost insoluble in water. He substituted for
it a correct appreciation of the chemical and mineral contents of the
soil and of the part these constituents play in plant nourishment.

This was a great advance, but it was not noticed at the time that only a
fraction of the facts had been dealt with. To a certain extent this
narrowness was corrected when Darwin in 1882 published The Formation of
Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations of Their
Habits, a book founded on prolonged and acute observation of natural
life. The effect of this study was to draw attention to the
extraordinary cumulative result of a physical turnover of soil particles
by natural agents, particularly earthworms. It was a salutary return to
the observation of the life of the soil and has the supreme merit of
grasping the gearing together of the soil itself and of the creatures
who inhabit it. Darwin's book, based as it is on a sort of experimental
nature study, established once for all this principle of interlocked
life and, from this point of view, remains a landmark in the
investigation of the soil.

Meanwhile Pasteur had started the world along the path of appreciating
the marvellous existence of the microbial populations traceable
throughout the life of the universe, unseen by our eyes but discoverable
to the microscope. The effect of his investigations has been immense;
enormous new fields of science have been opened up. The application of
this knowledge to agriculture was only gradual. Many years slipped by
before it was realized that the plants and animals, whose life histories
are based ultimately on living protoplasm, have their counterparts in
vast families and groups of miscroscopic flora and fauna in the very
earth on which we tread.

It thus came about that the chemical aspects of the soil for a long time
predominated in the mind of the scientist. The theory had had a good
start, it was older and naturally better developed. Moreover, and this
is important, Liebig had been a pioneer not only in science, but in
practice. From the outset of his experiments he had made every effort to
work with the farmer and also by field investigation. The farmer did not
object to the help given him in his difficult task. As the demands on
him grew to fever pitch, for he was just facing the heavy, cumulative
greed of the expanding factories of the world and the hunger of their
servants, the workers, he not unnaturally welcomed ideas and suggestions
which he was told would enable him to carry out his task in an easy,
practical, and clean way without fuss and without that extra labour
already so difficult to procure.

Thus artificial fertilizers were born out of the abuse of Liebig's
discoveries of the chemical properties of the soil and out of the
imperative demands made on the farmer by the invention of machinery. It
must be confessed that Liebig himself was somewhat of a sinner on this
count. He manufactured artificial manures and though these were oddly
enough a failure he maintained his faith, which indeed was questioned by
none, that the food of plants could be replenished by the too obvious
principle of putting back into the earth the minerals which, as the
analysis of the ash of the burnt crops taken off it revealed, were drawn
out by the plants.

As long as this principle was held to override every other
consideration, no further progress could be made. The effects of the
physical properties of the soil were by-passed: its physiological life
ignored, even denied, the latter a most fatal error. There was a kind of
superb arrogance in the idea that we had only to put the ashes of a few
plants in a test tube, analyse them, and scatter back into the soil
equivalent quantities of dead minerals. It is true that plants are the
supreme, the only, agents capable of converting the inorganic materials
of Nature into the organic; that is their great function, their
justification, if we like to use that word. But it was expecting
altogether too much of the vegetable kingdom that it should work only in
this crude, brutal way; as we shall see, the apparent submission of
Nature has turned out to be only a great refusal to have so childish a
manipulation imposed upon her.

At first all seemed to go well. As economic conditions pressed on the
farmer more and more severely, he thankfully grasped at the means of
increasing the volume of his production and after the great agricultural
depression of 1879 began to use the artificial manures placed on the
market for his benefit. These were of two kinds; the nitrogen
artificials which supply the current account of plants and which have a
marked effect in increasing leafage, and the potash and phosphate
artificials which increase the mineral reserves of the soil. The
chemical symbol for nitrogen is N; for potassium, K (for Kalium); and
for phosphorus, P; and the attitude of mind which sees all virtue in the
use of artificials may fairly be dubbed the NPK mentality.


Stimulating the growers who began to acquire this mentality, there came
to be installed in the strongholds of science a type of investigator
whom we are justified in naming the laboratory hermit. The divorce
between theory and practice was a new phase which would have been
deprecated by Liebig, but the temptation to grow a few isolated plants
in pots filled with sand--watered by a solution containing the requisite
amount of NPK in a balanced form so that any one constituent did not
outdo the others--draw them, measure them, tie them up in muslins, weigh
them, burn them, and analyse them proved too great. A quantity of minute
investigation was based on these practices, which are only justified as
a mere introduction to agricultural investigation. Though the plant may
to some extent be grown under these conditions, the soil is another
problem. Soil or watered sand in a flower-pot is literally in a
straitjacket and it is nonsense to assume that it can carry on its
proper life: for one thing the invasion of earthworms or other live
creatures is eliminated and many other processes put out of action. That
essential co-partnership between the soil and the life of the creatures
which inhabit it, to which Darwin's genius had early drawn attention, is
wholly forgotten.

To confirm the findings of the flower-pots the small plot trials--in
which some fraction of an acre of land is the usual unit--were devised.
Great virtues have been attributed to the repetition of such tests over
a long period of years and, of late, to the statistical examination of
the yields. In this way it was hoped to 'disentangle the effects of
various factors and to state a number of probable relationships which
can then be investigated in the laboratory by the ordinary single factor
method'. (Russell, Sir John, Soil Conditions and Plant Growth (London,
1937), p. 31.)


At this point the manifold weaknesses of the small-plot method of
agricultural investigations must be emphasized. The celebrated Broadbalk
wheat trials at Rothamsted, the units of which are strips of land some
half an acre in size and on whose results the artificial manure industry
is largely founded, can be taken as an example. The trials have been
repeated for some hundred years, the work has been carried out with
extreme care, the fullest records have been kept and preserved, and the
final figures have been subjected to the best available statistical

The main object of these experiments was to determine whether wheat
could be grown continuously by means of artificials alone or with no
manure, and also to compare the results obtained by chemicals on the one
hand and by farmyard manure on the other. The results are considered to
prove that under Rothamsted conditions satisfactory yields of wheat can
be obtained by means of chemicals only, that no outstanding advantage
follows the use of farmyard manure, and further that on the no-manure
plot a small but constant yield of grain can be reaped. A subsidiary,
but very important, result is also claimed, namely, that the manuring
has had no appreciable effect on the quality of the wheat grain.

In spite of all the devotion that has been lavished on these Broadbalk
trials, at least four major mistakes have been made in their design and
conduct which completely discredit the final results.

In the first place, an error in sampling was made at the very beginning.
A small plot cannot possibly represent the subject investigated, namely,
the growing of wheat, which obviously can best be studied in this
country on a mixed farm. We cannot farm a small strip of wheat land year
after year, because it is difficult to cultivate it properly; the area
does not come into the usual rotations and is, therefore, not influenced
by such things as the temporary ley, by the droppings of livestock, and
by periodic dressings of muck. The small plot, therefore, cannot
represent any known system of British farming, any of our farms, or even
the field in which it occurs. It only represents itself--a small pocket
handkerchief of land in charge of a jailor intent on keeping it under
strict lock and key for a century; in other words, it has fallen into
the clutches of a Gestapo agent. In this sinister sense the Broadbalk
trials have indeed been permanent.

In the second place, the continuous cultivation of wheat on a tiny strip
of land is certain to create practical difficulties. Such land cannot be
kept free from weeds because of the short time available between harvest
in August and re-sowing in October. No cleaning crops like roots crop
can, therefore, be used. This difficulty duly happened at Rothamsted.
The weeds got worse and worse and finally won the battle. Mother Earth
rejected the idea underlying the continuous wheat experiment. The
original conception of these trials has had to be modified. Fallows have
had to be introduced. I last saw these Broadbalk plots about 1918 when
this weed difficulty was causing considerable concern. I can truthfully
say that never in my long experience have I seen arable land in such a
hopeless and filthy condition. A more glaring example of bad farming
could scarcely be imagined. I took my leave at the earliest possible
moment and decided then and there that my last visit to Rothamsted--the
Mecca of the orthodox--had been paid.

In the third place, no steps were taken to isolate the plots from the
surrounding areas and to prevent incursions from burrowing animals such
as earthworms. It is known from the work of Dreidax (Archiv far
Pflanzenbau, 7, 1931, p. 461) and others on the Continent that when the
earthworm population is destroyed by artificials, the affected areas are
soon invaded by a fresh crop of worms from the neighbouring land. This
invasion may take place at the rate of many yards a year. To study the
effects of artificials on earthworms Dreidax showed that the
experimental area should be at least ten acres and that the fringes of
this land should never be taken into account. We know that artificials,
sulphate of ammonia in particular, destroy the earthworm population
wholesale, (The use of sulphate of ammonia for destroying earthworms on
golf putting greens is recommended in Farmers' Bulletin 1569 issued by
the United States Department of Agriculture.) but that after the
nitrification of this manure has taken place the area is again invaded
by more of these animals. A small oblong strip about half an acre in
size is, therefore, obviously useless for determining the effect of
artificials on the soil population. The unit should be a square at least
ten acres in area. This wholesale destruction of the earthworm probably
helps to explain the failures in wheat growing which often attend the
application of the Rothamsted methods to large areas of land. The lowly
earthworm--the great conditioner of the food materials for healthy
crops--is murdered and no effective substitute is provided.

In the fourth place, the manurial scheme has never been allowed to
impress itself on the variety of wheat grown. The manuring has
influenced the soil, but not the plant. The seed used every year has
been obtained from the best outside source. The wheat raised on each
plot has not been used to sow that plot for the next crop. The plant has
had a fresh start every sowing. The Broadbalk experiment is, therefore,
not a continuous wheat experiment as regards one of the two most
important factors in the trial--the wheat plant itself. How this error
crept in is difficult to say. It was most probably due to over-emphasis
on the soil factor. Its discovery is largely due to Mr. H. R. Broadbent,
who has made a critical study of the published reports on the Broadbalk
plots from the beginning with a view to discovering the cause of the
discrepancy between the Rothamsted experience and the results of
large-scale wheat growing when carried out on the farm. In the
discussions which arose Mr. Broadbent asked me where the seed sown every
year on these plots came from. As this important fact was not recorded
in the various Rothamsted Annual Reports, I asked the authorities to let
me know the source of the seed used in the Broadbalk trials and was
promptly informed that fresh seed was obtained every year from the best
outside source and that the crop from each plot was never used to re-sow
that plot. This candid confession invalidates the entire Broadbalk
experiment. Had the harvest of each plot been used for resowing, in a
very few years an important result would have been obtained. The effect
of artificial manures, which we know is cumulative, would soon have
begun to influence the stability of the variety itself and cause it to
run out. In some period between twenty-five and fifty years the wheat
would have ceased to grow and the Broadbalk experiment would have
collapsed. This dramatic result, in all probability, would have saved
the agriculture of this country and of the world from one of its
greatest calamities--the introduction of artificial manures into general


In 1914, when the first world war broke out, the Broadbalk results were
universally accepted as a safe guide for the farmer in the drive for
increased food production. But it was the after-effects of this war
rather than the four years of the war itself which ushered in a yet more
ardent use of artificial fertilizers. The new process of fixing, i.e.
combining, nitrogen from the air had been invented and had been
extensively employed in the manufacture of explosives. When peace came,
some use had to be found for the huge plants set up and it was obvious
to turn them over to the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia for the
land. This manure soon began to flood the market.

From 1918 onwards the application of artificials was earnestly advocated
by all authorities; their use was laid on the farmer almost as a moral
duty. The universities had by now been impelled to set up agricultural
departments, and finely equipped experiment stations were scattered over
the various countries which in their general theory of investigation
copied the universities, from which, indeed, they were invariably
recruited. All these agencies without exception gave unconscious stress
to the NPK mentality and were also hypnotized by the thraldom of fear of
the parasite. Two thoroughly unsound and even mischievous principles
thus acquired the support of the republics of learning--the
universities--and the sanction of science itself. When the present war
broke out the stage was set for the next swift advance towards the steep
places leading downwards to the sea.

When towards the end of 1939 the menace of the submarine began to
imperil our food supplies from overseas, it became crystal clear that
the fields of Great Britain would have to grow more and more of our
nourishment if starvation were to be avoided. Then for the first and
perhaps for the last time artificial manures came into their own: they
were available in quantity to stimulate the crops: the Defence
Regulations could be invoked to support the grow-more-food policy: the
financial resources of a great nation were available to help the farmers
to purchase these chemical stimulants and thus indirectly to subsidize
the artificial manure industry itself: the staffs of these vested
interests were at the disposal of the Ministry of Agriculture: the local
War Agricultural Executive Committees soon became salesmen of the
contents of the manure bag: the frequent speeches of the Minister of
Agriculture invariably contained some exhortation to use more
fertilizers. The amalgamation of the vested interests and the official
machine which directed war farming became complete. One thing, however,
was forgotten. No satisfactory answer to the following question has been
provided: What will be the final result of all this on the land itself,
on the well-being of crops, livestock, and mankind? Will the
grow-more-food policy have solved one problem--the prevention of
starvation--by the creation of another--the enthronement of the Old Man
of the Sea on farming itself? What sort of account will Mother Earth
render for using up the last reserve of soil fertility and for
neglecting her great law of return? Who is going to foot the bill?


But the enthronement of the NPK mentality is only one of the blunders
for which the experiment stations must be held responsible. The usual
sub-division of science into chemical, physical, botanical, and other
departments, necessary for the sake of clarity and convenience in
teaching, soon began to dominate the outlook and work of these
institutions. The problems of agriculture--a vast biological
complex--began to be subdivided much in the same way as the teaching of
science. Here it was not justified, for the subject dealt with could
never be divided, it being beyond the capacity of the plant or animal to
sustain its life processes in separate phases: it eats, drinks,
breathes, sleeps, digests, moves, sickens, suffers or recovers, and
reacts to all its surroundings, friends, and enemies in the course of
twenty-four hours, nor can any of its operations be carried on apart
from all the others: in fact, agriculture deals with organized entities,
and agricultural research is bound to recognize this truth as the
starting point of its investigations.

In not doing this, but adopting the artificial divisions of science as
at present established, conventional research on a subject like
agriculture was bound to involve itself and magnificently has it got
itself bogged. An immense amount of work is being done, each tiny
portion in a separate compartment; a whole army of investigators has
been recruited, a regular profession has been invented. The absurdity of
team work has been devised as a remedy for the fragmentation which need
never have occurred. This is nonsensical. Agricultural investigation is
so difficult that it will always demand a very special combination of
qualities which from the nature of the case is rare. A real investigator
for such a subject can never be created by the mere accumulation of the
second rate.

Nevertheless, the administration claims that agricultural research is
now organized, having substituted that dreary precept for the
soul-shaking principle of that essential freedom needed by the seeker
after truth. The natural universe, which is one, has been halved,
quartered, fractionized, and woe betide the investigator who looks at
any segment other than his own! Departmentalism is recognized in its
worst and last form when councils and super-committees are
established--these are the latest excrescences--whose purpose is to
prevent so-called overlapping, strictly to hold each man to his allotted
narrow path and above all to enable the bureaucrat to dodge his
responsibilities. Real organization always involves real responsibility:
the official organization of research tries to retain power and avoid
responsibility by sheltering behind groups of experts. The result of all
this is that a mass of periodicals and learned papers stream forth, of
which only a very few contain some small, real contribution.

The final phase has been reached with the letting loose of the fiend of
statistics to torment the unhappy investigator. In an evil moment were
invented the replicated and randomized plots, by means of which the
statisticians can be furnished with all the data needed for their
esoteric and fastidious ministrations. The very phrase--statistics and
the statistician--should have been a warning. It is, of course, true and
known to most persons that average numbers and similar calculations are
not perfect; they are subject to various errors. Care is needed in
interpreting them and, above all, experience of the actual: where this
is available and where common sense is the judge, danger ceases. The
deduction would be, in what we are now reviewing, that the agricultural
investigator must be well acquainted with practical farming and be
prepared to put his conclusions to practical tests over some period of
time before he can be certain of what he says. This conclusion is just,
and with such a corrective agricultural experiment can live and prosper.

But the exactly opposite conclusion has been drawn. Instead of sending
the experimenter into the fields and meadows to question the farmer and
the land worker so as to understand how important quality is, and above
all to take up a piece of land himself, the new authoritarian doctrine
demands that he shut himself up in a study with a treatise on
mathematics and correct his first results statistically. The matter has
been pursued with zest and carried to all extremes; it is popularly
rumoured that only one highly qualified individual is now able to
interpret the mathematical principles on which are based the abstruse
mass of calculations to which even the simplest experiments give rise.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof. Can the
statistician give any practical help when the use of small plots gets
into difficulties? In one case I personally investigated about 1936 the
answer is: Most emphatically, no. This occurred at the Woburn Experiment
Station, a branch of Rothamsted. During the summer I was invited by the
Vice-President of the Rothamsted Trust, the late Professor H. E.
Armstrong, F.R.S., to help him to discover why one of the sets of
permanent manurial experiments at Woburn had come to an end. After a
long treatment with artificials the soils on the greensand had gone on
strike: the cereals refused to grow. Why? I have a vivid recollection of
this visit. We were first given a learned lecture on the past history of
the plots with tables and curves galore by the Officer-in-Charge. We
then visited the field, for which the professor said I was certain to
need a spade. We saw the plots which had given up the struggle. No crop
was to be seen, only a copious growth of the common mare's tail
(Equisetum arvense). I then inquired whether a really good crop could be
seen on similar land. We were shown a fine crop of lucerne nearby which
had been manured with copious dressings of pig muck. The cause of the
going on strike of the Woburn plots was now clear and the cure was
obvious, but before explaining all this to the Officer-in-Charge I
inquired what had been done by the Rothamsted staff to elucidate this
trouble. It appeared that all the data and all the information available
had been laid before the Director and his staff, including the
statisticians, but without result. Neither the official hierarchy nor
the higher mathematics had any explanation or advice to offer. I
thereupon explained the cause and pointed to the cure of the mischief.
Constant applications of chemicals to this sandy soil had so stimulated
the soil organisms that the humus, including the humic cement of the
compound soil particles, had been used up. This had led to pan formation
and to the cutting off of the air supply to the subsoil. All this was
obvious by the establishment of a weed flora mostly made up of a species
of Equisetum. My diagnosis would be confirmed by an examination of the
soil profile which would disclose a sand pan some six to nine inches
below the surface and the development of the characteristic root system
of this weed of poorly aerated soils. This injurious soil condition
could be removed by a good dressing of muck followed by a crop of
lucerne. A soil profile was then exposed and there was the pan and the
root system exactly as I foreshadowed. It was merely a case of reading
one's practice in the plant. The establishment of the mare's tail on a
high-lying sand could only be possible by poor soil aeration due, in all
probability, to the formation of a subsoil pan so common in sandy soils.
Farmyard manure, plus a deep-rooting crop and earthworms, would prevent
pan formation, hence the good crop of lucerne. Long practical experience
and many years spent in root studies had instantly suggested the cause
of the Woburn trouble. Many years' observation and first-hand experience
of the lucerne crop enabled me to suggest a cure for the pan formation.
How could statistics and the higher mathematics be a substitute for the
faculty of reading one's practice in the plant? How could this faculty
be developed except by a wide experience of research methods and of
practical farming?

Can statistics or the statistician help in unravelling the nature of
quality--that factor which matters most in crop production, in animal
husbandry, and in human nutrition? We cannot measure or weigh quality
and express the result in numbers which the statistician can use. But
our livestock instantly appreciate quality and show by their preference,
their better health, their improved condition and breeding performance
how important it is. The animal, therefore, is a better judge of one of
the factors that matters most in farming than the mathematician. But on
this important point--the verdict of the animal--the records of our
experiment stations are silent. At these institutions crops are weighed
on metal or wooden balances so that figures--the food of the
statistician--can be provided. But if many of these experimental crops,
particularly those raised with chemical manures, are tested in the
stomachs of our livestock--the real balance of the farmer--they will be
found wanting.

The invasion of statistics into agricultural research has been an
incursion into a diseased field. Let us sum up this chapter by judging
this result of our modern civilization by its works. This surely is not
unfair. Of some fifteen committees set up in Great Britain under the
Agricultural Research Council just before the present war no less than
twelve were allocated to investigation of the diseases of animals and
plants. Of the enormous mass of scientific literature published on
agricultural problems some third part is concerned with the onset,
history, description, or attempted remedies for some form of sickness or
disability in crops or livestock. This merely reflects the facts. Old
diseases are spreading and new diseases are appearing. Eelworm devours
our potato crop, foot-and-mouth disease infects our cattle, grass
sickness kills our horses, fungi, viruses, and insect parasites invade
our fruit and our vegetables: every vine in France is smothered in green
and blue copper compounds to keep the mildews at bay. Comparatively new
crops like the sugar beet are now retreating before the onset of the
eelworm. New scientific organizations and their satellite companies for
dealing with the increasing manufacture and sale of insecticides and
fungicides are being created. The farmers are being urged to subscribe
to panels of veterinarians to control the growing toll of disease among
their livestock.

Even a Beveridge health plan is now being advocated by the National
Veterinary Association, who also favour 'the establishment of State
breeding farms to facilitate the improvement of average stock by direct
mating and by controlled artificial insemination' (Daily Express, 16th
March 1944). The practice of artificial insemination for livestock can
only be described as a monstrous innovation which can only end in
life-erosion. Already many of the men who know most about animal
breeding are in revolt; they are convinced this unnatural practice is
bound to end in sterility and disaster.

The catalogue could be multiplied ad infinitum. The toll of disease is
extraordinary and a matter of the utmost anxiety to the farmer. The
public is not sufficiently aware of this unsatisfactory state of
affairs. If these are the results of agricultural science, they are not
encouraging and certainly are not impressive. They are undoubtedly a
phenomenon of the last forty or fifty years and appear alongside of the
modern use of artificial manures. This book asks the question whether we
have here not things merely juxtaposed, but actual cause and result.

It is even more legitimate to ask what agricultural science would be at.
It is a severe question, but one which imposes itself as a matter of
public conscience, whether agricultural research in adopting the
esoteric attitude in putting itself above the public and above the
farmer whom it professes to serve, in taking refuge in the abstruse
heaven of the higher mathematics, has not subconsciously been trying to
cover up what must be regarded as a period of ineptitude and of the most
colossal failure. Authority has abandoned the task of illuminating the
laws of Nature, has forfeited the position of the friendly judge,
scarcely now ventures even to adopt the tone of the earnest advocate: it
has sunk to the inferior and petty work of photographing the corpse--a
truly menial and depressing task.


A simple method of estimating the success of any method of farming is to
observe how it is affected by disease. If the soil is found to escape
the two common ailments--erosion and the formation of alkali
salts--which afflict cultivated land; if the crops raised are found to
resist the various insect, fungous, and virus diseases; if the livestock
breed normally and remain in good fettle; if the people who feed on such
crops and livestock are vigorous, prolific, and more or less free from
the many diseases from which mankind suffers; then the method of farming
adopted is supported by the one unanswerable argument--success. It has
passed the stiffest examination it can be made to undergo--it has
yielded results comparable with those to be seen in the wayside hedges
of this country of Great Britain. These strips closely resemble in their
agriculture the primeval forest.

In our roadside hedges hardly a trace of the common diseases of the soil
are to be seen; the wildings come into flower regularly every spring and
early summer; there is no running out of the variety and no necessity to
supply new and improved strains of seeds; one generation follows another
century after century; the vegetable life of the hedgerow is to all
intents and purposes eternal; there is very little plant disease. A
similar story can be told of the birds and other animal life. The
wayside hedge is, therefore, an example of successful soil management
for all to see and study. It has stood the test of time.

In striking contrast to the picture of general health and well-being
which has just been lightly sketched is the spectacle of widespread
disease which has resulted from many of the methods of farming, and
particularly the modern methods, which have so far been devised. Disease
of one kind or another is the rule; robust health is the exception.

Let us, therefore, examine in some detail the generous dividends in the
form of trouble with which Mother Earth has rewarded our methods of
agriculture. The examples chosen have been largely taken from my own
personal experience. They are arranged in their natural order starting
with the diseases of the soil, then going on to the maladies of crops
and livestock, and ending with the afflictions of homo sapiens himself.




Perhaps the most widespread and the most important disease of the soil
at the present time is soil erosion, a phase of infertility to which
great attention is now being paid.

Soil erosion in the very mild form of denudation has been in operation
since the beginning of time. It is one of the normal operations of
Nature going on everywhere. The minute mineral particles which result
from the decay of rocks find their way sooner or later to the ocean, but
many may linger on the way, often for centuries, in the form of one of
the constituents of fertile fields. This phenomenon can be observed in
any river valley. The fringes of the catchment area are frequently
uncultivated hills, through the thin soils of which the underlying rocks
protrude. These are constantly weathered and in the process yield a
continuous supply of minute mineral fragments in all stages of

The slow rotting of exposed rock surfaces is only one of the forms of
decay: the surfaces not exposed are also subject to change. The covering
of soil is no protection to these underlying strata, but rather the
reverse, because the soil water, containing carbon dioxide in solution,
is constantly disintegrating the parent rock, first producing subsoil
and then actual soil. In this way the constant supply of minerals--like
phosphates, potash, and the trace elements needed by crops and
livestock--are automatically transferred to the surface soil from the
great mineral reservoir of the primary and secondary rocks.
Simultaneously with these disintegration processes the normal decay of
animal and vegetable remains on the surface of the soil is giving rise
to the formation of humus.

All these processes combine to start up denudation. The fine soil
particles of mineral origin, often mixed with fragments of humus, are
gradually removed by rain, wind, snow, or ice to lower regions.
Ultimately the rich valley lands are reached, where the accumulations
may be many feet in thickness. One of the main duties of the streams and
rivers which drain the valley is to transport these soil particles into
the sea, where fresh land can be laid down. The process looked at as a
whole is nothing more than Nature's method of the rotation, not of the
crop, but of the soil itself. When the time comes for the new land to be
enclosed and brought into cultivation, agriculture is born again. Such
operations are well seen in England in Holbeach Marsh and similar areas
round the Wash. From the time of the Romans to the present day new areas
of fertile soil, which now fetch 100 pounds an acre or even more, have
been recreated from the uplands by the Welland, the Nene, and the Ouse.
All this fertile land, perhaps the most valuable in England, is the result
of two of the most widespread processes in Nature--weathering and

But Nature has devised a most effective brake. The nature of this
retarding mechanism is of supreme importance, because it provides the
key to the solution of the problem of soil erosion. Nature's control of
the rate of denudation is to create the compound soil particle. The
fragments of mineral matter derived from the weathering of rocks are
combined by means of the specks of glue-like organic matter supplied
mostly by the dead bodies of the soil bacteria which live on humus; as
in a building made of bricks, some suitable cementing material is needed
before the fragments of mineral matter in the soil can cohere. There
must be sufficient of this cement of the right type always ready, so
that when the mineral fragments come together a piece of glue is there
at hand of a size corresponding to the minute areas of contact. This
involves the constant production of large quantities of this bacterial
cement. Provided, however, that we keep up the bacterial population of
the land in any catchment area, the supplies of glue for making new
compound soil particles and for repairing the old ones will be assured.

It will be seen from this how fundamentally important is the role of
humus. It is the humus which feeds the bacterial life, which, so to say,
glues the soil together and makes it effective. If the supply of glue is
allowed to fall into arrears, the compound soil particles will soon lie
about in ruins and so provide more raw material for speeding up the
process of denudation. The mineral particles are thereby released and
ready for their final journey by water to the sea to form new soil, or
by wind to form a new dust bowl and so begin a new desert.

It is when the tempo of denudation is vastly accelerated by human
agencies that a perfectly harmless natural process becomes transformed
into a definite disease of the soil. The condition known as soil
erosion--a man-made disease--is then established. It is, however, always
preceded by infertility: the inefficient, overworked, dying soil is at
once removed by the operations of Nature and hustled towards the ocean,
so that new land can be created and the rugged individualists--the
bandits of agriculture--whose cursed thirst for profit is at the root of
the mischief can be given a second chance. Nature is anxious to make a
new and better start and naturally has no patience with the inefficient.
Perhaps when the time comes for a new essay in farming, mankind will
have learnt the great lesson--how to subordinate the profit motive to
the sacred duty of handing over unimpaired to the next generation the
heritage of a fertile soil. Soil erosion is nothing less than the
outward and visible sign of the complete failure of a farming policy.
The root causes of this failure are to be found in ourselves.

The damage already done by soil erosion all over the world, looked at in
the mass, is very great and is rapidly increasing. The regional
contributions to this destruction, however, vary widely. In some areas
like north-western Europe, where most of the agricultural land is under
a permanent or temporary cover crop (in the shape of grass or leys) and
there is still a large area of woodland and forest, soil erosion is a
minor factor in agriculture. In other regions like parts of North
America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the countries bordering the
Mediterranean, where extensive deforestation has been practiced and
where almost uninterrupted cultivation has been the rule, large tracts
of land once fertile have been almost completely destroyed.

The United States of America is perhaps the only country where anything
in the nature of an accurate estimate of the damage done by erosion has
been made. Theodore Roosevelt first warned the country as to its
national importance. Then came the Great War with its high prices, which
encouraged the wasteful exploitation of soil fertility on an
unprecedented scale. A period of financial depression, a series of
droughts and dust storms, emphasized the urgency of the salvage of
agriculture. During Franklin Roosevelt's presidency soil conservation
became a political and social problem of the first importance. In 1937
the condition and needs of the agricultural land of the United States of
America were appraised. No less than 253,000,000 acres, or 61 per cent
of the total area under crops, had either been completely or partly
destroyed or had lost most of its fertility. Only 161,000,000 acres, or
39 per cent of the cultivated area, could be safely farmed by present
methods. In less than a century the United States has, therefore, lost
nearly three-fifths of its agricultural capital. If the whole of the
potential resources of the country could be utilized and the best
possible practices introduced everywhere, about 447,466,000 acres could
be brought into use--an area actually greater than the present crop land
of 415,334,931 acres. The position, therefore, is not hopeless. It will,
however, be very difficult, very expensive, and very time-consuming to
restore the vast areas of eroded land even if money is no object and
large amounts of manure are used and green-manure crops are ploughed

Such, in this great country, are the results of misuse of the land. The
causes of this misuse include lack of individual knowledge of soil
fertility on the part of the pioneers and their descendants; the
traditional attitude which regarded the land as a source of profit;
defects in farming systems, in tenancy, and finance--most mortgages
contain no provisions for the maintenance of fertility; instability of
agricultural production as carried out by millions of individuals,
prices, and income, in contrast to industrial production carried on by a
few large corporations. The need for maintaining a correct relation
between industrial and agricultural production, so that both can develop
in full swing on the basis of abundance, has only recently been
understood. The country was so vast, its agricultural resources were so
immense, that the profit seekers could operate undisturbed until soil
fertility--the country's capital--began to vanish at an alarming rate.

The resources of the Government are now being called up to put the land
in order. The magnitude of the effort, the mobilization of all available
knowledge, the practical steps that are being taken to save what is left
of the soil of the country and to help Nature to repair the damage
already done are graphically set out in Soils and Men, the Year Book of
the United States Department of Agriculture of 1938. This is perhaps the
best local account of soil erosion which has yet appeared. The progress
that has been made in recent years can be followed in Soil Conservation,
a monthly periodical issued by the Soil Conservation Service of the
United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

The rapid exploitation of Africa was soon followed by soil erosion. In
South Africa, a pastoral country, some of the best grazing areas are
already semi-desert. The Orange Free State in 1879 was covered with rich
grass, interspersed with reedy pools, where now only useless gullies are
found. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, it began to be
realized all over South Africa that serious over-stocking was taking
place. In 1928 the Drought Investigation Commission reported that soil
erosion was extending rapidly over many parts of the Union and that the
eroded material was silting up reservoirs and rivers and causing a
marked decrease in the underground water supplies. The cause of erosion
was considered to be the reduction of vegetal cover brought about by
incorrect veldt management--the concentration of stock in kraals,
overstocking, and indiscriminate burning to obtain fresh autumn or
winter grazing. In Basutoland, a normally well watered country, soil
erosion is now the most immediately pressing administrative problem. The
pressure of population has brought large areas under the plough and has
intensified over-stocking on the remaining pasture. In Kenya the soil
erosion problem has become serious during the last ten years, both in
the native reserves and in the European areas. In the former, wealth
depends on the possession of large flocks and herds; barter is carried
on in terms of livestock; the bride price is almost universally paid in
anima's s; numbers rather than quality are the rule. The natural
consequence is overstocking, over-grazing, and the destruction of the
natural covering of the soil. Soil erosion is the inevitable result. In
the European areas, erosion is caused by long and continuous
over-cropping without the adoption of measures to prevent the loss of
soil and to maintain the humus content. Locusts have of late been
responsible for greatly accelerated erosion; examples are to be seen
when the combined effect of locusts and goats has resulted in the loss
of a foot of surface soil in a single rainy season.

The countries bordering the Mediterranean provide striking examples of
soil erosion, accompanied by the formation of deserts which are
considered to be due to one main cause--the slow and continuous
deforestation of the last 3,000 years. Originally well wooded, no
forests are to be found in the Mediterranean region proper. Most of the
original soil has been washed away by the sudden winter torrents. In
North Africa the fertile cornfields which existed in Roman times are now
desert. Ferrari in his book on woods and pastures refers to the changes
in the soil and climate of Persia after its numerous and majestic parks
were destroyed; the soil was transformed into sand; the climate became
arid and suffocating; springs first decreased and then disappeared.
Similar changes took place in Egypt when the forests were devastated; a
decrease in rainfall and in soil fertility was accompanied by loss of
uniformity in the climate. Palestine was once covered with valuable
forests and fertile pastures and possessed a cool and moderate climate;
to-day its mountains are denuded, its rivers are almost dry, and crop
production is reduced to a minimum.

The above examples indicate the wide extent of soil erosion, the very
serious damage that is being done, and the fundamental cause of the
trouble--misuse of the land, resulting in the destruction of the
compound soil particles. In dealing with the remedies which have been
suggested and which are now being tried out, it is essential to envisage
the real nature of the problem. It is nothing less than the repair of
Nature's drainage system--the river--and of Nature's method of providing
the countryside with a regular water supply. The catchment area of the
river is the natural unit in erosion control. In devising this control
we must restore the efficiency of the catchment area as a drain and also
as a natural storage of water. Once this is accomplished, we shall hear
very little about soil erosion.

Japan provides perhaps the best example of the control of soil erosion
in a country with torrential rains, highly erodible soils, and a
topography which renders the retention of the soil on steep slopes very
difficult. Here erosion has been effectively held in check by methods
adopted regardless of cost, for the reason that the alternative to their
execution would be national disaster. The great danger from soil erosion
in Japan is the deposition of soil debris from the steep mountain slopes
on the rice fields below. The texture of the rice soils must be
maintained so that the fields will hold water and allow of the minimum
of through drainage. If such areas become covered with a deep layer of
permeable soil, brought down by erosion from the hillsides, they would
no longer hold water and rice cultivation--the mainstay of Japan's food
supply--would be out of the question. For this reason the country has
spent as much as ten times the capital value of eroding land on soil
conservation work, mainly as an insurance for saving the valuable rice
lands below. Thus, in 1925 the Tokyo Forestry Board spent 453 yen
(45 pounds) per acre in anti-erosion measures on a forest area valued at
40 yen per acre in order to save rice fields lower down valued at
240 to 300 yen per acre.

The dangers from erosion have been recognized in Japan for centuries and
an exemplary technique has been developed for preventing them. It is now
a definite part of national policy to maintain the upper regions of each
catchment area under forest as the most economical and effective method
of controlling flood waters and insuring the production of rice in the
valleys. For many years erosion control measures have formed an
important item in the national budget.

According to Lowdermilk (Oriental Engineer, March 1927), erosion control
in Japan is like a game of chess. The forest engineer, after studying
his eroding valley, makes his first move, locating and building one or
more check dams. He waits to see what Nature's response is. This
determines the next move which may be another dam or two, an increase in
the former dam, or the construction of retaining side walls. After
another pause for observation a further move is made and so on until
erosion is checkmated. The operation of natural forces, such as
sedimentation and re-vegetation, are guided and used to the best
advantage to keep down costs and to obtain practical results. No more is
attempted than Nature has already done in the region. By 1929 nearly
2,000,000 hectares of protection forests were used in erosion control.
These forest areas do more than control erosion. They help the soil to
absorb and retain large volumes of rain water and to release it slowly
to the rivers and springs.

China, on the other hand, presents a very striking example of the evils
which result from the inability of the administration to deal with the
whole of a great drainage area as one unit. On the slopes of the upper
reaches of the Yellow River extensive soil erosion is constantly going
on. Every year the river transports over 2,000,000,000 tons of soil,
sufficient to raise an area of 400 square miles by five feet. This is
provided by the easily erodible loess soils of the upper reaches of the
catchment area. Some of the mud is deposited in the river bed lower
down, so that the embankments which contain the stream have constantly
to be raised. Periodically the great river wins in this unequal contest
and destructive inundations result. The labour expended on the
embankments is lost, because the nature of the erosion problem as a
whole has not been grasped, and the area drained by the Yellow River has
not been studied and dealt with as a single organism. The difficulty now
is the over-popuration of the upper reaches of the catchment area, which
prevents afforestation and laying down to grass. Had the Chinese
maintained effective control of the upper reaches--the real cause of the
trouble--the erosion problem in all probability would have been solved
long ago at a lesser cost in labour than that which has been devoted to
the embankment of the river. China, unfortunately, does not stand alone
in this matter. A number of other rivers, like the Mississippi, are
suffering from overwork, followed by periodical floods as the result of
the growth of soil erosion in the upper reaches.

Although the damage done by uncontrolled erosion all over the world is
very great and the case for action needs no argument, nevertheless there
is one factor on the credit side which has been overlooked. A
considerable amount of new soil is being constantly produced by natural
weathering agencies from the subsoil and the parent rock. This, when
suitably conserved, will soon re-create large stretches of valuable
land. One of the best regions for the study of this question is the
black cotton soil of Central India which overlies the basalt. Here,
although erosion is continuous, the soil does not often disappear
altogether, for the reason that, as the upper layers are removed by
rain, fresh soil is re-formed from below. The large amount of earth so
produced is well seen in the Gwalior State, where the late ruler
employed an irrigation officer, lent by the Government of India, to
construct a number of embankments, each furnished with spillways, across
many of the valleys, which had suffered so badly by uncontrolled rain
wash in the past that they appeared to have no soil at all, the scrub
vegetation just managing to survive in the crevices of the bare rock.
How great is the annual formation of new soil, even in such unpromising
circumstances, must be seen to be believed. In a few years the
construction of embankments was followed by stretches of fertile land
which soon carried fine crops of wheat. A brief illustrated account of
the work done by the late Maharaja of Gwalior would be of great value at
the moment for introducing a much needed note of optimism in the
consideration of this soil erosion problem. Things are not quite so
hopeless as they are often made to appear.

Why is the forest such an effective agent in the prevention of soil
erosion? The forest does two things: (1) the trees and undergrowth break
up the rainfall into fine spray and the litter on the ground further
protects the soil from the impact of the descending water stream; (2)
the residues of the trees and animal life met with in all woodlands are
converted into humus, which is then absorbed by the soil underneath,
increasing its porosity and water-holding power; the soil cover and the
soil humus together prevent erosion and at the same time store large
volumes of water. These factors--soil protection, soil porosity, and
water retention--conferred by the living forest cover, provide the key
to the solution of the soil erosion problem. All other purely mechanical
remedies, such as terracing and drainage, are secondary matters,
although, of course, important in their proper place.

The secret of soil conservation is thus seen to lie, first, in
maintaining the soil cover in good condition to ensure that the rainfall
is received on the surface in a proper manner with no disturbance of the
soil below, and second, in conserving ample supplies of humus so that by
means of the compound soil particles the water, when it has descended,
is adequately absorbed and stored: as well might we expect a living
creature to survive without its protective skin as to suppose that the
earth can live without her proper covering. The forest has been cited as
the pre-eminent example of these protective devices, for the leafage is
thick and the ground litter abundant. In the absence of forest some form
of grass cover is the natural protective agent which will for centuries
often maintain the soil in good heart. Indeed, this device of the grass
cover is far more efficient than might be supposed possible. The
accumulations of humus under a grass carpet are often immense; they are,
indeed, so extraordinary that they can be described as veritable mines
of fertility. This is proved by the fact that an agriculture based on
their spoliation can, in favourable circumstances, continue for many
years before it fades out. But fade out it must if the humus is never
restored. Williams (Timiriasev Academy, Moscow) regarded grass as the
basis of all agricultural land utilization and the soil's chief weapon
against the plundering instincts of humanity. He advanced the hypothesis
that the decay of past civilizations was due to the wholesale ploughing
up of grass necessitated by the increasing demands of civilization. His
views are exerting a marked influence on soil conservation policy in the
U.S.S.R. and indeed apply to many other countries.

Grass is a valuable factor in the correct design and construction of
surface drains. Whenever possible these should be wide, very shallow,
and completely grassed over. The run-off then drains away as a thin
sheet of clear water, leaving all the soil particles behind. The grass
is thereby automatically manured and yields abundant fodder. This simple
device was put into practice at the Shahjahanpur Sugar Experiment
Station in India. The earth service roads and paths were excavated so
that the level was a few inches below that of the cultivated area. They
were than grassed over, becoming very effective drains in the rainy
season, carrying off the excess rainfall as clear water without any loss
of soil.

If we regard erosion as the natural consequence of improper methods of
agriculture and the catchment area of the river as the natural unit for
the application of soil conservation methods, the various remedies
available fall into their proper place. The upper reaches of each river
system must be afforested; cover crops, including grass and leys, must
be used to protect the arable surface whenever possible; the humus
content of the soil must be increased and the crumb structure restored,
so that each field can drink in its own rainfall; over-stocking and
over-grazing must be prevented; simple mechanical methods for conserving
the soil and regulating the run-off, like terracing, contour cultivation
and contour drains, must be utilized. There is, of course, no single
anti-erosion device which can be universally adopted. The problem must,
in the nature of things, be a local one. Nevertheless, certain guiding
principles exist which apply everywhere. First and foremost is the
restoration and maintenance of the crumb structure of the soil, so that
each acre of the catchment area can do its duty by absorbing its share
of the rainfall.


When the land is continuously deprived of oxygen, the plant is soon
unable to make use of the nourishment it contains: it becomes a dead
instrument, from which no crop can draw anything. If left to itself,
this condition of infertility is permanent.

In many parts of the tropics and sub-tropics agriculture is interfered
with and even brought to an end because of the injury inflicted on the
soil by accumulations of soluble salts composed of various mixtures of
the sulphate, chloride, and carbonate of sodium. Such areas are known as
alkali lands. When the alkali phase is still in the mild or incipient
stage, crop production becomes difficult and care has to be taken to
prevent matters from getting worse. When the condition is fully
established, the soil dies; crop production is then out of the question.
Alkali lands are common in Central Asia, India, Persia, Iraq, Egypt,
North Africa, and the United States.

At one period it was supposed that alkali salts were the natural
consequences of a light rainfall, insufficient to wash out of the land
the salts which always form in it by progressive weathering of the rock
powder, of which all soils largely consist. Hence alkali lands were
considered to be a natural feature of arid tracts such as parts of
north-west India, Iraq, and northern Africa, where the rainfall is very
small. Such ideas of the origin and occurrence of alkali lands do not
correspond with the facts and are quite misleading. The rainfall of the
Province of Oudh in India, for example, where large stretches of alkali
lands naturally occur, is certainly adequate to dissolve the
comparatively small quantities of soluble salts found in these infertile
areas, if their removal were a question of sufficient water only. In
North Bihar the average rainfall in the submontane tracts where large
alkali patches are common is about fifty to sixty inches a year. Arid
conditions, therefore, are not essential for the production of alkali
soils; heavy rainfall does not always remove them.

What is a necessary condition is impermeability. In India, whenever the
land loses its porosity by the constant surface irrigation of stiff
soils with a tendency to impermeability, by the accumulation of stagnant
subsoil water, or through some interference with surface drainage,
alkali salts sooner or later appear. Almost any agency, even
over-cultivation or over-stimulation by means of artificial manures,
both of which oxidize the organic matter and slowly destroy the crumb
structure, will produce alkali land. In the neighbourhood of Pusa in
North Bihar old roads and the sites of bamboo clumps and of certain
trees, such as the tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.) and the pipul (Ficus
religiosa L.), always give rise to alkali patches when they are brought
into cultivation. The densely packed soil of such areas invariably shows
the bluish-green markings which are associated with the activities of
those soil organisms existing in badly aerated soils without a supply of
free oxygen. A few inches below the alkali patches which occur on the
stiff, loess soils of the Quetta valley, similar bluish-green and brown
markings always occur. In the alkali zone in North Bihar wells have
always to be left open to the air, otherwise the water is contaminated
by sulphuretted hydrogen, thereby indicating a well-marked, reductive
phase in the deeper layers. In a subsoil drainage experiment on the
black soils of the Nira valley in Bombay, where perennial irrigation was
followed by the formation of alkali land, Mann and Tamhane found that
the salt water which ran out of these drains soon smelt strongly of
sulphuretted hydrogen and a white deposit of sulphur was formed at the
mouth of each drain, proving how strong were the reducing actions in
this soil. Here the reductive phase in alkali formation was
unconsciously demonstrated in an area where alkali salts were unknown
until the land was waterlogged by over-irrigation and the oxygen supply
of the soil was restricted.

The view that the origin of alkali land is bound up with defective soil
aeration is supported by the recent work on the origin of salt water
lakes in Siberia. In Lake Szira-Kul between Bateni and the mountain
range of Kizill Kaya, Ossendowski observed in the black ooze taken from
the bottom of the lake and in the water a certain distance from the
surface an immense network of colonies of sulphur bacilli, which gave
off large quantities of sulphuretted hydrogen and so destroyed
practically all the fish in this lake. The great water basins in central
Asia are being metamorphosed in a similar way into useless reservoirs of
salt water, smelling strongly of hydrogen sulphide. In the limans near
Odessa and in portions of the Black Sea a similar process is taking
place. The fish, sensing the change, are slowly leaving this sea as the
layers of water, poisoned by sulphuretted hydrogen, are gradually rising
towards the surface. The death of the lakes scattered over the immense
plains of Asia and the destruction of the impermeable soils of this
continent from alkali salt formation are both due to the same primary
cause--intense oxygen starvation. In the instances just mentioned this
oxygen starvation occurs naturally; in other cases it follows perennial

Every possible gradation in alkali land is met with. Minute quantities
of alkali salts in the soil have no injurious effect on crops or on the
soil organisms. It is only when the proportion increases beyond a
certain limit that they first interfere with growth and finally prevent
it altogether. Leguminous crops are particularly sensitive to alkali,
especially when this contains carbonate of soda. The action of alkali
salts on the plant is a physical one and depends on the osmotic pressure
of solutions, which increases with the amount of the dissolved
substance. For water to pass readily from the soil into the roots of
plants, the osmotic pressure of the cells of the root must be
considerably greater than that of the soil solution outside. When the
soil solution becomes stronger than that of the cells, water passes
backwards from the roots to the soil and the crops dry up. This state of
affairs inevitably occurs when the soil becomes charged with alkali
salts beyond a certain point. The crops are then unable to take up water
and death results. The roots behave like a plump strawberry when placed
in a strong solution of sugar; like the strawberry they shrink in size
because they have lost water to the stronger solution outside. Too much
salt in the water, therefore, makes irrigation water useless and
destroys the canal as a commercial proposition.

The reaction of the crop to the first stages in alkali production is
interesting. For twenty years at Pusa and eight years in the Quetta
valley I had to farm land, some of which hovered, as it were, on the
verge of alkali. The first indication of the condition is a darkening of
the foliage and the slowing down of growth. Attention to soil aeration,
to the supply of organic matter, and to the use of deep-rooting crops
like lucerne and the pigeon pea, which break up the subsoil, soon set
matters right. Disregard of Nature's danger signals, however, leads to
trouble--a definite alkali patch is formed. When cotton is grown under
canal irrigation on the alluvial soils of the Punjab, the reaction of
the plant to incipient alkali is first shown by the failure to set seed,
on account of the fact that the anther, the most sensitive portion of
the flower, fails to function and to liberate its pollen. The cotton
plant naturally finds it difficult to obtain from mild alkali soil all
the water it needs--this shortage is instantly reflected in the
breakdown of the floral mechanism.

Is the alkali condition confined to the tropics and sub-tropics? May it
not, under certain circumstances, occur in temperate regions such as
north-western Europe? Is it a factor in the sandy soils of Wareham in
Dorsetshire recently investigated by Professor Neilson-Jones and Dr.
Rayner? It is impossible at the moment to answer these questions till
the soil studies of the future consider the biological activities in
relation to the physical and chemical factors as well as to the season.
They may not have reached the grade of decay known as alkali land, but
they are starved of oxygen, all the conditions needed for the
establishment of the anaerobic and semi-anaerobic state being present.
This is made clear by the readiness with which they respond to any
improvement in surface and subsoil drainage, as well as to sub-soiling.
Soil conditions must be looked at as a living and changing system and
not merely as something static and stable. The soils of the north
temperate zone, for example, often suffer from poor soil aeration.
Moreover, many of the soil profiles exhibit the blue and red markings so
common under alkali patches, as well as bands of humus which must have
been originally formed near the surface, then carried in solution and
afterwards precipitated. The soil organisms, which reduce compounds
containing sulphur to sulphuretted hydrogen, are known to exist in these
soils. All facts point to the necessity for further work so as to
provide a clear answer to the above mentioned questions, while from the
practical point of view there is an immense field for improvement,
especially by means of sub-soiling, over many areas which are now
allowed to continue in a very unsatisfactory state. The problem of soil
aeration is by no means, therefore, confined to the tropics, and it
behoves the pioneers of farming in the temperate countries to turn an
immediate attention to the various fairly simple devices by which very
great, and above all, permanent improvements could be effected.

The stages in the development of the alkali condition are somewhat as
follows. The first condition is an impermeable soil. Such soils--the
usar plains of northern India for example--occur naturally where the
climatic condition favour those biological and physical factors which
destroy the soil structure by disintegrating the compound particles into
their ultimate units. These latter are so extremely minute and so
uniform in size that they form with water a mixture possessing some of
the properties of colloids which, when dry, pack into a hard, dry mass,
practically impenetrable to water and very difficult to break up. Such
soils are very old. They have always been impermeable and have never
come into cultivation.

In addition to the alkali tracts which occur naturally, a number are in
course of formation as the result of errors in soil management, the
chief of which are as follows:

(a) The excessive use of irrigation water: this gradually destroys the
binding power of the organic cementing matter which glues the soil
particles together, and further displaces the soil air. Anaerobic
changes, indicated by blue and brownish markings, first occur in the
lower layers and finally lead to the death of the soil. It is this slow
destruction of the living soil that must be prevented if the existing
schemes of perennial irrigation are to survive. The process is taking
place before our eyes to-day in the Canal Colonies of India, where
irrigation is loosely controlled.

(b) Over-cultivation without due attention to the replenishment of
humus: in those continental areas like the Indo-Gangetic plain, where
the risk of alkali is greatest, the normal soils contain only a small
reserve of humus, because the biological processes which consume organic
matter are very intense at certain seasons, due to sudden changes from
low to very high temperatures and from intensely dry weather to periods
of moist, tropical conditions. Accumulations of organic matter such as
occur in temperate zones are impossible. There is, therefore, a very
small margin of safety. The slightest errors in soil management will not
only destroy the small reserve of humus in the soil, but also the
organic cement on which the compound soil particles and the crumb
structure depend. The result is impermeability, the first stage in the
formation of alkali salts. The inhabitants of these areas through the
centuries have followed methods of cultivation which are perfectly
adapted to preserve the safety margin, but there is a tendency on the
part of the shortsighted Western scientist to teach them so-called
techniques of stimulating crop production which are highly dangerous
from this point of view. One suggestion that is constantly being put
forward is the introduction into the Indo-Gangetic plain of artificial
manures like sulphate of ammonia. This would soon lead to catastrophe.

(c) The use of artificial manures, particularly sulphate of ammonia:
even where there is a large safety margin, i.e. a large reserve of
humus, such dressings do untold harm. The presence of additional
combined nitrogen in an easily assimilable form stimulates the growth of
fungi and other organisms which, in the search for the organic matter
needed for energy and for building up microbial tissue, use up first the
reserve of soil humus and then the more resistant organic matter which
cements the soil particles. This glue is not affected by the processes
going on in a normally cultivated soil, but it cannot withstand the same
processes when stimulated by dressings of artificial manures.

Alkali land, therefore, starts with a soil in which the oxygen supply is
permanently cut off. Matters then go from bad to worse very rapidly. All
the oxidation factors which are essential for maintaining a healthy soil
cease. A new soil flora--composed of anaerobic organisms which obtain
their oxygen from the sub-stratum--is established. A reduction phase
ensues. The easiest source of oxygen--the nitrates--is soon exhausted.
The organic matter then undergoes anaerobic fermentation. Sulphuretted
hydrogen is produced as the soil dies, just as in the lakes of central
Asia. The final result of the chemical changes that take place is the
accumulation of the soluble salts of alkali land--the sulphate,
chloride, and carbonate of sodium. When these salts are present in
injurious amounts, they appear on the surface in the form of snow-white
and brownish-black incrustations. The former (white alkali) consists
largely of the sulphate and chloride of sodium, and the latter (the
dreaded black alkali) contains sodium carbonate in addition and owes its
dark color to the fact that this salt is able to dissolve the organic
matter in the soil and produce physical conditions which render drainage
impossible. According to Hilgard, sodium carbonate is formed from the
sulphate and chloride in the presence of carbon dioxide and water. The
action is reversed in the presence of oxygen. Subsequent investigations
have modified this view and have shown that the formation of sodium
carbonate in soil takes place in stages. The appearance of this salt
always marks the end of the chapter. The soil is dead. Reclamation then
becomes difficult on account of the physical conditions set up by these
alkali salts and the dissolved organic matter.

The occurrence of alkali land, as would be expected from its origin, is
extremely irregular. When ordinary alluvial soils like those of the
Punjab and Sind are brought under perennial irrigation, small patches of
alkali first appear where the soil is heavy; on stiffer areas the
patches are large and tend to run together. On open, permeable
stretches, on the other hand, there is no alkali. In tracts like the
western districts of the United Provinces, where irrigation has been the
rule for a long period, zones of well aerated land carrying fine
irrigated crops occur alongside the barren alkali tracts. Iraq also
furnishes interesting examples of the connection between alkali and poor
soil aeration. Intensive cultivation under irrigation is only met with
in that country where the soils are permeable and the natural drainage
is good. Where the drainage and aeration are poor the alkali condition
at once becomes acute. There are, of course, a number of irrigation
schemes, such as the staircase cultivation of the Hunzas in northwest
India and of Peru, where the land has been continually watered from time
immemorial without any development of alkali salts. In Italy and
Switzerland perennial irrigation has been practiced for long periods
without harm to the soil. In all such cases, however, careful attention
has been paid to drainage and aeration and to the maintenance of humus;
the soil processes have been confined by Nature or by man to the
oxidative phase; the cement of the compound particles has been protected
by keeping up a sufficiency of organic matter.

The theory of the reclamation of alkali land is very simple. All that is
needed, after treating the soil with sufficient gypsum (which transforms
the sodium clays into calcium clays), is to wash out the soluble salts,
to add organic matter, and then to farm the land properly. Such
reclaimed soils are then exceedingly fertile and remain so. If
sufficient water is available, it is sometimes possible to reclaim
alkali soils by washing only. I once confirmed this. The berm of a
raised water channel at the Quetta Experiment Station was faced with
rather heavy soil from an alkali patch. The constant passage of the
irrigation water down the water channel soon removed the alkali salts.
This soil then produced some of the heaviest crops of grass I have ever
seen in the tropics. When, however, the attempt is made to reclaim
alkali areas on a field scale by flooding and draining, difficulties at
once arise unless steps are taken first to replace all the sodium in the
soil complex by calcium and then to prevent the further formation of
sodium clays. Even when these reclamation methods succeed, the cost is
always considerable; it soon becomes prohibitive; the game is not worth
the candle. The removal of alkali salts is only the first step; large
quantities of organic matter are then needed; adequate soil aeration
must be provided; the greatest care must be taken to preserve these
reclaimed soils and to see that no reversion to the alkali condition
occurs. It is exceedingly easy under canal irrigation to create alkali
salts on certain areas. It is exceedingly difficult to reverse the
process and to transform alkali land back again into a fertile soil.

An interesting development in the reclamation of alkali soils has
recently taken place at the Coleyana Estate in the Montgomery District
of the Punjab. The method adopted is a first-rate pointer to the right
way of solving this or any other agricultural problem. It consists in a
clever diagnosis of natural processes and an ingenious adaptation of
them to attain the wished-for end. Nature is made, as it were, to
retrace certain steps so as to re-establish more desirable soil
conditions; she is asked to undo her own work. On the Coleyana Estate
Colonel Sir Edward Hearle Cole, C.B., C.M.G., first removes the
accumulations of alkali salts from the surface, then ploughs them up and
plants dhup grass (Cynodon dactylon, Pers.) which is grazed as heavily
as possible by sheep and cattle for some eighteen months to two years.
The turf is then killed by a turnover plough followed by a fallow during
the hot season (May and June). The land is then prepared for a
green-manure crop, followed by a couple of wheat crops in succession,
and then put into lucerne or cotton. The great thing in this reclamation
work is to scrape off all alkali salts as they appear, remove them from
the land, and use the minimum irrigation water for the establishment and
maintenance of the crop of grass. The underground stems and roots of the
grass then aerate the heavy soil: the sheet-composting of the turf and
the droppings of the livestock create the large quantities of humus
needed to get this heavy land into condition for wheat, cotton, and
lucerne. Sir Edward is now making a point of never leaving such
reclaimed land uncovered so as to make the fullest use of the energy of
sunlight in creating vegetable matter, which ultimately gets converted
into humus. He also takes advantage of deep-rooting plants such as
chicory, lucerne, and arhar (Cajanus indicus, Spreng.) for breaking up
the subsoil and is a firm believer in the principles set out in The
Clifton Park System of Farming. In this way, areas once ruined by alkali
salts are now producing crops of wheat up to 1,600 lb. to the acre. This
is, perhaps, the simplest and easiest method of reclaiming alkali soils
that has yet been devised. It makes the crop itself do most of the work.
(Indian Farming, I, 1940, p. 280.)

A further development of the Coleyana method of reclaiming alkali land
suggests itself. When the grass crop is ploughed up, it might be worth
while to sub-soil the land to a depth of fifteen to eighteen inches four
feet apart, using a caterpillar tractor and a Ransomes sub-soiler. This
would shatter the deeper soil layers, provide abundant aeration, and
prepare the land for the succeeding crops.

Nature has provided, in the shape of alkali salts, a very effective
censorship for all schemes of perennial irrigation. The conquest of the
desert by the canal by no means depends on the mere provision of water
and arrangements for the periodical flooding of the surface. This is
only one of the factors of the problem. The water must be used in such a
manner and the soil management must be such that the fertility of the
soil is maintained intact. There is obviously no point in creating at
vast expense a Canal Colony and producing crops for a generation or two,
followed by a permanent desert of alkali land. Such an achievement
merely provides another example of agricultural banditry. It must always
be remembered that the ancient irrigators never developed any efficient
method of perennial irrigation, but were content with the basin system,
a device by which irrigation and soil aeration can be combined. (The
land is embanked; watered once; when dry enough it is cultivated and
sown. In this way water can be provided without any interference with
soil aeration.) In his studies on irrigation and drainage, King
concludes an interesting discussion of this question in the following
words which deserve the fullest consideration on the part of the
irrigation authorities all over the world:

'It is a noteworthy fact that the excessive development of alkalis in
India, as well as in Egypt and California, is the result of irrigation
practices modern in their origin and modes and instituted by people
lacking in the traditions of the ancient irrigators, who had worked
these same lands thousands of years before. The alkali lands of to-day,
in their intense form, are of modern origin, due to practices which are
evidently inadmissible, and which in all probability were known to be so
by the people whom our modern civilization has supplanted.'

These words should be studied by all who are concerned with the
extension of irrigation schemes. The unwise pursuance of such schemes
with a view to the immediate production of easily grown crops without
the lasting maintenance of fertility can only end in the regular
suffocation of precious tracts of the earth's surface.



Disease in crops manifests itself in a great variety of ways. Troubles
due to parasitic fungi and insects are by far the most common. Many of
these troubles have occurred from time to time all through the ages and
are by no means confined to modern farming. In recent years attention
has been paid to a number of other diseases, such as those due to
eelworm, to virus, and to the loss of the power of the plant to
reproduce itself. The varieties of our cultivated crops nowadays show a
great tendency to run out and to become unremunerative. This weakness,
which might be described as varietal-erosion or species-erosion, has to
be countered by the creation of a constant stream of new varieties
obtained either by plant breeding methods or by importation from other
localities. Besides the many cases of running out, failure to set seed
is also due to unfavourable soil conditions, the removal of which puts
an end to the trouble.

The great attention now devoted to disease will be clear from the
operations of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, a State-aided body
incorporated by Royal Charter on 1st November 1921 for the development
of cotton production in the Empire. Among the many activities of this
Corporation is the publication of the Empire Cotton Growing Review, a
feature of which are the notes on current literature. During the six
years before the war, 1934-9 these abstracts of papers on cotton
research cover 964 pages of print, of which no less than 223, i.e. 23
per cent, deal with the diseases of cotton. These figures roughly
correspond with the way the money contributed all over the world for the
production, improvement, and testing of new cottons is spent. Some
quarter of the technical staff engaged in this work devote their whole
time to the study of the diseases of the cotton plant.

That something must be wrong with the production of cotton throughout
the Empire and indeed throughout the world is suggested by a comparison
between the above alarming figures and my own experience at the
Institute of Plant Industry at Indore in Central India, at which
research centre cotton was the principal crop. Between the years 1924
and 1931 cotton disease at Indore was to all intents and purposes
negligible. I can recall only one case of wilt on some half dozen plants
in a waterlogged corner of a field in a year of exceptionally high
rainfall. The cotton plant in India always impressed me as a robust
grower capable of standing up well to adverse soil and weather
conditions. The examples of disease I came across in my many tours
always seemed to be a consequence of bad farming, all capable of
elimination by improved methods of agriculture.

As my adventures in research began in the West Indies in 1899 as a
mycologist, I have naturally followed very closely the subsequent work
on the various diseases of crops and have always been interested in the
many outbreaks of these troubles which have occurred all over the world.
Since 1905 I have been in a position to grow crops myself and thus have
been able to test the validity of the principles on which the
conventional methods of disease control are based. Perhaps the simplest
way of dealing with these experiences, observations, and resections will
be crop by crop.

In perusing the following pages one thing will strike the reader
forcibly. I have found it impossible to separate the disease from the
growing crop. The study of plant diseases for their own sake is proving
an increasingly intricate game, to which modern scientists have devoted
many wasted hours. Such studies would be amusing if they were not
tragic, for no disease in plant, animal, or man can properly be viewed
unless it is looked on as an interference with, or, to speak more
plainly, as the distortion or negation of that positive aspect of the
growing organism which we call health.

Consequently it is essential to conceive of the plant, for instance, as
a living and growing thing, flourishing in certain conditions but
wilting or perishing in other conditions; in any discussion of plant
disease the right and the wrong methods of growing the crop are not
simply the background to the argument, they are its very substance: to
investigate plant diseases without a first-hand experience of growing
the plant is to play Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.


While in the West Indies (1899-1902) I devoted much attention to the
fungous diseases of sugar-cane, but only succeeded in writing a few
routine papers on the subject, all of no particular importance. Some
twenty-five years later at Indore I grew a number of excellent crops of
cane and converted them into crude sugar, both of which proceedings won
the approval of the local Indian population. This experience brought out
one of the weaknesses in present-day research. Between the years 1899
and 1902 I could only write technical papers on the diseases of the
cane, as I had no opportunity of growing the crop or of manufacturing it
into sugar. I was then in the straitjacket stage of my career. It was
not till a quarter of a century later in another continent that the
chance came to grow sugar-cane, to the study of whose diseases I had
devoted so much attention. It is safe to say that, had these periods
been reversed, my papers on the fungous diseases of cane would have made
very different reading.

The methods adopted in growing sugar-cane on the black cotton soils at
Indore were a copy of those devised by the late Mr. George Clarke,
C.I.E., at the Shahjahanpur Experiment Station and described in detail
in Chapter XIV of An Agricultural Testament. The crop is planted in
shallow trenches, two feet wide, four feet from centre to centre, the
soil from each trench being removed to a depth of six inches and piled
on the two-foot space left between each two trenches, the whole making a
series of ridges as illustrated in Fig. 1.

FIG. 1. Trench System at Indore

As soon as the trenches are made in November, they are dug to a further
depth of six inches and compost is thoroughly mixed with the soil of the
floor of the trenches, which are then watered, cultivated when dry
enough, and allowed to remain till planting time in February. In this
way the soil in which the cuttings are to be planted is given time to
prepare the food materials needed when growth begins. After planting and
watering, the surface soil is lightly cultivated to prevent drying out.
Afterwards four or five waterings are given, each followed by surface
cultivation, which carry on the crop during the hot season till the
break of the rains in June, when no further irrigation is needed.

When the young canes are about two feet high and are tillering
vigorously, the trenches are gradually filled in, beginning about the
middle of May and completing the operation by the middle of June, when
the earthing up of the canes commences. This operation is completed
about the middle of July (Fig. 2).

FIG. 2. Earthing up Sugar-cane at Shahjahanpur, 10th July 1919

One of the consequences of filling in the trenches and of earthing up
canes grown in fertile soil is the copious development of fungi, which
are plainly visible as threads of white mycelium all through the soil of
the ridges and particularly round the active roots. I saw these for the
first time at the Manjri sugar-cane farm near Poona about 1920 and the
same thing was frequently observed at Shahjahanpur. No one suspected
then that this fungous development could be explained by the fact that
the sugar-cane is a mycorrhiza former and that we were observing the
first stage of an important symbiosis between the fungi living on the
humus in the soil and the sap of the sugar-cane. The provision of all
the factors needed for this association--humus, soil aeration, moisture,
and a constant supply of fresh, active roots from the lower nodes of the
canes as the earthing-up process proceeds--explains why such good
results have always followed the Shahjahanpur method of growing the cane
and why the crops are so healthy. When grown on the flat under monsoon
conditions, want of soil aeration and want of a constant supply of fresh
roots would always be limiting factors in the full establishment of the
mycorrhizal association

As at Shahjahanpur, the operation of earthing up the canes served four
purposes: (1) the succession of new roots arising from the lower nodes,
thoroughly combed the highly aerated and fertile soil of the ridges; (2)
the conditions suitable for the constant development of the mycorrhizal
association were provided; (3) the standing power of the canes during
the rains was vastly improved, and (4) the excessive development of
colloids in the surface soil was prevented. When this earthing up is
omitted, a heavy crop of cane is liable to be levelled by the monsoon
gales; crops which fall down during the rains do not ripen properly, do
not give either the maximum yield of sugar or the much-prized,
light-coloured product.

The operation of earthing up left deep drains between the rows of cane.
It was essential, as at Shahjahanpur, to arrange that these drains were
suitably connected with the ditches which carried off the surplus
monsoon rainfall, so that no waterlogging of the area under cane

At Indore the Shahjahanpur results were repeated. The intensive
cultivation of a suitable variety (POJ 213 and Coimbatore 213), proper
soil aeration, good surface drainage, and an adequate supply of organic
matter produced very fine yields of cane, free from fungous and virus
diseases and exceptionally good samples of crude sugar (gur). The yields
were not quite up to the Shahjahanpur standard, because it takes some
years to work up the black soils to the highest pitch of fertility on
account of the physical character of these heavy soils, but I am
convinced that this was only a matter of perseverance. Unfortunately the
time of retirement came before I could achieve the full results, but the
remarkable yields obtained in the first three years left no doubt in my
mind of the final result. There is no question but that the way to grow
cane is the Shahjahanpur method, which should be adopted all over the
world, particularly for raising the plant material.

No fungous or virus diseases were observed at Indore. The growth of cane
and the ripening process were almost ideal. But not quite. It was
noticed that the length of the nodes formed under irrigation during the
hot season was rather short. Some factor seemed to be retarding growth
during this period. At the time I put this down to the fact that the
land under cane had only just been brought under irrigation and that
insufficient time had been allowed to get these fields into that high
state of fertility so essential when ordinary, rain-fed, black soils are
converted into well-irrigated land. As a rule this takes five years in
Central India. This retardation in growth during the hot season was
accompanied by a very mild attack of the moth borer (Diatrea
saccharalis), which lays its eggs in clusters on the under-side of the
leaves and is followed by the destruction of the young shoots invaded by
the caterpillars. Only a few shoots were destroyed; nothing was done to
check the moth. As soon, however, as the rains broke, this pest
disappeared of its own accord and no further damage occurred. Obviously
some factor was operating during the hot season which altered the sap
and lowered the resistance of the cane. I suspected at the time that the
soil was not sufficiently fertile and did not contain sufficient humus
for supplying the young growing cane with all the water it needed, and
that this very minor trouble would disappear when the irrigated area was
got into really good fettle. This is obviously a matter calling for
detailed investigation.

At Indore the only manure used in raising the cane crop was compost. At
Shahjahanpur the canes were grown on green-manure supplemented by a
light dressing of cattle manure applied to the land before the green
crop was sown. The only examples of organic manuring in commercial cane
growing I have been able to discover are in Mauritius, where livestock
are kept solely for their manure, which is used to break down cane trash
into a rough form of compost. Thus at the Benares estate the residues of
140 cattle are converted into 1,500 tons of compost at a total cost of
6s. 6d. a ton. At Mon Tresor estate 5,000 tons of compost were made at a
similar cost from the residues of 300 cattle and 500 sheep and goats.
Further details of this organic manuring in Mauritius are to be found in
a paper by G. C. Dymond reprinted in the News-Letter on Compost, No. 7,
October 1943, p. 44.

In recent years another type of sugar-cane disease--virus--has assumed
considerable importance. If virus is nothing more than a condition
caused by imperfectly synthesized protein, aggravated by the use of
artificials like sulphate of ammonia in place of humus, it would follow
that a drastic alteration in manuring might remove the virus condition
and restore health. In Natal this has been accomplished. Mr. G. C.
Dymond found that when Uba canes, attacked by streak disease (a virus
trouble), were manured with compost and the process was repeated for a
year or two, the crop threw off the disease and grew normally. The
restoration of health was accompanied by the establishment of the
mycorrhizal association, which was absent in the cases of streak disease

Dymond's discovery that freshly prepared compost not only restores
virus-infected canes to health, but also re-establishes the mycorrhizal
association, is of great importance in the future studies of cane
diseases. The first step in such inquiries should be to examine the
mycorrhizal status of the affected plants and then to restore it by
growing cuttings of the diseased plants in heavily composted soil. In
all probability the disease will disappear. Steps should then be taken
to apply this knowledge on a field scale and then to see whether such
crops can be infected by disease. If, as is most probable, no infection
takes place, then the cause of the trouble--bad farming--has been
established, as well as the remedy--freshly prepared humus.

The next step will be to see how many of the fungous, insect, and virus
diseases of the cane survive the Shahjahanpur methods of cane growing.
This at least is certain--the number will be few, perhaps none. In this
way sugar-cane pests can be used as agricultural censors; their
prevention will tune up practice; mycologists and entomologists will
then become active and useful agents in development.

Intimately bound up with the prevention of cane diseases is the
maintenance of the variety. As has already been pointed out (p. 23), the
kinds of cane grown in the East have lasted for many centuries; on the
modern sugar plantations a constant stream of new kinds has to be
created. The prevention of this deterioration would seem to be bound up
with the prevention of disease--the maintenance without any sign of
progressive deterioration in the synthesis of protein. This is
accomplished in the indigenous sugar industry of India by the use of
cattle manure and the restriction of the cuttings used in planting to
the joint immediately below the cane tops. These are buried at harvest
time and carefully kept till the new field is planted. Commercial sugar
estates might copy this well-tried practice and so save the time and
money expended in testing a constant stream of new canes.


In the course of my travels I have seen something of coffee cultivation
--in the West Indies, in various parts of India, and in the
coffee-growing areas of Africa. I also visited in 1908 and again in 1938
the eroded areas in the centre of Ceylon which were devoted to coffee
till the well-known rust fungus--Hemileia vastatrix--destroyed the
plantations wholesale and caused them to be planted in tea. In all this
two things impressed me very much: (1) the marked response of the coffee
bush to forest soils rich in humus, and (2) the poor growth seen on
areas suffering from erosion. On reconsidering in 1938 the original
accounts of the great fungous epidemic in Ceylon some sixty years
before, it appeared to me that the loss of the fertile top soil by
erosion and the inadequate provision of fresh supplies of humus were
ample reasons why this coffee disease had put an end to the industry.
This surmise was strengthened by the establishment of the fact that
coffee is a mycorrhiza former. This point is referred to in the
following extract from my report dated 18th April 1938 on a visit to the
tea estates in India and Ceylon:

'In view of the results obtained on the coffee estates in Kenya and
Tanganyika with compost, it was expected that mycorrhiza would be found
in this crop. Unfortunately my tour did not include any coffee estates
where the Indore Process had been adopted. Three samples of surface
roots, however, were collected.

'The first was taken from stray coffee plants growing on the roadside on
unmanured land under grass at Dholai (Cachar, Assam). As was expected,
Dr. Rayner found no trace of mycorrhiza in these root samples.

'Two more promising samples were collected at Talliar (High Range,
Travancore), one from a nursery, the other from established coffee. In
both cases the soil contained forest humus and in both Dr. Rayner found
endotrophic fungous infection of the same type as that described in tea,
but confined to the older roots and sporadic in distribution.

'The evidence, although incomplete and fragmentary, nevertheless points
to mycorrhiza being as important a factor in coffee cultivation as it is
proving in tea.'

These observations were confirmed and amplified by the examination of
material sent from Costa Rica by Senor Don Mariano Montealegre. There is
no doubt that coffee, like tea and cacao, is a mycorrhiza former.

The fact that coffee is a mycorrhiza former is of considerable
significance in the future cultivation of this crop. The humus in the
soil and the sap of the plant are in intimate contact by means of this
natural mechanism. Obviously, therefore, if coffee of the highest
quality is to be produced and if the plants are to withstand disease,
the first condition of success in coffee cultivation is the provision of
properly made humus.

This naturally involves some form of mixed farming so that an ample
supply of urine and dung is available on the spot. Pigs, buffaloes, and
cattle will probably be the best agents for this purpose. The day,
therefore, may not be far distant when the coffee estates will be partly
devoted to livestock, which will automatically cancel out the present
expenditure on artificial manures and insecticides, and do much to raise
the yield per acre and also improve the quality--a matter of supreme
importance in this crop.

One illuminating consequence of the devastating epidemic of coffee leaf
disease in Ceylon impressed me during my tours in the island in 1908 and
thirty years later in 1938. The many planters I met not only had not
forgotten this visitation, but were still labouring under the thraldom
of fear of the parasite. When I suggested that fungous and insect
diseases are the direct consequence of mistakes in crop production and
should, therefore, be regarded as friendly professors of agriculture
provided by Nature free of charge for our instruction, I found myself up
against a solid armour-plate of fear. Disease, like erosion, were things
which had to be studied by specialists and then tackled by direct

Under these unpromising conditions I did not pursue the subject and go
on to suggest that Hemileia Vastatrix would prove most useful in another
way. This disease of the coffee plant might well be used not only to
teach us how to grow coffee properly, but also in reference to another
crop--the tea plant. A few coffee plants, established here and there
among the tea, would tell us whether the soils of Ceylon had been
sufficiently restored to fertility by the anti-erosion methods
undertaken, by the planting of adequate shade, and above all by the
practice of systematically converting all vegetable and animal residues
into humus. They could do this without any soil analyses or other
laboratory tests by simply withstanding the onset of the leaf disease or
by succumbing to it; where the disease appeared, we should know that the
soil still lacked fertility; when it was absent, we should be able to be
satisfied with the measures taken.

Such a device would be very simple. It would be efficient because it
would be using Nature's own agencies in testing conditions. Why should
we not make use of so excellent and so inexpensive a method? The Ceylon
tea planter should look on coffee and the diseases it carries as one of
his best, his most willing, and his most reliable assistants.


Although a number of insect and fungous diseases have been reported on
the tea plant, nevertheless the total damage done by these pests is not
excessive Nothing like the coffee leaf disease of Ceylon, which in a few
years destroyed the plantations wholesale, has been reported in the case
of tea. Indeed in Ceylon, as has already been stated, tea replaced
coffee on the partially eroded soils, a fact which suggests that the tea
bush is exceptionally hardy and robust. This view is confirmed by the
behaviour of this species under cultivation. The plants are constantly
plucked and so deprived of those portions of their foliage richest in
food materials; every few years the bushes are heavily pruned, after
which they have to re-create themselves; in China a tea plantation
lasts a century or more. Only a very vigorous bush could endure such
treatment for so long.

It would follow from all these considerations that the struggle between
the host and the parasite might easily result in the victory of the
former, if the tea plant were given a little assistance. It might then
be easy to reduce the damage done by pests to something quite

Can the tea plant itself throw any light on this question of natural
resistance to disease? Has the tea bush anything to say about the
assistance it needs to vanquish the various insect and fungous pests
always ready to attack it? If so, its representations must be carefully
studied and if possible implemented. The plant or the animal will answer
most queries about its needs if the questions are properly posed. The
wise farmer, planter, or gardener always deals with such responses with
sympathy and respect.

The tea plant has very recently delivered a most emphatic message on the
cause of disease and its prevention which is certain to interest many
readers in no way connected with the tea industry. The story I have to
tell began in 1933 when I interested myself in the career of Dr. C. R.
Harler (who had just been retrenched when the Tocklai Research Station,
maintained by the Indian Tea Association, was reorganized in that year).
I consoled him for his temporary loss of employment by assuring him: (1)
that retrenchment, as in his case, often falls on the best men; (2) that
he could do much more for the tea industry as an independent worker with
adequate scope than as a member of the obsolete organization he had just
left; and (3) that a promising line of future work lay in the systematic
conversion into humus of the waste products of the tea estates. He
agreed. Then Providence intervened on his behalf, on behalf of the tea
plant and of the tea industry. Dr. Harler was offered and accepted
(August 1933) the post of Scientific Officer to the Kanan Devan Hills
Produce Company in the High Range, Travancore, the property of Messrs.
James Finlay & Co. Ltd., who direct the largest group of tea gardens in
the world. On taking up his duties at Nullatanni near Munnar, Dr. Harler
proceeded to apply the Indore Process on an estate scale. No
difficulties were met with in working the method; ample supplies of
vegetable wastes and cattle manure were available; the local labour took
to the work and soon the General Manager of the Company, as well as the
Estate Managers, became enthusiastic. It was now possible to pose the
following question to the tea plant: What do you need to throw off
disease and to do your best as regards the yield and quality of tea?

The second half of this question was soon answered on the Kanan Devan
tea gardens, the first half had to wait till some years later. The
pioneering work at Nullatanni, which was completed towards the end of
1934, was followed by the adoption of the Indore Process on the rest of
the gardens--some forty in number. Each garden made from its available
vegetable and animal wastes all the manure the tea needed; no
artificials were necessary; yield and quality notably improved. But the
tea plant in these gardens could say nothing about its requirements to
ward off disease for the simple reason that with one small
exception--the minor root trouble referred to below--there was
practically no disease to resist in these well managed properties. All
that properly made compost could do was to increase the yield and
improve the quality of the tea above the high standard already reached.

When the news of Dr. Harler's successful estate-scale trial at
Nullatanni reached me in September 1934, it occurred to me that it might
be worth while bringing the possibilities of the Indore Process to the
notice of the rest of the tea industry, which is arranged in large
groups controlled by a small London directorate principally recruited
from the industry itself. As I had no contacts with these bodies it was
necessary to make one--preferably with some pioneer likely to be
interested. I soon found the man--Mr. James Insch, one of the then
Managing Directors of Messrs. Walter Duncan & Company. A small-scale
trial of the Indore Process was completed on fifty-three estates of this
group in Sylhet, Cachar, the Assam Valley, the Dooars, Terai, and the
Darjeeling District. By the beginning of 1935 some 2,000 tons of compost
in all were made and distributed. Five years later the quantity on the
Duncan group had passed the 150,000 tons a year mark. But again the tea
plant on these widely distributed properties did not answer the
question: What do you need to throw off disease? The reason for this was
that, as on the High Range of Travancore, the amount of disease on these
estates was insufficient for such a question to be posed and answered.
On these properties all the Indore Process could do was. to raise the
yield and improve the quality still further.

The results already referred to and the publicity they received came to
the notice of many other groups of tea estates in India, Ceylon, and
Africa The methods of composting which had proved so successful on the
Finlay and Duncan estates were tried at many new centres. It was in the
course of these widely dispersed trials that the tea plant informed us
what it needed to keep insect and fungous pests in check and why it
wanted this assistance.

In a few cases during this third series of trials both insect and
fungous diseases did occur to an extent which reduced somewhat the yield
of tea. There was just sufficient disease here and there for the query
under discussion to be put to the tea plant. The question on these
particular gardens was not posed deliberately, but quite by accident.
While this series of trials was in progress, example after example came
to my notice in which such small applications of compost as five tons to
the acre were at once followed by a marked improvement in growth, in
general vigour, and in resistance to disease. Although very gratifying
in one sense, these results were distinctly disconcerting. If humus acts
only indirectly by increasing the fertility of the soil, time will be
needed for the various biological, physical, and chemical changes to
take place. If the plant responds at once, as was obviously the case,
some other factor besides a general improvement in soil fertility must
be at work. What could this factor be? It was clearly some agency which
enabled humus to effect directly and very quickly the nutrition of the

In a circular letter issued on 7th October 1937 to correspondents in the
tea industry I suggested that the most obvious explanation of any sudden
improvement in tea observed after one moderate application of compost
could only be due to the effect of humus in stimulating the mycorrhizal
relationship, which I afterwards discovered had been observed in Java in
the roots of this crop. It seemed to me that this association must be
present and that it would enable the fungous factor in the partnership
to transfer the digestion products of protein into the sap and then into
the green leaf. The virtues of humus could thus be moved from soil to
plant in a very short space of time. This would enable the plant not
only to resist disease, but would also explain the marked improvement in
the yield and quality of tea which resulted from dressings of compost. I
saw all this in imagination, as it were, on 7th October 1937 as a likely
hypothesis to explain the facts. What set these ideas in train was a
perusal of Dr. M. C. Rayner's work on conifers at Wareham 1 in
Dorsetshire, where small additions of properly made compost had led to
spectacular results most easily explained by the establishment of the
mycorrhizal association. (An account of this Wareham work has since been
published in 1944 in book form under the title--Problems in Tree
Nutrition--by Messrs. Faber and Faber, London.)

At this juncture a group of tea companies which had adopted the Indore
Process asked me to visit their estates in India and Ceylon. In the
course of this tour, which lasted from November 1937 to February 1938, I
examined the root system of a number of tea plants which had been
manured with properly made compost, and found everywhere the same
thing--numerous tufts of healthy-looking roots associated with rapidly
developing foliage and twigs much above the average. Both below and
above ground humus was clearly leading to a marked condition of
wellbeing. When the characteristic tufts of young surface roots were
examined microscopically, the cortical cells were seen to be literally
overrun with mycelium to a much greater extent than is the rule in a
really serious infection by a parasitic fungus. Clearly the mycorrhizal
relationship was very much involved: my hypothesis was abundantly
confirmed: the tea plant had a message to deliver on the disease
question. My hasty and imperfect observations made in the field and in
the course of a very strenuous tour--during which many estates were
visited in detail and many lectures were delivered to groups of
planters--were confirmed and extended by Dr. M. C. Rayner and Dr. Ida
Levisohn who examined a large number of my root samples, including a few
in which artificials only were used or where the soils were completely
exhausted and the garden had become derelict with perhaps only half the
full complement of tea plants. In these latter cases the characteristic
tufts of normal roots were not observed; development and growth were
both defective; the mycorrhizal association was either absent or poorly
developed. Where artificials were used on worn-out tea, infection by
brownish hyphae of a Rhizactonia-like fungus (often associated with mild
parasitism) was noticed. But whenever the roots of tea manured with
properly made compost were critically examined, the whole of the
cortical tissues of the young roots always showed abundant endotrophic
mycorrhizal invasion, the mainly intra-cellular mycelium apparently
belonging to one fungus. This fungus was always confined to the young
roots and no invasion of old roots was observed. In the invaded cells
the mycelium exhibits a regular cycle of changes from invasion to the
clumping of the hyphae around the cell nuclei, digestion and
disintegration of their granular contents, and the final disappearance
of the products from the cells. In this way the digestion products of
the proteins of the fungus pass into the cell sap and then into the
green leaves.

Humus in the soil, therefore, affects the tea plant direct by means of a
middleman--the mycorrhizal association. Nature has provided an
interesting piece of living machinery for joining up a fertile tea soil
with the plant. Obviously we must see that this machinery is provided
with the fuel it needs--continuous dressings of properly made compost. I
saw on several occasions the response of the tea plant, which had been
attacked by disease, to small dressings of compost. I was amazed by the
way even a single application had reduced the amount of infection and
started the tea bushes well on the way to complete recovery.

The tea plant had now answered the question: What must be done to me to
be saved? It is nothing less than the restitution of the manurial rights
this plant enjoyed in its forest home--regular supplies of freshly
prepared compost.

One difficulty was encountered and partly overcome in this restitution
of manurial rights. In some of the tea areas the gardens were so closely
jammed together that it was not possible to maintain the head of cattle
needed to provide the animal manure for making first-class compost. I
suggested that in such cases pigs would be the easiest livestock to keep
and that the cost of the pig food brought on to the gardens could be
found by reducing the amount of artificial manure that would be needed.
But where land was available, steps were taken to increase the head of
other livestock to make the necessary animal manure.

One interesting case of introducing cattle into the tea gardens solely
for their manure came to my notice from Africa. When Viscount Bledisloe
returned to England from his African mission, where he had been Chairman
of a Royal Commission connected with the affairs of the Rhodesias and
Nyasaland, he presented me with an enlarged set of the photographs he
had taken on compost making, the virtues of which he constantly brought
to the notice of the various local governments with whom he came in
contact. In this way he did much of the spade work which was necessary
to make South Africa compost-minded. One of these photographs, taken at
Messrs. J. J. Lyons & Company's estate at Mlange, showed the cattle
which the tea gardens of Nyasaland were beginning to keep solely for
compost making (Plate III). This, indeed, was proof positive of progress
and of enterprise. If the tea gardens of Africa can go to the trouble of
maintaining cattle for the sake of the urine and dung they produce, what
is to prevent other plantation industries all over the world doing the
same? It is impossible to farm for long without livestock. It is equally
impossible to maintain the overseas plantations in an efficient
condition without these living manure factories for producing two of the
essentials for making humus. Like tea, all these plantation
crops--coffee, cacao, sugar-cane, cotton, sisal, maize, coconuts,
bananas, citrus fruit, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, and so forth--are
mycorrhiza formers. All need the digestion products of fungous protein
to maintain the power to reproduce themselves, to provide high-quality
crops, and to resist the onslaught of insects and fungi.


But cases of disease occur in tea which cannot be remedied by getting
the surface soil into good fettle. The tea is a deep-rooting plant and
makes great use of the lower roots to keep up the water supply during
dry weather. These deep roots must, therefore, function properly. There
must be no waterlogging due to stagnant water held up by impermeable
layers in the subsoil. This condition invariably results in root disease
duly followed by the death of the plant. The only example of such
disease of any consequence I met with during my second tour in India and
Ceylon was a root fungus which appeared here and there and destroyed the
bushes over small areas particularly on the laterite soils of South
India. The real cause of the trouble appeared to be some interference
with drainage in the lower layers of the soil, which reduced the
vitality of the tea and prepared the way for the parasite. Such diseases
might be dealt with most easily by Swedish pillar-drains--vertical pits,
dug well below the layer under the laterite holding up the stagnant
water, and afterwards filled with large stones.

At the Gandrapara estate on the flat stretches of the alluvium of the
Bengal Dooars I saw one of the best examples in my experience of
successful surface drainage under a high monsoon rainfall, which I was
told had proved very useful in the prevention of root disease. On this
fine property, very deep and narrow minor earth drains had been
constructed among the tea and connected up with wider major ditches
which carried off the surplus water to the natural drainage lines. The
system was based on a contour survey and had been carried out by a
competent engineer. The minor drains could not easily be detected, as
the tea bushes on either side met above the drains, forming everywhere a
continuous green table. With the combined help of the excellent top
shade and this green table the heavy monsoon downfalls were converted
into fine spray, which was readily absorbed by the heavily composted
surface soil without any great silting up of these minor drains. I had
studied surface drainage in many parts of the world, including some of
the best examples Italy has to provide, and had carried out drainage
schemes on the land in my own charge, but none of these came up to the
Gandrapara standard. I mentioned this fact at a lecture to a group of
local tea planters at Gandrapara. By chance the engineer who had
designed the local scheme was present. His grateful reaction to my
chance remarks will remain as one of my pleasantest recollections.

PLATE IV. GUAVA (Psidium Guyava, L.) No. 1--Superficial and deep roots
(November 23, 1921). No. 2--The influence of soil texture on the
formation of the rootless (March 29, 1921). No. 3--The root-system
under grass (April 21, 1921). No. 4--Superficial rootlet growing to
the surface  (August 28, 1921). No. 5--Formation of new rootless in
fine sand following the fall of the ground water (November 20, 1921).
No. 6--Reduction in     the size of leaves after twenty months under
grass (right).

The superficial character of the conventional investigations on the
diseases of tea will be clear from what has been set out above. Nothing
is to be gained by starting research on any future tea disease at the
wrong end. Investigation must always begin with the soil. If the
mycorrhizal association is not working properly, this must be put right
in the first place. The drainage of the soil round the deep roots must
also be effective. In all probability the result will be the rapid
disappearance of pests. Proceeding in this way, diseases can be made
very useful for keeping a tea garden up to the mark as regards manuring
and soil management.


A good deal of time was spent by me in Grenada about 1901 on the study
of the fungous diseases of cacao. Visits were also paid to a number of
cacao estates in Trinidad and Dominica. The main troubles were three:
die-back of the leaders on low-lying areas (caused by poor drainage),
pod, and bark diseases. A new fungous pest--the witch broom disease--had
just made its appearance in Surinam, but had not then spread to Trinidad
and the other islands. It has since become a serious trouble in the West

Among the many estates visited was a small plantation in Grenada owned
by the late Rev. G. W. Branch, which stood out from the rest of the
island by virtue of the heavy yields of high-quality beans; the fact was
ascertained that these cacao trees were always manured with farmyard
manure. Although a paper was read by the owner at one of the West Indian
Conferences in the early years of this century and full details of the
method of manuring were given, it never struck anyone that here in a
nutshell was the solution of the main problem of cacao, namely, mixed
farming and the preparation of plenty of freshly prepared compost for
the cacao trees. Everybody without exception who attended this meeting
was labouring under the thraldom of the NPK mentality and was only able
to think in terms of so many pounds to the acre of this or that
artificial manure. Though many were impressed by these Grenada results,
they seemed incapable of facing up to their very obvious implications.
All this happened about 1901.

In 1908 in the course of a visit to Ceylon I saw these Grenada results
repeated, but on a much larger scale, at the Kondesalle cacao estate
near Kandy. Thirty years later--in 1938--when on my tour of the tea
estates of India and Ceylon I resumed my interest in cacao and
re-visited Kondesalle, at which the finest cacao beans I have ever seen
are being produced. I again observed no cacao diseases on this property
and was not told of any by the manager or by his assistants. The trees
appeared exceedingly healthy and here again, as on the small Grenada
plantation, livestock--in this case, pigs and Hissar cattle--were kept
for producing the farmyard manure applied to the cacao trees.

During this tour samples of the surface roots of cacao at Kondesalle
were fixed and sent to London for examination by Dr. Rayner. The results
are referred to in my report on this tour in the following words:

'Cacao. Dr. Rayner examined the surface roots of cacao from Kondesalle
(Ceylon) taken from a field which had been manured with farmyard manure.
Sporadic mycorrhizal infection of endotrophic (i.e. intracellular) type
was present. Compost is not yet being made on this estate. It will be
interesting to see whether still better results than those now yielded
by farmyard manure on this fine property could not be obtained if the
cattle and pig manure were first composted with the estate wastes and
used in the form of humus.'

It will be obvious that in both Grenada and Ceylon examples of how to
grow heavy crops of high quality cacao, free from disease, have long
been provided by accident, as it were. Meanwhile both these regions have
been furnished with modern agricultural departments. The astounding fact
is that no one in these organizations or in the planting community has
understood the value or the significance of the lessons these two
estates have to teach. Nevertheless, both indicate quite clearly how
cacao will have to be produced in the future if the growing menace of
disease is to be averted. As is well known, much of the cacao of
commerce now comes from West Africa, where it is produced largely at the
expense of the original stores of humus left by the forest. As in
Grenada and Trinidad, these stores will not last for ever. After a time
they will be used up and the day of reckoning will arrive. Indeed, this
has already come.

In the West India Committee Circular of September 1944 an article
appeared on the future welfare of this crop in the Gold Coast--the
world's largest exporter of cacao. It appears that the industry is face
to face with a crisis 'perhaps without equal in the history of any major
tropical crop in the British Empire'.

Two factors are responsible for this state of affairs: (1) the swollen-
shoot virus disease, first reported in 1936, and (2) capsid bugs. These
two pests are being investigated at the Tafo Cacao Research Station
established by the local Agricultural Department in 1938. The spread of
these two diseases has been so rapid as to constitute a direct menace to
the whole future of the industry. In 1943 a conference of research
workers was held at Tafo, presided over by the Agricultural Adviser to
the Secretary of State. A programme of future research in cacao was
formulated. Plans were also made for the reorganization of the Tafo
Station as the West African Cacao Research Institute, for which a
director has been appointed.

There seems no doubt that what is needed to place the cacao industry of
the Gold Coast on a sound foundation is not more research into cacao
diseases, but the introduction of livestock into the areas growing cacao
and the conversion of the wastes of the animal and the plant into humus,
as Messrs. J. J. Lyons & Company have done on their tea estates in
Nyasaland (p. 116). The Gold Coast cacao industry, which began to export
produce at the beginning of the century, has obviously been living for
the last forty years or so on capital--on the humus left by the original
forest. This has now been used up and Nature has registered her usual
protest in the form of disease. The West African cacao trees have been
deprived of their manurial rights. The Kondesalle cacao estate in Ceylon
indicates what should be done to put matters right. No committees,
however well selected, and no amount of research, however devoted, will
alter this obvious conclusion. The time has indeed come for the prodigal
to return, to confess, and to start proper farming.

There is no doubt that the cacao industry all over the Empire could at
once be restored by mixed farming and the systematic conversion into
compost of all the vegetable and animal wastes available. The
manufacturing interests in Great Britain which need a regular and
reliable supply of cacao beans should at once use their influence and
insist that this obvious reform be taken in hand forthwith.

One objection to this suggestion must be answered in advance. If a
portion of the existing areas under cacao is devoted to mixed farming,
how is the output to be maintained? The answer is: By virtue of the
vastly increased yield and better quality of the beans, as well as the
longer life of the trees. There is ample land in all the cacao-growing
areas of the Empire for this crop and also for livestock: there is no
reason why this reform should not be set in motion forthwith. Must we
always wait for catastrophe before the simplest step forward can be
taken? What has the agricultural research organization of the Colonies
been doing to allow such a state of affairs as this Gold Coast cacao
scandal to develop?


The cotton crop suffers from many insect and a few fungous diseases. It
has already been mentioned that one-quarter of the space of the last
pre-war issues of the Empire Growing Cotton Review was devoted to
disease. The alarming significance of the figures given can only be
realized when it is remembered that cotton is a distinctly robust crop
that does not need very intensive methods of farming to produce fair
yields of fibre. Moreover, cotton should not exhaust the land very much,
as the fibre of commerce contains little more than the cellulose
manufactured from the gases of the atmosphere and the water in the soil;
the flowers fall after the bolls set; the leaves of the crop mostly drop
before the stalks are removed; the roots remain in the ground: the seed
is very useful for feeding the work cattle. Provided, therefore, a fair
proportion of the cotton seed is passed through the stomachs of oxen and
other animals and the old stalks find their way back to the soil in the
form of humus, this crop cannot possibly wear out the land to any
appreciable extent. Further, as inter-cultivation between the rows has
to stop when the flowers appear, a cotton crop always enables weeds to
cover the surface which, when ploughed under, help to maintain the humus
content of the soil. If the incidence of disease depends on the poverty
of the soil, it would seem that there must be something very wrong
somewhere in the current methods of cotton growing; otherwise these
diseases ought not to occur. A cotton crop, if properly looked after,
ought to be very free from pests.

During the years 1924-31 I had unique opportunities for the study of
this crop, because during this period I held the post of Director of the
Institute of Plant Industry at Indore in Central India, at which cotton
was the principal crop. Indeed, the new institute could not have been
founded or maintained without the help of large grants from the Indian
Central Cotton Committee, which in turn was financed by a small annual
cess on each bale of raw cotton exported from India or used in the local
mills. This cess was naturally passed on to the multitude of
smallholders who raised the crop. If, therefore, the Indian Central
Committee could do something to help these men in return for their
money, this new body and its various research workers would have
justified their existence.

Before taking up an investigation of the cotton crop at Indore in 1924,
a survey of cotton growing in the various parts of India was undertaken.
At the same time, the research work in progress on cotton in other parts
of the world was critically examined.

As regards cotton growing in India, the two most important areas are:
(1) the black cotton soils of the Peninsula, which are derived from the
basalt; (2) the alluvium of north-west India, consisting of deposits
left in a deep chasm by the rivers of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Besides
these there are small areas of garden cultivation in southern India,
where American types of cotton are grown intensively under irrigation
and where heavy crops of good fibre are the rule.

On the black soils there are thousands of examples which indicate the
direction research on this crop should take. All round the villages of
the Peninsula, zones of very highly manured land, rich in organic
matter, occur. These are kept in good fettle by the habits of the
people: the night-soil is habitually added a little at a time to the
surface of the fields. On such zones cotton does well no matter the
season; the plants are well grown and remarkably free from pests; the
yield of seed cotton is high. On the similar but unmanured land
alongside the growth is comparatively poor; only in years of
well-distributed rainfall is the yield satisfactory. But even under the
most adverse conditions one is amazed to see how the cotton plant
manages to survive and to produce some kind of crop. Only the very
hardiest plant could produce seed under such unfavourable circumstances.
The limiting factor in growth on these black soils is the development,
soon after the rains set in, of a colloidal condition, which interferes
with aeration and impedes percolation. This occurs on all black soils,
but organic matter mitigates the condition. As these soils dry out at
the end of the rains, extensive cracking occurs which aerates the soil
but also damages the roots and rapidly desiccates the soil. The
varieties of cotton, therefore, must possess the power of rapid
ripening, otherwise the bolls could not open in time. The growth period
of any successful cotton on the rain-fed, black soil areas must be
short; the plant must literally burst into cotton at picking time and
show no tendency to linger in yielding up its crop. Two pickings at the
most are all that is possible.

On the alluvium of north-west India a somewhat similar limiting factor
occurs. Here cotton is grown on irrigation, which first causes the soil
particles to pack and later on to form colloids. In due course the
American varieties, whose root systems, compared with those of the
indigenous cottons, are superficial, show by their growth that they are
not quite at home. The anthers, the most sensitive portion of the
flower, sometimes fail to open and to release their pollen: the crop is
unable to set a full crop of seed. But this is not all. The ripening
period, particularly in the Punjab, is unduly prolonged; as many as four
pickings are necessary. Moreover, the fibre often lacks strength,
quality, and life. The cause of these troubles is poor soil aeration,
which in these soils leads to a very mild alkali condition. This, in
turn, prevents the cotton crop from absorbing sufficient water from the
soil. One of the easiest methods of preventing this packing and alkali
formation is to increase the bacterial population by means of dressings
of humus. In this way the soil is able to re-create a sufficient supply
of compound particles to restore the aeration and improve the water
supply needed by the cotton.

As regards disease, insects cause more damage to the crop than do fungi:
there is more insect disease on the alluvium than on the black soils.
The insect diseases on the alluvium mostly affect the bolls which, as we
have seen, develop but slowly. If the cotton could be made to ripen more
quickly, these boll diseases might be very considerably reduced.

The direction of research work on cotton was, therefore, disclosed by a
study in the field of the crop itself. The problem was how best to
maintain soil aeration and percolation. This could be solved if more
humus could be obtained. At the same time, there appeared to be every
chance that more humus would materially reduce, by speeding up
maturation, the damage done to the ripening bolls by the various boll
worms. Good farming methods, therefore, including a proper balance
between livestock and cotton, seemed to provide the key to the cotton
problems of India. Once the soils were got into good fettle and
maintained in this condition, the question of improved varieties could
then be taken up with every chance of success. To hope to overcome bad
farming by improving the variety in the first place was an obvious
impossibility, such a research policy amounting to a contradiction in

A study of the research work on cotton which had been done all over the
world did nothing to modify this opinion. Cotton investigation
everywhere appeared to suffer from the fragmentation of the factors,
from a consequent loss of direction, from failure to define the problems
to be investigated, and from a scientific approach on far too narrow a
front without that balance and stability provided by adequate,
first-hand farming experience. The research workers seemed to be far too
busy on the periphery of the subject and to be spending their time on
unimportant details. This has naturally resulted in a spate of minor
papers which lead nowhere except to the cemetery so providentially
furnished by the Empire Cotton Growing Review. In Africa, particularly,
much time and money have been wasted in trying to overcome, by
plant-breeding methods, diseases which obviously owe their origin to a
combination of worn-out soil and bad farming.

Steps were therefore taken at Indore to accelerate the work on the
manufacture of humus which had been begun at the Pusa Research
Institute. The Indore Process was the result. It was first necessary to
try it out on the cotton crop. The results are summed up in the
following table.


Year   Area in acres     Average yield   Yield of the          Rainfall in
      of improved land       in lb.     best plot of the       inches
        under cotton       per acre   year in lb. per acre

1927       20.60              340           384                27.79 
                                                       (distribution good)
1928        6.64              510           515                40.98
                                                 a year of excessive rain)
1929       39.98              578           752                23.11
                                                       (distribution poor)

The figures show that, no matter what the amount and distribution of
rainfall were, the application of humus soon trebled the average yield
of seed cotton--200 lb. per acre--obtained by the cultivators on similar
land in the neighbourhood.

In preparing humus at Indore one of the chief wastes was the old stalks
of cotton. Before these could be composted they had to be broken up.
This was accomplished by laying them on the estate roads, where they
were soon reduced by the traffic to a suitable condition for use as
bedding for the work cattle prior to fermentation in the compost pits. I
owe this suggestion to Sir Edward Hearle Cole, who hit upon this simple
device on his Punjab estate.

The first cotton grower to apply the Indore Process was Colonel (now Sir
Edward) Hearle Cole at the Coleyana Estate in the Montgomery District of
the Punjab, where a compost factory on the lines of the one at the
Institute of Plant Industry at Indore was established in June 1932. At
this centre all available wastes have been regularly composted since the
beginning; the output is now about 8,000 tons of finished humus a year.
Compost has increased the yield of cotton, improved the fibre, lessened
disease, and reduced the amount of irrigation water by a third. The
neighbouring estates have all adopted composting; many interested
visitors have seen the work in progress. One advantage to the Punjab of
this work has, however, escaped attention, namely the importance of the
large quantities of well grown seed, raised on fertile soil, contributed
by these estates to the seed distribution schemes of the Provincial
Agricultural Department. Plant breeding, to be successful, involves two
things--an improved variety plus seed for distribution grown on soil
rich in humus.

The first member of an agricultural department to adopt the Indore
method of composting for cotton was Mr. W. J. Jenkins, C.I.E., when
Chief Agricultural Officer in Sind, who proved that humus is of the
greatest value in keeping the alkali condition in check, in maintaining
the health of the cotton plant, and in increasing the yield of fibre. At
Sakrand, for example, no less than 1,250 cart-loads of finished humus
were prepared in 1934-5 from waste materials such as cotton stalks and
crop residues.

During recent years the Indore Process has been tried out on some of the
cotton farms in Africa belonging to the Empire Cotton Growing
Corporation. In Rhodesia, for example, interesting results have been
obtained by Mr. J. E. Peat at Gatooma. These were published in the
Rhodesia Herald of 17th August 1939. Compost markedly improved the fibre
and increased the yield not only of cotton, but also of the rotational
crop of maize. The results obtained by the pioneers in India, therefore,
apply to Africa.

Why cotton reacts so markedly to humus has only recently been
discovered. The story is an interesting one, which must be placed on
record. In July 1938 I published a paper in the Empire Cotton Growing
Review (Vol. XV, No. 3, 1938, p. 186), in which the role of the
mycorrhizal relationship in the transmission of disease resistance from
a fertile soil to the plant was discussed. In the last paragraph of this
paper the suggestion was made that mycorrhiza 'is almost certain to
prove of importance to cotton and the great differences observed in
Cambodia cotton in India in yield as well as in the length of the fibre,
when grown on (1) garden land (rich in humus) and (2) ordinary unmanured
land, might well be explained by this factor'. In the following number
of this Journal (Vol. XV, No. 4, 1938, p. 310) I put forward evidence
which proved that cotton is a mycorrhiza former. The significance of
this factor to the cotton industry was emphasized in the following

'As regards cotton production, experience in other crops, whose roots
show the mycorrhizal relationship, points very clearly to what will be
necessary. More attention will have to be paid to the well tried methods
of good farming and to the restoration of soil fertility by means of
humus prepared from vegetable and animal wastes. An equilibrium between
the soil, the plant, and the animal can then be established and
maintained. On any particular area under cotton, a fairly definite ratio
between the number of livestock and the acreage of cotton will be
essential. Once this is secured there will be a marked improvement in
the yield, in the quality of the fibre, and in the general health of the
crop. All this is necessary, if the mycorrhizal relationship is to act
and if Nature's channels of sustenance between the soil and the plant
are to function. Any attempt to side-track this mechanism is certain to

'The research work on cotton of to-morrow will have to start from a new
base line--soil fertility. In the transition between the research of
to-day and that of the future, a number of problems now under
investigation will either disappear altogether or take on an entirely
new complexion. A fertile soil will enable the plant to carry out the
synthesis of proteins in the green leaf to perfection. In consequence
the toll now taken by fungous, insect, and other diseases will at first
shrink in volume and then be reduced to its normal insignificance. We
shall also hear less about soil erosion in places like Nyasaland, where
cotton is grown, because a fertile soil will be able to drink in the
rainfall and so prevent this trouble at the source.'

Confirmation of these pioneering results soon followed. In the
Transactions of the British Mycological Society (Vol. XXII, 1939, p.
274) Butler mentions the occurrence of mycorrhiza as luxuriantly
developed in cotton from the Sudan and also in cotton from the black
soils of Gujerat (India). In the issue of Nature of 1st July 1939 Younis
Sabet recorded the mycorrhizal relationship in Egypt. In the Empire
Cotton Growing Review of July 1939 Dr. Rayner confirmed the existence of
mycorrhiza in samples of the roots of both Cambodia and Malvi cotton
collected at my suggestion for her by Mr. Y. D. Wad at Indore, Central
India, from both black cotton soil and from sandy soil from Rajputana.

The problem now to be solved in cotton production and in the control of
disease is the discovery of the easiest way in which the present
extensive methods of agriculture can be converted into more intensive
methods. This involves a great increase in livestock in the existing
cotton areas and the systematic conversion of the cotton stalks into
humus. In this way the yield per acre can rapidly be increased and the
fibre improved. The present supplies of cotton can, therefore, be
produced from about two-thirds the area now under this crop. The land so
released can be used for the production of food grains and fodder crops.
A balanced agriculture is the key to the prevention of the diseases of

Every point here discussed was mentioned or suggested in the section on
cotton in An Agricultural Testament published in 1940. It will be
interesting to observe how long it will take such bodies as the Empire
Cotton Growing Corporation and the Indian Central Cotton Committee to
revise their research policies and to replace their laboratory workers
by farmer-scientists.


The most important cereal in the world is rice. Moreover, it is a crop
remarkably free from diseases of all kinds. Rice, therefore, should take
high rank among Nature's professors of agriculture. A study of its
cultivation might teach us much about the prevention of disease.

But the moment we embark on such a study we find no less than three of
the principles underlying Western agricultural science flatly
contradicted by this ancient cultivation.

In the first place, in many of the great rice areas of the world there
is no such thing as a rotation of crops. Rice follows rice year after
year and century after century without a break, without even a fallow
year every now and then. Moreover, there is no falling off in yield and
no sign of soil exhaustion. There is, therefore, no need of a continuous
rice experiment of the Broadbalk pattern for the simple reason that such
age-long experiments are to be seen everywhere. To begin a new one would
be to carry coals to Newcastle.

In the second place, these continuous rice crops do not need those
extraneous annual applications of nitrogenous manures which are
considered to be essential for all cereals. The rice fields somehow
manure themselves.

In the third place, the rice crop often covers vast areas of land in one
unbroken sheet, thereby providing a paradise for insect and fungous
diseases. But these do not occur: on the contrary, the rice crop is
generally remarkably free from diseases of all kinds.

What is the secret underlying these unexpected and unconventional
results? The beginning of the solution of the riddle will, I think, be
found in the nurseries in which the young rice plants are raised before
transplanting. These are always on well aerated and well manured land,
the manure, as a rule, being well decayed cattle manure. The result is
the rice seedlings become veritable arsenals of such things as nitrogen,
phosphorus, and potash, all in organic combination. Moreover, the rice
plant is a mycorrhiza former and so ample provision occurs even in the
seedling stage for the circulation of protein between soil, sap, and
green leaf. How important this building up of the rice seedling is will
be clear, when it is realized that the transplanting process from well
aerated soil to mud involves a completely fresh start in a new
environment. This results in a delay of many days and, therefore, in the
loss of a substantial proportion of the total growing period.
Nevertheless, transplanting pays, because transplanted rice always gives
a better yield than broadcast rice in which, of course, there is no
delay in growth. Here we have a clear and definite lesson from the long
experience of the Orient, namely, the vital importance of well-nourished
seedlings. This applies in particular to crops like fruit, tea, coffee,
cacao, tobacco, vegetables, and so forth. In all these well begun is
half done.

But how does the rice manage to manure itself? The answer is provided by
the nitrogen-fixing powers of the algal film found in rice fields. This
algal film does three things: it aerates the water of the rice fields;
it fixes a continuous supply of nitrogen from the atmosphere; it leaves
behind a useful amount of easily decomposable organic matter.
Nevertheless, more organic matter is needed in the rice fields beyond
that supplied by the algal film and the roots of the old crop. How
markedly rice benefits from compost has been proved at Dichpali in
India. The results have already been set out in Chapter V of An
Agricultural Testament, pp. 80-2.

The problem now is to find more compost for the rice crop. Nature has
already provided ample vegetable waste in the shape of the water
hyacinth, an aquatic weed to be found in most of the rice-growing areas
of the world. This water weed should be regarded as a heaven-sent gift
of Providence for the rice-growing areas, as it provides not only large
supplies of readily fermentable vegetable matter, but sufficient
moisture for the composting process as well. All that is needed besides
is a supply of cow-dung and urine earth, both of which are available
locally. In Bengal, for example, the annual yield of rice could be
vastly increased if only a national campaign for the composting of the
water hyacinth could be set in motion. That this weed makes excellent
compost has already been fully demonstrated: first at Barrackpore, near
Calcutta, by Mr. E. F. Watson, O.B.E., the Superintendent of the
Governor's Estates, Bengal, and later on some of the tea estates in
Assam. No future rice famines in Bengal need be feared once full use is
made of the vast local supplies of water hyacinth.

What is the explanation of the comparative immunity of the rice crop
from disease? I think the answer is provided by the fact that rice is a
mycorrhiza former and that this mechanism works not only in the rice
nurseries, but also in the paddy fields themselves: nothing has
interfered with this process, as artificial manures are unknown and such
bad practices as over-irrigation are, from the nature of the case,
impossible. Indeed, the behaviour of this crop as regards parasites
supplies strong confirmation of the view that what matters most in crop
production is the effective circulation of protein between soil and sap,
followed by the synthesis of still more protein of the right kind in the
green leaf. High quality protein will, in ordinary circumstances, always
protect the plant against its enemies.


For nineteen years, 1905-23, I was engaged in a study of the wheat crop
of India, which included work on the creation of new varieties. The
records of the work on Indian wheat carried out at Pusa will be found in
Wheat in India, published in 1908, and in a series of thirty-four papers
issued by the Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa. A list of these
papers will be found in The Application of Science to Crop Production,
Oxford University Press, 1929, and a summary in Bulletin 171 of the
Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, 1928.

Pusa is situated near the eastern extremity of the area under this crop,
where the wheat and rice tracts are intermingled and where there is more
rice than wheat. As would be expected, both the soil and atmospheric
conditions are distinctly on the damp side for wheat. All three of the
common rust fungi--brown, yellow, and black rust--were much in evidence.
In one respect this was an advantage in plant breeding. It was easy to
arrange for abundant infecting material for testing the reaction of the
various cultures to these parasites. I did nothing to destroy these
rusts; I did everything possible to have them always at hand. The result
was that my ideas as to the cause of fungous diseases were constantly
being verified. If a variety of wheat is resistant to one or more of
these rusts, it makes no difference at all how much infecting material
rains upon it or how much diseased stubble is ploughed into the land.
Nothing happens even in wet seasons which always favour infection.

In the course of this work some interesting observations on immunity
were made. Among the types of wheat in the submontane tracts of North
Bihar a number were found which were very seldom or never attacked by
rust. They were, to all intents and purposes, immune. Unfortunately they
all possessed weak straw and poor yielding power, and were only useful
as plant breeding material. Should, in the future, any wheat breeder
need such types, they could either be collected at harvest time or
selected from the crop raised from bazaar samples of wheat from this

Another wheat which was immune to all three rusts was the primitive
species known as einkorn (Triticum monococcum). But this wheat never
flowered at Pusa, remaining in the vegetative condition till harvest
time. One year some of these dense tufts were allowed to remain in the
ground till the rains broke in June. This species was not killed by the
intense hot weather of April and May, but as the hot season developed it
began to show signs of infection by some parasite. This proved to be
black rust--an interesting example of the destruction of immunity by
adverse weather conditions, and a very striking confirmation of Mr. J.
E. R. McDonagh's views on the limits of immunity set by extreme climatic
conditions (p. 179).

The most interesting case of wheat disease I met with in my tours was in
an area of low-lying land in the Harnai valley in the mountains of the
Western Frontier. Here I found wheat growing in wet soil, in which the
aeration was poor and the general soil conditions more suitable for rice
than for wheat. It appeared this area was always affected by eelworm,
which, however, never spread to the adjoining wheat areas which
continued almost without a break for at least 1,000 miles to the east.
Through this valley there was a constant stream of all kinds of traffic
both ways--towards Afghanistan to the west and towards the great cities
of the plains in the east. Nothing was done to check the infection of
the neighbouring wheat areas by preventing the cysts of the eelworm
being carried by the feet of animals or men or by wheeled traffic.
Infection both ways must have been going on without interruption for
hundreds of years. But nothing had happened. Obviously the eelworm is
not the cause of the trouble or no power on earth could have stopped the
whole of the wheat areas of a sub-continent becoming infected. Before
infection is possible the soil conditions must be favourable.

A similar case of eelworm on rice occurred in the deep-water rice areas
of Bengal, where the disease is known as ufra. Again we have a heavily
infected area in close contact with one of the greatest rice areas of
the world. No precautions are taken to isolate the area and protect the
surrounding rice from infection. There has been no spread of the trouble
outside the small deep-water areas which favour the eelworm.

These two outstanding cases, I think, dispose of the eelworm bogey,
which threatens to raise its head in this country in connection with the
eelworm diseases of potato and sugar beet. The experts propose measures
to control the potato crop so as to prohibit the movement of tubers from
and into certain areas. They also recommend that infested areas should
give up growing these crops for some years till the eelworm dies out
naturally. Before these suggestions are accepted by the authorities
consideration might be given to the significance of the two cases--wheat
and rice--cited above, and also to the elimination of eelworm on farms
and gardens in Southern Rhodesia by dressings of freshly prepared
compost (p. 149).

Intimately bound up with the resistance of the growing wheat plant to
disease is the way wheat straw can stand up to the processes of decay
when used as thatch. Is there any connection between the life of a
thatched roof and the manurial treatment of the land which produced the
wheat straw? There is. Farmyard manure results in good thatch,
artificials in bad thatch. This will be evident from the following
extracts from an article entitled 'Artificial Manures Destroy Quality',
which appeared in the News-Letter on Compost, No. 4, October 1942, p.

'In the case of the wheat crop raised on Viscount Lymington's estate in
Hampshire, careful records have been kept of the life of wheat straw
when used for thatching. Wheat straw from fields manured with organic
matter, partly of animal origin, lasts ten years as thatch; straw from
similar land manured with artificials lasts five years.'

Interesting confirmation of this view on the life of wheat straw in
thatch has been supplied in a recent letter dated 10th September 1942
from a correspondent (Mr. J. G. D. Hamilton, Jordans, Buckinghamshire),
who writes:

'About five years ago, while visiting craftsmen in Wiltshire, I was told
by two old thatchers in different parts of the county that the straw
they had to work with now was not nearly so good as that which they had
had in years gone by. Both gave as the reason the modern use of
artificials in place of farmyard manure.'

Anyone owning a thatched building, who wishes to compare the virtues of
compost with the harm done by chemical manures, can easily make use of
the above experiences when the time comes to renew the roof. Alternate
strips of the two kinds of straw will soon show interesting differences
and will suggest a further trial--a comparison of the whole wheat bread
made from the two samples of wheat.


One of the oldest crops in the world is the vine. Its original home is
said to be in Central Asia whence it has spread everywhere. Even when
outdoor conditions have made its cultivation impossible, it has been
successfully grown under glass often, as in Holland, on a commercial
scale. Such an ancient branch of crop production might, therefore, have
much to teach us about disease and its prevention.

During some thirty years, from 1910 to 1939, I came in close contact
with this crop, which I soon began to regard as one of my ablest
teachers. The instruction I received falls naturally into three
independent courses which can best be dealt with in order.

From 1910 to 1918, the summers of which were spent in the Quetta valley
on the Western Frontier of India, I saw a good deal of grape growing in
desert areas, as it had been successfully practiced for many centuries.
The tribesmen of Baluchistan select the well-drained slopes of the
valleys for their vineyards, where the subsoil is sufficiently well
aerated for healthy root development. The vines are grown in deep,
narrow trenches, the excavated soil being piled on the undisturbed
surface between to form ridges a few feet high, which break the force of
the dry, hot winds which often sweep down these valleys. The floors of
these trenches are well manured with farmyard manure, irrigated by flow
when the vines are planted, after which they are supported by the steep
earthen walls of the ditches. As the natural rainfall during the growth
period is almost nil and as the trenches are naturally well drained,
there is no danger of waterlogging. The amount of irrigation water
needed is not excessive, as the trench system checks evaporation. The
annual rainfall is mostly received in the form of snow, so that watering
does not begin till after the buds break in the spring. These partly
buried vineyards are invisible at a distance, as the vines are never
allowed to grow above the ground level.

At first sight all the conditions necessary for fungous and insect
diseases seemed to have been provided--a damp atmosphere round the vines
and restricted air movement in the trenches. Nevertheless, there was no
disease of any kind--at least I never found even the beginnings of such
trouble. On the contrary, both the foliage and the wood exhibited every
sign of robust health and well-being. The yield of grapes was heavy, the
quality and keeping power excellent. Moreover, the varieties grown had
been in cultivation for centuries. Nowhere did I hear of the activities
of plant breeders in producing new types: no cases of the introduction
of varieties from areas outside Central Asia came to my notice. Another
characteristic of this cultivation, the significance of which was not
fully appreciated till later, was never to cover the whole of the
available area with vineyards. The tribesmen seemed to be content with a
modest fraction of their land under grapes, leaving the remainder unused
or devoted to crops like wheat. This enabled them to go in for mixed
farming and to produce sufficient farmyard manure for their vines and
other fruit. I saw no areas like many of the vine-growing regions of
Europe, where every square foot of suitable land is devoted to grapes,
leaving none to produce muck.

Under this system of cultivation the vine obviously flourished under
semi-desert conditions; the crop possessed ample powers of disease
resistance; the varieties to all intents and purposes were eternal; the
fungicides, insecticides, spraying machines, and artificial manures of
the West were unknown.

There was, however, one problem which needed investigation in
Baluchistan. The grapes were not reaching the vast market provided by
the cities of India, in spite of the fact that a direct broad-gauge
railway line extended from the Afghan frontier at Chaman to all parts of
the subcontinent This was due primarily to the primitive methods of
packing in vogue. There was much waste of space in the railway fruit
vans from the miscellaneous nature of the packages used, which were of
all shapes, sizes, and weights. This naturally increased the freight
rates. I was called upon to solve these problems and, although a
Government official' obtained permission to trade in fruit so that l
could discover at first hand the obstacles which had to be overcome. Two
improvements were made: (l) the design and introduction of suitable
crates, each containing twenty-four 2 lb. punnets of grapes, and (2)
the unification of the rules of the many separate railway companies
which handled the fruit, so that in view of the use of standard crates
(by which the traffic could be easily handled and by which the revenue
earned by each van could be increased) the empties were returned free of
charge. The non-returnable and returnable crates adopted for grapes and
tomatoes, are illustrated in Fig. 3.

FIG. 3. Returnable and non-returnable crates for tomatoes

The problem then was to find the cheapest source of wood. This proved to
be Norway. The Norwegian timber was cut up into suitable sections or
made into punnets at Glasgow, packed, and shipped to Karachi for the
final rail journey to Quetta, where the crates were assembled and sold
to the dealers. The difficulty was not to sell the crates, but to make
them up fast enough to keep an adequate reserve stock during the fruit

At the beginning of this work an interesting thing happened. After the
crates had been designed and successfully used for my own consignments,
the local traders without exception refused to adopt them. They only saw
one side of this question: they did not see how much better and further
my grapes travelled than theirs and how this increased the demand by
bringing in distant places, which had only heard of the grapes of
Afghanistan and Baluchistan. But the fruit dealers all over India soon
insisted on their consignments being packed exactly as mine were. The
demand for the improved crates then went up by leaps and bounds. It is
safe to say that had this work been confined to the design of packages
only and had it not included actual trading, by which the whole subject
could be explored, no reform of the frontier fruit trade would ever have
taken place.

But the most difficult obstacle of all was to persuade the Indian
railways to unify their rules and to agree to return the empty fruit
crates free of charge in return for the increased revenue which resulted
from standardization. My proposals every year were duly placed before
the Railway Conference Association and were invariably rejected. Then
suddenly, to my great astonishment, they were accepted in full.

This experience shows how necessary it is for the innovator in
agricultural matters to have complete freedom for working out his ideas
and ample time to get them adopted. It shows, also, how important it is
for the scientist to keep his attention directed to every practical
aspect of the problem before him, to neglect no detail, however humble.
Nevertheless, these fruit-packing results would not have been possible,
had not the grapes themselves been well grown. The length of the life of
the grape after harvest is a short one unless a suitable variety is
grown and the details of the actual growing are correct. This principle
applies to most fruit and to most produce. Keeping power, like disease
resistance, depends on the kind grown and on correct methods of

But the most useful lesson in grape growing I learnt in Baluchistan must
be mentioned last of all. I realized what a healthy vine should look
like at all stages of its growth and how eloquent are the leaves, the
buds, and the old wood about the soil conditions needed for ideal root
development. How essential this item of my education has been will be
evident from what follows.

My next lesson in the cultivation of the vine was in Africa--in Cape
Colony in the spring of 1933 and in Algeria and Morocco in 1936.
Generally speaking, all the vineyards I saw were only moderately
affected by disease. But nowhere were vines to be seen with quite the
same health and vigour as those on the Western Frontier of India. I put
this down at the time to a want of balance between the vines and the
livestock. Everywhere were large areas under vineyards, but there did
not seem to be anything like enough farmyard manure. But a change is now
taking place in the Western Province of South Africa. Even in 1939 the
vine growers were beginning to take up the Indore Process. One such
example on the main road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch was
referred to by Nicholson in the South African Farmer's Weekly of 23rd
August 1939 in the following words:

'Motorists travelling along this road cannot help noticing how healthy
this farmer's vineyards look and how orderly is the whole farm. Early
this winter I visited it in time to see the huge stacks of
manure--beautiful, finely rotted bush, which had been helped to reach
that state by being placed in the kraal under the animals. Pigs had
played their part too. During the wine-pressing season all the skins of
the grapes are fed to the pigs and later returned to the vineyards in
the form of manure.'

Since these words were written South Africa has become compost-minded
and I am informed that much more attention is now being paid to
livestock as a factor in successful grape growing and to the systematic
conversion of all available vegetable and animal wastes into humus.

In Algeria and Morocco every available acre seemed to have been planted
in vines, but the supplies of farmyard manure seemed to me to be quite
inadequate. The methods of grape growing, the prevention of disease, and
the manufacture of wine closely followed those in the south of France,
which I was soon to study in some detail.

My last course of instruction in the raising of grapes took place during
the summers of 1937, 1938, and 1939 in the Midi, where in the course of
many memorable tours in the company of the late Mr. George Clarke,
C.I.E., a former colleague in India, I saw many thousands of acres under
the vine and learnt a good deal about the way this crop is cultivated in
the south of France. What struck me most, besides the shortage of
farmyard manure, was the vast sums of money spent on artificial manures
to grow the crop and on poison sprays to keep the various fungous
diseases at bay. In spite of all this, the crop did not seem at home.
The foliage in particular looked wrong. Almost everywhere in the areas
given up to vineyards there seemed to be far too little farmyard manure.
In one large group of vineyards near the mouth of the Rhone, where
tractors had almost entirely replaced the horse and artificials were
relied on for growth, I never saw the spraying machine and the poison
spray so much in evidence. One interesting result of all this was that
the grapes produced in these vineyards could no longer be used to make
wine, but were devoted to the production of alcohol for diluting the
petrol needed for motor-cars. No one, however, seemed to realize the
significance of all this--the complete failure of artificials to
maintain health in the vines and quality in the produce.

A sharp look-out was kept during these tours for vineyards in which the
appearance of the foliage and of the old wood should tally in all
respects with those of Central Asia, namely, well-grown plants looking
thoroughly at home and in which the wood, the foliage, and the young
grapes possessed the bloom of health. At last, near the village of
Jouques in the Department of Bouches du Rhone, such vines were found.
They caught my eye on the left-hand side of the road, as our car slowly
descended by a winding roadway from the high ground above to the valley
below. We halted and made discreet inquiries. These vines had never
received any artificials, only animal manure; the vineyard had a local
reputation for the quality of its wine. Arrangements were then made with
the proprietress to have the active roots examined. As was expected,
they exhibited the mycorrhizal association. The vine proved to be a
mycorrhiza former. The perfect nutrition, the high quality, and good
keeping power of the grapes, the long life of the variety, and the
absence of disease in Central Asia were at once explained. It was
equally obvious that the general degeneration of the vineyards of the
Midi and the need for poison sprays to keep fungous diseases in check,
as well as the necessity for the plant breeder to produce an endless
supply of new varieties, could all be traced to failure to realize the
vital importance of livestock and of real humus for this ancient crop.

Obviously, at some period in her history, France took the wrong turning
in the cultivation of the vine and failed to realize the need of balance
between livestock and crops. It is more than likely this change began
with the increased demand for wine which followed the Industrial
Revolution and the growth of the urban areas. In all probability the
Phylloxera epidemic, which overwhelmed the vineyards towards the end of
the nineteenth century, was the first of Nature's warnings and the
beginning of the writing on the wall. More will come.

Looking at the cultivation of the vine from all possible angles and
bearing in mind the lessons of the Orient, there can be little doubt
that the faithful adoption of the law of return will speedily put an end
to most of the diseases of this crop and, at the same time, establish a
new base line for the investigations of the future. In the training of
the investigators of to-morrow it seems essential that our future
instructors should widen their experience and take into consideration
the lessons the Orient has to teach us about the stability of the
variety and its resistance to disease once the manuring follows the lead
of Nature.


My active interest in the problems of fruit growing and the reaction of
the fruit tree to disease began in the West Indies in 1899 and has
continued ever since. From 1903 to 1905 a good deal of attention was
paid to these matters while on the staff of the South Eastern
Agricultural College at Wye. At Pusa I had a large fruit plantation
under my charge for nineteen years and spent a good deal of time in the
study of the problems underlying fruit production. This included an
investigation of the factors concerned in the effect of grass on fruit
trees. The work involved the detailed examination of the root systems of
a number of different species throughout the year and the way the trees
and the soil came into gear. The results of ten years' work were
summarized in Chapter IX of An Agricultural Testament. At Quetta on the
Western Frontier I was provided with a small experiment station from
1910 to 1918, where fruit was the main interest. On retirement in 1931 I
continued my studies of fruit problems in my small garden at Blackheath.
My experience of fruit and its diseases has, therefore, extended over a
period of forty-five years.

During this period a few very interesting cases both of loss of quality
and of active disease have been investigated, the results of which are
now set forth in chronological order.

The first of these problems was met with at Pusa in the case of the
peach. Quite by chance one of the peach plots happened to be planted on
a well-drained, permeable soil, in which the growth was far above the
average of the locality. The yield and quality of the peaches were
outstanding. It was quite easy to remove the skin of any of these ripe
peaches in one piece--a quality test as good as any. On several
occasions towards the end of the crop the weather changed--the dry, hot,
westerly winds, usual during the ripening period, gave place to the
damp, easterly winds which always precede the south-west monsoon. With
this change in the humidity two things always happened: (1) the peaches
lost their quality and became tasteless; (2) they were then attacked by
the fruit-fly. Now these fruit-fly attacks never occurred while the air
was dry and the fruit retained its taste and quality. No sooner had the
damp winds destroyed the flavour than the fruit-fly appeared and its
maggots proceeded to devour the crop. Even if it had been possible to
keep the fruit-flies in check, nothing would have been gained for the
simple reason that when the quality is lost peaches are hardly worth

FIG 4. Hot weather (below a a) and monsoon foliage (above a a) of the
       custard apple

Another interesting thing happened at Pusa in connection with the peach.
The raising of quality crops depended on an ample supply of irrigation
water after the fruit had set, because during this period little or no
rain was received, the upper soil was dry, and the extensive surface
root system of this crop remained dormant unless kept moist by
irrigation. With no irrigation the peach managed to survive the hot
season and to ripen a small crop, but with this difference--the peaches
were small, hard, and quite devoid of quality. The explanation appears
to be this. The peach tree, like the other fruit trees under study at
Pusa, has two root systems--a well-developed, surface system, which
comes into action during the growth period provided the surface soil is
moist enough; if the peach is irrigated during the hot season, these
surface roots begin to function when the buds open in the spring and
continue in action during the rains, till the leaves fall; if, however,
the trees are not watered, the surface roots remain dormant till the
south-west monsoon in June. The function of the deep root system is to
maintain the water supply during the hot season, and for this purpose
new absorbing roots are produced every hot weather in the deep, moist
layers of soil down to twenty feet from the surface. Obviously the two
different methods of supplying the peach with water lead to very
different results as regards the quality of fruit. These two methods
also affect the leaves as well. Under irrigation, large, well formed
leaves of the right colour were produced throughout the season: there
was no difference between hot weather and rains leaves. But when the
trees relied for water on the deep roots only, the hot weather leaves
were small and pale green, changing suddenly into large, dark green
leaves when the monsoon in June brought the surface roots into action.
Unfortunately I did not have these leaf differences recorded in drawings
in the case of the peach, but only in the custard apple, where the
results were closely similar (Fig. 4).

These facts suggest a promising direction for the study of quality in
fruit. The development of quality depends entirely on surface roots and
on the food materials these roots collect. As the peach is a mycorrhiza
former and as this relationship occurs only in the surface roots, we
have in this species and the other fruit trees cultivated in India, all
of which possess two roots systems and all of which are mycorrhiza
formers, perfect instruments for breaking new ground in nutrition and in
the detailed study of the fungus-root partnership.

Another very good example of a tropical fruit, in which the mycorrhizal
association affects the upper of two root systems, superficial and deep,
and thus plays an important part in the development of quality and in
disease resistance is the guava; this fruit is easily grown and
cultivated. This root development is shown in Plate IV. Further details
of the investigations made at Pusa on this crop will be found in An
Agricultural Testament, Chapter IX.

Another of the crops I grew at Pusa was the banana. When manured with
farmyard manure, the response to this treatment as regards yield and
quality was amazing. So it is when leaf-mould from the forest is used,
as I once observed in the Botanical Station at St. Vincent in the West
Indies about 1900, when some suckers of various varieties imported from
India were tried out. The effect of leaf-mould was to confer on the
fruit flavour and quality otherwise unknown. Further, both at Pusa and
St. Vincent there was not the slightest trace of disease.

How very different are the plantation results in the West Indies and
Central America, where large areas of steep hillsides under forest have
been converted into banana fields. As long as the original humus made by
the trees lasts, all goes well, but the moment this is exhausted one
fungous disease after another makes its appearance and does great
mischief. It appears that in these modern plantations little or no
provision has been made for livestock and the preparation of large
quantities of compost for maintaining the soil in a fertile condition.
That this is needed is suggested by the fact that the banana is a
mycorrhiza former.

That properly made humus will always be essential in banana cultivation
is suggested by the following extract from a letter dated 27th February
1944 from a correspondent in Southern Rhodesia, Mr. A. D. Wilson,
Burnside, Bindura, who has been trying out the effect of humus on
various fruit trees. As regards the effect of humus on the banana, he

'Bananas. The effect of compost on these has been perhaps the most
marked of anything I have done. Bananas are not considered a commercial
proposition in Southern Rhodesia and for four years I worked away
without using compost. Then I began to apply it--the change was
remarkable. Year by year the plants grew larger, the bunches increased
their yield till to-day I can expect bunches that carry 200 large
bananas and more, and have a flavour better, so the Chief Horticulturist
says, than any imported article.'

Another interesting example of the effect of organic manures on the
orange has just come from the Mazoe valley in Southern Rhodesia. In a
letter dated 9th June 1944 Captain Moubray writes:

'I have been watching an orange grove belonging to one of the large
companies. It is about twenty years old and has been fed all its life on
little but artificials containing a large percentage of sulphate of
ammonia. It is just about finished--the trees are full of dead wood and
the crops it bears are now unprofitable--the soil is practically dead.
Opposed to it is another grove further down the Mazoe valley, which has
to a large degree been fed on organic wastes--it is still healthy and
bears good crops. Again another one, which was chemically fed till a few
years ago--the trees were cut off about four feet high and the
treatment changed to organics--the trees are now coming away strong and
healthy. I think I shall write a short article about it and call it "Two
Orange Groves". From all information I get the same thing has happened
with tea.' (This article appeared in the issue of The Fertilizer,
Feeding Stuffs and Farm Supplies Journalal of 15th September 1944.)

As already stated, fruit was my principal preoccupation during the nine
seasons, 1910-18, which I spent at Quetta in Baluchistan. Many further
observations were made, some of considerable interest. The way in which
green-fly attacks could be induced or checked at will on the peach and
the almond is described in An Agricultural Testament, p. 164. Green-fly
was unknown in the area under my charge until over-irrigation produced a
heavy attack which was completely checked by restoring the aeration of
the soil. This has been one of the neatest examples which has come under
my observation of the effect of soil aeration on the health of a crop:
the results were so well marked and so definite, two quite distinct
foliages being produced, one fly-infected at the base, and one quite
normal and free from infection further along the shoots. It was
particularly noticeable that the fly did not spread from the infected
leaves to the normal. The original purpose of the extra irrigation had
been to try to store the precious irrigation water during the winter in
the soil itself instead of allowing it to run to waste. Evidently Nature
did not agree to this suggestion and showed her refusal in the usual

Among my most successful attempts to grow fruit at Quetta must be
mentioned outdoor tomato growing; this had also been carried on at Pusa.
Each plant was allowed to produce two stems which were tied to an
ordinary wire fence of the right height, the tomatoes making a wall of
foliage and fruit without any loss of space. The only manure used was
cattle manure, but great trouble was taken to raise really strong
seedlings for transplanting. Not only were the yield and quality far
above the average, but the carrying power of the fruit was amazing. It
was possible to send tomatoes from Quetta to the distant Calcutta market
during August and September in ordinary railway vans, first through the
terrific heat of the Sind desert, followed in the Gangetic plain by the
moist, hot conditions of the Indian monsoon. The tomatoes arrived
without damage or loss of quality, a fact I attributed to the care
expended in their growth. Besides their keeping power and good quality,
not the slightest sign of any insect, fungous, or virus disease appeared
in these large-scale trials.

With this experience in retrospect, I was naturally intensely interested
in a letter I received some years ago from Mr. A. R. Wills of the
Tadburn Nursery, Romsey, in Hampshire. Mr. Wills asked my advice about
the disposal of a considerable quantity of tomato haulm which had been
attacked by the common wilt disease. I advised composting and returning
the compost to the same houses for the next crop. This suggestion was
somewhat violently opposed by one of the experts connected with the
Ministry of Agriculture, who foretold dire results if my unorthodox
proposals were accepted. Mr. Wills, however, decided to adopt them. The
result was a fine crop, free from disease. Mr. Wills then proceeded to
install the Indore Process at Tadburn and in this work was
enthusiastically backed up by the foreman in charge. The result is that
since those days Tadburn has never looked back and has gone from
strength to strength.

Since 1934 in my small garden at Blackheath I have conducted an
experiment to ascertain the effect of a fertile soil on the incidence of
fruit diseases. When the garden was taken over in 1934 the acid, sandy
soil was completely worn out and the fruit trees--apples, pears,
cherries, and plums--were literally smothered by insect and fungous
pests. They were the kind of trees that most people would have consigned
to the bonfire. But instead they were carefully preserved and steps were
taken to convert all the available wastes of the garden into humus. Some
of this was given to the trees and the reaction of the pests to the new
manurial treatment noted. Nothing very much happened the first year. The
next year infection was noticeably less. The third year most of the
pests had disappeared of their own accord, except in one case--a rather
delicate apple tree, badly infested with American blight. During the
fourth year this infection disappeared, but the tree is nothing like so
robust as the others and again (1944) after a three years' abstinence
from annual dressings of compost shows a distinct tendency to welcome a
leaf disease--in this case due to a fungus. It may be that the stock on
which this apple is grafted does not suit the sandy soil or that the
combination of stock and scion is not a happy one. But, with this
interesting exception, all the fruit trees have thrown off their pests
and produced fruit of really exceptional size, quality, and keeping
power. A small and rather old pear tree, which in 1934 was literally
alive with green-fly and plant lice, armies of the latter being observed
climbing up the stem, a really disgusting sight, has been restored to
health: the tiny, hard, uneatable pears of 1934 have developed into
fruit of remarkable size and quality. The twigs and leaves are now
healthy and quite free from pests. No fungicides or insecticides were at
any period used in this work.

Perhaps the most interesting experiment in this Blackheath garden
concerns a common virus disease of strawberries. This arose out of a
visit to the strawberry area round Botley, near Southampton, which, as
is well known, has fallen upon evil days. The crop is grown by
smallholders, but no provision was made for livestock and the production
of animal manure. Substitutes, mostly composed of artificials, were used
instead. As long as the original stores of humus in the soil lasted, all
went well and a prosperous industry developed. Trouble then began. The
soils lost their texture and permeability, and the strawberry plants
began to be affected by virus and other diseases and then to go on
strike. The area under crop dwindled. During the same visit I saw a
large, well conducted strawberry farm near Southampton, on which
farmyard manure was always applied. The crops were excellent and no soil
troubles or pests were to be seen. I secured samples of the roots of
these thriving strawberry plants and asked Dr. Rayner to examine them.
As I expected, the strawberry is a mycorrhiza former and therefore
likely to respond to properly made humus.

At this point I began to wonder what would happen to virus-infected
strawberries, if they were grown in compost. Would the affected plants
recover? If virus-free and virus-infected plants were grown in compost
side by side, would any infection take place? What would be the result
of starting a new plantation in heavily composted soil from runners,
half of which came from the virus-infected plants and half from healthy
plants? Accordingly such a plantation was made. Two samples of Royal
Sovereign strawberries were secured--one from an experiment station,
certified to be attacked by virus, the other from the best commercial
strawberry farm I knew of in England, where no virus had occurred. The
plots were arranged side by side on land well manured with compost. The
results were interesting. No infection of the healthy strawberries
occurred: the virus-afflicted plants recovered: the new plot from equal
numbers of runners from the original plantings was free from any trace
of disease and, moreover, has yielded good crops of fine quality. The
virus disease of strawberries appears, therefore, to be a mare's nest
and to result from methods of farming which are inadmissible. The remedy
is to combine livestock with strawberry growing and to convert all the
vegetable and animal wastes into humus.

It occurred to me in the course of this work that the Southampton
strawberry industry could be assisted or perhaps salvaged outright if
use could be made of the large quantities of unused humus in the
controlled tips near the city. I visited one of these controlled tips
near Bitterne and found, as I expected, that it was a veritable humus
mine. All that was needed was to separate, by simple screening, the
refractory material and to place the resulting humus at the disposal of
the strawberry growers. But all my efforts to get this done failed to
overcome the inertia of departmentalism. The municipal authorities
concerned with the tips and the county authorities anxious to help the
strawberry industry were widely separated and independent bodies. I
could not, in the brief time at my disposal, discover the secret by
which the various bodies concerned could be brought into fruitful
co-operation. In the meantime, the strawberry industry continues to
decline. This episode reminded me of the anecdote recounted in
Thackeray's Book of Snobs, where the King of Spain was burnt to death
because no Director of Etiquette was available to set the machinery of
the Court into harmonious and effective action, so that one of the
footmen on duty could pour a nearby bucket of water on the unfortunate

While in Westmorland (1940-3) I saw an excellent example of recovery
from virus disease, by means of compost, in raspberries at Levens Hall.
Twelve years ago Mr. F. C. King, the head gardener, decided to put to a
crucial test the current views on the running out of varieties and to
discover whether this is due to improper methods of soil management or
to a real breakdown in constitution. For this purpose he started in
fertile soil a new raspberry plot from the most virus-infected stock of
Lloyd George he could find. The plants soon made a complete recovery
from virus. I saw them in 1943 and found them free from disease and
still producing heavy crops of fine fruit, quite up to exhibition
standard. This was one of the best examples of the retreat of virus
before soil fertility I have so far seen.

In all these adventures in fruit growing I never had occasion to use a
spraying machine for destroying a parasite, or any fungicides,
insecticides, or germicides. Disease resistance was left to the plant.
The only damage from parasites that could be regarded as at all serious
were the attacks of peach fly at Pusa towards the end of the crop in
those seasons when the moist currents which heralded the south-west
monsoon caught the crop and destroyed its quality and made it attractive
to the pest. Against accidents of this kind there can be no remedy--they
must be accepted as inevitable. This long experience of the power
conferred on the fruit tree by proper methods of manuring and soil
management has helped to confirm my earlier ideas that bad farming and
gardening are at the root of disease and that the appearance of a pest
should be regarded as a warning from Mother Earth to put our house in

There is a further point to consider. If fruit trees need to be drenched
with poison sprays before they can produce a crop, what is the effect of
such fruit on the health and well-being of the people who have to
consume it? We know these practices kill the bees and also the


One of the crops under study at Pusa between the years 1905 and 1923 was
tobacco grown for leaf and also for seed. Only one disease, which
resulted in malformed dwarf plants, was met with during these nineteen
years. This trouble has since been proved to be due to virus. Such
affected plants were quite common in the various cultures for the first
two years, then they became fewer and by 1910 had disappeared
altogether. Similar diseased plants occurred in the neighbourhood in the
fields of the cultivators from whom a portion of the labour force was
obtained. At no period were any steps taken to control this disease or
to regulate the movements of the labourers. Nevertheless, no infection
was spread or was carried once correct methods of growing tobacco were
adopted. These consisted in raising the seed on humus-filled soil,
careful attention to the surface drainage, and organic manuring of the
nurseries, the production of well-grown material for transplanting, and
the growth of the leaf tobacco on soil fertilized by various organic
manures including farmyard manure. At no period in these nineteen years
was the soil of the tobacco nurseries sterilized nor were artificials or
spraying machines used. My tobacco cultures, which always earned the
respect of all who saw them, were examples of organic farming pure and
simple. Once the details of tobacco growing were mastered there was no
disease of any kind: the plants protected themselves against every form
of parasite as well as virus.

Captain Moubray informs me that similar results are now being obtained
in Southern Rhodesia, where tobacco is an important commercial crop. The
replacement of artificials by freshly prepared compost in the nurseries
and in the tobacco fields was at once followed by a very marked
diminution of virus trouble.

That the other tobacco diseases which of late years have begun to
trouble the farmers in Rhodesia are due to an impoverished soil is
suggested by the appearance of eelworm in this crop. This disease and
its prevention are referred to in the Rhodesia Herald of 4th September
1942 as follows:

'At Darwendale, Mr. O. C. Rawson has applied five tons of compost per
acre to infested tobacco land. In the first year there was a reduction
of eelworm, and in the second year, without a further application, the
eelworm disappeared. Other tobacco farmers began to report similar
experiences. The compost, of course, was applied for its fertilizing
value and the consequences on the eelworm population were a surprise.'

Tobacco has not proved to be an exception to the long list of crops
which are mycorrhiza formers. Samples of the surface roots of Rhodesia
tobacco, taken from plants grown by means of freshly prepared humus,
exhibit, as was expected, this very significant symbiosis. It is more
than probable that quality in this crop will be found to depend, among
other factors, on the efficiency of the mycorrhizal association. If this
proves to be the case, the restoration of high quality in the cured
product in places like Cuba will not be a very difficult matter once
properly made humus replaces artificial manures.


The leguminous crop as a rule is very sensitive to soil conditions and
in particular to poor soil aeration and its consequences. In the course
of the current work at Pusa and Indore some interesting cases of the
relation between soil conditions and disease occurred in these crops.

Perhaps the most interesting was one which was repeated year after year
at Pusa in the case of a vetch--Lathyrus sativus, L.--known as khesari.
The various unit species of this crop, collected from all parts of
India, were grown in pure culture in small oblong plots about fifteen
feet by six feet. Infection by green-fly occurred every year on a number
of these cultures, but the trouble never spread to the remainder. The
plots could be divided as regards infection into three classes: plots
immune to green-fly; plots lightly affected; plots heavily attacked.
Careful note of this infection was made and the cultures were repeated
year after year. The same results were invariably obtained. On looking
up the history of these cultures, it was found that the immune types
came from the Indo-Gangetic alluvium, the heavily infected unit species
from the black cotton soils of Peninsular India, the moderately infected
types from the region near the Jumna, where the transition soils between
the black cotton soil area and the alluvial tracts occur. The root
system of these three sets of types was then explored. It was found that
the immune cultures had superficial roots; those heavily infected had
very deep roots; the slightly infected types had root systems
intermediate between the two. These observations suggest that defective
soil aeration, particularly affecting the deep-rooted varieties, was at
the root of this green-fly infection, a view which has frequently been
confirmed since these observations on khesari were made.

Another interesting case of disease in a leguminous crop occurred at
Indore in a small field of gram (Cicer arietinum) about two-thirds of
which was flooded one day in July due to the temporary stoppage of one
of the drainage canals which took storm water from an adjacent area
through the estate. A map of the flooded area was made at the time. In
October, about a month after sowing, the plot was heavily attacked by
the gram caterpillar, the insect-infected area corresponding exactly
with the inundation area. The rest of the plot escaped infection and
grew normally. The insect did not spread to the other fifty acres of
gram, grown that year alongside. Some change in the food of the
caterpillar had obviously been brought about by the alteration in the
soil conditions caused by the temporary flooding.

Perhaps the most interesting case of the relation between soil
conditions and disease which I observed occurred at Indore in the case
of a field of san hemp (Crotalaria juncea, L.) intended for
green-manuring; this, however, was not ploughed in, but was kept for
seed as the growth seemed so promising. But after flowering the crop was
smothered by a mildew; no seed was harvested. To produce a crop of seed
of san on the black soils I had to copy the methods of the cultivators
who always manure this crop with farmyard manure when seed is required.
Instead of farmyard manure, I used compost the next year. No infection
with mildew took place and an excellent crop of seed was obtained.

It is more than probable that this observation applies to leguminous
crops generally. Whenever they are grown for seed, the best results are
likely to be obtained with compost or farmyard manure. In olden days it
used to be the custom to muck leguminous crops like clover, but the
practice was given up after the role of the root nodule in fixing
atmospheric nitrogen was discovered. But the root nodule is only a
device to save these crops from nitrogen starvation. Nodules by
themselves are not sufficient for the rapid growth and maturation
involved in producing a full crop of seed.

Confirmation of the view that humus is needed by the leguminous plant if
heavy crops of seed are to be obtained is coming to hand. In this
country, in the case of clover, Mr. R. G. Hawkins, Lightwaters,
Panfield, Braintree, Essex, in a letter dated 30th May 1942, reported:

'For some years now I have inspected crops of Essex red clover and I
have noted that the yield of seed is invariably higher on those farms
which keep stock, so that the land receives a periodic dressing of dung.
The difference is most pronounced in those years when clover seed is
generally a poor crop.' (News-Letter on Compost, No. 6, 1943, p. 56.)

In Southern Rhodesia Captain Moubray in a letter dated 1st June 1942
commented on the outstanding yields of san hemp seed he had obtained on
composted land in a bad season. He obtained no less than three times the
average yield of his neighbourhood (News-Letter on Compost, No. 4, 1942,
p. 37). In a recent letter to the South African Farmer's Weekly of 7th
June 1944 he writes:

'I remember, years ago, Sir Albert Howard telling me that the virtue of
properly made compost lay not only in its contribution of humus, but
also in its work as an inoculant. He suggested that its application in
comparatively small quantities, before planting a legume, would
considerably increase the seed yield of such a crop. I have found this
to be so.'

Here is a subject which urgently needs detailed study. We know that the
large group of leguminous plants are mycorrhiza formers. It may well be
that the efficiency of this association is one of the chief factors in
seed formation. But whatever the explanation may be, it is clear that
our fathers and grandfathers were right when they mucked the leguminous
crop and that the agricultural colleges are wrong in telling the farmers
that the root nodules will look after the nitrogenous manuring of these


My study of the potato crop only began at Quetta during the war of 1914-
18 in connection with the drying of vegetables for the troops on active
service. At first a supply of potatoes was purchased from the
neighbouring tribesmen, but these proved unsuitable as the slices turned
black in the drying process. This appeared to me to be due to the
excessive quantities of irrigation water used and to the subsequent
caking of the soil round the tubers. An area of potatoes was then grown
at the

Quetta Experiment Station, taking care to use the minimum amount of
water applied to the roots only, leaving the earth of the ridges where
the tubers were formed quite dry. The result was that no more blackening
of the slices occurred. Soil aeration is obviously a factor in
successful potato growing.

My second contact with this crop occurred in the Holland Division of
Lincolnshire, where for some three years (1935-8) I was provided with
ample facilities for study by the late Mr. George Caudwell on his farms
near Spalding in connection with an investigation on green-manuring. On
these farms the supply of farmyard manure was quite insufficient for the
large area--some 1,500 acres--under potatoes. Heavy dressings of a
complete artificial were then the rule.

Two common potato diseases were observed and studied in South
Lincolnshire--blight and eelworm. In damp, close weather potato blight
always occurred and had to be kept at bay by repeated dustings with
finely divided copper salts. This disease was much more prevalent on the
popular King Edward variety than on Majestic. I was asked why this was
so. It appeared to me that the answer would be found if the root systems
of these two varieties were compared. King Edward has a much deeper root
system than Majestic and would, therefore, the more readily suffer from
poor soil aeration, particularly during a spell of damp, close weather
which would make the surface soil run together into a crust. Not only
was the root system of Majestic markedly superficial, but the roots
showed well defined aerotropism and invariably left the soil and grew on
the surface under the fallen potato leaves.

I then went into the history of the celebrated potato area south of the
Wash and found that some sixty years ago it was under grass. When first
ploughed up for potatoes, the land was so rich in humus that crops
sometimes as high as twenty-five tons to the acre were obtained. At
first potato blight was unknown. But as the humus in the soil became
worn out, dressings of superphosphate were first needed to keep up the
yield, then the potato blight made its appearance, followed by the
spraying machine, the poison spray, and the use of artificial manures,
the annual applications of which gradually increased till they have
reached fifteen hundredweight to the acre or even more.

These facts suggest that the real cause of potato disease is not, as is
supposed, the potato blight assisted by hot and damp still air, but
wornout soil. This view could easily be tested by bringing up, by means
of compost, one or two farms in South Lincolnshire to a fertile
condition, comparable with what they were some sixty years ago when the
pastures were first brought under potatoes. Would the potato on such
fields be attacked by blight even if it had no assistance from poison
sprays? Judging from what happens in our best walled gardens, in which
good old fashioned muck is the rule and in which artificials are never
used, I think the answer would be in the negative.

That potato blight is of no consequence if ample farmyard manure is used
to raise the crop and the plants are not grown too close together is
proved by the experience of Mr. John Tarves at Heversham in South
Westmorland. In 1943 I visited this garden and was shown a large potato
plot on well-drained land facing south and protected from wind on the
east and west, which was kept in good condition by farmyard manure and
on which potatoes had been grown continuously for forty-five years. The
rainfall at Heversham is very high and well distributed, the amount of
sunshine is much below that of South Lincolnshire, and at first sight
one would expect that here ideal conditions for potato blight had been
provided. Nevertheless, on this garden this disease had caused no
trouble and preventive spraying was unknown.

I spent some time in the Spalding area in the study of the eelworm
disease of potatoes. This is caused by the invasion of the roots by a
species of eelworm which dwarfs the plant and prevents the formation of
even a small crop. Eelworm is a comparatively recent disease in this
area and, as a rule, first appears on the high, light land. In such
cases a remarkable change in the flora and in the soil structure
precedes the outbreak. The weeds are those of semi-waterlogged and badly
aerated soils and include the mare's tail, a species of Equisetum, known
locally as toad-pike. The soils have lost their texture, the compound
particles their cement, and the blue and red markings characteristic of
heavy, clay subsoils have made their appearance. This condition is the
result of continuous dressings of stimulating manures which lead to the
destruction of the humic cement needed to maintain the compound soil
particles. The appearance of eelworm in these potato soils is the
writing on the wall and marks the complete failure of the present
manurial practice--the replacement of farmyard manure by artificial
manures. No further potato crops are possible till the filth and
fertility of the soils have been re-created.

As is usual in such cases, the experts were busy at the wrong end of the
problem. The life history and activities of the eelworm were being
studied and all kinds of methods except the right one were being tried
to destroy the parasite and to stimulate the crop to ward off the
disease. The result has been a complete failure. No one has seemed to
grasp the fact that eelworm is one of the frequent consequences of poor
soil aeration and that the cause of the trouble must be sought in a
critical examination of farming practice. This pest is one of the
results of upsetting the balance between arable and livestock and trying
to find, by means of chemistry, a substitute for good old-fashioned
muck. In all these eelworm outbreaks the soil's capital has been
transferred to the profit and loss account. What will the reverse
process cost before these lands are fully restored? Is the process a
reversible one? If so, who is to meet the cost?

Confirmation of the views set out above that eelworm in potatoes is due
to an impoverished soil comes from Southern Rhodesia. The first results
are summed up in the Rhodesia Herald of 4th September 1942 as follows:

'Some years ago Mr. S. D. Timson, Assistant Agriculturist, noticed a
garden where the vegetables were strong and healthy and the flowers
bright and vigorous. He was surprised to learn that three years earlier
cultivation had been almost abandoned because of the heavy infestation
of eelworm. The excellent conditions he saw followed a good dressing of

'He immediately began to observe the results of compost in regard to
eelworm, to make practical tests, and induce farmers to experiment. Once
the inquiry was begun evidence began to pour in.'

That compost will prevent eelworm attacks on potatoes and other
vegetables has again been demonstrated on a large scale at Salisbury in
Southern Rhodesia by Mr. E. C. Holmes who, in the issue of the South
African Farmer's Weekly of 14th June 1944, writes:

'Since I started using compost I have eradicated eelworm from my
gardens, and I have no less than sixteen vegetable gardens spread all
over my farm of 2,333 acres.'

This eelworm story is being continued in Rhodesia. In the Rhodesia
Herald of 7th July 1944 the following article appeared:

Excellent Progress from its Use

'The expansion in the making and use of compost continued during 1943,
states Mr. S. D. Timson, Government Agriculturist, in the course of his
annual report. Tobacco growers, he states, gave compost much increased
attention, and they continue to report excellent results from its use,
and in particular that it gives better quality and greater freedom from
disease. It also allows the rate of application of fertilizers to be
much reduced without reduction of yield. Its use, as was to be expected,
was not usually beneficial on virgin soil.

'Further reports were received from farmers that applications of compost
to soil infested with eelworm resulted not only in good yields of
tobacco and vegetables, despite the infestation, but also in the
disappearance of the pest from the soil the year after the compost was

'A striking example was in the vegetable garden of the Witchweed
Demonstration Farm, where an extremely severe infestation was completely
cleared up following an application of compost. On the same farm further
evidence was recorded supporting Mr. Timson's previous reports of the
beneficial effects of compost in controlling witchweed.

Well Satisfied

'In 1940 there were 674 farmers making compost; in 1943 the number had
increased to 1,217. In the same years the amounts of compost made were
148,959 and 328,591 cubic yards (2 cubic yards=1 ton).

'The largest producers had made from 4,000 to 9,700 cubic yards a year.
The largest producers of fat cattle were now making compost instead of
collecting kraal manure. They reported they were well satisfied with the
change particularly in respect of the elimination of weed seeds and the
reduction of the fly nuisance.'

There is another potato trouble in South Lincolnshire which is not
caused by insects or fungi, namely, the loss of the power of
reproduction. After two or three years the potatoes of one crop cannot
be used to raise the next. The yield then becomes unremunerative and
fresh seed has to be imported at great expense from outside areas like
Scotland, Northern Ireland, or North Wales. As this loss of reproductive
power develops, the cause is considered to be due to virus. Again the
research workers are starting at the wrong end and are trying to find
varieties immune to virus. The results so far obtained, as far as
practice is concerned, are not impressive. Indeed, it would seem that
this trouble is getting worse, as the efficiency of Scotch seed is said
to be falling off. If this should continue, the Lincolnshire potato
industry will find itself in difficulties. The fresh start every two or
three years will no longer be possible unless some alternative supply of
new seed can be found.

That these frequent changes of seed of any particular variety and indeed
of the production of new varieties of the potato by plant breeding
methods are both unnecessary, provided proper attention is paid to the
maintenance of soil fertility by organic manuring, is proved by the
experience of the islanders of Tristan da Cunha, that lonely settlement
in the South Atlantic rarely visited by ships. Here changes of seed are
out of the question on account of the inaccessibility of the island. In
a letter, dated 15th March 1945, Major Irving B. Gane, the Secretary of
the Tristan da Cunha Fund writes:

'As you rightly surmise, the islanders use seaweed. A belt of thick kelp
extends round the island some 400-500 yards from the shore, and rough
seas wash large quantities on to the beaches. This is collected by the
islanders and used for their potato patches.

'I am satisfied that the islanders have no means of changing the variety
of the potatoes grown, and it would be safe to assume that the seed has
been retained from year to year during the hundred years or so of the
island's occupation.

'I, and my father before me, organized the despatch of stores to the
island, and although we have sometimes included supplies of vegetable
seeds, we have certainly never sent out any seed potatoes.'

The situation in Great Britain, though alarming, is not really serious.
All that is necessary in areas like South Lincolnshire is to revise the
current method of potato growing by a drastic reduction in the area
under potatoes, so that the head of livestock--cattle and pigs in
particular--can be increased, and large areas put under temporary leys
and cereals. In this way the raw materials for systematic compost making
will be available on the spot. As these reforms proceed, the amount of
artificial manures can be reduced. When the stage is reached when
artificials and poison sprays are no longer necessary, the restoration
of these wonderful soils will have been achieved. After this the
experience of the past can be made use of to test current practices. If
these soils begin to respond to artificials, attention should be paid to
the humus supply. If potato blight appears, the aeration of the soil
needs attention.

In the course of these potato studies a number of root samples were
examined for the mycorrhizal association. All the results were negative.
I understand from Dr. Rayner that the ordinary cultivated crop does not
show this relationship, but that it has been observed on potatoes in the
hilly regions of France near the Spanish border. Has the potato in the
course of years lost something, or was its original introduction
imperfect? Do the wild forms of this crop in its mountain home in South
America show the mycorrhizal association, or does this crop manage to
absorb, by means of its very extensive root system, the digestion
products of the proteins during the early stages in the mineralization
of the bodies of the soil organisms? In due course answers to these
questions will no doubt be provided. They are likely to have an
important bearing on disease resistance in this crop and also on the
power of the plant to reproduce itself.


A few cases of disease in which the active agents are fiowering
parasites must be recounted.

The first of these occurred on four meadows on the farm near Bishop's
Castle in Shropshire where I was born and where I spent my early
boyhood. The parasite was the well-known yellow rattle (Rhinanthus
Crista-Galli), which invariably attacked the grasses and considerably
reduced the hay crop. I noticed at the time that a pasture alongside, on
which cattle and sheep grazed, never had any of this parasite, but my
studies at this period did not embrace this common example of a
semi-parasitic flowering plant and its haustoria, which fasten on the
roots of the grass. Some fifty years later, however, I discovered that
some of the live wires in the farming community have found how to
eradicate this pest. They turn the affected meadows into pastures for a
couple of years, when the urine and dung of the cattle strengthen the
grasses to such an extent that yellow rattle disappears altogether. As
the grasses are mycorrhiza formers, we have here a most interesting
problem awaiting investigation. Does the humus formed in the soil of
pastures in the spring and early summer by the sheet-composting of the
vegetable and animal wastes confer on the grasses, by virtue of this
association, the power to resist the parasite? If so, is the increased
resistance to disease nothing more than the efficient synthesis of
protein, due to the passage into the leaves of the grasses of the
digestion products of the protein of the mycelium of the mycorrhizal
fungus? If, as seems likely, the answers to these two questions are in
the affirmative, a great stride forward will have been made in
establishing a scientific explanation of the relation between soil
fertility and health.

During my Indian service I again came in contact with one of these
flowering parasites of the grass family. This time a species of Striga
was observed on the roots of the sugar-cane. The cultivators in India
invariably got rid of this pest by manuring the affected crops with
farmyard manure, after which the parasite disappears. Is the mycorrhizal
association, which is known to occur in sugar-cane, involved in this
matter? It would seem so.

After my retirement in 1931, in the course of the humus campaign in
Southern Rhodesia I heard of the witch-weed (Striga lutea), one of the
pests of maize (another mycorrhiza former) and its control by humus.
This interesting discovery was made by Timson, whose results were
published in the Rhodesia Agricultural Journal of October 1938. Humus
made from the soiled bedding of a cattle kraal, applied at the rate of
ten tons to the acre to land severely infested with witch-weed, was
followed by an excellent crop of maize practically free from the
parasite. The control plot alongside was a red carpet of this pest. A
second crop of maize was then grown on the same land. Again it was free
from witchweed. This parasite will therefore prove a valuable soil
analyst for indicating whether the maize soils of Rhodesia are fertile
or not. If witchweed appears, the land needs humus: if it is absent, the
soil contains sufficient organic matter. Witch-weed will then be
regarded not as a pest to be destroyed, but as a most useful soil
assessor and land valuer--as the friend, not the enemy, of the farmer.



About the year 1910, after five years' first-hand experience of crop
production under Indian conditions, I became convinced that the
birthright of every crop is health and that the correct method of
dealing with disease at an experiment station is not to destroy the
parasite, but to make use of it for tuning up agricultural practice.


If this holds for plants, why should it not apply to animals? But at
this period I had no animals, my work cattle had to be obtained from the
somewhat inefficient pool of oxen maintained on the Pusa Estate
alongside, with the feeding and management of which I had nothing to do.
I therefore put forward a request to have my own work cattle, so that my
small farm of seventy-five acres could be a self-contained unit. I was
anxious to select my own animals, to design their accommodation, and to
arrange for their feeding, hygiene, and management. Then it would be
possible to see: (1) what the effect of properly grown food would be on
the well fed working animal; and (2) how such livestock would react to
infectious diseases. This request was refused several times on the
ground that a research institute like Pusa should set an example of
co-operative work rather than of individualistic effort. I retorted that
agricultural advances had always been made by individuals rather than by
groups and that the history of science proved conclusively that no
progress had ever taken place without freedom. I did not get my oxen.
But when I placed the matter before the Member of the Viceroy's Council
in charge of agriculture (the late Sir Robert Carlyle, K.C.S.I.), I
immediately secured his powerful support and was allowed to have charge
of six pairs of oxen.

I had little to learn in this matter, as I belong to an old agricultural
family and was brought up on a farm which had made for itself a local
reputation for the management of cattle. My animals were most carefully
selected for the work they had to do and for the local climate.
Everything was done to provide them with suitable housing and with fresh
green fodder, silage, and grain, all produced from fertile soil. They
soon got into good fettle and began to be in demand at the neighbouring
agricultural shows, not as competitors for prizes, but as examples of
what an Indian ox should look like. The stage was then set for the
project I had in view, namely, to watch the reaction of these well
chosen and well fed oxen to diseases like rinderpest, septicaemia, and
foot-and-mouth disease, which frequently devastated the countryside and
sometimes attacked the large herds of cattle maintained on the Pusa
Estate. I always felt that the real cause of such epidemics was either
starvation, due to the intense pressure of the bovine population on the
limited food supply, or, when food was adequate, to mistakes in feeding
and management. The working ox must always have not only good fodder and
forage, but ample time for chewing the cud, for rest, and for digestion.
The grain ration is also important, as well as a little fresh green
food--all produced by intensive methods of farming. Access to clean
fresh water must also be provided. The coat of the working animal must
also be kept clean and free from dung.

The next step was to discourage the official veterinary surgeons who
often visited Pusa from inoculating these animals with various vaccines
and sera to ward off the common diseases. I achieved this by firmly
refusing to have anything to do with such measures, at the same time
asking these specialists to inspect my animals and to suggest measures
to improve their feeding, management, and housing, so that my experiment
could have the best possible chance of success. This carried the day.
The veterinarians retired from the unequal contest and took no steps to
compel me to adopt their remedies.

My animals then had to be brought in contact with diseased stock. This
was done by allowing them: (1) to use the common pastures at Pusa, on
which diseased cattle sometimes grazed, and (2) to come in direct
contact with foot-and-mouth disease. This latter was easy, as my small
farmyard was only separated from one of the large cattle sheds of the
Pusa Estate by a low hedge over which the animals could rub noses. I
have often seen this occur between my oxen and foot-and-mouth cases.
Nothing happened. The healthy, well-fed animals reacted to this disease
exactly as suitable varieties of crops, when properly grown, did to
insect and fungous pests--no infection took place. Neither did any
infection occur as the result of my oxen using the common pastures. This
experiment was repeated year after year between 1910 and 1923, when I
left Pusa for Indore. A somewhat similar experience was repeated at
Quetta between the years 1910 and 1918, but here I had only three pairs
of oxen. As at Pusa, the animals were carefully selected and great pains
were taken to provide them with suitable housing, with protection from
the intense cold of winter, and with the best possible food. Again no
precautions were taken against disease and no infection took place.

The most complete demonstration of the principle that soil fertility is
the basis of health in working animals took place at the Institute of
Plant Industry at Indore, where twenty pairs of oxen were maintained.
Again, the greatest care was taken to select sound animals to start
with, to provide them with a good water supply, a comfortable,
well-ventilated shed, and plenty of nutritious food, all raised on
humus-filled soil. One detail of cattle-shed management was the
provision of a floor of beaten earth, which is much more restful for the
cloven hoof than a cement or brick floor. This was changed every three
months, the dry, powdered, urine-impregnated soil afterwards being used
as an activator in humus production, for which it proved most suitable.
In this way it was possible to bank the spare urine under cover without
loss by rain-wash or fermentation.

A special feature of the food supply of the oxen was the provision of
ample silage for the months March to June, when little or no grazing was
available on account of the dry, hot weather. The silage was made from
the locally grown tall millet, cut up by means of a portable chaff
cutter driven by a 5 h.p. portable oil engine. The cut silage was filled
into pits about four feet deep with sloping sides and an earthen bottom
for drainage. To prevent the infiltration of air into the mass from the
surrounding earth the sides were leeped with a thick, moist, clay slurry
just before filling. The cut silage was moistened by means of a
sprinkler as it went into the pits, each of which was so designed that
it could be filled with moist silage and covered in during one day's
work. This is essential for the best results. It never pays to fill a
silo bit by bit, as is so often the case in Great Britain. The centre of
each filled silage pit was about eighteen inches above the ground level,
the edges were flush with the undisturbed soil, a thin covering of dried
grass was then applied, followed by a foot of earth. On the top of this
earth covering were laid some heavy blocks of stone. All this
consolidated the moist silage and allowed the proper fermentation to
begin. No additions such as molasses were ever used. Proceeding in this
manner, excellent silage was obtained with practically no loss. Indeed,
damage by percolating air was impossible, while the small amount of
liquid produced was absorbed by the earth below. The size of each pit
was so designed that it contained the silage ration of forty oxen for
fourteen days. Seven of these pits were in use and they contained
sufficient for an ample daily ration on the 100 days between March 8th
and June 15th.

Besides the design of an efficient pit silo--than which nothing can be
so cheap and effective--two other details are important. The transport
of the silage from field to silo, the machines used in its preparation,
as well as the strength of the average labourer must all correspond,
otherwise a great waste of capital and of labour is bound to occur. Two
Canadian oxen-drawn fruit lorries were sufficient to feed the small
engine-driven chaff cutter, which just suited the labour. This modest
outfit produced enough silage in the working day for 40 x 14, i.e. 560

Besides this silage ration during the hot months a little fresh green
lucerne, raised under irrigation from heavily composted land, was given
to the oxen almost every day.

The result of all this was a complete absence of foot-and-mouth and
other diseases for a period of six years.

But this is not the whole of the foot-and-mouth story. When the 300
acres of land at Indore were taken over in the autumn of 1924, the area
carried no fodder crops, so the feeding of forty oxen was at first very
difficult. During the hot weather of 1925 these difficulties became
acute. A great deal of heavy work was falling on the animals, whose food
consisted of wheat straw, dried grass, and millet stalks, with a small
ration of crushed cotton seed. Such a ration might do for maintenance,
but it was quite inadequate for heavy work. The animals soon lost
condition and for the first and last time in my twenty-five years'
Indian experience I had to deal with a few very mild cases of
foot-and-mouth disease in the case of some dozen animals. The patients
were rested for a fortnight and given better food, when the trouble
disappeared never to return. But this warning stimulated everybody
concerned to improve the hot-weather cattle ration and to secure a
supply of properly made silage for 1926, by which time the oxen had
recovered condition. From 1927 to 1931 these animals were often
exhibited at agricultural shows as type specimens of what the local
breed should be. They were also in great demand for the religious
processions which took place in Indore city from time to time, a
compliment which gave intense pleasure to the labour staff of the

This experience, covering a period of twenty-six years at three widely
separated centres--Pusa in Bihar and Orissa, Quetta on the Western
Frontier, and Indore in Central India--convinced me that foot-and-mouth
disease is a consequence of malnutrition pure and simple, and that the
remedies which have been devised in countries like Great Britain to deal
with the trouble, namely, the slaughter of the affected animals, are
both superficial and also inadmissible. Such attempts to control an
outbreak should cease. Cases of foot-and-mouth disease should be
utilized to tune up practice and to see to it that the animals are fed
on the fresh produce of fertile soil. The trouble will then pass and
will not spread to the surrounding areas, provided the animals there are
also in good fettle. Foot-and-mouth outbreaks are a sure sign of bad

How can such preventive methods of dealing with diseases like foot-and-
mouth be set in motion? Only by a drastic reorganization of present-day
veterinary research. Instead of the elaborate and expensive laboratory
investigations now in progress on this disease, which are not leading to
any practical result, a simple preventive trial on the following lines
should be started. An area of suitable land should first be got into
first class condition by means of subsoiling, the reform of the manure
heap, and reformed leys containing deep-rooting plants like lucerne,
sainfoin, burnet, and chicory, and the various herbs needed to keep
livestock in condition. The animals should be carefully selected to suit
the local conditions and should first of all be got into first-class
fettle by proper feeding and management. Everything will then be ready
for a simple experiment in disease prevention. A few foot-and-mouth
cases should be let loose among the herds, the reaction of both healthy
and diseased animals being carefully watched. The diseased animals will
soon recover. There will most likely be no infection of the healthy
stock. At the worst there will only be the mildest possible attack which
will disappear in a fortnight or so.

Such an experiment could easily be undertaken on the Compton estate
recently acquired by the State for the livestock investigations of the
Agricultural Research Council. This Council is the most fitting agency
for conducting such pioneering work, because the results would enable
them to retrieve their present hopeless position with honour and with
added prestige. The alternative is disaster. Sooner or later some
pioneer in other parts of the Empire or in other countries is certain to
try out the views set forth above and to confirm in much more
spectacular fashion my own experience of this disease and of its simple
prevention. Then the Agricultural Research Council will either have to
capitulate or to attempt to sustain a hopeless position. Either course
will lead to a considerable loss of face. It must never be forgotten
that any state-aided research organization, if it is to survive, must,
like dictators, always succeed.

Foot-and-mouth is considered to be a virus disease. It could perhaps be
more correctly described as a simple consequence of malnutrition, due
either to the fact that the proteins of the food have not been properly
synthesized, or to some obvious error in management. One of the most
likely aggravations of the trouble is certain to be traced to the use of
artificial manures instead of good old-fashioned muck or compost.

This long experience of foot-and-mouth disease suggests that an
important factor in the prevention of animal disease is food from
humus-filled soil. Three further questions suggest themselves. Does any
supporting evidence exist for this view? Can the animal help us in our
inquiries on disease prevention? Is disease due to causes other than
those arising from an infertile soil? That the answer to all these
questions is most emphatically yes will be clear from what follows.


One of the first pieces of supporting evidence was supplied in 1939 by
the late Sir Bernard Greenwell at his estate at Marden Park in Surrey,
where large quantities of Indore compost were made and applied to the
land. Sir Bernard was a successful breeder of livestock, and after
seeing the very striking results of compost on the crop naturally began
to wonder what would be the effect of grain raised on composted land on
his pedigree animals. For this purpose the effect of a grain ration,
raised from soil manured with Indore compost, was compared with a
similar one purchased on the open market on poultry, pigs, horses, and
dairy cows. In all cases the results were similar. The animals not only
throve better on the grain from fertile soil, but they needed less--a
saving of about 15 per cent was obtained. The grain from fertile soil
was found to contain a satisfying power not conferred by ordinary
produce. But this was not all; resistance to disease markedly increased.
In poultry, for example, infantile mortality fell from over 40 per cent
to less than 4 per cent. In pigs, troubles like scour disappeared. Mares
and cows showed none of the troubles which often occur at birth.

These Marden Park results are illuminating and should be carefully
considered by investigators and particularly by statisticians. Hitherto
in agricultural investigations special importance has always been paid
to quantitative results--to yield in particular. But is this sound? If
quality is as important as the Marden Park results indicate, yield is
only of real significance when it includes quality. Quality, of course,
does not end with the particular experiment. The produce affects the
health and wellbeing of the animals and men who consume it. Such crops
are, as it were, the beginning of a long chain of circumstances which
must be followed to the end. If we stop at the yield, our work is
obviously superficial. It may also be very misleading. Suppose, for
example, two manurial treatments give the same result as regards yield,
but the one produces Al quality, the other only C3. The statistician
will say the experiment yields no significant result, because the
weights are the same. The animal, however, will plump for the A. l
produce and the observant farmer will agree with the animal. The food of
the animal is produce; the statistician feeds on numbers which can
always be made to prove anything and everything.

Since 1939 a good deal of evidence in support of Sir Bernard Greenwell's
results has been obtained. At Dry Clough Farm on the boulder clay near
the town of Nelson in Lancashire, at an elevation of some 900 feet above
the sea, the stock-carrying capacity of a hill farm has been raised from
twenty cattle in 1910 to fifty-six in 1942, by means of sheet-composting
with the help of liquid manure from the shippons spread systematically
over the pasture. On this heavy clay land the formation of abundant
humus under the turf has completely altered the botanical composition of
the original herbage and has produced some first-class rye-grass
pastures. The health of the cattle is now wonderful; milk fever has
vanished; the animals are tuberculin tested and the herd is fully
attested. The veterinary surgeon reports that it is the best T.T. herd
he visits; there are no reactors. The financial results are equally
satisfactory. Full details of this interesting case are to be found in
the News-Letter on Compost (No. 4, October 1942, p. 4, and No. 6, June
1943, p. 32).

Lady Eve Balfour in The Living Soil (Faber and Faber, London, 1943)
recounts some interesting results on her farm at Haughley in Suffolk
with pigs. Pigs bred under modern housing conditions are very prone to
the disease of white scour when they reach the age of about one month.
If the attack is serious, it can cause considerable financial loss even
if it does not actually kill the pigs. The text-books give the cause as
lack of iron and recommend dosing with some iron preparation such as
Parrish's Food, feeding such weeds as chickweed (which is rich in iron),
or, as a third alternative, taking up pieces of turf and giving these to
the young pigs. Lady Eve writes:

'I have made many experiments in connection with the curing and
prevention of this trouble. From the turf remedy I tried experiments
with ordinary soil from arable fields. It was not long before I found
that soil gathered from a field rich in humus, where no chemicals had
been applied, was quite as effective as turf, curing the pigs within
forty-eight hours. Whereas soil from exhausted land, or land treated
with chemicals, had no effect in curing the disease. I also noticed that
young pigs running in the open on good pasture, provided it was not too
hard for them to rootle (as, for instance, in hard frost, or very
prolonged drought), never suffered from this disorder. It is never a
menace to my herd now under any conditions, even in long spells of
severe winter weather, when the ground is covered with snow, and the
pigs have to be entirely housed up. Under such conditions I no longer
wait for the first sign of scour, but regularly collect the soil of
fresh mole hills, newly thrown up above the snow, on land I know to be
fertile. Collected daily, this soil is friable in the hardest frost, and
is equally good in very wet weather, for it is never sticky. The pigs
eat it voraciously in incredible quantities, starting when about a week
old. I sometimes add a little chalk to it, which the pigs seem to like.'

As regards the housing of pigs, I often observed, while being shown over
some of our modern piggeries, the obvious discomfort of the young pigs
and their mothers condemned to lie on concrete floors with insufficient
bedding. The sows always did their best to keep their family warm by
lying crossways to cut off the draught. This might keep the pigs warm,
but it would interfere with their air supply. Very young pigs have
little or no hair for warmth; as they are close to the floor, it is
imperative to give them enough fresh air or lung disease is certain. How
far disease in young pigs is due to lying on cold concrete I cannot say,
but I feel sure that, if the sows and their families could be consulted
about concrete floors, the nature and amount of their bedding, and the
general design of the piggeries, some of our agricultural experts would
begin to learn a great deal about the real wants of this interesting

Perhaps the most convincing piece of evidence in support of the view
that the best way of reducing the diseases of livestock to a minimum is
proper care and feeding has been provided by Mr. Friend Sykes on his
750-acre farm at Chantry near Chute in Wiltshire. Chantry is situated on
the escarpment of the South Downs overlooking Salisbury Plain; the
general elevation is some 800 feet above the sea; the thin, poor soil,
plentifully supplied with flints, overlies the chalk. Notwithstanding
the fact that this area had been completely farmed out and was
practically derelict, Mr. Sykes decided it could be transformed into an
ideal area for breeding racehorses with the right type of bone and a
dairy herd that could protect itself against disease. This has been
accomplished in a few years by means of efficient cultivation, including
subsoiling, the use of temporary leys containing deep-rooted plants as
advocated by the late Mr. R. H. Elliot in his Clifton Park System of
Farming, the use of the open-air system of milk production, the
sheet-composting of the temporary ley by means of the droppings of
livestock, and the reform of the manure heap, so that much more muck and
much better muck can be produced. The result of all this on the
livestock and on the land has been remarkable: diseases like
tuberculosis, mastitis, and contagious abortion have practically
disappeared; the livestock are fed solely on the produce of the farm;
the stock-carrying capacity of this land is still on the up grade; no
artificial manures are used; the yield of crops like wheat, barley,
oats, hay, and so forth has increased by leaps and bounds.

A detailed account of these Chantry results will be found in Appendix D
(p. 262).


On several occasions I have come across serious outbreaks of contagious
abortion in some of our best dairy areas and on farms where much had
been done for the livestock. On inquiring I always found that the diet
of the milking animals included large quantities of feeding cakes
obtained from various oil mills, the compound cakes being made up of the
residues of imported oil seeds reinforced by other materials to produce
a food which would stimulate milk production. The excessive use of these
cakes seemed to me to be quite unsuitable for the ruminant stomach,
which is designed for abundant roughage and not for such concentrates as
compound cakes.

When asked my opinion as to the best method of treatment, I invariably
replied that the organism associated with this disease is only a mild
parasite and will only infect the vagina if the cow is malnourished, and
that the cure will be found in getting the soil in good heart to begin
with so that it can produce the cereals, pulses, and linseed needed to
reinforce properly grown grass, silage, and hay. Even if, for financial
reasons, this is not possible in the case of milking animals, it is
obviously essential for the breeding animal, which produces the future
generation of heifers.


A growing volume of evidence is being obtained which indicates how very
useful the animal can be in investigations on nutrition. In place of the
present-day elaborate investigations, carried out in laboratories by
teams of scientists, animal instinct, if rightly used, will provide us
with much reliable information of the first importance. A few cases
which have recently come to my notice may be cited.

In the course of the late Sir Bernard Greenwell's grass-drying
experiments, carried out before the war, the question of analysing the
product was discussed and I was asked to recommend a suitable man for
the work. I pointed to his herd of pedigree Guernseys and said they
would give real information as to the quality and nutritive value of any
two sets of samples, if the animals were allowed a free choice. The
findings of the animal could then, for purposes of academic rectitude
only, be submitted to any competent analyst who would provide a set of
conventional figures. This was done. The verdict of the Guernseys was
duly confirmed.

In a set of trials of artificials on grassland in a park near Kirkby
Lonsdale in Westmorland carried out some years ago there was no
appreciable difference in the weight of produce, so the experiments were
discontinued by the artificial manure interests which had sponsored
them. But on the removal of the fencing the preference of the grazing
animal for the dunged plots was most striking. These were eaten down to
the roots, while the chemically treated areas were left alone.

I verified the above observations in the case of six pastures in front
of my residence near Heversham. All are first-class rye-grass pastures
with nothing to choose between them as regards soil, aspect, or
drainage. Nevertheless, in 1941 the sheep and cattle which had access to
all six fields at the same time consistently neglected one of them, the
grass of which was allowed by the animals to grow at will. This
particular field alone of the six had received a large dressing of

One of the best judges of quality in food is the domesticated cat, whose
fastidious reaction to its rations is well known. In The Living Soil
Lady Eve Balfour recounts an interesting experience:

'Last winter I noticed that the farm cats refused potatoes boiled for
the pigs, when these had been purchased from a grower who uses
artificials, but that later in the season, when I started to use the
small potatoes from our own land, grown with humus, the cats ate them
with avidity.'

Another interesting example of selective feeding from Norfolk is
recorded by the Rev. Willis Feast in the News-Letter on Compost (No. 3,
June 1942, p. 13):

'One young farmer told me that he grew swedes, some with and some
without artificials. He fed the "withouts" first, and when they were
finished had the greatest difficulty in persuading his beasts to start
eating the "withs".'

Two somewhat similar cases from Scotland have just been reported by Mr.
James Insch: (1) After sampling a pasture once, in which artificials had
been applied, a farmer failed to get the cows to enter the field again
the next day, although assisted by a boy and a dog. (2) A Scotch farmer
grew two samples of wheat, one with muck and the other with artificials,
and was pondering how best he could have these two lots of grain tested.
He got the results much more quickly than he expected. Rats broke into
his granary and devoured the produce of the mucked field and left the
other severely alone.

Examples such as these quoted do not, of course, conform with the
standards deemed essential by the laboratory worker and by the
statistician. Nevertheless, they are of the greatest value as indicators
of results which are being obtained all over the world when organic
farming is practiced on a large scale. Many of the pioneers have already
accepted them and are busy creating examples without end of what a
fertile soil can do for the health and well-being of the livestock
nourished thereon. Everything will soon be ready for the advocates of
artificials, or artificials and humus, to take up land alongside these
examples of organic farming and show what they can accomplish. The
decision as to which is the better of the two kinds of farming will be
duly delivered by Mother Earth herself. It can never be given by the
lawyers on either side, who are certain to indulge in infructuous
disputations designed to postpone any verdict. In South Africa the
pioneers have for some time been waiting for such a trial. But an
unexpected difficulty has arisen. The protagonists of artificials have
so far declined the contest. Is it because they fear the result and have
no stomach for a battle of which there will be no tomorrow? If their
position is a sound one, what better advertisement for artificials could
be found than a clear-cut victory over these tiresome disciples of
organic farming?


Besides the way the food of animals is grown, there is another important
factor which urgently calls for investigation. This is the botanical
composition of our meadows and pastures, and the part played by herbs in
maintaining the health of the animal

During the summer immediately before the present war I came in contact
in Provence with the famous meadows of La Crau, which produce the hay
consumed in the racing stables of France and which is sometimes sent as
far as Newmarket. These meadows are irrigated by silt-laden water
containing a good deal of impure carbonate of lime, taken from the River
Durance, and yield as many as three or four crops of hay a year I
examined a number of these meadows in detail and took samples of the
young active roots of the grasses, clovers, and herbs. All proved to be
mycorrhiza formers. The texture of the soil was excellent with plenty of
humus under the turf. I was very much impressed at the time by the high
proportion of herbs in this hay. It often reached 30 per cent of the
whole and I began to wonder how far the value of this hay was due to the
herbs. Have we omitted an important factor in our investigations on
grassland and on temporary leys in this country? What is the effect of
the herbs on the health of the grazing animal? What herbs are found
naturally in our most celebrated pastures in central and western

While pondering over these matters, I happened to read the following
letter from Major Owen Croft, which appeared in The Times of 8th
November 1943:


To the Editor of The Times


The recent correspondence in The Times tempts me to bring this question
of permanent pastures into proper perspective.

It is my belief that experienced farmers are horrified at this
destructive policy of the ploughing up of the fine permanent
pastures--which take forty to fifty years to establish. I speak with
thirty-eight years' experience of farming my own land in a district
which has (or had) permanent pastures of the highest quality. All will
agree that there are districts in the British Isles where the land and
climate are both unsuitable for the establishment of permanent pastures,
and that in these districts, which include the higher sheep lands of
Wales, farms have benefited enormously from the policy of ploughing and
re-seeding with these improved grass seeds--as temporary leys. But the
same policy applied to the fine permanent pastures of, say, the western
side of England and of the grazing pastures of Leicestershire,
Northamptonshire, etc., is nothing less than a tragedy.

One of the dangers of this re-seeding is the very purity of the seed,
making such pastures dangerous for the grazing of cattle for years.
Cattle get blown on them; and they can only be used for producing crops
of hay in the first place, so far as cattle are concerned. Good
permanent pastures, properly manured, regularly harrowed and rolled,
heavily stocked and rested (an impossibility in these days of reduced
pastures) give results which, as all experienced graziers and milk
producers know, are amazing. Good permanent pastures have values which
cannot be assessed: they contain what are known as weeds--which are
herbs, well known to cattle, who select them as required, and which are
essential to their health; these are lacking in the new leys--hence the
danger to cattle of being blown. I have an Aberystwyth-seeded pasture
(an expert classed it, two years ago, as 100 per cent perfect) seven
years down. I actually had cows blown on this at the end of last March
(these were put in for a few hours one day before it was put up for
hay). It produced one and a half tons of hay per acre in June--and the
only possible way of grazing it at this age was to put cattle in it
directly the hay was carried and to keep it closely grazed all the time.
In my opinion it will take another twenty or thirty years before this
pasture is the equal of permanent pastures of great age on each side of

Last winter my Jersey cows were given the hay off this pasture--followed
by the hay off one of my permanent pastures. My herdsman reported a
definite increase of milk from the latter: he then fed hay (from a
temporary fey) of excellent quality which I bought from a neighbour--
followed by some hay bought from another neighbour off a permanent
pasture; this was full of thistles, but good sweet hay; the same result
was apparent--a marked increase of milk from the latter. The
rough-looking permanent river meadow pastures of these parts have
feeding values beyond assessment. Both milk and beef can be produced
from grass more cheaply, and of far superior quality than from any other
foodstuffs. I am getting quite good grazing now off permanent pastures
which have been heavily grazed since early April.

In the odd farm agreements there was a clause stating that the tenant
would have to pay a fine of 50 pounds an acre for ploughing up permanent
grass. In the opinion of many experienced farmers our ancestors were
wiser men than those responsible for the present policy.

I am, sir, your obedient servant, O. G. S. CROFT Hephill, near Hereford.

The above letter and my own observations when I visited Major Croft's
farm during the summer of 1944 confirm what I noticed many times in the
meadows of La Crau and suggest four things: (1) that the
current work on the improvement of grassland in Great Britain should be
widened to include the botanical composition of the best meadows and
pastures still left to us; (2) that all such future studies should deal
with the quality of the produce from the point of view of the grazing
animal and of the milk yield; (3) that the efficiency of the mycorrhizal
association in our grassland should in all cases be determined, and (4)
that as soon as war conditions permit a detailed study of the celebrated
meadows of La Crau, including the composition of the irrigation water,
should be undertaken and the results published all over the Empire.

Future grassland investigations might also include the effect of
subsoiling on our permanent pastures, meadows, and temporary leys. There
is a mass of evidence which points to a shortage of oxygen in the soil
under the turf in most of our grass. This limiting factor can be very
effectively removed by a subsoiler drawn by a caterpillar tractor. This
matter of subsoiling is dealt with in greater detail later (p. 187). It
is mentioned here to reinforce the suggestion that the current work on
grassland in Great Britain, valuable and stimulating as it undoubtedly
is, might be still more useful if it were more thorough and much more


One other problem in regard to the management of livestock must be
briefly examined. Of recent years difficulty in maintaining our breeds
of poultry has become acute. As is well known, the concentration of
laying hens in batteries, although it may increase the supply of
low-quality eggs, is useless for carrying on the line. The problem is
how best to maintain the vigour of the breeds.

In the course of my European travels I came across examples of poultry
keeping which might solve this problem. It is usual to maintain the
vigour and martial spirit of game birds by keeping them out of doors in
a wood. The adults and the chicks roost in the trees no matter the
weather and this preserves their well-known characteristics intact. If
they are kept in buildings, the cocks become 'runners' instead of

If the fox difficulty could be solved, there seems no reason why this
outdoor system should not be adopted for our breeding strains. But Mr.
Thomas Turney pointed out in a recent paper to the Farmers' Club that we
cannot keep poultry out of doors on free range and also preserve our
foxes. One or other must give way. A solution might be found by breeding
our foxes on some island for the various packs of hounds, releasing the
males only when needed for the chase. Any which escaped the hounds could
be shot at sight. Another method, which I saw in operation at the Co-
operative Wholesale Society's bacon factory at Winsford in Cheshire,
would be to house the poultry during the night in the open in suitable
fox-proof wire-netting cages.

For the study of disease and its prevention poultry possess many obvious
advantages. The life of these birds is a short one, they mature very
quickly, their maintenance costs little, and definite results can be
obtained in a few months.



In the last two chapters the relation between soil fertility and the
health of crops and of livestock was discussed. But what of the effect
of a fertile soil on human health? How does the produce of an
impoverished soil affect the men and women who have to consume it? The
purpose of this chapter is to show how an answer to these questions is
being obtained.

When discussing how crops and livestock are influenced by an
impoverished or by a murdered soil, the subject is obviously restricted
to the solid portion of the earth's crust, because cultivated plants and
domesticated animals are nourished by what the earth's green carpet
produces. But when we consider mankind, we have to include the liquid
portion of this planet--oceans, lakes, and rivers--which provide a
proportion of our food. We must also take note of the produce of the
large area of uncultivated land in the shape of forests, prairies, and
so forth, which produce some fraction of our nourishment. These
additional sources of food have not been sensibly altered by homo
sapiens. He has so far not seriously attempted to increase the harvest
of the sea by means of chemical manures or to interfere with the natural
produce of the forest or the prairie. These have escaped the attention
of agricultural science and their crops are now what they have been for
centuries--Nature's unspoilt harvest.

We must further include in a survey of our consumption the wholeness of
produce as created by Nature. This point is of the greatest importance
in considering such things as our daily bread. Freshness is another
factor, particularly in vegetable food. Finally we must consider the
influence on our general nutrition of the various food preservation
processes such as canning, dehydration, and freezing.

The food supply of civilized man is, therefore, a wide subject. Its
investigation bristles with difficulties--some are inherent in the
subject, others are man made. For all these reasons we must, therefore,
not expect to obtain such rapid and such clear-cut results as are easily
possible when considering the relation between soil fertility and the
health of crops and livestock.

Let us first consider the difficulties which are inherent in the
subject. These are at least three. In the first place, the average
expectation of life of a human being is many times that of the average
crop and of most of our domesticated animals; human beings also carry
large reserves which can easily be used. Any results on health due to
the food supply are, therefore, likely to develop slowly. In the second
place, we cannot experiment on human beings in the same way as we can on
crops and animals. Lastly, it is at present almost impossible to obtain
regular supplies of the produce of well-farmed land, with which to feed
a group of people for the time needed to show how such produce
influences their health and well-being. Except in a very few cases, food
is not marketed according to the way it is grown. The buyer knows
nothing of the way the land was manured or poisoned. The only way to
obtain suitable material would be for the scientific investigator
himself to take up a piece of land and grow the food. This, so far as my
knowledge goes, has not been done. This omission alone explains the
scarcity of reliable experiments and results, and why so little real
progress has been made in human nutrition. Most of the laboratory work
of the past has been founded on the use of material very indifferently
grown. Moreover, no particular care has been taken to see that the food
has been eaten fresh from its source. The investigations of the past on
which our ideas of nutrition are, for the moment, based have, therefore,
little or no solid foundation.

When we come to consider the man-made obstacles that have to be overcome
in any investigation of human nutrition, we reach what may fairly be
called the citadel--the fortress, as it were, that must first be reduced
before the final investigations which are needed can even begin. These
difficulties are bound up with the present-day organization of the
medical profession. As is well known, our doctors are not only trained
to study and cure disease, but receive their remuneration either from
the State or from their patients for these duties. The general outlook
of our medical men is, therefore, pathological: like any other
profession they have to consider how to make a living in return for the
services they render: they have also organized themselves somewhat on
trade union lines. There is now little or no training for positive
health: no openings and no remuneration exist for the pioneer who wishes
to ascertain and demonstrate the connection between soil fertility and
health. The great prizes of the profession lie in the opposite
direction--in surgery and in conventional medicine. There is no Harley
Street in which the apostles of real preventive medicine can be found
and consulted.

But thanks to the work of the pioneers of the profession itself, a
change is taking place. The importance of positive health, of real
preventive medicine, and the reform of medical education and training,
so that an altogether new type of medical man can be created, fitted to
lay the foundation of real preventive medicine--the public health system
of to-morrow--are now being actively debated. Naturally these include
the whole future of the medical profession, of our hospitals, and the
place of the State in the new organization. As there will be no source
of private remuneration for men and women engaged in promoting health
and preventing disease at its source, the State is the obvious
paymaster. The whole movement is a natural development of the present
panel system. But the individualists among the medical profession object
to their profession coming under the control of the Ministry of this or
that. They point out how the dead hand of the permanent government
official is certain to stifle all originality, all freedom, and all
progress. Judging from my own personal experience of the way the State
has ruined agricultural research, there is much to be said for seeing to
it that the apostles of preventive medicine must have scope, freedom to
work out their own salvation, and above all protection from the petty
interference of the average bureaucrat who, at any moment, may be
promoted to control men immeasurably superior to himself.

The problem is the age-old one of reconciling the claims of the
individual and of the organization. State service pure and simple
suggests no solution for such a case: it would merely provide an example
of what to avoid. But this does not mean that no solution is possible.
The judiciary, for example, is constantly recruited from an endless
stream of able lawyers who carry out their work quite independently and
unhampered by the Civil Service. No Ministry of Justice exists or is
likely ever to be created in Great Britain. Surely the medical
profession could regulate a new system of public health very much as the
judges manage their affairs. The function of the State and of its
various ministries would merely be to provide the funds necessary and
then to efface themselves as rapidly and completely as possible.
Intimately connected with the creation and regulation of a new system of
public health is the reorganization of medical education and training,
and the automatic elimination of unsuitable candidates for what amounts
to a new profession. Once preventive medicine gets under way fewer and
fewer doctors will be needed: the standards for admission will
automatically rise. In this way the dictum of Alexis Carrel--the best
way of increasing the intelligence of scientists is to reduce their
number--can be extended still further. Soon the perfect instrument for
the study of health and the reduction of disease will become available.
It will be a natural offshoot of the new system.

But what of the intervening period that will be necessary while the new
weapon is being forged? We cannot change over suddenly from disease to
health; there will be a long time-lag before the old order can yield to
new. Two systems must, therefore, exist for a time alongside one
another. The old will undergo a natural liquidation; the new will grow
from strength to strength.

But while no effective system of public health yet exists, nevertheless
there has been progress. The pioneers in the medical profession itself,
such as the Cheshire panel doctors and the creators of the Peckham
Health Centre, have already blazed the trail. That they have done so
speaks volumes for what the profession can and will do in the future. It
furnishes the best possible reply to those who say that our doctors
think more about money than they do about their work. This I know from
long experience and many contacts with medical men all over the world
and in many countries to be entirely devoid of truth.

In 1939, in Chapter XII of An Agricultural Testament, I summed up the
evidence then available for the thesis that soil fertility is the real
basis of public health, and in this account dealt with the Medical
Testament of the Cheshire doctors and with the work already accomplished
at the Peckham Health Centre. The reader is referred to this account and
also to Chapter VII of Lady Eve Balfour's The Living Soil, first
published in 1943, in which further evidence is set out in detail. All
that is needed now is to emphasize the significance of a few of the
older investigations and to describe some of the still more recent

Perhaps the most significant of the first set of examples which
supported the view that soil fertility is the real basis of public
health is that of the people of the Hunza valley to the north of Kashmir
in the heart of the Karakoram Mountains with Afghanistan on the west,
the Russian Pamirs on the north, and Chinese Turkestan on the east.
Several accounts of the remarkable health of this ancient people have
been published based largely on the observations of McCarrison, who at
one time was Medical Officer to the Gilgit Agency. In his Mellon lecture
delivered at Pittsburgh in 1921 on 'Faulty Food in Relation to
Gastro-Intestinal Disorder' he referred to the remarkable health of the
Hunzas in the following words:

'During the period of my association with these people I never saw a
case of asthenic dyspepsia, of gastric or duodenal ulcer, of
appendicitis, of mucous collitis, of cancer. . . . Among these people
the abdomen oversensitive to nerve impressions, to fatigue, anxiety, or
cold was unknown. Indeed their buoyant abdominal health has, since my
return to the West, provided a remarkable contrast with the dyspeptic
and colonic lamentations of our highly civilized communities.'

The remarkable health of these people is one of the consequences of
their agriculture, in which the law of return is scrupulously obeyed.
All their vegetable, animal, and human wastes are carefully returned to
the soil of the irrigated terraces which produce the grain, fruit, and
vegetables which feed them. But there is another replacement in addition
to the organic factor. The irrigation water used on these terraced
fields comes from the Ultor glacier and is rich in silt. In this way the
mineral constituents of the soil are constantly being replaced. How far
is the health of these people due to this additional factor? It is
impossible to say at the moment. But a growing body of evidence is
coming forward in support of the view that to obtain the very best
results we must replace simultaneously the organic and the mineral
portions of the soil. If this should prove to be a general principle, it
would help to explain the remarkable health and endurance of many of the
hill tribes to the west and north of India where something approaching
the Hunza standard is the general rule. In any future investigation of
the need for replacing the minerals of the soil Hunzaland is the ideal
starting point, as it is a ready-made control station for such studies.
Readers interested in this people should begin with 'The People of the
Hunza Valley', which has just been published as a supplement to No. 9 of
the News-Letter on Compost (June 1944).

The second of the older examples I should like to comment on relates to
the labour force employed by the Public Health Department of Singapore.
The results are given in the following letter from the Chief Health
Officer, Dr. J. W. Scharff, to the Editor of the News-Letter on Compost.
It appeared in the issue of October 1942 (No. 4):

Middlesex. 7th September 1942.

Dear Dr. Picton,

You have asked me to give you an account of my observations on the
health-giving effects of eating freshly grown vegetables grown on soil
nourished with compost. The compost to which I refer was made according
to the Indore method; an account of how this compost was prepared is
published in the News-Letter on Compost, No. 2.

From January 1940 until January 1942 I had a unique opportunity, due to
war-time needs, of watching the progress of a campaign for growing
vegetables and seeing that they were eaten by a labour force of nearly
500 Tamil coolies. These men were employed by the Singapore Health
Department in various parts of the island of Singapore. As soon as
England became involved in war, it became possible to allocate an area
totalling in all about forty acres of vegetable allotments on favourable
terms to the men engaged on sanitary duties. My labourers were granted
these allotments on condition that they prepared compost and used the
vegetables and fruit grown therein for themselves and their families
only. Sale of the produce was not allowed. Thus it was ensured that
these goods were used at home. The local Agricultural Department lent
their inspectors and staff to teach the men how best to grow vegetables
and demonstrations in cooking and preparation of the foodstuff were
organized for each of the labour settlements. Compost making was started
on a large scale and during the months previous to the opening of the
campaign a supply of over a thousand tons of compost was ready to launch
this great experiment.

During the course of the ensuing months apathy and indifference on the
part of the labourers gave way to interest and enthusiasm, as soon as it
became apparent how well plants would grow on soil rendered fertile with
compost. A number of vegetable shows were arranged, at which the healthy
produce of fertile soil was exhibited and prizes were awarded. Within
six months the accumulated stocks of compost were used up and more
active steps were taken to augment the supply, as well as to satisfy the
growing demands of other enthusiastic gardeners inspired by the
achievements of my men.

At the end of the first year it was obvious that the most potent
stimulus to this endeavour was the surprising improvement in stamina and
health acquired by those taking part in this cultivation. Debility and
sickness had been swept away and my men were capable of, and gladly
responded to, the heavier work demanded by the increasing stress of war.
But for the onslaught by the Japanese which overwhelmed Malaya, I should
have been able to present a statistical record of the benefit resulting
from this widespread effort of vegetable culture on compost such as
would astonish the scientific world. The results were all the more
dramatic in that I had not expected this achievement.

The numbers taking part in this venture were so large as to preclude any
possibility of mistake.

It might be argued that the improvement in stamina and health amongst my
employees was due to the good effect of unaccustomed exercise or in the
increased amount of vegetables consumed. Neither of these explanations
would suffice to explain the health benefit amongst the women, children,
and dependents of my labourers, who shared in this remarkable
improvement. Shortly before the tragic disaster which has brought
Singapore within the hateful grasp of the Japanese invader it became
apparent that the health of men, women, and children, who had been
served consistently with healthy food grown on fertile soil, was
outstandingly better than it was amongst those similarly placed, but not
enjoying the benefits of such health-yielding produce. An oasis of good
health had become established, founded upon a diet of compost-grown

This has served me as an inspiration to carry on with this work in
whatever part of the world it may now fall to my lot to serve mankind.

Yours sincerely,

This interesting nutrition experiment was interrupted by the fall of
Singapore. Fortunately Dr. Scharff managed to escape on the last
minesweeper which left the fortress and in due course reached England,
where he at once resumed his activities on the relation between soil
fertility, nutrition, and health--at first in connection with the pig
clubs in the London area, and afterwards as a Colonel in the R.A.M.C. at
the military camps near Aldershot. He intends, on his return to his old
post at Singapore, to continue the work outlined above. His work near
Aldershot is being developed with great success by his successor, Major
W. H. Giffard.

The value of the above example of the connection between soil fertility
and health lies in its simplicity and in the ease with which it can be
copied by many employers of labour in the tropics. One such large-scale
example in Rhodesia has recently been referred to in the House of Lords
by Lord Geddes as follows:

'In 1924 or 1925, when I returned from being on duty in the United
States of America for four years, I was asked by the then Prime
Minister, Mr. Baldwin as he then was, to see what I could do in
connection with the supply of copper for this country. It seems to be a
far cry from soil health to copper, but as a matter of fact the nation
would not be getting its copper to-day unless somewhere in the back of
my mind had been the fact that soil health was what made health. Because
the copper that we had to get hold of was in Northern Rhodesia. It was
the only place in the sterling area where there were known deposits of
copper. It was not very well known, but copper was known to be there
because it appeared in native use, and we had to get a copper reserve in
order that we might in this country be in a position to defend
ourselves, because copper is extraordinarily important in connection
with war preparations. The country in which that copper existed was in
large parts depopulated. There was no one living there, not even
Africans, because of sleeping sickness, malaria and all the range of
tropical diseases which make some of the great forest areas in the heart
of the tropics impossible for human life. We started in, and the
greatest medical problem that I have ever known was the opening up of
the Copper Belt in Northern Rhodesia--probably the greatest medical
problem of our time.

'There are several branches of medicine. There is curative medicine,
which divides itself into research into the nature of diseases, and the
other part of curative medicine, the care of sick people; there is
preventive medicine, which deals with all the problems of keeping a
great community healthy; there is tropical medicine, which is really a
spawn of zoology--it is rather making a study of the wild animals that
live in the country, even though they are small. And then there is
creative medicine, and creative medicine is a thing that very few people
know anything about at all. In going into Northern Rhodesia we had to
use all the forms of medicine in order that we could get in. A country
that has been depopulated by the virulence of the diseases there is not
an easy country to get people of another race into and to keep them in a
good state of health. I shall not bore your Lordships with the various
steps taken during the fifteen years that followed, but I will tell you
this. The curative medicine was just the ordinary sort of curative
medicine of Harley Street or elsewhere. It was interesting, but of very
much less interest than the other. Preventive medicine dealt with the
ordinary problems of public health in a community. As to tropical
medicine, the School of Tropical Diseases helped us and we found out a
lot of things ourselves. Creative medicine--what did we base that on? On
the health of the food; and my noble friend Lord Bledisloe can tell you
that our idea of how to keep people healthy there is that we give them
food grown on rich humus soil with plenty of life in it.

'What have we done? What have the men who were there done? I do not want
to take any credit for myself--I was only chairman of the company. The
people who fought the thing through were the doctors and the
agriculturists on the spot--everybody there. My job was simply to see
that they were not interfered with by short-sighted economy. They have
beaten back disease, and turned that part of Northern Rhodesia into what
is a health resort. It is a most extraordinary phenomenon. The positive
health of these people is based on food. This group of facts provide
evidence tending in a definite direction. They show the importance of
what Lord Teviot has brought before your Lordships, and they show it in
a way, I believe, that places the truth of his contention on a secure
basis--that food is the basis of health, but it is not the only basis.'

In the same speech Lord Geddes referred to the health of the people of
Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is a relatively
small community, made up almost entirely of the descendants of western
European stocks (Scots 44 per cent, English 21 per cent, Irish and
French 35 per cent). 'There we have a very high standard of health, an
extraordinarily vigorous, active population and no fall whatever in the
birth rate. It is the only social organization composed of western
Europeans which has not shown in the last fifty years a really sharp
fall in the birth rate.' The population is composed of fishermen,
farmers, and of craftsmen engaged in rural trades. There are no great
cities. The farming is mixed, little artificials are used, and the land
is kept fertile by means of muck and the harvest of the sea.
(Parliamentary Debates, House of Lords, Vol. 129, No. 98, 26th October

Details of these two cases--the Rhodesian Copper Mines and Prince Edward
Island--have been given in full for two reasons. They are of the
greatest interest and value in themselves: they suggest the need for a
further detailed description, if possible carried out by an apostle of
preventive medicine. If a report could be drawn up on both these
examples, the man in the street interested would be provided with
definite cases of the way soil fertility and health are influencing one

A third little-known example is provided by St. Martin's School,
Sidmouth, where for many years the vegetables and fruit needed in the
school were raised from fertile soil. The results obtained are summed up
in the following letter dated 24th November 1943 from the head master,
the Rev. W. S. Airy:

'When I opened a preparatory school at Sidmouth in 1914, I was fortunate
in finding a residence equipped with one acre of vegetable garden and
another of fruit trees, together with the guidance of a wise and gifted
gardener. From the day I came, no type of artificial manure or
fertilizer has been known on the premises. Our soil, which has always
been dressed annually with some ten or twelve tons of farmyard manure,
the contents of poultry houses in the grounds, and two compost heaps,
enjoys immunity from insect pests and disease.

'From 1914 to 1941, when war conditions compelled us to give up
boarders, all boys were daily supplied with an abundance of fruit and
vegetables; also with lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes in
season. They were provided with savoys, cauliflowers, beet, onions,
peas, beans, parsnips, asparagus, etc., which all flourished in perfect
condition. Our exceptional health record has been chiefly due to the
school menu. I firmly believe that this would have proved impossible,
had not the soil been maintained in a superlative state of fertility by
means of compost beds and farmyard manure. Epidemics were unknown during
the last fifteen years. We had many lads who came to us as weaklings and
left hearty and robust; they never looked back in point of health, and
are now playing a prominent part in the world crusade of to-day. It has
always been my conviction that health, strength, and self-reliance are
mainly dependent upon the quality of feeding in preparatory schools at
the critical period between nine and fourteen years.'

A fourth example is that of St. Columba's College, Rathfarnham, near
Dublin, an illustrated account of which was published in the issue of
Sport and Country of 17th March 1944. This is a somewhat complete
example The boys of this college in their spare time are doing a good
deal of the manual work of a farm of some 200 acres, fifty acres of
which are under cultivation, where most of their food is grown by means
of compost made on the spot from animal and vegetable residues. This boy
labour is voluntary and supplements that of a paid staff of experienced
land workers. Produce is sold by the farm to the college at market
rates, and in this way the farm has been able to pay its way. There is
no doubt that the experiment has been of immediate practical value in
helping to solve the wartime difficulties of catering. The health of the
community generally has been unusually good, and the work and games have
been continued with additional zest. The current work on the farm and
the biological teaching have been made to supplement one another. The
medical officer of the college is now preparing an account of this
interesting experiment from the health point of view.

A fifth example--of factory canteen meals of the right standard--must be
quoted. This has been provided by the Co-operative Wholesale Society's
bacon factory at Winsford in Cheshire. These pioneering canteen meals at
Winsford are the result of the interest of the manager, Mr. George Wood,
in nutritional problems. The factory is a modern one and at the
beginning was surrounded by an area of waste land which has been
transformed into a model vegetable garden by means of compost made
partly from the wastes of the factory. The potatoes and other vegetables
needed in the canteen meals are grown on this land. The potatoes are
cooked in their skins, and the whole of the tuber is eaten. The area
under cultivation is being increased and soon it will be possible to
provide all the food needed for the canteen meals from fertile soil.
Only whole-wheat bread is provided. Already the health, efficiency, and
well-being of the labour force has markedly improved. The output of work
has increased; absenteeism has been notably reduced. Here is an example
of what can be accomplished for his workers by a manager with vision and
enterprise at no cost to the undertaking, as such factory meals pay
their way. The workers benefit by excellent meals, far more nutritious
and far cheaper than they can obtain elsewhere. The factory benefits by
better and more willing work, by the growth of real esprit de corps, and
by a marked reduction in ill health. Work begins to go with a swing once
the food of the workers comes to them fresh from soil in good fettle.
Here is a simple method of dealing with industrial fatigue and of
bringing capital and labour into a similar happy partnership to that
which has long existed between any good farmer and his team of horses.

A sixth example comes from New Zealand, where the deterioration in the
health and physique of the population has followed closely on the heels
of soil exploitation. In The Living Soil Lady Eve Balfour has dealt with
this case in full. The general health status of the population will be
clear from the following extract taken from her book (p. 131):

'Of every hundred children who enter New Zealand schools, fifteen show
signs of needing medical attention, fifteen need observation, many show
signs of nose and throat trouble, and at least two-thirds have dental
caries. In this connection, the New Zealand Ministry of Health has
published the fact that 30 per cent of all pre-school children suffer
from nose and throat troubles, 23 per cent suffer from gland troubles,
and 2 per cent have some form of lung trouble. The official figures for
illnesses among children at school are: 5 per cent suffering from
enlarged glands; 15 per cent suffering from incipient goitre; 15 per
cent suffering from enlarged tonsils; 32 per cent suffering from dental
caries; and 66 per cent suffering from other physical defects.'

At this point Dr. G. B. Chapman comes into this dismal picture. In 1936
he set in motion a feeding experiment at the Mount Albert Grammar School
at Auckland. The fruit and vegetables needed by some sixty boys,
teachers, and staff were grown on humus-filled soil. The results are
reported by the Matron in the following words:

'The first thing to be noted during the twelve months following the
change-over to garden produce grown from our humus-treated soil was the
declining catarrhal condition among the boys. Catarrh had previously
been general and, in some cases, very bad among the boys. In specific
cases the elimination was complete. There was also a very marked decline
in colds and influenza. Colds are now rare and any cases of influenza
very mild. Coming to the 1938 measles epidemic, which was universal in
New Zealand, the new boys suffered the more acute form of attack; while
the boys who had been at the hostel for a year or more sustained the
milder attacks, with a much more rapid convalescence.

During the past three years there has been a marked physical growth and
development during terms of heavy school work and sport. In some cases
boys go through a period of indisposition for several weeks after
entering the hostel. This would appear to indicate that the method of
feeding causes a certain detoxication period, which, when cleared up,
does not return. Excellent health gradually ensues in all cases, and is
maintained. There are fewer accidents, particularly in the football
season, which would possibly indicate that the foods in use contain the
optimum amount of minerals and vitamins, thus ensuring a full
development of bone and muscle and a greater resiliency to fracture and
sprains. The satisfactory physical condition described is maintained
during periods of rapid growth and the development of mind and body.
Constipation and bilious attacks are rare. Skins are clear and healthy,
while the boys are unceasingly active and virile.

'Since the change to naturally grown garden produce, the periodical
reports in regard to the boys' dental condition have been more than

The deterioration in the general health and well-being of the New
Zealanders and the above timely intervention on the part of Dr. Chapman
have been followed by a most interesting and promising development in
the shape of a Compost Club, details of which are given in a later
chapter (p. 222).

After this book had gone to press a significant report reached me from
Mr. Brodie Carpenter, the dentist in charge of the teeth of some 97
girls and 137 boys at a boarding school in Middlesex, where during the
present war great attention has been paid to the growing of the
vegetables and salads on humus-filled soil without any help from
artificial manures. A full report on the methods adopted in the raising
of this produce, of the composition of the school meals and their effect
on the teeth of the children appeared in the issue of The News-Letter on
Compost of February 1945, pp. 21-2. In 1939 when the experiment started
the standard of the teeth was distinctly poor. By 1942 a change began to
take place: by May 1944 a vast improvement had occurred--the general
standard had gone up to good.

What is needed to bring home to the man in the street the supreme
importance of soil fertility as the basis of the public health system of
to-morrow are more and more examples of what a fertile soil can do. The
type of examples needed will be clear from those already quoted.
Boarding schools and colleges should produce at least their own
vegetables and fruit from humus-filled soil. The labour difficulty will
disappear the moment the teaching staff, the boys, the girls, and the
students understand the importance of the question. This is proved by
the example of St. Columba's College--the Eton of Eire. The school
gardens and canteen meals of our elementary schools can easily copy what
has already been done at the Mount Albert School in New Zealand. Full
details of the best way to grow and to cook vegetables raised in a
school garden are to be found in Mr. F. C. King's book, The Compost
Gardener (Titus Wilson & Son Ltd., Kendal). Factory canteen meals might
with advantage copy what Mr. Wood has done at the bacon factory at
Winsford in Cheshire.

But perhaps what would be the most telling example remains to be
discussed. That seaside holiday resort which takes steps to have
produced from fertile soil in the neighbourhood most of the food needed
by the visitors would rapidly forge ahead and out-distance all
competitors. Holiday-makers need rest, good air, and above all good
food. If an autonomous community like the Isle of Man could become
compost-minded and see to it that most of the food needed by the
visitors was grown locally on fertile soil, it would rapidly become the
most popular holiday resort in Great Britain. Steps could then be taken
to provide the stream of satisfied visitors with details of how to get
their own gardens and allotments into shape, so that the good work
started in the Isle of Man could be continued till the time for the next
seaside holiday came round.



In the four preceding chapters the diseases of the soil, the crop, the
animal, and mankind have been discussed, and my observations and
reflections on these matters have been recorded. This recital is of
necessity somewhat fragmentary, because such a mass of apparently
unrelated detail has had to be described. At least one question will
occur to the reader at this point: Is there any underlying cause for all
this disease? If the birthright of every plant, animal, and human being
is health, surely all these examples of disease must have something in
common. It has been suggested throughout these chapters that much of
this disease is due to farming and gardening methods which are
inadmissible. If this is so, how do these mistakes in practice operate?

For many years I have been on the look-out for some guiding principle
which would explain matters and feel convinced that I have at last found
it in the writings of a distinguished investigator of human
diseases--Mr. J. E. R. McDonagh, whose work is not very widely known,
due perhaps to the fact that an attempt has been made by the author to
convey a too complete scientific picture of a very difficult and very
intricate subject. I have therefore asked Mr. McDonagh to set out in the
simplest possible language the gist of his results on the nature and
causation of disease which are discussed in full in his The Universe
Through Medicine and other writings. He has very kindly done so in the
following note dated 8th September 1944:

'The Nature of Disease. Every body in the universe is a condensation
product of activity. Every body pulsates, that is to say it undergoes
alternate expansion and contraction. The rhythm is actuated by climate.
Protein in the sap of plants and in the blood of animals is such a body,
and it is also the matrix of the structures in the former, and of the
organs and tissues in the latter. If the sap in plants does not obtain
from the soil the quality nourishment it requires, the protein
over-expands. This overexpansion renders the action of climate an
invader, that is to say climate, instead of regulating the pulsation,
adds to the expansion. The overexpansion results in a portion of the
protein being broken off, and this broken-off piece is a virus. The
virus, therefore, is formed within, and does not come from without, but
protein damaged in one plant can carry on the damage if conveyed to
other plants. The protein in the blood of animals and man suffers the
same damage if it fails to obtain the quality food it needs. In animals
and man a third factor enters, and that is an invasive activity of the
micro-organisms resident in the intestinal tract. This activity causes
still further expansion, and the tissue and organ damaged is the one
which originates from that part of the protein which is made to undergo
the abnormal chemico-physical change, hence there is naturally only one
disease, and this is regulated by the damage suffered by the protein
wherein the host's resistance lies. As a result of the micro-organisms
in the intestinal tract having played an invasive role for so long, they
have in addition given rise to micro-organisms which can invade from
without, but from these few remarks you will see that microorganisms do
not play the causative role in disease with which they are usually

According to this view of disease, the heart of the subject must reside
in the proteins. If these are properly synthesized in the plant, their
disease-resisting powers first protect the crop and are afterwards duly
handed on to the animal and to man. If, therefore, we see to it in our
farming and gardening that the effective circulation of protein from
soil to plant, and then to livestock and mankind is maintained, we shall
prevent most of the departures from health--that is to say,
disease--except those due to accidents or to abnormal climatic

Extremes of climate, by tending to damage the proteins, remain as
factors in the causation of disease. We cannot always completely control
the climate. For this reason it will be impossible to prevent all
disease. We can only reduce its amount and soften, as it were, its

But in one important direction we can do much to control climate--in the
effective regulation of the pore spaces of the soil--where those
portions of the plant occur which are least protected--the root hairs
and absorbing areas of the root. By maintaining the water and air
supplies of these internal portions of the soil--the pore spaces--and
also by providing the soil population there with constant supplies of
humus of the best quality, we can do much to give this important section
of the machinery of our crops ideal climatic conditions. Both the root
hairs and the mycorrhizal association can then function effectively. The
soil population will also thrive. There will be abundant material for
repairing the compound particles: so soil erosion will become
impossible. The microbial life of the soil will remain aerobic, so the
formation of alkali soils will not occur.

In the case of livestock and mankind the extremes of climate can, of
course, be mitigated by the provision of fresh food from fertile soil
and by providing warmth and shelter. All this will help the proteins to
carry out their duties in resisting the onslaught of all kinds of
invaders and in the prevention of virus diseases.

The synthesis of proteins in Nature is intimately bound up with the
nitrogen cycle. The proteins made in the green leaf represent the last
phase in this nitrogen cycle between soil and plant. When these proteins
are manufactured from freshly prepared humus and its derivatives, all
goes well; the plant resists disease and the variety is, to all intents
and purposes, eternal. But the moment we introduce a substitute phase in
the nitrogen cycle by means of artificial manures like sulphate of
ammonia, trouble begins which invariably ends with some outbreak of
disease and by the running out of the variety.

A simple explanation of the relation of soil fertility to health is thus
provided. All my own experiences and observations fall into line with
this principle. The cure, by growing the affected plants in freshly
prepared compost, of virus troubles in crops like strawberries,
raspberries, tobacco, and sugar-cane, is explained. Imperfectly
synthesized protein is then replaced by normal protein.

In all future studies of disease we must, therefore, always begin with
the soil. This must be got into good heart first of all and then the
reaction of the soil, the plant, animal, and man observed. Many diseases
will then automatically disappear. Only the residue will provide the raw
material for the studies of the diseases of to-morrow.

Soil fertility is the basis of the public health system of the future
and of the efficiency of our greatest possession--ourselves.

How the vast amount of humus needed to get the soil of the British
Empire into real shape can be prepared and used will be dealt with in
the third section of this book.




The great problem before agriculture the world over is how best to
maintain in health and efficiency the huge human population which has
resulted from the Industrial Revolution. As has already been pointed
out, this development is based on the transfer of food from the regions
which produce it to the manufacturing centres which consume it and which
make no attempt to return their wastes to the land. This amounts to a
perpetual subsidy paid by agriculture to industry and has resulted in
the impoverishment of large areas of the earth's surface. A form of
unconscious banditry has been in operation: the property of generations
to come, in the shape of soil fertility, has been used not to benefit
the human race as a whole, but to enrich a dishonest present. Such a
system cannot last: the career of the prodigal must come to an end: a
new civilization will have to be created, in which the various reserves
in the earth's crust are regarded as a sacred trust and the food needed
is obtained not by depleting the soil's capital, but by increasing the
efficiency of the earth's green carpet. This involves the solution of
the problem of manuring.

Why does the problem of manuring arise? What is the reason for our
constant anxiety about the state of the soil? This preoccupation is as
old as the art of agriculture. The problem occurs throughout the world,
being recognized as a first consideration among all cultivating peoples.
Its antiquity and its universal character are striking and must lead us
to conclude that it is based on something of fundamental importance.

Briefly stated, the necessity for manuring arises out of our
interference with the natural cycle of fertility. It is perhaps the most
insistent of those problems which owe their origin to human action
directed towards manipulating for the benefit of humanity the life of
the vegetable and animal kingdoms. For be it admitted, the operations of
cultivation, sowing, and reaping--all the acts that make up
agriculture--are serious interruptions or interventions in the slow and
intricate processes which make up growth and decay.

This is, perhaps, the place to devote a few words to this basic
conception of agriculture as an interference with Nature. I have been
attacked for not recognizing that interference. My constant references
to Nature as the supreme farmer have been found inapplicable and inept,
it being pointed out that if we were to follow Nature alone, we should
be restricted to those small harvests which she is accustomed to
provide, to the gatherings from the woodland and the hedgerow, from the
wild pasture or the moor. I am accused of ignoring the fact that the
whole aim of the cultivator is to do better than Nature and that the
success attained in this direction is a source of legitimate pride.

It is, therefore, not out of place to take this opportunity of stating
that the conception of agriculture as an interruption or interception of
natural processes has always been recognized by me. (See especially what
I wrote for students in a small book on Indian Agriculture, p. 11, which
was published by the Oxford University Press in 1927.) Where I part
company with my critics is in my general view of the unbalanced nature
of these human acts. Intervention there must be: the most elementary act
of harvesting is an interception: the acts of cultivation, sowing, and
so forth are even more deliberate intrusions into the natural cycle. But
these interruptions or intrusions must not be confined to mere
exploitation: they involve definite duties to the land which are best
summed up in the law of return: they must also realize the significance
of the stupendous reserves on which the natural machine works and which
must be faithfully maintained.

The first duty of the agriculturist must always be to understand that he
is a part of Nature and cannot escape from his environment. He must
therefore obey Nature's rules. Whatever intrusions he makes must be, so
to say, in the spirit of these rules; they must on no account flout the
underlying principles of natural law nor be in outrageous contradiction
to the processes of Nature. To take a modern instance, the attempt to
raise natural earth-borne crops on an exclusive diet of water and
mineral dope--the so-called science of hydroponics--is science gone mad:
it is an absurdity which has nothing in common with the ancient art of
cultivation. I should be surprised if the equally unnatural modern
practice of the artificial insemination of animals were not also to be
condemned. Time will show.

But, provided that the actions of the cultivator are well conceived,
that they have been proved successful by long experience, that they
follow the essential course of Nature without real disobedience, that
the character of the intervention undertaken is comprehended and that
measures are initiated to restore the natural cycle in a proper way,
much may be accomplished by man: and this is the art of agriculture.

The final proviso is of the utmost importance; we must give back where
we take out; we must restore what we have seized; if we have stopped the
Wheel of Life for a moment, we must set it spinning again.

Such a conception is very different from the all too prevalent idea
which sees Nature as a parsimonious and very sparing provider of scanty,
dispersed, and irregular harvests, a force which has to be stimulated by
chemicals into adequate response, and controlled by the ingenuity and
inventions of modern times. On this ingenuity and on those inventions
rests, so it is claimed, the constantly growing food supply needed by
modern populations, and much time is devoted to reckoning up the
magnitude of this human achievement. The argument is based on figures of
increased crop and animal production over the last few generations of
human life and ignores the fact that these results depend on the plunder
of the capital of the soil. The conclusions reached are fundamentally
erroneous and are fraught with the certainty of failure and catastrophe.

This want of perspective and lack of humility dominates most of the
short-term solutions of the problem of manuring, which from its very
nature calls for the closest consideration of natural law. Without
further ado I therefore propose to return to my usual method of first
reflecting on the natural processes governing the question at issue,
then examining what departures from these processes have been made by
human action, and finally asking my readers for a sympathetic
consideration of a certain point of view which may in some respects be
new and even surprising.

The methods adopted by Nature for maintaining the earth's surface in
fertility have been referred to throughout this book. They need only be
briefly summed up here.

There is first a slow creation and interchange of soils by means of
weathering and denudation through the agency of water or wind. Soils are
constantly being shifted and redistributed. This long, slow process
prevents the earth's soils from becoming static, in fact from becoming
stale and worn out: we have only to imagine what would be the state of
affairs as regards the supply of minerals if this process of natural
regeneration did not take place. Secondly, there is a vertical movement
whereby the roots of trees draw up the minerals of the subsoil, which
then become distributed by the leaf fall. The constituents of the
subsoil are thereby and by means of the earthworm continually being
added to the top soil. There is thirdly the deposit on the surface of
new organic residues everywhere on a colossal scale: these are derived
from all vegetable growths--trees, grass, or whatever they may be--which
are agents for catching and using the power of the sun, the final source
of fertility. Fourthly, there are animal wastes, both the wastes from
living creatures and the decomposition products of their dead bodies;
these wastes in all their forms are in nature always widely dispersed.
Finally, these factors of fertility are acted upon, one might almost say
directed, by moisture and by air: they are first mechanically mixed and
then transformed in their biological, physical, and chemical characters
by the action of the smaller animals and invertebrates and by the agency
of millions of microscopic fungi and bacteria.

Much of our interference with this complex of processes is unavoidable.
The settlement of areas for cultivation is a first necessity: we cannot
afford to have our farms moved hither and thither. The allocation of
chosen crops for selected fields then follows. This is a very violent
interference with natural life. which mixes and rarely selects. The
consequences of this major interference are made good by systems of
rotation and mixed crops, which are designed to restore that variety of
vegetable growths which had to be sacrificed for purposes of convenient
cultivation: the old device of fallowing is part of the rotation
principle. That this restoration of fertility is often very imperfect
has already been shown in the chapter on 'The Maintenance of Soil
Fertility in Great Britain' (p. 51).

Apart from these long-term intrusions there are, especially in Western
agriculture and in a great deal of plantation agriculture, short-term
omissions--annual, seasonal, and indeed daily--to maintain the fertility
cycle. These omissions are mostly unconscious and are, therefore, not
being made good by counter-measures: herein lies their danger. There is,
first, the general neglect of vegetable wastes: these are not faithfully
returned to the fields as they should be: they are sometimes burnt, and
they are partly removed for industrial and other purposes and then
buried for decades in sealed tips of urban refuse. Far more injurious is
the neglect of animal wastes. Human wastes are washed away, while the
wastes of domestic animals, often insufficient in volume, are
concentrated in rank manure heaps instead of being dispersed. This
matter of the dispersal of animal wastes is important.

The effect of these interferences with natural law accumulate and the
discussion of the problem might be prolonged on these lines. But the
reader has already been put in possession of the gist of the subject; in
order not to deflect his attention the remainder of this section of the
book will be devoted to special points which seem at the present stage
to throw the most light on the vital problem of manuring.


The problem of manuring does not concern the top soil only: it includes
the subsoil. The circulation of minerals between soil and subsoil is an
essential factor in any manurial programme.

As already stated, the past history of our fields has constituted one of
those major intrusions into the natural fertility cycle of which the
results are now becoming apparent. Most of these fields were originally
under forest. This forest cover would soon be re-created if our arable
or pasture land were enclosed and left to itself. This is Nature's time-
honoured method of restoring soil fertility. The trees and undergrowth
soon accumulate the essential stores of humus; the roots break up the
subsoil in all directions and comb it thoroughly for minerals like
phosphates, potash, and the various trace elements, which are then
converted into the organic phase in the leaves and afterwards
transformed into humus for feeding the soil population. At the same
time, the roots leave behind them not only a pulverized subsoil, but
also numerous channels for air and water, as well as a supply of organic
matter. In this way the roots improve the condition of the subsoil;
permeability is restored; and, what is equally important, the natural
circulation of minerals between subsoil and soil is renewed. Everyone
knows how fertile are the soils left by the forest. One reason is that
they are rarely short of minerals. The ultimate source of minerals such
as phosphates is the primary or igneous rocks, many of which contain
appreciable quantities of phosphate in the form of apatite. From these
primary rocks the sedimentary rocks are derived. Both classes give rise
to subsoils and soils, so that when we look at the phosphate and indeed
the mineral question as a whole and start our studies at the source, we
should expect any shortages of phosphate or other minerals to be due to
some error in soil management. This is exactly what has happened. In the
course of years of cultivation the circulation of minerals between
subsoil and soil has deteriorated. The constant treading of animals, the
passage of cultivating machines, the failure to use afforestation to
renew soil fertility, the failure to replace the root system of the
trees by those of deep-rooting plants while the land is rested under
grass, and the excessive use of chemicals have caused the subsoil to
form a definite pan which restricts the passage of roots, interferes
with the aeration of the lower layers, and leads to a poor circulation
of minerals between the surface soil and the great reservoir of the
subsoil. Crops have in this way been forced to live more and more on the
thin upper layer of cultivated soil and so have exhausted such elements
as phosphorus, potassium, and the trace elements. The soil, therefore,
suffers very much as an animal does when the circulation of the blood is
defective. The first matter to attend to, therefore, is to restore the
natural circulation of phosphate and other minerals between subsoil and
soil. At the same time we set in motion, through the operations of
weathering and denudation, the natural replenishment--from the
underlying rocks--of the minerals removed by crops and livestock.

In all future afforestation schemes care should be taken to use the
forest to improve the areas under agricultural crops. This can most
easily be done (1) by starting the new plantations on land which has
been subsoiled and brought into good condition by suitable cultivation,
temporary leys and by abundant humus, (2) by raising the young trees in
humus-filled nurseries so that the mycorrhizal association can be
established from the beginning. and (3) by a suitable mixture of trees.
In this way the time taken to grow marketable timber could be vastly
reduced and the income of the new plantations increased. As soon as
possible these afforested areas should be cleared and then given back to
agriculture. Another area could then be put under this long term
forestry rotation. In this way forestry can be used to restore the
fertility of the soil as well as to provide timber. The marriage of
forestry and farming must be included in all our future agricultural

(Some fifty years ago during my student days spectacular results were
beginning to be obtained when heavy land under grass was dressed with
finely pulverized basic slag. Basic slag is the name given to the
used-up limestone lining of the Bessemer converter, by which the
phosphorus from certain types of iron ore is removed. The molten metal
gives up its phosphorus to the limestone with the formation of one of
the phosphates of calcium. This, when finely powdered, acts as a
phosphatic manure. In this way a new artificial manure was added to an
already long list.)

The obvious effect of this slag on a piece of heavy land under grass is
to improve the herbage, the clovers in particular. But when basic slag
is added to pastures on light, permeable land and to grass on the chalk,
negative results are often obtained. I well remember how all this
troubled me when I connected these results with my knowledge of geology
and of the microscopic structure of the primary rocks. Something seemed
to be wrong somewhere. I put my doubts to my instructors and suggested
that the whole phosphate question should be reopened. Their explanations
failed to satisfy me. Then about 1904 at the Royal Agricultural Show at
Park Royal a chance observation led, some forty years later, to the
practical solution of the phosphate problem. Some turves taken from the
plots of the Cockle Park experiments were included in one of the
exhibits dealing with agricultural research. One of these turves was
taken from the plot which had received basic slag, the one alongside
from the control plot. The difference in the herbage was amazing, but
what also interested me was the deep, black layer of humus under the
slagged turf and the absence of a similar humus layer in the control.
Thirty-four years later, in 1938, I was able to continue this phosphate
story. I discussed my observations with the late Sir Bernard Greenwell
and suggested that basic slag must act indirectly by improving the
areation of heavy soils, whereby the vegetable and animal wastes are
converted into humus, which in turn would improve the grasses and
clovers. I pointed out that under the turf of heavy, close grassland
nitrates were always in defect and that the provision of more oxygen
invariably improved matters. He at once proceeded to use a subsoiler,
drawn by a caterpillar tractor, four feet apart and twelve to fourteen
inches deep, on his grassland on the London clay and immediately
obtained results comparable with those obtained by an average dressing
of slag. The passage of the shoe of this machine acted like a mild
explosive and shattered the subsoil. The land, of course, must be in the
right condition to obtain the maximum effect--it must not be too wet or
the pan will not shatter.

Sir Bernard's death in 1939 and the present war put an end to the work
in progress at Marden Park. The results thus so far obtained, however,
were set out in 1940 in Chapter VII of An Agricultural Testament in the
hope that some pioneer would be sufficiently interested to continue this
phosphate inquiry. In 1943 the expected happened. I received a letter
from a correspondent in Sussex--Mr. R. Delgado, Little Oreham, near
Henfield--to the effect that he had prevailed on his local War
Agricultural Executive Committee to subsoil one of his pastures. At the
same time a neighbour applied ten hundredweight of basic slag to each
acre of similar land. In view of the importance of this work, the
correspondence is here quoted in extenso.

The first report is dated 27th November 1943:

'After reading Sir Albert Howard's Agricultural Testament and the
account he gives in it relating to the work of the late Sir Bernard
Greenwell with the use of a subsoiler on pastures overlying clay, it was
decided at once to contact the local W.A.E.C. with a view to finding out
the name of a contractor who possessed the necessary tackle to carry out
such work on my farm.

'The local Committee wrote back to say that I was misinformed and that
the only use a subsoiler had was on arable ground behind a plough. After
a further exchange of letters they agreed to send a crawler tractor and
a wheel-type Ransomes subsoiler.

'A further argument ensued as to the depth and distance apart, but,
after the subsoiler had been up and down the field once, I pointed out
to the officer that no effective shattering of the subsoil could take
place further than two feet on either side of the share, and he
eventually came down to doing them six feet apart and fifteen inches

'Had the work been carried out strictly in accordance with Sir Bernard's
stipulation, I am certain that the eventual results would have been
better. However, the response from the worst field on this farm was
encouraging. When the work was completed, it was stocked with yearling
and bulling heifers and three horses. There was not much grass on the
field to start with, so good and bad hay were fed to supplement the
grazing. The good hay was, naturally consumed and the bad was dunged and
trodden on to form compost in situ. The field was finally shut up in
July absolutely bare, four months after subsoiling.

'Despite the absence of rain in this part of the country during the
summer, the flora on this meadow had changed to an emerald green on
shutting up and has remained so ever since.

'On November 20th I went to look at it and was agreeably surprised to
observe many worm casts which had hitherto been absent. The milking herd
was turned into it the following day. Their relish for the short bite
was very noticeable, particularly where the worm casts were more
numerous, and the milk yield went up.

'In the autumn of last year a friend, farming nearby on the same type of
soil, dressed a meadow with ten hundredweight of slag to the acre. I was
privileged to see it this June, closely grazed and a very good colour.
Everyone is aware of the virtues of slag on clay soils.

'In July, just before shutting up the field described above, my friend
paid me a visit and we were standing in this field having a look at my
young stock when she remarked on the greenness of my turf, complaining
sorrowfully that her slagged meadow was brown, scorched, and devoid of
any feed.

'It would be as well to state here that the flora in my particular
meadow was that which is found in pastures which tumbled down to grass
after the last war with a proportion of volunteer clover and a
semi-swamp variety of weeds, whereas in my friend's I had seen a
preconceived mixture of grasses and clovers. And in order to complete
the treatment of my meadow, after a pulse crop has been taken, it will
be sown down to deep rooters and Leguminosae.

'There remains the cost of the work. Subsoiling by contract with the
W.A.E.C. under the mole-draining scheme, inclusive of piped outfalls
averaging three to each four acres and inclusive of a 50 per cent grant,
came to a little over 25s. per acre. Subsoiling, as recommended by Sir
Bernard Greenwell with one's own power and tackle, one could probably
carry out to-day for a maximum of 5s. per acre.

'The cost of slag, which is either 6 pounds per ton or 3 pounds
10 shillings, I am not sure which, would work out on a dressing of ten
hundredweight to the acre at the lowest at 35s. per acre exclusive of

'Though admitting that slag is better than nothing in that humus
formation under the turf sets in after a suitable application, apart
from the relative merit of costs I am of the opinion that one can
obviate any unknown chemical reaction in the soil by seeking the same,
if not possibly better, results by the use of the subsoiler.
Unfortunately I have not as yet been able to go and see the slagged
meadow this autumn to discover what verdict is given by the earthworm.

'It might be of interest to add that fungi in the shape of mushrooms,
only very sparsely scattered in my meadow last year, abounded in great
numbers this autumn, whereas it is well known that slag will do away
with them for evermore.'

The matter was followed up further and in a subsequent report dated 3rd
April 1944 Mr. Delgado continues the story of his interesting

'In April 1943 I subsoiled a four-acre meadow which was literally soused
with a century or more of organic decay for about four inches under the
turf. I should imagine it was very acid since it hardly grew any hay and
the stock loathed it. It was, in fact, one of those meadows which give
spectacular results with a heavy dressing of slag. In the previous
autumn stock had been shut up in it and fed with green stuff carted from
another field.

'Soon after subsoiling, the meadow was ploughed and one-third of it
dressed with ten hundredweight of slag to the acre. It was sown with
oats and tares. The crop was uniform throughout the field. In the autumn
of 1943 the field was ploughed again. The ploughman, who did not know I
had slagged a portion of the field, noticed the land was harder on the
slagged area. Winter oats were drilled and at the time of writing (3rd
April 1944) the crop is uniform.

'The oats are going to be undersown with a grass mixture, and it will be
interesting to see if there is any difference in the take of the seeds
as phosphates are supposed to be essential when laying down to grass.'

In a further letter dated 22nd April 1944 Mr. Delgado stated that as the
oats were very forward he had been compelled to graze them by cattle.
The stock grazed the oats evenly and showed no preference whatsoever for
the slagged portion. He will continue to keep this field under careful
observation and report if any differences develop, and also take note of
the reaction of the grazing animal to the following grass crop.

On 20th October 1944 Mr. Delgado reported that the oat crop was uniform
and yielded about thirty hundredweight of grain to the acre. The take of
the clovers and grasses in the seeds mixture was absolutely uniform all
over the field which was evenly grazed by the livestock. As far as could
be seen up to the time of writing the application of slag at the rate of
ten hundredweight to the acre to a portion of this subsoiled field
produced no result.

There seems no doubt that the effect of basic slag is mainly to promote
the formation of humus under the turf of heavy land under grass by
improved aeration and that similar results can be obtained at much less
cost by means of the subsoiler. ('Is Basic Slag Really Necessary?',
News-Letter on Compost, Nos. 8 and 9, February and June 1944.)

Mr. Friend Sykes has obtained equally striking subsoiling results on
arable land. This he has done by breaking up the pan under the plough
sole. His experiences are described in detail in Appendix D to this book
(p. 262).

Clearly the moment peace comes and a supply of implements becomes
available a regular subsoiling campaign will have to be set in motion
throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain. Indeed, in most
parts of the world, systematic subsoiling is certain to be one of the
great advances in agriculture. Captain Moubray has already obtained good
results in the Mazoe valley in Southern Rhodesia. Some striking effects
of subsoiling have also been obtained on Mr. Franklin Roosevelt's home
farm in the United States of America. Subsoiling is certain to prove the
first great step in maintaining the mineral supplies of the surface soil
and so rendering obsolete many of our ideas on manuring. It sweeps
current advice on phosphate manuring into the lumber room of exploded
ideas. It may also prove to be of great value in the reclamation of
alkali land.

Not only does subsoiling open the door to the reform of arable farming,
but it will, above all, be a practical solution of some of the problems
of our temporary and permanent grassland. Without realizing it, we have
in the course of long processes of cultivation allowed our fields and
pastures to become pot-bound: this condition puts at least half of the
fertility cycle out of action. By correcting this condition and allowing
air to penetrate beneath the surface down to and into the subsoil, we
restore that natural supply of oxygen without which humus formation
cannot properly proceed. Subsoiling, in fact, is the parallel process to
drainage and perhaps, because so long neglected, is even more important:
the one process controls the surplus water of the soil and the other
guides and restores the supply of air. The soil like the compost heap
needs both air and water at the same time.

In this way only can we make a full use of the earth's green carpet, and
it is only by the agency of the green carpet that we are able to trap
the sunlight: in proportion as this green carpet is not utilized we lose
that much solar energy. The practical effects of the change are
indicated in the reports quoted above. It is certain that by this reform
carried out all over the country the stock-carrying capacity of our
grass areas will go up by leaps and bounds. The door will then be opened
to making full use of the improved varieties of grasses, clovers, and
herbs--which must always include deep-rooting types and which must also
have ample leaf area for intercepting the sunlight--needed by the
ruminant stomach. We shall also be able to take in hand all our hitherto
neglected second and third classes of land. Most of these will go up at
least a class after they have been treated by methods similar to those
which Mr. Sykes and Mr. Delgado have so successfully applied at Chantry
and at Little Oreham. The great openings are certain to lie in these and
even in fourth-rate areas. We have only just begun to deal with the hill
farms--those cradles of the breeds of livestock of to-morrow. England
need no longer contract her real farming to the best land as she is
doing now.


Subsoiling will solve the mineral side of manuring. The reform of the
manure heap and the full use of sheet-composting are the roads by which
the nitrogen problem must be approached.

If the soil is a living thing, as we have continually been insisting in
this book, so also in an even more intense way is the manure heap. Such
a manure as compost is simply a teeming mass of microbial and fungous
life. This life, like all life, never stands still; it has its own
cycles and is in a very different state at different times.

All cultivators like their farmyard manure well rotted. A hot manure,
i.e. a fresh manure, cannot safely be introduced into a worn-out soil
which is then to grow a crop. This universally accepted piece of
practice is a first recognition of the potentially dangerous nature of
the traditional heap of farmyard manure--evil-looking, evil-smelling,
full of maggots, and the paradise of breeding flies. Our extraordinary
habit of heaping up animal excrement together in these insanitary masses
is, it is true, established among us by age-old tradition. That must not
prevent us from; probing into the practice and questioning it.

It is not natural. Nature does not collect the excrement of her fauna in
this way. Their droppings in a wild pasture are most widely scattered by
the roaming habits of the animals, far more widely than they are even in
a field grazed by domesticated beasts. The admitted distaste of such
grazing animals for feeding off patches of grass which have been
stained, as it is called, by their own wastes some time previously
should alone have given us a hint. Horses, for instance, are most
particular and may be classed as most cleanly beasts. Nowhere in Nature
(if we except a few sea-bird habitats where suitable nesting areas are
restricted) do we find the noisome nuisance of the manure heap.

The fact is that by collecting farmyard manure in this way and leaving
it, sometimes for many months, at least three deleterious processes are

In the first place, the rain washes out an untold portion of the
valuable elements: this is finally lost to the farmer. Whoever has seen
the richest part of a large manure heap leaching away into a ditch
without hope of recovery may well ask himself why the farmer was at so
much trouble to gather together what he is so eager to lose again. The
rich exudation, which leaves the heap, is like an opened artery: all
goodness drains away: a less valuable mass of stuff is left,
impoverished of much of the best constituents. Yet this sort of
carelessness is met with in almost every farming community outside
China, and what is much worse is looked on as nothing in the least

In the second place, there is a considerable loss of nitrogen to the air
due to the establishment of an anaerobic flora. Though not so obvious as
leaching by rain, yet much loss of the valuable element--combined
nitrogen--occurs. Such losses are a foregone conclusion if we remember
that, as we pointed out above, farmyard manure is not a static
substance. Its very nature implies change, just because it is alive. The
natural changes it would undergo if left alone would be to become humus
by incorporation after fermentation with ample vegetable wastes. But, if
not thus left to its natural destiny, if heaped up into a huge solid
mound by man's agency, it does not on that account wholly cease to live:
and among the living changes which it is bound to undergo is the release
of the excess nitrogen by denitrification so that a mixture suitable for
humus formation remains. The combined nitrogen it contains, which is so
valuable a plant food element and for which the surrounding vegetation
is crying out, escapes into the air either in the form of ammonia--the
characteristic smell of which hovers over every manure heap--or as free
nitrogen gas.

In the third place, something far worse than leaching and the escape of
nitrogen is apt to take place in the manure as a final result of cutting
off the air supply. Decay in the forms which we have been investigating
is one of the ways in which Nature turns her Wheel. It is not, however,
her only or exclusive process. There are processes, commonly known as
the putrefactive processes, which she also employs in certain
circumstances. These processes are always induced when there is
insufficient oxygen. In the absence of oxygen--the great purifying agent
which by combining burns up the elements present in decaying
bodies--these putrefactive processes form a special type of compound
usually accompanied by the generation of noxious gases. This is
putrefaction and we all know, by common experience, what that word
means. It is Nature's method of removing wastes which for some reason
she is unable to deal with normally by what we may call her methods of
healthy decay. Perhaps because there is some stoppage, some kink, in her
normal processes, she carries out these alternative putrefactive changes
in an unpleasant and sensational way. The sights and smells of
putrefaction are highly disagreeable to the higher living creatures, man
not excluded. If we like to use a poetical image, it is Nature thwarted,
and in wrath.

Now in a manure heap these putrefactive processes are apt to take the
place of the normal decay processes, especially when manure is heaped on
a concrete floor or in a concreted pit. Any farmer who wishes to observe
these putrefactive processes can easily do so by assembling two manure
heaps side by side, one on freshly broken-up earth, the other on a
concrete floor. The air supply of these two heaps is very different. The
first obtains a fair supply of oxygen: in the second aeration is
restricted and putrefactive changes, accompanied by an offensive odour,
soon set in. Incidentally this simple experiment establishes the
principle that the earth itself breathes provided the surface soil is
kept open. This is one of the reasons why we must always cultivate.

If putrefactive processes have begun, then the manure is not at a stage
suitable for plant food. It will have to undergo some very prolonged
changes before the plant can get much benefit from it. Whereas
decomposition without putrefaction is the principle of compost-making,
putrefaction delaying and complicating the normal absorption of food
needed by soil and plant is what often follows from the nuisance of the
manure heap. The reason is simple. The mere mechanical heaping up of the
animal excrement into one large mound has deprived that excrement,
first, of the oxygen it needs for burning up, and second, of that
juxtaposition and mingling with sufficient waste vegetation of the soil
which goes to make normal decay. We have produced the conditions needed
by an anaerobic flora. This always means loss. We have not mixed the
vegetable and animal wastes in the proportions Nature has ordained.

We thus always return to the same point: animal and vegetable must he
mixed in correct proportions in their death, as in their life,

This criticism of a very ancient practice in agriculture will appear
bold. The manure heap has been used by generations of farmers. If there
were nothing else, we should have to go on accepting it. Even this
should not blind us to its disadvantages. When thirty years ago I first
began to look round for an alternative method of collecting manurial
material, the simple reason was not the disadvantages mentioned, but
that there did not appear to me to be enough manure available to the
Indian peasant on whose behalf I was working. The national habit of
burning the cow-dung as fuel severely limited what could be put on the
fields, and I became convinced that some method of eking out his scanty
supplies was essential if he was to take advantage of the advances in
plant breeding which the agricultural research workers of India were
making: otherwise our work would be stultified. It was natural to study
the successful methods in use in another part of the East and to
consider the ideas underlying the Chinese practice of increasing the
volume of fertilizing material by composting animal and vegetable wastes
together. It quickly became part of my own routine to compost all the
wastes of my experimental areas. The practical results soon forced
themselves on my attention, but only in the course of time did the full
meaning of the Chinese principles become clear to me.

In the end the substitution of the compost heap for the manure heap in
my work proved to have been the most significant step in my education as
a scientific investigator.


Subsoiling and the reform of the manure heap are the first steps in the
solution of the problem of manuring. These will enable the soil to make
a further supply of humus by a third method--sheet-composting. The
fourth and last step naturally follows--the encouragement of the
non-symbiotic soil organisms like Azotobacter, which fix atmospheric

Once the surface soil has been improved by the circulation of minerals
and the supply of humus, the land will be in a condition to begin to
manure itself by the process of sheet-composting. By this is meant the
automatic manufacture of humus in the upper layers of the soil.
Naturally the raw materials for this must first be provided. These are:
(1) vegetable residues in the shape of the stubble and roots of crops
like cereals; (2) temporary leys due for ploughing up, which must always
include deep-rooting plants and herbs; and (3) green-manures, catch
crops, and weeds.

For humus of the first quality to be made quickly from these three
classes of vegetable matter we must always provide a supply of animal
residues, either in the form of the droppings of animals or of reformed
farmyard manure (compost). Besides this activating material we need
oxygen, moisture, and warmth. If the land is properly farmed, we do not
require a base to neutralize acidity: the soil will arrange this matter
for us. Oxygen, of course, comes from the atmosphere and costs nothing:
the moisture is provided by the soil, by rain, and by dew: the necessary
warmth is available if we begin sheet-composting before the land begins
to cool in the late summer and early autumn.

The best results will always be obtained with sheet-composting when the
stubbles, temporary leys, green-manures, catch crops, and weeds are only
lightly covered with earth. A deep covering of soil must be avoided, as
sheet-composting requires a copious supply of air. The fermenting layer
only needs just sufficient soil to keep the mass moist. When stubbles
have to be converted into humus, the supply of moisture can be enhanced
by composting and lightly burying as soon as possible after reaping and
before the surface soil has time to dry out. There is nothing to prevent
this operation following the binder once the sheaves are set up in rows,
leaving narrow untreated strips between the cultivated areas.

Provided the soil is in good heart, a second composting is possible by
sowing a catch crop on the sheet-composted land. Such land will do two
things at the same time--prepare compost, and grow a catch crop. These
catch crops can either be eaten by stock or disced in before winter
comes. The object of all this is to make the fullest use of solar energy
by always having the soil in the late summer or autumn under a crop of
some kind or, failing a crop, under weeds. Vegetable matter must always
be made and then converted into humus for the following year.

Proceeding in this manner a useful supply of humus will be created and
ready for nitrification for the next year's crop. Further, all nitrates
formed in the soil during the late summer and early autumn, which
otherwise would be lost by leaching or denitrification, are immobilized
and carried forward safely to the next crop.

Everything now will be ready for the last item needed in the solution of
the nitrogen problem--nitrogen fixation. The organisms which carry this
out must be provided not only with organic matter--to supply energy and
food--but also oxygen, moisture, and a sufficient supply of base such as
calcium carbonate to prevent an acid condition of the soil developing.
It is more than probable that the good results which often follow
dressings of chalk or powdered limestone are due in large part to
nitrogen fixation.

Such fixation also takes place in a properly made compost heap; it must
be continued in the soil; this is, however, only possible in really well
farmed land.

The view that we must make every use of natural means--such as
subsoiling, the full utilization of animal and vegetable wastes, sheet-
composting, and nitrogen fixation--before even thinking of spending
money on chemicals needs no argument. It will, I think, be found that
when we make the fullest use of all these methods and follow the
teachings of Mother Earth, we shall find it difficult to escape the
conclusion that Nature, after all, is the supreme farmer.


The zones of agricultural land round our towns and cities are largely
used to produce the fresh vegetables, fruit, and milk needed by the
population. These areas ought, therefore, to be maintained in the
highest possible condition. For this large volumes of compost will be
needed. How is this to be obtained in areas where the supply both of
vegetable waste and of activators of animal origin are certain to be
small? The answer is: By the conversion into humus of the wastes of the
towns themselves supplemented by baled straw brought in from outside.

Although our towns are fed from the countryside, little or no return of
urban wastes to the land takes place. The towns are, therefore,
parasitic on the country. This will have to stop. The wastes of these
areas must go back to the soil. This can easily be accomplished by
large-scale humus manufacture on the part of the municipalities. Instead
of allowing the dustbin refuse to be buried in controlled tips or burnt
in incinerators, this material should be turned into compost by the help
of the crude sewage from the mains.

Two methods of using crude sewage as an activator are possible. We can
either use it direct or filter it and then convert the sludge into
powder, at the same time rendering the filtrate innocuous by
chlorination. Both this dried sludge and crude sewage are excellent
substitutes for animal activators. A small amount of dried sludge--about
1 per cent of the dry weight of the vegetable matter used--is sufficient
to activate vegetable wastes. This powder will provide the owners of
urban gardens and allotments with an excellent substitute for the animal
manure now so difficult to obtain. The use of crude sewage is also
practicable: long shallow pits may be filled with several layers of
baled straw and dustbin refuse, which can then readily be moistened and
activated by the sewage without the least nuisance and converted into
excellent compost in some three months.

To get all this under way in this country successful examples must first
be provided to overcome the well-known inertia of our municipalities.
Some are already in existence. In South Africa a nation-wide
organization for converting the wastes of their towns and cities is in
operation, as will be seen from the account contributed by Mr. J. P. J.
van Vuren, the Co-ordinating Officer for Municipal Compost Schemes, in
Appendix C (p. 248). The preparation of dried sewage sludge is described
in an article by Dr. Lionel J. Picton, O.B.E., in the News-Letter on
Compost, No. 10, October 1944. On page 224 there is a description of a
method of converting straw into compost by means of crude sewage only.

Fortified by successful examples elsewhere and stimulated by the already
growing demand for properly made humus, it is only a question of time
before our municipalities take up the preparation and sale of high
quality compost and show how the town can make some return to the soil
to which it owes its life.


1. The manurial problem can best be solved by copying the methods of

2. The circulation of minerals between subsoil and soil must be restored
by means of afforestation and the subsoiler followed by the use of deep
rooting plants in the temporary fey.

3. The nitrogen problem can be solved by: (a) the reform of the manure
heap; (b) by the sheet-composting of stubbles, green-manures, catch
crops, and weeds; (c) by assisting the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen.

4. An ample supply of compost in the neighbourhood of towns and cities
can be provided by introducing municipal composting on the lines now in
successful operation in South Africa.



The system of composting which I adopted, known as the Indore Process,
has already been fully set forth in 1931 and 1940 in two previous books:
the detailed description will, therefore, not be repeated here. (The
Waste Products of Agriculture; Their Utilization as Humus (Oxford
University Press, 1931). An Agricultural Testament (Oxford University
Press, 1940).) For those who are not familiar with these accounts it may
be briefly stated that the process amounts to the collection and
admixture of vegetable and animal wastes off the area farmed into heaps
or pits, kept at a degree of moisture resembling that of a squeezed-out
sponge, turned, and emerging finally at the end of a period of three
months as a rich, crumbling compost, containing a wealth of plant
nutrients and organisms essential for growth.

Sufficient time has now elapsed since the publications referred to above
to permit of a summary of the history and reception of the process. The
review is of interest. Time has sorted out essentials. It has brought no
fundamental modification of any kind, but has shown the way to some
simplifications which make the process easier both for the large
plantation and for the small cultivator, it has indicated where further
research and experiment could very advantageously be directed, and it
has, above all, provided an interesting example of the way in which a
new presentation of a very old and well-tried idea has been warmly
accepted by the practical man and given a most unfortunate cold
shouldering by the leaders of agricultural education and research.

Compost is the old English word for decayed organic wastes prepared by
the farmer or gardener. There are many ways of making compost and it is
a fact that, even when very imperfectly prepared, a heap of decaying
organic material will, in course of time, turn into compost of a sort.
There must be in existence dozens of indigenous methods of reducing the
waste materials of Nature to nourishment for the plant: almost any
traveller from primitive countries could describe some example. These
empiric methods vary a good deal, mostly by reason of the different
types of material available for composting. Actually the basis is always
the same, namely, to allow or induce microbial action by means of air
and of moisture. It must never be forgotten that living organisms and
not human beings are the agents which make compost. These organisms
exist everywhere. They prepare the ideal humus on the floor of the
forest and they equally govern what goes on in the compost heap from
start to finish. The art of preparing compost amounts only to providing
such conditions as will allow these agents to work with the greatest
intensity, efficiency, and rapidity.

The compost prepared by the Indore Process is like any other first-class
compost. The method involves no patents, no special materials have to be
sent for, and there is nothing secret about it. It is as well to make
these points clear at the outset, as of recent years, owing to the
immense success which has attended my compost campaign, numerous
innovations and copies have been placed on the market, mostly patented
and frequently involving the purchase of inoculating cultures or plant
extracts of secret manufacture, some even claiming to be based on
esoteric knowledge of an advanced kind and so benefiting the health and
happiness of the recipient. Some of these have been described as a
mixture of muck and magic. The Indore Process makes no claim of this
sort whatever. It merely copies what goes on on the floor of every wood
and forest. It has not been patented and will not be patented, because
it would not be in accordance with my principles to make monetary
profits out of work paid for from governmental and trust funds. Such
results should always be public property and at the disposal of all. The
Indore Process is now used and known in England, Wales, Scotland, and
Northern Ireland; Eire; the United States of America; Mexico; Canada;
Australia; New Zealand; South Africa; Rhodesia; Nyasaland; Kenya;
Tanganyika; West Africa; India; Ceylon; Malaya; Palestine; the West
Indies; Costa Rica; Guatemala; Chile; and by some of our armed forces.
This list is constituted exclusively of countries from which I have
directly received correspondence or official information.

It is because the Indore Process accords with natural law that it is
equally successful in whatever type of farming or gardening it is
applied. This is bound to be so. Nature has not different laws for her
tropic, semitropic, temperate, or other zones, nor different principles
for this soil or that. Her adaptations vary, but her basis is one and
universal. It is a substantial proof of the soundness of the Indore
method that it has shown itself to be, successful in so many different
climates and for all types of farming and gardening, and that nothing
essential has had to be altered or added in the carrying on of the

The secret of this success lies in the quality of the product. We must
always secure high quality in compost before we can hope for quality and
resistance to disease in crops, livestock, and mankind. There is all the
difference in the world between Indore compost and organic matter. This
distinction is constantly forgotten by the apologists and supporters of
the artificial manure industry when criticizing organic farming and
gardening, due, I believe, to want of first-hand experience of the


The objection is still occasionally brought forward that there is not
enough material to compost. As was previously pointed out, (An
Agricultural Testament, p. 42.) the true answer to this is a more
effective use of the land. The proper utilization of the nitrogen cycle
in Nature will provide much additional vegetable matter. There is also
very considerable scope in the composting of catch crops and in
sheet-composting generally. Sheet-composting has the added advantage
that it saves labour, because the stubble or turf to be sheet-composted
is not collected: it is left in situ. A parallel advantage is secured in
respect of animal wastes when methods of open-air dairying like the
Hosier system are adopted: obviously again the animal disperses its own
wastes which mingle naturally with the vegetable wastes. All such
methods need to be carefully studied as part of the fertility cycle;
there is here an ample field for the intensive study of the nitrogen
cycle and its full utilization in composting, and above all for pioneer

In any case, it may be insisted on once again that there is often a
curious inability to recognize the abundance of existing wastes. The
would-be complainant simply does not observe the many wastes lying
about, the verdure of odd grass-borders for instance, the clippings of
hedges; sometimes does not even see the weeds which encumber his beds
and crops. One potential source of waste in this country is criminally
neglected--the rich mixed growth along the sides of every country road
in England. Quite frequently heaps of this growth are already well on
the way to compost and need only to be removed. Systematic clippings
twice a year (June and September) of the grass and weeds growing
alongside the roadside hedges, ditches, streams, and canals would
produce millions of tons of compostable material. To save local
authorities the labour and cost of clearance--for purposes of keeping
the roads free the normal practice is to heap it up at the sides, a
process which in itself must cost the country thousands of pounds per
annum--is there any conceivable reason why the inhabitants of the
localities should not be free to remove it for their own purposes? The
riches of the roadsides and waste places would thus be brought back and
add their wealth to our gardens and fields. This is not yet done,
because this nation has not yet been taught to look for and seize upon
all available supplies of organic waste. Such training, nevertheless, is
a national duty.

In towns the abundant autumn fall of leaves which the authorities so
carefully remove so as not to impede pedestrian and vehicular traffic
and often destroy should be promptly returned to the gardens bordering
on the roads so cleared; not to do so is year by year to rob these
gardens of irreplaceable organic matter.

The condition of the soil receiving the compost is a factor
fundamentally affecting results. This is only another facet of the
problem with which we have just been dealing--the state of the soil
which is to produce the compostable material. Run-down land produces
little waste material, but it eats up compost at an inordinate rate. The
first dressings seem to be sucked in at once: they disappear
miraculously in a very short time. The soil is so hungry that it
positively devours compost. But as the applications are repeated, the
response of the crop is evident by a marked improvement in vigour,
growth, colour, stance, foliage, flowering and seeding capacity. The
cumulative effect is truly astonishing. The results of compost are soon
written on the crop. Again and again in this country correspondents
report that the mere appearance of a composted garden invariably
attracts the attention of passers-by and secures new converts to organic

How can the new convert to organic gardening begin to obtain results?
One method is to concentrate on building up the fertility of the nursery
where seedlings are grown. The principles which have been so
successfully applied to human infancy by the medical authorities of this
country are true for plants also--at all costs give the seedling a good
start. As soon as possible save the seed for future sowing from
compost-fed plants. Provided the soil is fertile, the seed contains a
whole battery of reserves. The next step is to sow such seed in soil
rich in humus. The transplanted seedlings are then sure to prosper. This
is the secret by which the rice cultivation of the East has been
maintained for centuries year after year on the same land: the seed is
carefully selected: the seedlings are always raised in heavily manured
nurseries, and in this way survive the transplanting process on what
they have accumulated. Or another simple method is to fill seed drills
with two inches of compost and cover the sown seed with another inch:
spectacular results, particularly with salad crops, can be obtained in
this way. Or, again, in flower cultivation, when compost supplies are at
the moment limited, a little compost may be poured into the site for the
young plant or just round the roots of a growing one. All these devices
are simple means of putting the compost where the crop in being can best
use it. The ideal, of course, is to have the whole soil in such a state
that any plant or seed can be set to grow anywhere without the need of
special feeding. This, however, will take time.

The finished compost can be fed to the crop at any moment. In the more
refined gardening operations it is a distinct advantage to possess a
manure which can be spread on the surface to a depth of anything from
one to two inches without the slightest disturbance of roots or
seedlings. This is much nearer to Nature's own mechanism of distribution
than is our common process of digging in at intervals raw fertilizing
material which must necessarily be allowed to rot between the growing of
crops, for which purpose ample time has to be allowed. In all intensive
gardening operations compost is a necessity. A rapid succession of crops
is thereby induced far surpassing what is permitted by other systems of
manuring. Crops overtake each other, a second and third being
interpolated while the first is ripening: the soil easily bears the
double or triple burden. Here the Chinese peasant has led the way. No
other agriculture is known which gets so much off the ground and has
maintained unimpaired the fertility of the soil for four thousand years.
Chinese agriculture, based on composting, is indeed the adaptation of
genius, a marvellous achievement of a marvellous people, and would be
well worth studying for its own sake even if it did not offer us such
immense practical benefits.

How do we know when an area of land is really fertile? By the reaction
of the crops to a complete artificial manure. When composting has been
carried on for a sufficient period, soil which is in perfect heart does
not respond appreciably to artificial manures--just as a body which is
in perfect health ceases to show any marked reaction to stimulating
drugs. When the soil is almost worn out, we can write our name on it
with artificials, but as it becomes fertile the response to chemicals
become less and less until finally no appreciable result can be
observed. The negative reaction of a treated area to a complete
artificial manure will show that a condition of real soil fertility has
been reached. Here we must admit a useful, but somewhat restricted,
opening for artificials. Once the land is in good heart the maintenance
of fertility needs only moderate dressings of compost.


The rapid spread of the Indore Process in temperate countries with a
well distributed rainfall has drawn attention to the advantage of
providing adequate shelter for the small compost heap. The large heap
will always protect itself, because the ratio of the amount of surface
to the total volume is low and the mere size of the heap prevents any
fall in temperature by the cooling effects of wind and rain. But a small
heap is all outsides, so to speak, and is easily cooled. The fermenting
mass, therefore, needs some protection. A simple method of providing
this comes from New Zealand, where a compost box is now in use which is
finding favour among the urban gardeners and allotment holders of this
country. The best results are obtained with a pair of these New Zealand
boxes side by side, the purpose of the second box being for ripening the

Two suitable boxes can be made as follows. Both are exactly the same
size, so the following description applies to both.

Materials required. Six 3 ft. 3 in. lengths of 2 in. by 2 in. for
uprights. Twenty-four 4 ft. lengths of 6 in. by 1 in. board for the four
sides of the box. The unplaned timber should be oiled with old motor oil
to preserve it, but tar or creosote should not be used.

The box (see diagram), which has no bottom, stands on the ground. First
nail the side A to the uprights E and F. Next nail the back B to the
uprights G and H. Next nail the side C to the uprights I and J. When
nailing the boards on to the uprights leave a half-inch gap between all
boards to provide ventilation. The three sides of the box are now
complete. The sides and end are bolted together by means of four bolts--
each fitted with two washers and a nut which unscrews on the outside--
which join the back B to the uprights F and I. The front D is made up of
loose boards, 6 in. by 1 in., slipped behind the uprights E and J as the
heap rises. To prevent the sides A and C from spreading outwards use a
wooden bar, 2 in. by 1-1/2 in., with two wooden blocks, 3 in. by 2 in.
by 1-1/2 in., as indicated in the ground plan below of the box and the
elevation of the bar K.

FIG. 5. The New Zealand compost box  A, B, and C are the sides, each
consisting of six boards, each 4 ft. by 6 in. by 1 in., nailed to the
uprights half an inch apart to allow ventilation. D is the loose front
(six boards). E, F, G, H, I, and J are the uprights (each 3 ft. 3 in.
long). K is the bar, provided with a block at each end, to sit on top
of the sides A and C to stop them spreading.

If the box has to be moved to a new site, remove the loose boards and
the four bolts and re-erect the box in a fresh place.

Making the heap. Having made the box, throw your mixed vegetable
material (broken or cut up if necessary into lengths a few inches long)
into it as it comes to hand, together with one-third the volume of
manure, mixing the wastes and manure as the box is filled. The
proportion by volume of mixed vegetable wastes to manure should be three
or four to one. All garden or unused kitchen waste may be used including
weeds, lawn mowings, crop residues, leaves, hedge clippings, and seaweed
when available. Where animal manure or soiled animal bedding is not
available, activators such as dried blood, hoof and horn meal, or fish
manure should be used, but in these cases only a very thin film is
needed for every six-inch layer of vegetable waste. The exact quantity
of these activators is 1 per cent of the dry weight of the vegetable
wastes. If none of these substitutes for farmyard manure can be
obtained, the heap can be kept moist--not wet and sodden--by means of
bedroom slops. (If the bedroom slops are emptied each morning into a
heap of good soil, all smell ceases in a moment and day by day the heap
comes more and more to deserve the name of 'urine earth' and is to be
used in the box.) Animal wastes in some form are essential. When urine
earth is not used, sprinkle every six inches of the mixed vegetable and
animal matter with a layer, about one-eighth of an inch thick, of earth
(mixed with wood ashes, powdered limestone or chalk or slaked lime if
available). A thin film to neutralize excessive acidity is all that is
needed; too much earth hinders the ventilation of the mass. Then lightly
fork over the layers of vegetable and animal wastes so that they get
well mixed. This will help the fermentation and save the labour of

If the wastes are very dry they must be watered with a rose tin till a
condition like that of a pressed-out sponge is reached. If, however,
about half of the vegetable wastes consist of fairly fresh green
material, no extra watering will be needed. If a larger proportion still
be green succulent stuff, it should be withered first and then wetted
before use, otherwise silage and not compost will result. A little
experience will soon show how the moisture factor in composting should
be managed.

Continue the building process until the total height is reached. After
the box is half full make and maintain a vertical ventilation hole by
thrusting a light crowbar or stout garden stake into the heap and
working it from side to side. The hole should go as far as the earth
underneath the box. The purpose of this ventilation vent is to improve
the air supply.

The box should be protected from rain and sun by means of two pieces of
old corrugated sheeting, each 58 in. by 26 in. These are kept in
position by means of bricks or stones.

Two things must be watched: (1) an unpleasant smell or flies attempting
to breed in the heap. This ought not to happen and is generally caused
by over-watering or want of attention to the details of making the heap.
If it occurs, the box should be emptied and refilled at once. (2)
Fermentation may slow down for want of moisture, when the heap should be
watered. Experience will teach how much water should be added when
making the heap.

Ripening the compost. Provided due care is taken in filling the box,
after six weeks or so the contents will be ready to be moved into the
second box alongside (care being taken to place any undecomposed
portions in the centre), the material should be watered if needed to
keep damp, and allowed to ripen for a month or six weeks. No ventilation
vent is needed for the ripening process. The compost which weighs about
three quarters of a ton is then ready for use and should be applied to
the garden as soon as possible. If it must be stored, it should be kept
in an open shed and turned from time to time.

During war-time it may not be possible to find the wood or other
materials--sheet iron or bricks--needed for the two bins. In this case
two heaps side by side will serve, the method of assembly and turning
being exactly as that described above where bins are available.

How much compost can be made in a year in a pair of these compost bins?
At least three tons. We need never weigh compost. It can more easily be
measured. As a general rule 2 cubic yards (54 cubic feet) of compost
weigh 1 ton.

For medium-sized gardens a pair of two-ton bins can be made out of old
railway sleepers. These measure 6 ft. by 6 ft. and are 3 ft. 3 in. high.

This simple device has been outstandingly successful. The speed with
which material crumbles when protected by the New Zealand box from the
outside cold is remarkable: a bare six weeks in the first box will often
complete the active fermentation, after which the mass can be
transferred to the second box for another six weeks for ripening. For
those who have only small quantities of waste a pair of these boxes is
just the adaptation required: they are extremely neat and tidy and take
very little space. Proceeding in this way there is never any waste
material left lying about. Household wastes can immediately be got rid
of, and the composter may rest assured that neither flies nor smell will

Local authorities might consider whether they could not provide such
compost bins made of open brickwork as permanent garden fixtures in any
post-war scheme for improved housing. The cost would be small and the
advantage immediate and considerable, not least by definitely reducing
the bulk and weight of the dustbin refuse to be collected: it is
probable that the economy thus effected would soon repay the cost of
this simple installation. The immediate and cleanly disposal of
household rubbish is likely to make a strong appeal to every housewife
and is a point worth study. Local authorities are spending large sums on
the construction and upkeep of new houses. Why should not the
maintenance of the fertility of the gardens round these houses be made a
plank in our future housing schemes?


The labour involved in making a small amount of compost is quite
moderate: it is part of the routine of allotment holders and gardeners
to keep their places tidy, and it is their usual habit to wheel their
weeds and wastes to some special spot. To assemble this waste properly,
add a little animal activator and soil, and when necessary do an
occasional turn to the whole takes anything from a matter of a few
minutes to an odd half-hour. It is fortunate that compost, by its
nature, is not heavy, not nearly so heavy as ordinary manure; it can
easily be handled by a woman. My wife turned a heap of about four tons
in the course of two days without undue exertion.

But the work which the ordinary householder can take in his stride has
to be differently considered by the farmer and the grower who pay for
each hour of work expended on the farm or market garden. On this
head many inquiries and some objections have been brought to my notice
in the course of the last ten years. The original investigations made by
myself and Mr. Wad were designed to assist the Indian cultivator. We did
not concern ourselves very much about the factor of labour, for labour
in countries like India is superabundant. In The Waste Products of
Agriculture we stated (p. 13):

'Labour . . . in India is so abundant that if the time wasted by the
cultivators and their cattle for a single year could be calculated as
money at the local rates of labour a perfectly colossal figure would be
obtained. One of the problems underlying the development of agriculture
in India is the discovery of the best means of utilizing this constant
drain, in the shape of wasted hours, for increasing crop production.'

In Western agriculture, however, there is no such surplus of labour. In
so far as I originally contemplated the use of the Indore Process in
Western agriculture, I always looked forward to some form of
mechanization as the best way of solving this problem. The recent
advances which have been made in this direction and which will be
described immediately below should not, however, cloak the fact that
half the labour battle can be won by good management. It has frequently
been noted by my numerous correspondents that the work involved in
compost making can very largely be done not by the engagement of
additional workers, but by a judicious disposition of the time of those
already on the payroll. In any large-scale farming enterprise there are
off hours which can be advantageously used for compost manufacture. For
instance, the collection of material, which is a big item on a large
estate, can be made a matter of arrangement of carts and men on their
return journeys. Obviously the site for the compost heaps or pits needs
to be carefully determined with a view to the shortest journeys both for
bringing in the raw material and for carrying out the finished product.
At the Indore Experimental Station the composting pits were placed next
to the cattle-shed in the centre of the whole area. In any case, as some
of my correspondents early pointed out, the labour expenditure may prove
well worth while for an operation that so notably adds to the capital
value of the estate, as well as contributing to the profit and loss

Giving due value to all these considerations, nevertheless the question
of labour remains of obvious importance. In two directions the situation
has turned out very promising. In the first place, experience has proved
that my original estimate of the need for turning the compost heap three
times was excessive: one turn, or in very disadvantageous conditions
(e.g. excessive rainfall) two, is all that is necessary. The experience
of my correspondents, and my own further personal experience in making
small compost heaps, places this fact now beyond doubt and it is a very
great gain in economizing both time and labour.

The secret of correct compost making has proved to be mixing the
ingredients at the outset and attention to the aeration of the
fermenting mass. Provided this is done, a single turn is sufficient.
Even without a turn well mixed and well aerated material will decay
fairly well. The methods used in aerating large heaps since the original
experiments at Indore have been described in An Agricultural
Testament(p. 235 et seq.). Mr. Dymond in Natal has devised another
simple method of supplying air from below the fermenting mass which is
certain to be widely adopted (p. 211).

Better mixing and improved aeration thus eliminate repeated turnings.
Assuming, however, one turn is necessary, how is this to be done with a
minimum of labour? There is also the question of loading and spreading
the finished compost. The problem applies particularly to large-scale
work in Great Britain. As already indicated, the solution is bound to be
by means of some machine so devised as to be capable of performing the
three operations of assembling, aerating, and loading. A great deal of
progress has been made in this direction. Mr. Friend Sykes of Chute
Farms Limited, Chute, near Andover, has invented a muck-shifting crane
driven by a caterpillar tractor. This is described in Appendix D. He has
also invented a simple manure distributor. A number of other machines
for compost making have been devised, so an interesting contest between
the rival machines will soon be taking place. That machine which will
stand up to the work and also produce high quality compost will win the
battle. That so much attention is now being paid by inventors and
manufacturers to the mechanization of compost making speaks volumes for
the progress organic farming is making.

Mr. Sykes' muck-shifting crane, which has been made by Messrs. Ransomes
& Rapier Limited of lpswich, will turn and aerate a compost heap and
also load the finished compost into a manure distributor. I understand
that this machine will load 200 torts of muck in a day at a cost,
including spreading, of 1s. 8d. a ton. These operations cannot be done
by hand labour under 12s. 6d. a ton. If such savings can be realized in
general farming practice, organic farming by means of the reformed muck
heap is certain to prove much more economical than present-day farming
with the help of the manure bag.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating thereof. An interesting
and even exciting contest between the disciples of Rothamsted and the
humus school is certain to develop. In such a struggle the verdict must
inevitably be given by the crop and by the livestock and not by the
lawyers on either side.


The Indore Process was first taken up by a number of pioneers in the
farming and plantation worlds like Colonel Grogan in East Africa,
Captain Moubray in Rhodesia, Colonel Sir Edward Hearle Cole in the
Punjab, the late Sir Bernard Greenwell and Mr. James Insch in this
country, who, undeterred by the criticisms of the experts, started out
to test the process and then to initiate a large-scale composting
programme on their properties: their success was immediate: the spread
of the composting principle was inevitable the moment my ideas began to
be written on the land. Their efforts have also attracted the attention
of some of the public authorities in their respective countries who have
been quick to avail themselves of those developments in the Indore
Process which lead towards new advances in crop production, in
sanitation, and in public health. In Costa Rica, Senor Montealegre,
first in his capacity as Director of the Institute for encouraging
coffee growing and second as Minister of Agriculture and Lands, has
spared no pains in making my work known throughout Latin America.
Another stage was soon reached when a number of allotment holders in
this country began to approach me for advice and help: the spread of
composting in the smallholding, allotment, and private garden is not the
least useful of the developments in the compost campaign. I have
naturally done all in my power to encourage and help these pioneers and
to discover still more pioneers. It is to the work of these men and
women, especially to the early advocates of composting, that the spread
of the humus idea is due.

Full details of the progress made up to 1940 will be found in Chapters V
to VIII of An Agricultural Testament. In the short period which has
elapsed since, a number of facts confirmatory of the principles which I
have advanced have been brought to my notice from many countries: much
of this information will be found in the twelve issues of the
News-Letter on Compost from October 1941 to June 1945. (Published by the
County Palatine of Chester Local Medical and Panel Committees at Holmes
Chapel in Cheshire at an annual subscription of 5s.)

The most recent advances in the application of the composting idea can
best be described country by country rather than crop by crop: much of
the new work has been on the general composting of wastes and urban
refuse or has taken the form of the setting up of organizations to
further the principles involved. The attention of the press has been
awakened, the compost heap has even crept into the cartoon. The medical
and educational professions are becoming increasingly interested, and
there is every sign that an avalanche of converts is rapidly threatening
to sweep away such opposition as is based on ignorance, apathy, or
vested interests. In the succeeding sections of this chapter a few of
the more outstanding developments of the last four years are summarized.


Reference was made in An Agricultural Testament (pp. 69-70) to the
assistance given to my theories by the work of Mr. Dymond, Chief Chemist
to the South African Sugar Company in Natal. Mr. Dymond supplied me with
abundant material in the form of roots of the sugar-cane, grown with
artificials only, with humus only, and with both. From these samples Dr.
Levisohn established the fact that the sugar-cane is a mycorrhiza former
and that artificials were injurious by preventing the roots from
digesting the invading mycelium: where humus was used, there was
abundant mycorrhiza formation and rapid digestion of the fungus.

These results suggested that the change over from pen manure (a rough
form of farmyard manure) to artificials lies at the root of the diseases
of the cane and is the cause of the running out of the variety. We seem
to be dealing with the consequences of incipient malnutrition--a
condition now becoming very general all over the world in many other
crops besides sugar-cane. Interesting confirmation of this view has now
been obtained by Mr. Dymond. In 1938 an experiment was commenced to
study the effect of compost on streak disease (a virus trouble) in Uba
cane. A few plants of moderately virus-infected cane were planted in a
short row with a normal dressing of compost. During the following two
years there was no increase in the disease which was estimated at 60 per
cent. In the meantime the original plants developed a 100 per cent
infection. After the second cutting the ratoons were surface dressed
with fresh compost. At the end of the third year the disease had
diminished to approximately 25 per cent and during the fourth year the
new growth was examined and passed as entirely free from streak.

Since then cuttings from the canes which have recovered from streak have
been planted out in a composted seed bed, where they have so far
maintained their immunity. A row of 100 per cent streak cane has been
planted adjacent to this plot. No infection of the virus-free cane has
so far developed after six months' contact.

Samples of the roots of the streak-diseased and streak-free (after four
years' treatment with compost) canes were examined by Dr. Levisohn who
reported no mycorrhizal infection in the former, but sporadic infection
of the endotrophic type of fungus in the fibrous roots of the latter.

Dymond (Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists'
Association, 1944) concludes his account of this valuable piece of work
in the following words:

'The mycorrhizal association, after compost treatment of the virus-
diseased cane, is significant and important, as it confirms the
mycorrhizal theory and association in respect to sugar-cane.

'The streak-free Uba is growing vigorously and compares well with the
deteriorated Uba fields common in the last ten years.

'The point to be emphasized as the result of this experiment is not so
much that streak-free Uba cane may stage a come-back and provide a
standby variety, but that the fundamental principle of soil fertility
and the practice of the fertile seed bed may be applied to any suitable
variety of sugar-cane. In this way only can the industry be assured of
healthy seed and healthy crops in perpetuity.'

It follows from the above that the direction in which the sugar industry
of Natal can be placed on firm foundations is to manufacture as much
compost as possible and to use this for growing the plant material.

Steps have been taken to devise a simple means of doing this. Following
up the preliminary experiments on composting the wastes of the cane, (An
Agricultural Testament, pp. 68-71.) Dymond has just published a detailed
account of a simple scheme for converting the night-soil of the labour
force and the various sugar-plantation and factory wastes into humus
(Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists' Association,
1944). The scheme is now in successful operation at Springfield Estate,
Darnall, Natal. The results are so important and so far-reaching that a
detailed account is essential.

At this estate a set of compost bins has been designed to promote the
easy filling of the pits and the removal of the fermented product for
ripening. Each bin is provided with adequate drainage and abundant
aeration. The capital cost of the lay-out is low, so that it can easily
be adapted to the smallest farm or the largest factory or township. The
plan and photographs (Plates V and VI) show the essential details of
construction and the method of working.

The bins are built on sloping ground by means of hollow cement blocks
and cement mortar. The concrete floor has sufficient slope for drainage
and is provided with three longitudinal tiers of bricks to support a
loose platform of bamboos or light poles, so arranged as to leave about
an inch space between each pole for aeration. In this way the fermenting
mass obtains abundance of air from below. The lower end of the bin is
closed by a loose gate of poles held in place by two vertical pipes
embedded in concrete.

For an annual output of 1,000 tons of finished compost, six of these
bins, each 20 feet long and 9 feet wide by 4 feet 6 inches deep (810
cubic feet), are necessary. Such an installation will deal with the
wastes of 250 people, 45 animals, 100 tons of filter press cake,
together with the necessary amount of megasse, cane trash, and cane

The method of operation is first to cover the poles with a light
foundation of weathered cane trash and then with an eight-inch layer of
cane trash or megasse which has been used for the bedding of livestock
and which is impregnated with urine and dung. The next day the contents
of the night-soil buckets are distributed over the absorbing mat. These
are immediately covered with stable litter and the whole enclosed in a
thin layer of filter press cake. The process is repeated every day.
Light dustings of finely ground agricultural lime and applications of
diluted molasses (50:50) improve the intense fermentation which sets in.
Sufficient water must be applied while filling the bins to keep the
material wet and to prevent drying out owing to the high temperatures
reached which often touch 78 degrees C.

The night-soil buckets are layered with megasse as an absorbing medium
and covered with the same material on removal. Two long planks over the
top of the bins facilitate charging and also avoid trampling and
consolidation. The bins are filled about one foot above the surface as
after a month the mass contracts to about two-thirds.

The pits should be filled in ten days and allowed to remain for six
weeks. The partially rotted material is then turned out through the open
end of the bin and allowed to ripen in heaps for another six to eight
weeks, when it is ready to apply to the soil.

While the best method of using this installation to produce the most
satisfactory compost has not yet been settled, the following analyses
are interesting and tell their own story.


                     1       2     3     4   5     6   Karoo manure sample
Moisture per cent  69.8  61.3  69.0  63.8  77.0  7.80        36.8
Loss on ignition   45.8  29.7  38.1  34.8  59.6  5.96        47.9
Nitrogen, N.        1.7   1.0   1.2   1.3   2.2  2.2          1.7
Phosphoric oxide,
P2O5 total          2.0   1.6   1.4   1.3   2.2  1.5          1.5
Phosphoric oxide,
P2O5 available      0.7   0.6   0.6   0.8   1.7  1.2          0.6
K2O total           3.8   1.2   2.7   1.0   1.1  1.7         10.7
Potash, K2O
available           1.3   0.5   0.9   0.7   0.6  1.4          3.8

1. Represents stable litter with cane tops, filter press cake, megasse,
and old manure.
2. Represents the same with the cleaning-up of the premises.
3 and 4. Normal practice as described above, together with diluted
5 and 6. Normal practice with dustings of agricultural lime: no molasses.

The high percentage of nitrogen in 5 and 6 suggests that dustings of
agricultural lime may favour nitrogen fixation. When the best method of
procedure at Springfield has been devised, a nitrogen balance-sheet of
the whole heap would make interesting reading. If matters can be so
arranged that nitrogen fixation does take place, a new chapter in the
manuring of the sugar-cane will have been opened.



As regards the sanitary aspects of this method of activating the wastes
of the cane with animal manure and night-soil, the local Medical Officer
of Health reported that he found no flies, no smell, and no nuisance.
Pathogens could not possibly survive the conditions of high temperature
and high humidity which obtain for many days in these bins. The method,
therefore, combines two things: (1) the systematic removal and sanitary
disposal of all the wastes of a sugar estate, and (2) the production of
a valuable organic manure at a low cost.

In concluding his paper Dymond deals with future possibilities and the
best method of utilizing the surplus vegetable wastes of sugar estates
for the manufacture of compost in towns and cities. The average sugar
estate produces an abundance of vegetable wastes over and above those
that can be activated by the animal and human wastes now available. Thus
from an annual crop of 6,000,000 tons of cane the following quantities
of vegetable wastes are produced:

Cane trash            1,200,000
Cane tops               540,000
Megasse               1,980,000
Filter press cake       270,000
Molasses                180,000
Total                 4,170,000

If these wastes were baled and transported to the towns and cities, a
portion of the large quantity of vegetable matter needed for municipal
composting would be provided.

As regards the sugar industry this Springfield experiment solves the
humus problem. It will provide the large quantities of compost needed
for producing the plant material for the succeeding cane crops. As the
livestock population on these estates increases more and more humus will
become available for the current crop.

It is a particularly happy circumstance that this great advance should
have been made by a chemist. It makes the fullest reparation for the
harm done by some of the chemists of the past through slavish devotion
to chemical analyses and will also go a long way in emancipating future
investigators of sugar-cane problems from the thraldom imposed by the
NPK mentality. By regarding the manuring of the cane as a biological, as
well as a chemical, problem Dymond has achieved a notable advance and
one that is certain to be taken up far and wide. It is another milestone
on the road to organic farming.

Just as this book was going to press, Dr. Martin Leake drew my attention
to a note in the South African Sugar Journal of September 1944 on
composting practice on the Tongaat Sugar Company's estates in Natal
where noteworthy progress has already been made in converting the wastes
of a sugar estate into compost.

This group of estates cultivates 16,000 acres of cane and manufactures
70,000 tons of sugar annually with a useful by-product in the shape of
18,000 tons of filter press cake.

The problem of maintaining the organic matter content of the soil is
being solved by composting the cane trash and filter press cake together
in heaps eighteen feet wide and five feet high. The aeration of the
fermenting mass takes place naturally, as the mixture is sufficiently
porous: moisture is supplied by rain. Two turnings are given and the
finished material is used at the rate of thirty tons to the acre in the
furrows for the new plantings on light land, the cuttings being laid on
top of the compost. No animal activator appears to be used in these
heaps, an omission which is sure to be rectified when more livestock is
kept on these estates.

Green-manuring with san hemp is the rule on all the newly planted areas
so that by this means and the compost placed in the furrows the supply
of organic matter should be sufficient.

The animal residues of the estate oxen, horses, and mules are used to
activate large quantities of cane trash in pens, the soiled bedding
being afterwards converted into humus in the ordinary way, the yield
working out at twelve tons per head of stock. This material is used
mostly on the heavy lands.

In these two ways from 40,000 to 50,000 tons of compost are made
annually by this enterprising company.

Last season the average yield of cane per acre on these estates was 45
88 tons, which is 60 per cent more than that of Natal as a whole. It is
expected that when the full effect of the composting programme outlined
above is obtained, considerably greater yields will be reached during
the next few years.

The cane-sugar industry all over the world will naturally follow the
pioneering work in progress in Natal both on the Springfield and the
Tongaat Estates. This work on the conversion of the wastes of the cane
into humus, coupled with the results the late Mr. George Clarke obtained
on green-manuring and trench cultivation at Shahjahanpur in the United
Provinces, is certain to place the cultivation of the cane in a truly
impregnable position for many years to come.

The story of the composting of human wastes is continued in the
notable pioneering work of Mr. J. P. J. van Vuren, which began at
Ficksburg in the Orange Free State with two compost pits in 1939. Mr.
van Vuren at once showed how the various wastes of a small township
could be converted into humus by the Indore Process and the product sold
to the farmers and gardeners near the town.

The population of Ficksburg is 2,750 Europeans and some 3,000 Natives.
Soon eight compost pits were in operation, which at first produced about
twenty tons of compost a month from such wastes as straw, leaves, waste
paper, old bags, sawdust, shavings, wood-wool, weeds, hedge and lawn
cuttings, stable manure, kitchen waste, wood ashes, abbatoir wastes, and
night-soil. These town wastes are collected by the municipal dust and
night-soil carts and taken to the compost pits, which are a little way
out of the town.

The pits, which are now four feet deep, have brick walls with a floor
slightly sloping towards the centre, where there is an aeration channel
covered with bricks laid open jointed, and carried up at the ends into
chimneys open to the wind. By this means air permeates the fermenting
mass from below.

In filling the pits care is taken not to lose any liquid by providing a
thick layer of absorptive refuse in the bottom of the pit, when the
first load of night-soil is turned in and evenly spread; the method of
charging carefully follows those set out in Appendix C to An
Agricultural Testament. The fermenting mass is turned twice, the entire
process taking from eight to ten weeks, depending on the type of
material used. There is no odour from a pit properly filled, because the
copious aeration effectively suppresses all nuisance.

In Ficksburg the compost is sold to farmers of the district for use on
their lands or orchards and in town to local gardeners and private
individuals for use on their lawns and gardens. The farmers send their
waggons and take delivery at the compost pits, but in the case of
smaller orders these are delivered by cart, either loose or in bags.
Repeat orders are numerous because the crops in the district, as well as
many gardens and lawns, have proved excellent advertisements.

The result of this one successful example of municipal composting was
immediate One practical example worked wonders. Other municipalities--
Volksrust, Heidelburg, Bethlehem, Hercules, Walmer, and others--copied
it; still more became interested. Soon a scheme covering the whole of
the Union of South Africa was under way. The Union Government appointed
Mr. van Vuren as Co-ordinating Officer for Municipal Composting and
divided the area under their jurisdiction into six regions, each in
charge of a composting officer. Progress has been rapid and now the
urban wastes of many of the large towns are being converted into humus
for the benefit of the neighbouring farmers and gardeners. A detailed
account of the progress of this nation-wide municipal composting scheme
will be found in Appendix C to this book. From the municipalities the
work of humus production has spread to the countryside and Mr. van Vuren
now has a colleague for dealing with humus production on the farms.

It is to Mr. van Vuren also that I owe confirmation of my statement
about the possibilities of improved wine production from fertile soil,
the only road of escape from the threatened dangers of disease, loss of
quality, and the running out of the variety. (An Agricultural Testament,
pp. 85-6.)

In a letter dated 5th May 1944 he informs me that he has found an
example of wine production from fertile soil near Capetown. At the
Nederburg Farm, Northern Paarl, Western Province, Mr. J. G. Graue raises
his grapes with organic matter only without any help from artificials.
His wine, known locally as Nederburg Riesling, enjoys a high reputation
for quality in South Africa. More such examples are urgently needed both
from South Africa and Australia before our Empire-grown wines can come
into their own.

It is not too much to say that the whole of South Africa has become
compost-minded. All the preliminary work needed in blazing the trail has
been done and local examples abound showing how the soils of this vast
area can be restored to fertility. A great impetus has been given to
this work by the recent formation of the National Veld Trust, who have
made humus an important platform in their programme. The following
article, which appeared in the issue of the South African Farmer's
Weekly of 19th April 1944 (p. 235), explains itself:

Maintenance of Production

'In the course of its report to the Government the Reconstruction
Committee of the Department of Agriculture says that in addition to
sound methods of rotation, it is equally essential that all available
plant and animal wastes be constantly returned to the soil in order to
replenish its humus supplies and at the same time restore to it a
substantial proportion of the plant nutrients taken up by the crops

'This is a fundamental necessity for the permanent maintenance of a high
level of production and is all the more necessary in building up the
fertility of old, depleted lands. It is the logical and natural method
of fertility maintenance that has been followed through the ages in
older countries, although it has suffered considerable neglect during
the last few decades since commercial fertilizers have come into wide

'Happily there is a growing realization all over the world to-day that
the use of fertilizers in no way compensates for lack of soil humus and
that the full utilization of farm wastes as sources of humus must form
an integral feature of the system of land use as a whole, a fact that
applies equally to dry land as well as to land under irrigation.

Most Effective Method

'All experience goes to show that by far the most effective method of
returning farm wastes to the soil is in the form of well-prepared
compost. Alternative methods are by the direct ploughing in of untreated
crop residues, by green-manuring, and the accumulation of animal manure
in kraals or manure heaps for ultimate return to the land; but certain
disadvantages attach to each of these alternatives as compared with the
use of compost.

'Under farm conditions the limit to the amount of compost that can be
made is often set by the supply of plant wastes available. Crop residues
alone will hardly furnish enough material and, as a general rule, main
reliance has to be placed on old veldt grass, mown for this special

'Where the supply of veldt grass is also strictly limited, the only
remaining alternative is to grow bulk-producing grasses (on such spare
area as may be available and also along fences and on contours between
lands) as a source of compost material.


'On the basis of a meticulous costing of every operation involved doubt
is sometimes expressed as to whether compost making pays. It is
overlooked that the making of compost can hardly be regarded as an
optional matter in cropping areas and that the normal farm routine can
frequently be adjusted to include this activity with the employment of
little additional labour.

'In practice, the actual cost of compost to the farmer is not only
small, but should be amply recovered in the form of improved soil

'The time is rapidly drawing near when fruit and vegetable growers, who
rely largely on supplies of kraal-manure imported from other parts of
the country, will have to become self-sufficient in this respect and to
produce their own requirements in the form of compost. This is the ideal
at which every farmer should aim, where crop production plays any
significant role.'

One further fact from South Africa is of interest. To the account on
maize published in 1940 (An Agricultural Testament, p. 78 et seq. and p.
166.) can now be added the evidence that maize, like sugar-cane, is, as
was expected, a mycorrhiza former and is therefore provided with the
means by which protein can circulate between soil and crop. Regular
supplies of freshly prepared humus are, therefore, vital for this crop.
Besides maintaining the crumb structure and the life of the soil', it
assists the maize plant to resist all kinds of pests.


Starting from the farms of the pioneers, composting soon spread in
Rhodesia and now the Agricultural Department publishes every year a
return of the number of cubic yards of compost made on the farms. In
1940 there were 674 farmers making compost; in 1943 the number had
increased to 1,217. In the same years the amounts of compost made were
148,959 and 328,591 cubic yards. It will be seen that compost-making is
going up by leaps and bounds, but the figures do not tell the whole
story, as numberless small composting centres and private gardens are
not included in the return.

The position is well summed up in the following extract from a letter
from Captain Moubray to the Editor of the South African Farmer's Weekly
(26th April 1944, p. 270):

'If we had realized the all-important role of humus years ago, and had
acted on that knowledge, much of to-day's damage could have been

'Even to-day there are those who are not satisfied that there is
sufficient scientific proof that the basic principle involved in Sir
Albert Howard's Indore Process of converting animal and vegetable wastes
into compost or humus is a cure for many of our soil ills. Farmers in
increasing numbers are, however, finding out for themselves, and when
they see the results of compost on their lands they are not inclined to
pay much attention to anything else.

'When Sir Daniel Hall visited Mashonaland some years ago, he quite
refused to take Sir Albert Howard's claims seriously; but the small
snowball of those days has, at least in these parts, become an avalanche
sweeping everything before it.'

This quotation, together with that given on p. 216 above, leave no doubt
about the general results of the humus campaign, which began in 1932
when the Farmer's Weekly reviewed at length The Waste Products of
Agriculture and afterwards opened its columns to a discussion, often
very lively, between the local representatives of the artificial manure
industry and the champions of organic farming. One result of this
publicity was to stimulate the pioneers to convert the waste products of
their farms into compost and to observe the results. From that moment
artificials began to lose the battle. Then the advocates of artificials
changed their ground and took up the position that the soils of South
Africa would d best secure the restitution of their manurial rights by
humus supplemented by sufficient artificials to produce a balanced
manure In this way they hope to stem the onward march of humus and to
postpone the evil day when both the farmers and the urban dwellers in
South Africa, as well as the purchasers of their exported agricultural
produce, realize that the slow poisoning of the life of the soil is one
of the greatest calamities that has befallen agriculture and mankind.

The onward march of progress in the Rhodesias owes much to Captian
Moubray who for many years has written the results of humus on his farm
and so provided the country with a successful example. I have done
everything in my power to persuade the artificial manure interests how
valuable it would be in their advertisement campaign to take up a piece
of land next to Captain Moubray's estate and to show that by means of
artificials, or artificials and humus, they could do even better. But
they have preferred to lose face by declining the challenge rather than
to risk a disastrous defeat. Discretion has proved to be the better part
of artificial manures.

In the early days of 1933 I paid a brief visit to Natal and South Africa
and saw for myself how dire was the need for more humus. Just over
twelve years have passed, but what a change has taken place in that
brief period! I could, in 1933, discover but faint interest in humus and
soil fertility among the people I met. To-day the virtues of humus are
being preached everywhere: the purpose of the Indore Process is being
widely understood: the flow of ridicule and abuse from the artificial
manure industry is coming to an end. I have enjoyed this battle with the
protagonists of the NPK mentality: I have enjoyed still more a long and
detailed correspondence with the pioneers, without whose labours nothing
could have been accomplished in Rhodesia and in South Africa.


For some years before the fall of Singapore Malaya was one of the most
active composting centres in the Empire, thanks to the enthusiasm of Dr.
J. W. Scharff, the Chief Health Officer at Singapore, and of a number of
men engaged in the plantation industries.

Composting began in Malaya on a number of coconut and rubber estates. An
example of the kind of results obtained is given in the following letter
dated 17th October 1941 from Mr. R. Paton, Permatang Estate, Banting,

'We started to keep livestock on a fairly big scale in 1930 for the
purpose of manuring our coconuts, and this was done in conjunction with
composting of husks, fronds, etc., in trenches two feet deep along the
centre of each row. These trenches were originally cut as surface
drains, and as such they still function, while at the same time
absorbing rainfall and providing moisture for the palms during periods
of dry weather. Our average yield per acre was below nine piculs of
copra, and the palms were then beyond the age at which one would expect
any appreciable response in yield. Nevertheless, they have yielded over
fourteen piculs per acre average for each of the past five years, and
look like doing even better. Fine results have been obtained also in our
rubber trees, particularly in young replantings, where the growth is all
that could be desired, and not one ounce of artificial fertilizer has
been used.'

The great principle that the plantation industries can never succeed
without livestock and properly made compost is well illustrated by the
above experience. I observed the same thing in 1938 with coconuts in the
low country of Ceylon--far healthier trees and much better yields where
animals were kept in the groves. The outstanding weakness of the rubber
estates I visited in South India and Ceylon was the total absence of
livestock among the mature trees and no provision for making compost for
the nurseries. It was little wonder that so much disease occurred.

But the most spectacular advances in composting in Malaya are due to the
interest and enthusiasm of a number of medical men who were quick to
grasp the possibilities of composting. Dr. Reid of Sungkai did much to
make the ideas in An Agricultural Testament known to the planting
community. Dr. Scharff, who first came in contact with humus at a
lecture I gave in 1937 at the London School of Tropical Medicine,
immediately after returning to Malaya took up the process, systematized
it, and established it at Trengganu, and by means of his staff and his
medical colleagues got it under way in Penang, Kelantan, Sarawak, and
the State of Johore. Municipal composting was well established in Malaya
before the Japanese invaded the country.

Full details of Dr. Scharff's composting campaign in Malaya were
published, as the work developed, in the News-Letter on Compost, No. 2,
February 1942, pp. 2-9, and No. 4, October 1942, pp. 46-9. At an early
stage it was found necessary to systematize composting and this took the
form of the Trengganu Household Composting plan. The work was done
within a fenced enclosure made of bamboo or jungle saplings four feet
high. Four compartments were arranged for at one end of the enclosure
and each of these compartments was filled with material during four
successive weeks. Turning was done almost automatically and with the
correct time spacing. Plate VII illustrates the lay-out and shows the
position of affairs at the end of each month. The Trengganu plan was
soon adopted all over Malaya. This was the position when Malaya was
invaded by the Japanese. But before Singapore fell Dr. Scharff managed
to complete a large-scale trial of compost-grown food on the Tamil
labour force employed by the Health Department, already described in
full in Chapter X of this book (p. 171).



A very promising development in compost making is now taking place in
India. Although an account of the Indore Process was published in 1931,
nevertheless twelve years have elapsed before any official notice was
taken of the possibilities of the compost idea. The direction this is
now taking will be clear from the following letter addressed to me and
dated 24th August 1943 from Dr. C. N. Acharaya, Chief Biochemist,
Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, India:

'You will be interested to know that the Government of India have
recently launched an all-India scheme for the preparation of
compost-manure from urban refuse and have sanctioned an allotment of
about 2-1/2 lakhs of rupees for the purpose. The scheme is to be
operated by the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, and the above
grant would be apportioned among the different Provinces and States in
India for the purpose of training special officiers (Provincial or State
Compost Biochemists) in the technique of compost-making from urban
wastes, and for organizing the preparation of compost-manure at selected
municipal centres in the respective Provinces and States. I have the
honour of being selected for the office of Chief Biochemist to the
Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, who would be in charge of
training the Provincial and State biochemists and, later, in supervising
their work. The headquarters of the new scheme have been established at
Nagpur, being geographically a central place, from which easy access
could be had to all parts of India.

'As I am getting together all available literature relating to compost
and organic manures for passing on the information to the Provincial and
State Biochemists working under me in all parts of India, I should very
much value it if you would kindly let me have available copies of all
your papers and lectures on the subject, in addition to the publications
issued by the County Palatine of Chester Local Medical and Panel

Although the Indore Process was primarily devised for the benefit of the
cotton growers of India, whose interests are being looked after by the
Indian Central Cotton Committee, little can be added to the section on
cotton in An Agricultural Testament which carried on the story to the
middle of 1940. No change appears to have been made in the research
programme of this body. The obsolete idea that the problems underlying
cotton production in India can be solved by plant breeding and the
control of pests still holds the field.

One promising piece of pioneering work on cotton in the Punjab has,
however, continued to develop on Colonel Sir Edward Hearle Cole's estate
at Coleyana in the Montgomery District. Sir Edward is more than ever
convinced of the value of freshly prepared humus for this crop. He finds
that compost not only increases the yield, but improves the quality of
the fibre as well. More large-scale examples like this are needed to
confirm the view that the restoration and maintenance of the fertility
of the soils producing cotton lie at the foundation of all progress in
this crop.


In this Dominion the creation of pastures by deforestation followed by
the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, superphosphates in
particular, soon led to the rapid exhaustion of the land. Soil erosion
is increasing; vegetables have lost their taste; the health of livestock
is deteriorating. The more far-seeing of the population have been
alarmed by the growing signs of malnutrition and the increase in the
number of patients in hospitals and asylums, hence the formation of the
New Zealand Humic Compost Club, the object of which is to encourage the
fertilization of the soil by means of humus made from vegetable and
animal wastes and so foster plant, animal, and human health.

The progress of this novel undertaking has from its inception been
remarkable. Starting from small beginnings in 1941, by 31st March 1942
the membership was 440; a year later it was 2,007, and on 31st March of
the present year (1944) it had reached 4,396, truly an amazing
achievement, and one which reflects, on the one hand, the tremendous
local interest in the vital principles of soil fertility advocated, and
on the other, the successful manner in which the President, Dr. Chapman,
and the Honorary Secretary, Mr. T. W. M. Ashby, have guided the new
movement. The Compost Club has recently been incorporated as a
nonprofit-making company. It publishes a magazine--Compost--every two
months and during the year ending March 31st last no less than 48,878
copies were printed and distributed. Besides the magazine a number of
pamphlets have been issued, two of which have already passed the 20,000
mark. The Club also maintains a reference and lending library, and acts
as a distributing agency for books printed overseas. There are ten local
branches which arrange meetings, demonstrations, and field days. The
Club finances itself from a small annual subscription of 5s. and is
beginning to build up a substantial credit balance. Full details of this
interesting development can be obtained from the Hon. Secretary, New
Zealand Humic Compost Club Inc., P.O. Box 1303, Auckland, New Zealand.

The activities of this Club have not escaped the usual opposition,
criticism, and even abuse on the part of the artificial manure interests
and their supporters, but this young organization is well served by a
very able executive who have deftly used these attacks to advertise the
new movement and to make clear to the population of New Zealand the
immediate and the future issues involved in the restoration of soil
fertility. When the time comes for the prodigal to return and to
confess, the Compost Club will have ready to hand example after example
showing the road out of the abyss into which New Zealand has fallen, by
the simple expedient of the restitution of the manurial rights of the
soils of the country. To-day the members of this Club are being
described as a set of cranks: to-morrow they will be recognized as the
saviours of their world.


A notable recruit to the band of pioneers engaged all over the world in
the humus campaign is Mr. J. I. Rodale of the Rodale Press, Emmaus,
Pennsylvania, who, some years ago, took up organic farming so that he
could take his own advice before offering it to other people. He
afterwards, in May 1942, started a new monthly journal--Organic
Gardening--the purpose of which is to make the United States compost-
minded. This journal has gone from strength to strength and is doing
much to establish the principle that the health of mankind begins in the
soil and depends on the faithful adoption of Nature's great law of

Mr. Rodale has also been the prime mover in securing the publication of
an American edition of An Agricultural Testament, which is now being
widely read throughout the United States. He has undertaken an American
edition of the present book so that simultaneous publication in the
United States and the British Empire will be possible.

He has asked me, moreover, to become one of the editors of Organic
Gardening, a duty which I have gladly accepted as it enables me to
secure publicity for a mass of interesting material that otherwise
might, under war conditions in Great Britain, never see the light of


Even in this expert-ridden island of Great Britain and in spite of the
additional restrictions imposed by the Defence Regulations new ground is
constantly being broken by the pioneers--in farming, in gardening, and
in nutrition.

In farming the chief advances have been made in two directions--in
preparing the soil for additional humus by means of the subsoiler, and
in the mechanization of the manure heap. These two important steps have
already been described (p. 185). A still more recent advance--an
improved muck spreader--is referred to in the News-Letter on Compost,
No. 10, October 1944.

These various labour-saving devices are leading to still further
advances by which two important residues, now largely running to waste,
can be used in compost manufacture. The first of these residues is
straw, vast volumes of which now litter the countryside. These cannot be
trodden down and converted into humus under the feet of live stock, be
cause the supply of animals has not kept pace with the areas devoted to
cereals. War farming has become sadly unbalanced. The second unused
residue is of animal origin--the washings of shippons and piggeries and
crude sewage. These, if they could be brought into contact with the
unused straw, could be used up in compost making.

Ground is being broken in two directions in the salvage of these unused
animal wastes. When the washings of piggeries, shippons, and crude
sewage from the mains are used to activate straw--loose or
baled--excellent compost can be made in three months without any
nuisance of any kind. At the moment this pioneering work is being done
with hand labour, but when a supply of muck-making machines is
available, it will be an easy matter to mechanize this conversion of
unused straw into manure.

The second development is taking place in the salvage of sewage. In
place of the present-day expensive sewage purification processes, which
create wet sludge as an end product, work is in progress to filter off
the sludge at the beginning and then to render the effluent harmless by
chlorination. In this way a much richer sludge will be obtained. This is
being dried and will be put up for sale in 14 and 28 lb. bags, so that
the many private gardens and allotments in the urban areas can secure
regular supplies of the essential animal wastes for their compost heaps.

Once supplies of dried sewage sludge are available--to supply the
essential activator of animal origin--the remaining obstacle to a
nationwide composting campaign in the gardens and allotments of this
country will have been removed. Ample vegetable wastes are already
available. The composting of small quantities of material is now
possible by means of the New Zealand box (p. 202). The only remaining
difficulty, soon to be removed, is the supply of animal manure now that
the motor-car and the motor-lorry have so largely replaced the horse.

The necessary pioneering work in garden composting has already been
done. In 1940 a beginning was made in the compost crusade by the County
Palatine of Chester Local Medical and Panel Committees, who inaugurated
an annual garden competition for the county in which the use of compost
was obligatory and artificial manures prohibited. A large number of
prizes were offered, as well as three championship cups--one for the
best garden or allotment in the county, one for the best rural garden,
and the third for the best urban garden. The results are judged by a
panel of professional gardeners. On several occasions I have been
privileged to see the results, which I felt could not be bettered in any
part of England.

Another gardening development has taken place in Westmorland largely in
connection with the activities of Mr. F. C. King, the head gardener at
Levens Hall, who has adopted the Indore Process, the merits of which he
has explained at a series of evening lectures and in a number of
articles published in the Gardeners' Chronicle and other journals. Two
developments of this work are important. Levens Hall gardens have become
a place of pilgrimage for visitors interested in compost gardening; Mr.
King has also written two books--The Compost Gardener (Titus Wilson &
Son Ltd., Kendal, 1943) and Gardening with Compost (Faber and Faber
Ltd., London, 1944), in which he has emphasized the place of humus in
the gardening of to-morrow.

Two developments in nutrition, which have been in progress for some time
are being copied at new centres. At a number of boarding schools the
vegetables and fruit consumed by the boys and girls are grown on humus-
filled soil (p. 175).

A second milestone in nutrition has been planted at the Co-operative
Wholesale Society's factory at Winsford in Cheshire. Here the potatoes
and vegetables used in the canteen meals are grown on fertile soil round
the factory with results which have already been described (p. 176). A
number of other similar projects are in the making, the results of which
will be recorded in the forthcoming issues of the News-Letter on



Before leaving India in April 1931 arrangements were made to supply the
Indian Central Cotton Committee with a sufficient number of copies of
The Waste Products of Agriculture: Their Utilization as Humus, so that
they could get composting taken up in all the cotton-growing areas
without delay. After the book appeared the reviewers all over the world
wrote many favourable and even enthusiastic notices, all of which were
duly printed. A number of printed slips describing the contents and
purpose of the book were then sent to most of the agricultural
investigators of the Empire. Ample publicity was in these ways secured.
The outcome was interesting and illuminating.

The reception of the Indore Process and its various implications by the
experiment station workers engaged on cotton problems proved to be a
foretaste of what was to follow. It was, with few exceptions, definitely
hostile and even obstructive, largely because the method called in
question the soundness of the two main lines of work on cotton--the
improvement of the yield and quality of the fibre by plant breeding
methods alone, and the control of cotton diseases by direct assault. If
the claims of humus and of soil fertility proved to be well founded, it
was obvious that this factor would influence the yield much more than a
new variety or anything an entomologist or a mycologist could achieve.
Besides, both these devices--plant breeding and pest control--would have
to wait till the land was got into good heart and maintained in this
condition, for the simple reason that any new variety would have to suit
a new set of soil conditions, and the inroads of pests might either be
prevented or at least reduced by a fertile soil. Further, the current
work on chemical fertilizers would have to be postponed till the full
effects of a humus-filled soil had been ascertained. The production of
compost on a large scale might, therefore, prove to be revolutionary and
a positive danger to the structure and perhaps to the very existence of
a research organization based on the piecemeal application of the
separate sciences to a complex and many-sided biological problem like
the production of cotton. Two courses were obviously open to the
research workers on cotton: (1) they might save the organization and
their own immediate interests by sabotaging the humus idea, or (2) they
could give it a square deal and, if it proved successful, could then
deal with the new situation from the point of view of the interests of
the cotton growers. The vast majority adopted the former course. A few,
however, who were engaged in the practical side of cotton growing, took
steps to get first-hand experience of humus manufacture and of its
effects on the soil and on the cotton crop.

The research workers on most other crops all over the Empire took a
similar hostile view and were naturally supported and sustained in their
opposition by vested interests like the manufacturers and distributors
of artificial manures and poison sprays who were, of course, anxious to
preserve and even expand a profitable business. It has been said that
even the principle of gravitation would have had a hard row to hoe, had
it in any manner stood in the way of the pursuit of profit and the
operations of Big Business.

A few examples of the kind of opposition displayed by the laboratory
workers and the way in which they were overcome may be quoted. The first
of these developed when the tea planters of India and Ceylon began to
make compost.

The story of the adoption of the Indore Process by the tea industry has
already been told (p. 111) with the exception of an account of the
consistent opposition of the tea experiment stations in India and Ceylon
to the compost idea. The methods adopted to discredit humus were two.

At first the tea industry was warned that composting was uneconomic and
that the game was not worth the candle. Figures were published in Ceylon
showing the extra staff needed for the work and the output that could be
expected. This put the cost per ton somewhere in the neighbourhood of
ten rupees. But a large number of tea gardens were already making
first-class compost at less than a fifth of this extravagant estimate,
which was based not on actual experience, but on paper calculations.
Some of the most important of the tea groups even came to the conclusion
that composting cost nothing, as no extra labour or expense was involved
because the conversion of wastes into humus was a mere matter of using
the existing labour force to the best advantage.

The second line of attack was based on a comparison of the yields of the
small plots of the tea experiment station in Assam, where the use of
compost and sulphate of ammonia were compared. Results were obtained
which appeared to demolish the Indore Process altogether. But these
yields, obtained under unnatural conditions on small pocket
handkerchiefs of tea, firmly fixed in a straitjacket as it were, and not
provided with shade trees, were flatly contradicted by the large-scale
results obtained on many tea gardens. The contest was at its peak when I
passed through Calcutta at the end of 1937, when one of the directors of
the largest group of tea companies asked me to call upon him. In our
conversation reference was made to an abusive article written by one of
the advocates of artificials in a periodical devoted to tea which had
just appeared in Calcutta, and I was asked if I had seen it. As a matter
of fact I had not, but several correspondents had told me of its
contents. I was then assured: (1) that no change would be made in the
policy of this group which intended to stick to humus, and (2) that
orders had already been given that not a single ounce of sulphate of
ammonia was to be purchased in future. The controversy was closed by the
war which sadly interfered with the import of chemical manures.

These incidents are mentioned to show that the difficulties and delays
in getting the law of return adopted in tea were due mainly not to the
tea industry, but to advice based on paper calculations and on the yield
of small plots growing under unnatural conditions.

One of the best examples in composting I saw in the course of a visit to
tea estates in India and Ceylon in 1937-8 was Gandrapara, a garden on
the alluvial soils of the Dooars, where excellent management assisted by
humus has provided the industry with a safe example to copy. A detailed
account of composting on this estate is given in Appendix A (p. 239),
from which it will be seen that the yield of tea has gone up by 50 per
cent since the time of my visit in 1937. The results obtained illustrate
the influence of good farming methods on quality. Gandrapara has moved
out of its class and has yielded produce superior to that usual on the
soils of this locality.

The next attempt to discredit humus occurred in connection with a
project to compost the old hop bines and string on a large garden in
Sussex, which had been placed at my disposal by the directorate on
condition that I could secure the interest and support of the manager.
But the moment this project became known in south-east England it was
opposed by the specialists concerned with disease, who argued that my
project would mean the destruction of the fine property to which so many
years of work had been devoted. To counteract these influences a meeting
had to be arranged at East Malling with the specialists of the
south-eastern counties and representatives of the Ministry of
Agriculture for a discussion on disease: in all some fifty people,
almost all hostile to my ideas, took part. I asked the late Professor H.
E. Armstrong to accompany me and to observe the proceedings. To give my
opponents every chance I prepared a short synopsis of my views and asked
the secretary to distribute copies before the meeting. The discussion
lasted all day. It was obvious that my specialist opponents, with one or
two exceptions, were mere laboratory hermits who had never mastered the
art of agriculture, had never grown a crop, and had never taken their
own advice about remedies before writing about them. Further, their
experience of disease was limited to the conditions of a single island
in the North Sea--Great Britain. Only one had visited that cradle of
agriculture--the Far East. I had no difficulty in pulverizing the
objections these specialists advanced to my thesis that insects and
fungi are not the real cause of disease and that pests must be carefully
treasured, because they are Nature's censors and our real professors of
agriculture. The results of this meeting soon became known. The local
opposition to my proposals to convert hop string and hop bine into humus
melted away and the project proved to be a great success. Just before
the present war about 10,000 tons of finished humus a year were made on
this hop garden from the following raw materials--pulverized town wastes
which had to be railed from Southwark to Bodiam, all the wastes of the
hops including hop bine and hop string, and every other vegetable and
animal waste that could be collected locally. What was interesting was
that the all-in cost of preparing and distributing the compost was less
than would have been spent on an equivalent dressing of artificials.
What was still more important than the saving of money was the
beneficial result of the compost on the texture and free working of the
heavy soil and on the yield and quality of the hops.

An earlier encounter with the research organization took place at
Cambridge towards the end of 1935, when I was invited by the students of
the School of Agriculture to address them. I selected as my subject 'The
Manufacture of Humus by the Indore Method' and distributed printed
copies of the gist of my remarks, so that a lively discussion could
follow the lecture. Practically the whole of the staff of the Cambridge
School of Agriculture attended and an exciting debate followed the
lecture. It was an excellent opportunity of trying my medicine on a new
dog--in this case, the men engaged in teaching and research. I obtained
little or no support for my views from the teachers: if anything, the
opposition on the part of the representatives of chemistry, plant
breeding, and vegetable pathology was even more pronounced than later at
East Malling. The students, however, were not only deeply interested in
the subject, but vastly amused at finding their teachers on the
defensive and vainly endeavouring to bolster up the tottering pillars
supporting their temple. Here again I was amazed by the limited
knowledge and experience of the world's agriculture disclosed by this
debate. I felt I was dealing with beginners and that some of the
arguments put forward could almost be described as the impertinences of
ignorance. It was obvious from this meeting that little or no support
for organic farming would be obtained from the agricultural colleges and
research institutes of Great Britain.

The fourth example of opposition came from the agricultural chemists in
the course of the discussion of a paper I read to the Farmers' Club on
1st February 1937 on 'The Restoration and Maintenance of Fertility'.
Representatives of the experiment stations and of the artificial manure
industry poured ridicule on my ideas and suggested that they lacked the
conventional support of the small plot and the approval of the
statisticians. In winding up the debate, I stated that I did not intend
to devote any time to a detailed reply to these superficial criticisms,
but would shortly have my answer thereto written on the land itself.
This was done two years later by the late Sir Bernard Greenwell in one
of the most outstanding papers ever read to the Farmers' Club. His
large-scale results more than confirmed my paper of two years before.
The effect of freshly prepared humus was written by one of the leading
agriculturists of the country both on the livestock and on two of his
well farmed estates. Although invited to the discussion on Sir Bernard's
paper, the representatives of the experiment stations and of the
artificial manure interests had no stomach for the fight and did not
attend to hear their previous criticisms demolished by the one
unanswerable argument--success.

A number of other similar clashes could be quoted, but they would only
confirm what has been stated above. These reconnaissances were all
carried out for a very obvious purpose--to ascertain the reaction of
agricultural teaching and research to the idea that soil fertility is
the basis of health in soil, crops, livestock, and mankind. The results
showed that in the humus campaign already in progress little assistance
could be expected from the official organization. At the same time, it
was obvious that nothing need be feared from a body of men engaged on
the research side in learning more and more about less and less, and on
the teaching side in endeavouring to instil in the rising generation a
number of unsound principles based on obsolete methods of investigation.
I regretfully came to the conclusion that most of the money devoted by
the State to further agriculture by means of the experiment station and
the agricultural college has only succeeded in creating an effective bar
to all progress and to all new ideas.

The controversy has continued without intermission. Ample space was
devoted in a previous chapter ('The Intrusion of Science') to
considering the general trend of the scientific researches devoted to
agriculture and to analysing where, in my opinion, they have ceased to
be effective. The special hostility shown to my own ideas is scarcely
surprising and would not be worth special attention here, were it not
that the whole vast and expensive machinery of agricultural research is
being used to bolster up official authority in this country to deny to
the public that freedom of choice which alone can secure progress.
Fortified by the findings of Rothamsted and supported by the teachings
of the agricultural colleges, the Ministry of Agriculture takes the line
that the soil can be kept in good heart by applying still more
artificial manures supplemented by the organic matter left by the
temporary ley and the dwindling supplies of farmyard manure: the war
situation is used to urge this policy on the country.

In thus advocating the temporary ley and in admitting the usefulness of
organic matter, my opponents have already travelled a long way from
their original point of view. Facts have been too much for them. In
refusing to concede the necessity for a well considered national
manurial programme based on proper principles, they are still showing
themselves to be only tinkerers at the subject--nowhere have I been able
to induce them to accept my challenge, take a couple of farms, farm one
with artificials, the other on organic principles, and watch the
results: nor has any concession been made to my contention that the only
satisfactory test of improved pastures, etc., is to ask the animal.
Neither of these ideas has been received with any favour whatever.
Instead, pen is put to paper to prove the efficacy, the benefit, and the
absolute need for artificial manures. The latest typical pronouncement
is a long reasoned statement by Dr. A. H. Bunting in Country Life of
25th February 1944. (Reprinted, together with my reply in the same
journal on 12th May 1944, in the News-Letter on Compost of June 1944.)
The statement shows rather exactly the present stage of the controversy
about artificial manures and is, therefore, worth analysing.

The gist of Dr. Bunting's case for artificials is given in the two
following statements:

1. 'The nutrients ordinarily present in the soil are inadequate for
continuous intensive production, since the soil is quite unable to
supply nutrients at the rate and in the total quantities needed. While
it is true that organic manures of various types do contain considerable
amounts of these inorganic nutrients, their use cannot supply all that
is required on a farm unless the necessary amounts of nitrogen,
phosphorus, and potassium are introduced from outside, as in cattle
feeding stuffs in certain types of mixed farming. Further, the addition
of the complex mixture of nutrients present in such manures gives no
possibility of control of the balance of manuring which is so important
in practice.'

2. 'The substances contained in these inorganic fertilizers are, of
course, normal constituents of all fertile soils. The importance of the
inorganic additions is that they significantly increase the quantities
available as distinct from total nutrients, a considerable proportion of
which are combined in such a way that they are only slowly available to
the plant.'

If we analyse these two statements which amount to a heavy indictment of
Nature's methods, the argument in favour of artificials falls into three
parts: (a) Nature does not supply enough of the inorganic nutrients
--they must be supplemented 'from outside'; (b) the plant nutrients are
not provided by Nature in easily ascertainable quantities and therefore
cannot be controlled, and (c) Nature is too slow in her operations to
meet present-day needs.

These arguments accuse Nature of being too mean, too inexact, and too

The accusation of meanness lands Dr. Bunting into a difficult position.
His suggestion for correcting Nature is a simple one: let us add by our
own efforts those extra quantities of food materials which her
niggardliness refuses to provide: in this way we shall secure the
returns from the soil we desire. These extra quantities are to be
brought in 'from outside' and he instances feeding stuffs for cattle.
But this only amounts to a transfer of natural fertility from one part
of the earth to another with no provision for the return of wastes to
the land. It is exploitation pure and simple--one of those short-sighted
and superficial devices dear to the bandit--in other words, it is the
absurdity of folly.

The second argument is that the food materials for the plant supplied by
Nature are not provided in easily ascertainable quantities and therefore
cannot be 'controlled'. This is true. But when we attempt to determine
these quantities by chemical analysis, the result is failure because,
like a census of the population, it only catches the truth at one moment
and would have to be endlessly repeated for each small field without
pause or intermission if a really exact picture of the state of the soil
is to be obtained. Soil analyses have all the disadvantages which follow
the application of a static instrument to a dynamic and living system.
This being so, the hope that the needs of the plant can be ascertained
and then made good is a chimera: the idea that exact weighments of this
and that food material can help is to ignore the way Nature acts, to
forget the living processes by which the huge reserves in any fertile
soil are made available for crops by the work of the soil population. To
ignore all this and to talk of a balanced manurial programme is the
height of short-sighted folly.

The last argument suggests that Nature is too slow. That accusation is
without foundation in all cases where the law of return is faithfully
followed. It only holds for worn-out land, where the life of the soil
has been starved and the land deprived of its manurial rights. There is
no slowness to be seen in the way a well farmed area sets about the
growing of a crop. It is an interesting sidelight on Dr. Bunting's
allegation that Mr. F. C. King of Levens Hall states that in his
experience one of the advantages of well composted land in market
gardening operations is that an extra crop per year can be got off the
ground: the plants 'get away' so much more quickly.

In the course of developing his case Dr. Bunting makes a number of
interesting and important concessions. He agrees that the maintenance of
the crumb structure of the soil is vital, that the soil needs a constant
supply of oxygen, as well as of organic matter. He also makes two
confessions--that artificials can be abused, and that at Woburn, a
branch of Rothamsted, continuous dressings of sulphate of ammonia have
been disastrous. His statement, however, leaves much to be desired on
the biological processes going on in the soil, on the importance of
quality in crop production, and on the power of the crop to resist
disease. Moreover, he has completely ignored the significance of the
mycorrhizal association.

In my answer I gave a few examples of the long-term results of
artificial manures and cited the case of the sugar industry in Barbados,
where of recent years the replacement of organic manure by artificials
has led to the virtual collapse of the island through disease and to a
decision to re-introduce mixed farming. Another example given was the
potato industry of South Lincolnshire, now well on the way to its
Tannenberg as a result of the inordinate use of artificials and the
reduction in the head of livestock. It is not necessary again to set
forth my case--the pages of this book have done so. More especially will
a perusal of the examples cited in Appendices A, B, and D completely
demolish the case for artificials. Chemicals give increased yields only
on infertile or badly farmed land. When these areas are got into
first-class condition by means of freshly prepared humus, no artificials
are needed. The increased soil population which develops as a result of
a humus-filled soil provides the crop with everything it needs.

By 1940 I had come to the conclusion that 'the slow poisoning of the
life of the soil by artificial manures is one of the greatest calamities
that has befallen agriculture and mankind'. Nothing has shaken this
conviction. It is amazing that the artificial manure interests have not
come forward to finance the large-scale trials Lord Teviot and his
supporters have pressed for in a recent parliamentary debate. If they
are sure of their ground and confident of the final results, what better
and cheaper advertisement for artificials could be devised? If the
Ministry of Agriculture really believes in its grow-more-food campaign,
why did the Minister not move heaven and earth to accept the challenge
to his policy of food production and of the present-day organization of
agricultural research and teaching? Why not silence these very tiresome
and very persistent advocates of organic farming once and for all?
Refusal to join battle cannot be due to lack of money on the part of the
vested interests and of the State. Is the reason for avoiding the fight
to be found in another direction altogether--to fear of the verdict of
Mother Earth?




The natural reaction to failure is to think again. Perhaps the best
known and most vividly expressed example of the ruin which results from
choosing the wrong road is that of the Prodigal Son. To-day the
realization that there must be something very much amiss somewhere with
a civilization which has led us, within twenty years or so, into a
second and greater world war, to win which we must pour out all our
resources, has produced plan after plan to guide our progress in the
future into the paths of sanity and common sense. We are living in an
age of planning, in other words in a phase of acute contrition for the
blunders of the past.

Why has civilization proved such a disastrous failure? The answer is
simple. Our industries, our trade, and our way of life generally have
been based first on the exploitation of the earth's surface and then on
the oppression of one another--on banditry pure and simple. The
inevitable result is now upon us. The unsuccessful bandits are trying to
despoil their more successful competitors. The world is divided into two
hostile camps: at the root of this vast conflict lies the evil of
spoliation which has destroyed the moral integrity of our generation.
While this contest marches to its inevitable conclusion, it will not be
amiss to draw attention to a forgotten factor which may perhaps help to
restore peace and harmony to a tortured world. We must in our future
planning pay great attention to food--the product of sun, soil, plant,
and livestock--in other words, to farming and gardening.

What is the place of farming and gardening in human affairs? We can best
answer this question if we bear in mind what are the essentials needed
by mankind. They are five in number and in order of importance they are:
air, water, food, warmth, and shelter. Without a supply of air life
lasts but a few minutes; without water only a few days; without food it
is only possible for the human body to exist on compensation for a few
weeks. We can, to a large extent, control the warmth factor by making
the fullest use of our own animal heat. The question of shelter, often
described as the housing problem and to which most attention is now
being paid by the planners, is the least important of the Big Five,
which must always be at the basis of all our future schemes.

Our food is produced for the most part by farmers and gardeners. It has
been sadly neglected in the past, as will be clear to anyone who studies
this book and its many implications. The essential things about food are
three: (1) it must be grown in fertile soil, that is to say in soil well
supplied with freshly prepared, high quality humus; (2) it must be
fresh; (3) its cost must be stabilized in such a manner as to put an end
to the constant fluctuations and steady rise in prices. All these things
are possible once we increase the efficiency of the earth's green
carpet--the machinery furnished by Nature for producing food. The sun
provides the energy for running this mechanism, so our power problem has
been solved for us. The sole food producing machine is the green leaf.
This, again, is the gift of Providence. Mankind can increase the
efficiency and output of this green carpet at least threefold by (1) the
restoration and maintenance of the fertility of the soil on which it
rests and (2) by providing varieties of crops which make the most of the
sun's rays and the improved soil conditions. The former can be achieved
by converting into humus the vast stores of vegetable and animal
residues now largely running to waste: the latter by modern
plant-breeding methods. Once we do this, all goes well. The roots are
provided with a favourable climate and ample living space. The yield and
quality of the produce go up by leaps and bounds: the danger of any
shortage of food in the world disappears: the problem of price
regulation is automatically solved.

How can the increased efficiency of the green carpet help in stabilizing
prices? In a very simple way. Every article we purchase, every amenity
we enjoy--such as those connected with defence, transport, the heating
and lighting of buildings, the various services connected with news and
so forth--all depend on food, because the multitudes of men and women
who provide these things for us do not grow their own nutriment: it is
grown for them: it is even brought to their tables: all this has to be
paid for. The cost of food, therefore, enters not only into what we
ourselves consume, but into everything we enjoy individually or in
common. Once this food is as abundant as possible, we obviously reduce
its cost. The efficiency of the earth's green carpet is, therefore, a
fundamental question. Any discussions about price regulation, tariffs,
exports and imports, gold standards, and so forth can only be
superficial unless they go down to the foundations of our world--the
smooth working of the green carpet which manufactures the food, on the
cost of which all other prices must depend. There is no other foundation
for these discussions on economics. It follows, therefore, that we must
take careful note of the basic principles underlying our food supplies.
Once these are as abundant as Nature intended they should be, they will
be as cheap as it is possible to make them. The regulation and
stabilization of future prices then follows. After that, all we have to
see to is to prevent anybody or any nation trying to interfere with the
free interchange of the direct and indirect products of solar energy
from one part of the world to another, because the various regions of
this planet differ greatly in the materials they can best provide. Our
supplies of sugar, for example, can most cheaply be obtained from the
sugar-cane, a tropical or sub-tropical crop: our clothing should come
not from processed wood, but from the wool of sheep, an animal which
thrives best in rather dry, temperate regions. Our future trading
arrangements must, therefore, be based on two things: (1) the full
utilization of the sun, and (2) the free interchange of the products of

We can check our food production methods by means of Nature's
censors--the diseases of crops and livestock. Provided we prepare the
soil for its manurial rights by suitable cultivation and subsoiling, and
then faithfully comply with Nature's great law of return by seeing to it
that all available vegetable, animal, and human wastes are converted
into humus in suitable heaps or pits outside the land or in the soil
itself by the processes of sheet-composting, we shall soon find that
many striking things will begin to happen. The yield and quality will
rapidly improve: the crops will be able to resist the onslaughts of
parasites: well-being and contentment, as well as the power to vanquish
disease, will be passed on to the livestock which consume them: the
varieties of crops cultivated will not run out, but will preserve their
power of reproduction for a very long time.

The objection to composting on the average farm or market garden on the
score of the dearness and scarcity of labour is being removed by the
mechanization of the manure heap. Several machines have already been
devised which will assemble the compost heaps, turn them, and load the
finished humus on to suitable manure distributors. With the help of one
of these machines the cost per ton has already been reduced to less than
a quarter. This suggests that mechanized organic farming and gardening
is certain to prove much cheaper than the methods now in use, where the
manurial rights of the soil and of the crop are being largely evaded by
substitutes in the shape of artificial manures. Large-scale results
coming in a growing torrent from all over the world show that the
ephemeral methods of manuring, by means of chemicals and the resulting
survival of the weakly plant bolstered up by poison sprays, are bound to
be swept into the oblivion which they merit.

The disciples of Rothamsted, which include the Ministry of Agriculture,
the experiment stations, and the agricultural colleges, have combined
forces with the vested interests concerned with the production and sale
of chemical manures and protective poisons for the crop to deflect the
onward march of organic farming and gardening. The war in the soil is
now in full swing. The first battle has just come to an end in South
Africa: it lasted some ten years: it has ended by the conversion of
South Africa to humus: the protagonists of chemical manures have taken
the count. Two factors which have contributed to this result must be
mentioned: (1) the spate of ridicule and abuse which the representatives
of chemical farming first poured on humus, and (2) the failure of the
artificial manure interests to take up land alongside the pioneers of
organic farming and show the country what their wares could accomplish.
They unconsciously gave organic farming an excellent advertisement: they
had no stomach for the real fight because they feared that the verdict
of Mother Earth on their pretensions would be adverse. In Great Britain
the same fatal blunders are being made: abusive articles in the press
are being relied on rather than a fight to a finish on the land itself.

The power to resist diseases, which organic farming and gardening confer
on the plant and on the animal, is duly passed on to mankind. The
evidence in favour of this view is rapidly growing. When examples
without end are available, showing how most of the malnutrition,
indisposition, and actual disease from which the population now suffers
can be replaced by robust health by merely living on the fresh produce
of fertile soil, it will be a simple matter in any democratic country
for the people to insist on their birthright--fresh food from fertile
soil--for themselves and for their children. The various bodies which
now stand in the way of progress will be rapidly eliminated once their
interests come in conflict with those of the electorate.

There appears to be a simple principle which underlies the vast
accumulation of disease which now afflicts the world. This principle
operates in the soil, the crop, the animal, and ourselves. The power of
all these four to resist disease appears to be bound up with the
circulation of properly synthesized protein in Nature. The proteins are
the agencies which confer immunity on plant, animal, and man. We must,
therefore, first study the nitrogen cycle between soil and crop, and
then see to it that the green leaf can build up proteins of the right
type. Then there will be little disease in soil or crop or livestock,
and the foundations of the preventive medicine of to-morrow will be
laid. Properly synthesized vegetable protein will confer on the animal
and then on mankind the power to overcome infection and to reduce
disease to what in the future is certain to be its normal
insignificance. We shall then discover that the present vast and
expensive fabric of social services has been built on the basis of
malnutrition and inefficiency. Their foundations will have to be recast
to suit a population in good health. The reformed services will
obviously cost much less than they do now. A new system of preventive
medicine and of medical training will at the same time arise. The
physician of to-morrow will study mankind in relation to his
environment, will prevent disease at the source, and will cease to
confine himself to the temporary alleviation of the miseries resulting
from malnutrition.

One of the great tasks before the world has been outlined in this book.
It is to found our civilization on a fresh basis--on the full
utilization of the earth's green carpet. This will provide the food we
need: it will prevent much present-day disease at the source and at the
same time confer robust health and contentment on the population: it
will do much to put an end automatically to the remnants of this age of
banditry now coming to a disastrous close. Does mankind possess the
understanding to grasp the possibilities which this simple truth
unfolds? If it does and if it has the audacity and the courage to tread
the new road, then civilization will take a step forward and the Solar
Age will replace this era of rapacity which is already entering into its




Gandrapara Tea Estate is situated on low rice-growing land south of the
Himalayas and in a district which was commonly thought to be incapable
of producing teas of a quality equal to those of estates situated on the
Red Bank soil. The estate covers 2,796 acres, of which 1,242 acres are
under tea; there are also ten acres of seed-bearing bushes. Paddy or
rice land is available for the labour force, allotments for growing soya
bean, vegetables, and so forth, and shajana trees grow in all the
labourers' barees or garden patches. Everything possible is being done
to improve and maintain the nutrition and health of the labour force and
also of the labour force of to-morrow--the children. Large sums are
being well spent by the Company to maintain a healthy and contented
labour force which is one of the finest assets of an estate. I have had
the privilege of managing this estate for thirty years and not only has
the labour force been contented, happy, and healthy, but the land itself
has also improved.

There are resident on the estate a population of 2,756 souls, as well as
two and a half million tea bushes, all to be maintained in a state of
health. The tea plant requires a fertile soil and this means healthy
crops, healthy animals, and last, but not least, healthy human beings.
The following facts tell their own story: in the five years previous to
the intensive application of humus the estate averaged yearly 795,801
lb. of tea or 5.09 oz. of tea per bush; since 1939 22,000 tons of humus,
made in a central factory on the Indore method advocated by Sir Albert
Howard, have been applied to the land and the yields during 1939-43
averaged 1,240,800 lb. of tea yearly or 7.94 oz. per bush.

It is undeniable that this humus is the storehouse of surplus water
which is given back to the plant in dry periods. In this part of India
droughts are sometimes very severe; in the period from October to April
less than one and a half inches of rain has been registered, but the
condition and health of the bushes compared with those estates treated
wholly with artificial manures is remarkable. The art of cultivation
consists in getting the humus to a depth m the soil where the moisture
does not evaporate. The higher the fertility of the soil, the better the
class of crop grown on it and the less are the effects of dry periods on
the crops. The drainage system where heavy rainfall is experienced--as
much as 125 inches between May and September--has to be in thorough
working order to keep the soil in good heart, and there has yet to be
found any better method of replacing the losses in the soil year after
year than by heavy applications of organic matter. If the tea bushes
receive a check, they are immediately liable to disease.

It was, therefore, essential that before starting on heavy applications
of humus the drainage system be put and kept in good working order, also
good shade trees were established giving a heavy leaf fall. There is no
substitute for organic matter or humus in the soil. It is interesting to
note that in 1943 a severe hail storm stripped the bushes and did damage
estimated at 96,000 lb. of tea, but, after resting, the bushes had the
stamina to ensure a rapid return to normal and a record crop was

In 1934 the manufacture of humus on a small scale was instituted
according to the Indore method advocated by Sir Albert Howard. The humus
is manufactured from the waste products of the tea estates. All
available vegetable matter of every description, such as Ageratum,
weeds, thatch, leaves, and so forth, is carefully collected and stacked,
put into pits in layers, sprinkled with urinated earth to which a
handful of wood ashes has been added, and then covered with a layer of
broken up dung and soiled bedding, after which the contents are watered
with a fine spray--not too much water, but well moistened. This charging
process is continued till the pit is full to a depth of from three to
four feet, each layer being watered with a fine spray as before (Plates
VIII and IX).

To do all this it was found necessary to have a central factory, so that
the work could be controlled and the cost kept as low as possible.
Details of the central factory which was erected are given in the plan
(Plate XI). There are 41 pits each 31 x 15 x 3 feet deep; the roofs over
these pits are 33 x 17 feet, space between sheds 12 feet, and between
lines of sheds 30 feet, and between sheds and fencing 30 feet. This
allows materials to be carted direct to the pits and also leaves room
for finished material. Water has been laid on--a two-inch pipe with
one-inch standards and hydrants 54 feet apart, allowing the hose to
reach all pits. A fine spreader-jet is used; rain-sprinklers are also
employed with a fine spray. The communal cowsheds are situated adjacent
to the humus factory and are 50 x 15 feet each, and can accommodate 200
head of cattle. The enclosure, 173 x 57 feet, is also used to provide
outside sleeping accommodation. There is a water trough, 11 feet 6
inches by 3 feet wide, to provide water for the animals at all times.
The living houses of the cow herds are near to the site. An office,
store, and chowkidar's house are in the factory enclosure. The main
cart-road to the lines runs parallel with the enclosure and during the
cold weather all traffic to and from the lines passes over this road,
where material that requires to be broken down is laid and changed daily
as required. Water for the factory has a good head and is plentiful, the
main cock for the supply being controlled from the office on the site.
All pits are numbered, and records of material used in each pit are
kept, including cost; turning dates and costs, temperatures, watering,
and lifting, etc., are kept in detail. Weighments are only taken when
the humus is applied, so as to ascertain tasks and tons per acre of
application to mature tea, nurseries, tung barees, seed-bearing bushes,
or weak plants.

ABOVE--Covered and uncovered pits;
BELOW--Roofing a pit

ABOVE--Cutting ageratum;
BELOW--Communinal cowsheds.

The communal cowsheds and enclosure are bedded with jungle and this is
removed as required for the charging of the pits.

I have tried out pits with brick vents, but I consider that a few hollow
bamboos placed in the pits give a better aeration, and these vents make
it possible to increase the output per pit, as the fermenting mass can
be made four to five feet deep.

Much care has to be taken at the charging of the pits so that no
trampling takes place and a large board across the pits avoids the
possibility of coolies pressing down the material when charging. At the
first turn all woody material that has not broken down by carts passing
over it is chopped by a sharp hoe, thus ensuring that full fermentation
may act, and fungous growth is general.

ABOVE--Crushing woody material by road traffic;
BELOW--Sheet composting of tea prunings.


With the arrangement of the humus factory compost can be made at any
time of the year, the normal process taking about three months. With the
central factory much better supervision can be given and a better class
of humus is made. That made outside and alongside the raw material and
left for the rains to break down acts quite well, but the finished
product is not nearly so good. It therefore pays to cut and wither the
material and transport it to the central factory as far as possible.

In the cold weather a great deal of sheet-composting is being done.
After pruning, the humus is applied at the rate of seven to ten tons to
the acre and hoed in with the prunings, the bulk of which varies. In
this way excellent results have been obtained. The pits become small
composting chambers; the roots of the tea bushes soon invade the pits,
and results speak for themselves.

On many gardens the supply of available cow-dung and green material is
nothing like enough for requirements. Many agriculturists try to make up
the shortage by such expedients as the hoeing in of green crops and the
use of shade trees or any decaying vegetable matter that may be
obtainable; on practically all gardens some use is made of all forms of
organic materials and fertility is kept up by these means. It is
significant to note that for many years now manufacturers who specialize
in compound manures usually make a range of special fertilizers that
contain an appreciable percentage of humus. The importance of supplying
soils with the humus they need is obvious. I have not space to consider
the important question of facilitating the work of the soil bacteria,
but it has to be acknowledged that a supply of available humus is
essential to their well-being and beneficial activities. Without the
beneficial soil bacteria there could be no growth and it follows that,
however correctly we may use chemical fertilizers according to some
theoretical standard, if there is not in the soil a supply of available
humus, there will be disappointing crops, weak bushes, blighted and
diseased frames. It would, moreover, be to the good if every means
whereby humus could be supplied to the soil in a practical and
economical way could receive the sympathetic attention of those who, at
the present time, mould agricultural opinion.

To the above must be added the aeration of the soil by shade and
drainage. I am afraid many planters and estates do not fully understand
this most important operation in the cultivation of the tea bush. To
maintain fertility we must have good drainage, shade trees, and tillage
of various descriptions to kill weeds. The best areas are the cleanest,
and not only do they secure bigger crops and higher quality, but they
have nothing to waste.

Humus is essential: artificials are a tonic, but humus is a food. It is
not difficult to understand that the use of artificials in feeding the
plant direct sidetracks a portion of Nature's essential round.
Artificial stimulus, applied year after year and at the same times, must
inevitably breed evils, the full extent of which are yet but dimly seen.
The time may come when yield will depend entirely on quality, but
quality can never under any circumstances depend upon yield.
Factory-made manure is the weak link in the chain of agricultural
economics. Humus is the real food of the soil and the crop; it leads to
and maintains larger crops and improved quality.

For the past five years no chemical manures or sprays for the control of
disease and pests have been used. The return to the soil of all organic
waste in a natural cycle is considered by many scientists to be the
means of obtaining the best teas and of resisting pests and disease. The
tea bush requires nutrition, and Sir Albert Howard not only wants to
increase the quality of human food, but, in order that it may be of
proper standard, he wants to improve the quality of plant food. That is
to say, he considers the fundamental problem is the improvement of the
soil itself, making it healthy and fertile. 'A fertile soil,' he says,
'rich in humus, needs nothing more in the way of manure: the crop
requires no protection from pests: it looks after itself....' It is
interesting to note that plant diseases are the consequence of
infertility, so that the rational method of dealing with such problems
is not to destroy the agent by means of insecticides and fungicides, but
to bring the soil back into a condition of real fertility in the first
instance, and then to devise the best methods to suit local conditions.

Gandrapara Tea Estate, Banarhat P.O., Dooars. 1Oth August 1944.



In 1939, when I last wrote a few notes for An Agricultural Testament,
compost making in Rhodesia was in its infancy. Now it has become
general. The usual procedure now adopted is to break down the vegetable
wastes by spreading them in stock-yards or pens. Here they absorb and
get well mixed with the animal wastes both solid and liquid, and are
then removed to the compost heaps. In this part of the country growth is
very rank. When tall grass and reeds were moved straight to the compost
heap, the stems took a considerable time to break down, but by being
first trampled down the stems are broken and the fungi and bacteria are
then able to attack both from the inside and outside at once.

In the five years that have passed since 1939 little change in procedure
has taken place with the exception of passing all raw material through
the stock-yards. I still build the heaps some fifteen feet wide and
three feet high and up to any length (Plate XII). Two turnings are
sufficient and at the end of three months the breakdown is complete. In
the dry weather, if the heaps are fairly moist when built, a good
wetting with the hose-pipe each time the heaps are turned is sufficient
(Plate XIII). Material from the outside of the heap is always turned
inside. I cut a good deal more hay than I used to do and if some of this
is a bit coarse or gets a wetting, it does not matter, as what the
cattle do not eat goes to the compost heap. Our veldt is improving with
mowing, as when the coarse grasses are kept down and in check the finer
and more valuable grasses get a better chance to develop.



We are learning that under conditions in many parts of Mashonaland
nitrification is very rapid. Under favourable moisture conditions a
green crop ploughed in leaves little visible organic matter at the end
of three months. Partly for this reason, if the compost is not quite
broken down when applied to land for crops like maize, we get better

The nitrogen content of compost has been found to be quite stable. I
have found the loss of nitrogen in a heap which has stood for some
months in the dry weather to be negligible. Mr. van Vuren, who has done
so much in the Union of South Africa for municipal compost, has found
much the same to happen with him. I now spread out some of my compost in
a thin layer. In the hot sun this gets quite dry in a day or two. I then
grind it in a hammer mill, sack it, and it can be kept in such a manner
for an indefinite period. In this way it has probably lost some 40 per
cent of its moisture content and is so correspondingly richer in humus.
If, instead of broadcasting rough compost, a cupful of the ground
material is applied round the plant in the field for such crops as
tobacco or tomatoes, a considerable economy is effected.

I add ground raw rock phosphate to all my compost heaps. It is probable
that some of the inorganic phosphorus is changed during the fermentation
into organic forms. If this is so, and some of the best American opinion
considers such a change takes place, it is all to the good, as in its
organic forms phosphorus is not locked up and so made unavailable to the
plant, as it does not combine with iron and alumina.

As regards cost of making compost, assuming that bedding of some sort
has to be provided for the stock-yards and that the work of cutting and
carting such bedding is debited against the stock account, then I think
most farmers in this part of the world will agree that a sum of Is. or
2s. per ton will cover the cost of compost making. That is, of course,
apart from the cost of raw rock phosphate or similar material added to
the heap.

The effect of compost on fruits, vegetables, and field crops in Rhodesia
is now so well known that further propaganda is unnecessary. A
neighbouring farmer, to give one example, used it on bananas and found
that in two seasons he not only doubled the size of the bananas, but
doubled the numbers held in the bunch besides greatly improving their

The trouble now is that we cannot make enough compost. With labour
becoming more difficult various mechanical devices for handling and
turning compost are coming into use. An ordinary dam scoop with the
bottom elongated by means of steel fingers acts very well in moving the
material to make the compost out of the stock-yards, and in turning the
heap itself. I find nothing to beat hand labour. Once a native gets into
the work he will do a large tonnage per day and nothing mixes the
material so well as hand labour. If the material is fairly damp and
requires little wetting, then two natives, working side by side, keep
pace with the hose-pipe; but if it is very dry, then one turner only is
used, so that more water can be applied as it is thrown over.

In Rhodesia compost has been found to control the parasitic plant,
witchweed (Striga lutea), which attaches itself to the roots of the
maize. Witchweed used to be a major problem, but on my farm it is now

It is now being accepted that, in the same way, good applications of
compost will eliminate eelworm. This pest had begun to assume very
serious proportions in tobacco lands, to such an extent that infested
lands were considered unsuitable for further tobacco crops.

Organic farming is coming more and more to the fore in Rhodesia. Itis at
last being recognized that many of our troubles were due to lack of
humus in the soil.

Green cropping is taking a larger and larger part in the rotation and
the chief plant used is the legume, san hemp (Crotalaria juncea), this
on good soil grows eight to nine feet high and ploughs in very well with
a tractor-drawn disc plough. If a light dressing of compost, containing
a good proportion of animal wastes, is added to the soil for such a
leguminous green crop, more seed is formed. This may be due to the plant
growth substances which originate in the animal and perhaps further
supplies are formed during decomposition in the compost heap.

Compost and, in fact, all organic matter appears to have considerable
effect on the mycorrhizal growth. I speak now, in particular, of the
orange tree, of which I have many thousands growing on this farm,
Chipoli. If the hair-like feeder roots of a healthy tree are carefully
exposed, they will be seen to be covered with a mould-like growth, but
if the same is done to an unhealthy orange tree, showing signs of
decline, then this is found to be absent.

And now to give what I consider to be one of the best examples of
chemicals versus organics. There are in this Mazoe valley two orange
groves, both of considerable extent, planted about a quarter of a
century ago, of the same variety of orange, the Valencia Late. The trees
grow on the same type of good red soil, well drained and irrigated in
the dry weather. In fact, conditions are about as similar as they could
be. One grove has been fed almost exclusively on
artificials--superphosphate, muriate and sulphate of potash, nitrate of
soda, and sulphate of ammonia, this last in large proportion.
Cultivation is more or less clean, little weed growth being allowed and
little or no organic matter applied. The trees in this grove are now
practically finished; new growth has all but ceased. The trees are full
of dead wood and the crop of oranges they now carry is sub-economic. The
foliage is sparse and of an unhealthy colour. In the other grove the
only fertilizer used has been raw rock phosphate and bone, but since the
start of the war bone has been unprocurable. A heavy green crop of
legume is grown during each rainy season, this is broken down and disked
in, and the soil is covered with old grass, trash of all kinds, ground
nut haulms, and so forth. Irrigation is then applied, when a rank growth
of grass and weeds of all sorts comes up through the mulch. This is
eaten off in situ by cattle and sheep whose droppings fall on the
vegetable wastes. With the advent of the rains what remains on the
surface and has not been assimilated by the soil bacteria is disked in
and the cover crop is at once planted. One has only to look at the trees
to see that they thrive. They carry heavy crops of good-quality fruit,
the foliage is a dark green, the trees carry no dead wood, and regularly
put out a thick new growth.

This example of two treatments is, I think, almost unique. It shows the
culminative effect of a treatment of chemicals and of organics over some
twenty-five years. These groves are open to inspection by any and all,
and the owners will confirm the treatment under which they are grown.

What is the explanation? The accumulation of the sulphate ion in the
chemically treated grove must be considerable. Is it this that has
prevented the mycorrhizal connection functioning, or is it the lack of
humus, or both that have been slowly killing the trees?

One fact emerges and on this there need be no further argument--the
orange tree under the conditions described will not thrive for any
lengthy period on chemical food alone, but it will do so on organic
food. Whether the healthy trees would have been more healthy still if
chemicals had been added to the organics, or whether the sulphate ion
would have been too much for the mycorrhiza I cannot tell. To prove this
conclusively would require another quarter of a century and that is a
good deal more than is left to me.

Chipoli, Shamava, Southern Rhodesia. 27th July 1944.


by J. P. J. Van Vuren, M. Sc. (Agric.)
Professional Officer (Extension) and Co-ordinating Officer, Municipal
Compost Scheme

Little was it realized in August 1939, when the first sod was turned for
the excavation of an experimental compost pit somewhere on the boundary
of the Ficksburg town commonage, that history was being made. Had this
been known at the time, the criticism and prejudice which had to be
faced and fought for so many months to come would then have mattered
even less than they did.

Up to that time hardly anybody in the country had shown any practical
interest in the conversion of otherwise useless and obnoxious products
such as garbage, night soil, etc., from urban areas. My own knowledge of
this subject was limited to a mere study of the results obtained
overseas by men like Howard, Wad, Watson, Jackson, and others. I felt
thoroughly convinced, however, that this method could be successfully
employed in South Africa if only one municipality could be persuaded to
co-operate in the initial experiment or demonstration.

About the time referred to above the author was transferred to Ficksburg
in the Orange Free State, a small town with a population of scarcely
3,000 Europeans and situated on the border of the Basutoland Native
Territory. On my arrival in my new sphere of activity the matter was
discussed with the local health inspector, who at once declared himself
willing to co-operate in the laying down of an experiment.

At first a small-scale trial was conducted, well away from the public
eye and almost in secret. No funds were available. Ordinary trenches 12
x 8 x 2 feet deep, were dug in the soil and old pieces of scrap
corrugated iron were cut, perforated, and used over drainage channels in
the floor of the pit. Dry refuse straight from the tipping wagons was
dumped in the pit and levelled into a layer about fifteen inches deep.
On the top of this came night soil, followed up with refuse and so on
until in about three days' time the pit was filled. Right from the
outset problems and numerous difficulties were encountered. Owing to
poor drainage and the absence of aeration facilities the contents of the
pit became a cold, sloppy, reeking mass. Consequently none of the
labourers, whose customary task it was to dig trenches for the usual
burial of night soil, could be persuaded to do the necessary turning
over of the contents--and they could hardly be blamed for refusing. The
sides of the pit caved in during subsequent rains and myriads of flies
issued from the sodden mass. Fortunately very few outsiders knew at that
time what was happening, otherwise our experiment might have ended in

However, where there's a will there's a way. Our mistakes were gradually
rectified and one after the other our problems disappeared until the
stage was reached when an invitation to certain members of the Council
could be risked. Their visit had the desired effect and a small sum of
money was granted for the erection of proper brick and cement
installations. In these new pits, erected according to Watson's
Tollygunge plans as described by Sir Albert Howard in his pamphlet, The
Manufacture of Humus from the Wastes of the Town and the Village,
excellent results were quickly obtained. Temperatures started to climb
to surprisingly high levels. Fly-breeding was prevented by these high
temperatures and within four weeks the final product was a dark crumbly
mass with no unpleasant odour and without any trace of its original

At this stage the local authority became convinced of the practicability
of the composting process and it at once decided that this 'modern'
method of urban refuse disposal should receive more sympathy and
support. It was consequently decided that a more convenient site should
be selected and the scheme extended to include at least fifteen pits
instead of only two as was the case up to that time. The ultimate site
selected was situated only half the distance from town of that where
night soil had been regularly buried for over fifty years, the period of
Ficksburg's actual existence. The Council at once realized that a
considerable saving on transport would result quite apart from the fact
that the final product might be sold, thereby increasing the revenue of
the town and consequently reducing the cost of refuse disposal.

Based on the valuable experience gained during the experimental stage of
the scheme, the new pits were built accordingly. Certain modifications
were introduced and these included the following: an increase in the
number of cross channels in the floor from two to seven; vertical side
walls instead of sloping ones; an increase in the length and width of
the pits and also in the gradient from one end of the pit to the other,
the latter to facilitate the handling and distribution of night soil. In
addition a shed was erected to protect the final product against wind
and weather.

From then on practically all night soil and refuse from the urban area
was removed to this new site, where it was turned into compost at the
rate of about 100 to 150 cubic yards per month. The refuse included,
more or less, the following: the contents of garbage bins minus the
coarse pieces of unburnt coal and other refractory material which are
screened out on arrival at the site; weeds; grasses; hedge clippings;
stable manure; papers; rags; abattoir refuse such as paunch contents,
portions of the intestines, rejected meat or organs, blood, etc. (horns,
hoofs, and bones were also collected but sold directly to bonemeal and
fertilizer factories); sawdust; street sweepings, fallen leaves, etc. No
longer were these constituents allowed to be dumped somewhere along the
approaches of the town where rats and flies could breed unmolested.
Instead, they were henceforth carted to one depot and there rendered
harmless by being properly composted.

This, briefly, is the history of composting at Ficksburg. It may,
however, be stated unhesitatingly that without the undaunted assistance
of Mr. H. G. Williams, the Health Inspector at the time, as well as the
sympathetic co-operation of the Ficksburg Town Council (through the
medium of their energetic and capable Town Clerk), it is doubtful
whether the scheme would ever have developed into the great success it
is to-day. Without their valuable assistance Ficksburg would just have
remained an ordinary Free State town, whereas to-day it is well known,
not only in this country but overseas as well, as one of the pioneers in
the direction of urban waste utilization.

No sooner were the first articles published in connection with the
preliminary experiments at Ficksburg than inquiries started to pour in
from various parts of the Union of South Africa, Rhodesia, Belgian
Congo, and East Africa. At the same time a host of visitors were
received and shown over the scheme at Ficksburg. According to the
correspondence received, most of the urban authorities seemed to be
faced with the same problems and difficulties of refuse disposal. This
process of composting and getting rid of such material sounded to them
like an answer to their prayers with the result that they were anxious
to obtain details in regard to the process as quickly as possible. It
did not then take long for the process to become adopted by various
centres in southern Africa.

Owing to the fact that South African soils are generally deficient in
phosphates, this country is dependent for her phosphate supplies from
overseas. When war broke out, shipping facilities were reserved for the
importation of essential war supplies. Imports, as far as this commodity
was concerned, dropped to about 50 per cent of the pre-war supplies. At
the same time there was an increased demand for food at this stage when
farmers could obtain only half the normal requirements of fertilizers.
As a result of this shortage all possible avenues of obtaining
fertilizing material in the country were explored. Farmers were
encouraged to give more attention to neglected manure heaps on their
farms and to conserve and use this valuable material more extensively
than in the past. In addition, farm composting methods were demonstrated
and encouraged. Bat manure and phosphate deposits were explored and in
some cases made available to farmers in the crop-producing areas. At the
same time a huge trade developed in sheep and goat manure from the
Karoo, South Africa's principal small-stock area, ultimately reaching
such proportions that it was feared that the supplies would not outlast
the war. In spite of the exploitation of all these sources of supply, it
was still felt that production might suffer from a shortage of the
necessary fertilizer material. It was the imminence of this possibility
which caused greater attention to be given to the preparation of urban
compost. If vegetable and fruit farmers, it was thought, could be
encouraged to use urban compost more extensively, then more of the
mineral fertilizers would be available for use in the production of
grain crops such as maize and wheat. The possibilities of urban compost
fulfilling part of this programme were investigated by a special
Departmental Compost Committee on whose advice the Department of
Agriculture and Forestry decided to institute an urban compost campaign
on a national basis, the author being appointed co-ordinating officer
for the scheme for the duration of the war. To assist him, six other
officials, stationed throughout the four provinces of the Union, were
also designated for this work. The duty of these officers was mainly to
visit each urban centre in their respective areas and to encourage the
adoption of the composting process.

For the purpose of gaining first-hand knowledge and experience of the
process, these regional officers met at Ficksburg in August 1942,
immediately after the decision to inaugurate this scheme. Apart from
studying the method in its various aspects, these officers in
conjunction with the co-ordinating officer drew up a programme of action
so as to ensure the co-ordination of advice and policy. This programme
included the following:

1. The co-ordinating officer was to draw up a specified plan of the
pits, as well as a pamphlet describing the Ficksburg composting process
in detail, and to issue these to the regional officers for distribution
to municipalities in their areas.

2. Until such time as the co-ordinating officer was available to
accompany each regional officer in turn through his area, these officers
were to leave no stone unturned in so far as preliminary propaganda in
this connection was concerned. At about this time the annual Municipal
Conferences were to be held in the different provinces and they had to
be addressed on the subject. Articles were to be written and published
in local papers, etc.

3. By this time there was at least one centre in each of the six areas
where the process had been adopted already. At such centres regional
officers were to organize two-day short courses for representatives of
neighbouring towns. On these occasions practical demonstrations and
lectures were to be given so as to make such representatives as
thoroughly conversant with the process as possible.

4. Radio talks and articles for the daily press were to be drawn up or

5. Certain aspects of the process warranted further investigation and in
particular the co-ordinating officer was to be responsible for the
carrying out of this work at Ficksburg.

This, briefly, was the programme drawn up at the Ficksburg Conference in
August 1942, and within six months practically the whole of the Union
with its 300 municipalities and health boards was covered. It was soon
found that almost all centres were confronted with the same difficulties
and problems. Literally mountains of 'waste' were encountered at many
places. These had accumulated over many years in some cases and it was
not uncommon to see, lying in sight of these huge dumps, lands where the
soil had been worn down to a condition of total impoverishment. That
this has been and is still going on in many centres of the Union even
to-day is incontrovertible proof of the naked truth of the late
Professor King's words, 'Man is the most extravagant accelerator of
waste the world has ever endured.' Fortunately South Africa is a country
of vast open spaces, otherwise dumping sites might have become so
limited that many of these dumps of fertility would have had to
disappear in clouds of smoke, instead of still being there to-day in a
state in which their fertility is still partly recoverable if only urban
authorities can be persuaded to render such material marketable in the
form of refuse-dump screenings and compost. These 'humus mines' as Sir
Albert Howard calls them, are in many instances ready for immediate use
on the land and could contribute materially to a reduction in the
existing shortage of fertilizers.

After two years since the inauguration of the compost scheme, the
position in regard to its adoption in South Africa is as follows: (p.

In the various provinces the following towns and cities have adopted the
urban composting process:

Northern Transvaal: Nylstroom, Potgietersrust, Pietersburg, Messina,
Hercules, Zeerust, and Pretoria (Indore compost).

Southern Transvaal: Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Ermelo, Brakpan,
Heidelberg, Volksrust, Boksburg, Randfontein, Lichtenburg, Alberton and
Johannesburg, Roodepoort, Maraisburg (Indore compost).

Orange Free State: Ficksburg, Ladybrand, Clocolan, Bethlehem,
Harrismith, Vrede, Reitz, Heilbron, Parys, Kroonstad, Kopjes and
Bloemfontein, Kimberley (Indore compost).

Natal:Matatiele, Glencoe, Stanger, Dannhauser, Vryheid, Howick, Margate,
Darnall, Bergville and Durban, Pietermaritzburg (Indore compost).

Karoo and Eastern Cape Province: Aliwal North, Elliot, Fort Beaufort,
Graaff-Reinet, Kirkwood, Kingwilliamstown, Prince Albert, Queenstown,
Umtata, Walmer, Cradock, Dordrecht, Oudtshoorn, Uitenhage, Humansdorp
and Beaufort West (Indore compost).

Western Cape Province: George, Parow, Goodwood, Wolseley, Stellenbosch,
Mossel Bay, Bellville, Swellendam, Vredenburg, Heidelburg, Robertson,
Tulbagh, Capetown, Rivier-Zonder-End, Franschhoek, Ceres, Worcester,
Clanwilliam, Wellington, Porterville, Caledon and Malmesbury.

Area             Schemes     Schemes         Average      Total Production
                   in      in Course of  Annual Production     to date
               Production  Construction  in Cubic Yards     in Cubic Yards

Northern Transvaal   7             2            5,000             6,300
Southern Transvaal  12             1           13,500            18,600
Orange Free State   13             1           13,250            19,250
Natal               11             7           12,000            15,500
Karoo and Eastern
Cape Province       16             6            5,600            12,100
Western Cape
Province            22             3           21,000            27,000
Total               81            20           70,350            98,750

The main reasons why the remaining centres in the Union have not yet
adopted the composting scheme are briefly the following:

1. Lack of sufficient capital to construct the necessary pits. The cost
of constructing such pits varies from place to place, depending on the
cost of material and labour, but anything from 15 to 20 pounds per pit can
be taken as an average. Villages and some of the small towns, looking at
the matter more from a financial point of view, felt that the output
might be so small that it would not warrant the expense.

2. Lack of sufficient quantities of raw materials, especially dry
refuse, to absorb the liquids contained in the night soil. In some parts
of the country, where the rainfall is low and poorly distributed, the
vegetation is naturally scanty. This creates a real problem which cannot
be disregarded. At the same time, the climate and type of farming in
these areas are such that there is hardly a demand for compost, which
means that this product would have to be exported to distant localities,
thus raising the cost and leaving only a very small margin of profit, if
any at all.

3. The decision of the Department of Labour that urban composting
schemes should fall under the Factory Act. The application of this Act
meant that the provisions of certain clauses applicable to modern, well-
equipped factories had to be complied with. Although it was added in the
proclamation that exemptions in certain respects could be granted, many
centres did not see their way clear to adopt the process under such

4. Uncertainty in regard to the demand for the final product. This
question was asked in practically every instance and the fact that the
Department was not prepared to guarantee either a price or a constant
demand for the product made the scheme less attractive. There is, of
course, always the possibility that the demand may decline after the war
when supplies of artificial fertilizers will again be available. It is
nevertheless felt that as the supplies of Karoo manure are being
exhausted since the restriction of the importation of artificials,
compost may take its place as a worthy substitute.

5. The mercenary attitude of many local bodies. In many cases town
councillors were interested in the project only because they regarded it
as a potential gold mine. When it was explained to them that they should
at most hope for an appreciable reduction on the cost of night soil and
garbage disposal, the scheme lost its attractiveness. Many of the
municipal compost works are charging excessive prices in an endeavour to
show clear profits. In their balance-sheets the costs of disposal under
the old system are usually ignored and the national service that is
being rendered by making compost is entirely lost sight of.

Whatever the arguments are, one is forced to the conclusion that finance
is the major consideration and that unless the venture can be proved to
be a sound financial undertaking all the advantages attached to the
adoption of such a process, from a sanitary, hygienic, anti-waste, or
health point of view, seem to count for very little. Fortunately there
are exceptions where urban authorities look upon the composting process
as something that has come to stay whether the demand for the product
remains what it is to-day or not. In this they find a substitute for a
costly sewage scheme, for which they may never hope to raise enough
funds. Many of them have already come to the conclusion that most of
their disposal problems can be solved in a sanitary, hygienic, and
profitable way by the adoption of the urban composting process, provided
it is carried out under properly trained supervision.

6. Lack of interest. This was found to be due either to ignorance or
wrong interpretation. In coastal towns and cities sanitary disposal
problems are 'solved' by way of dumping the material recklessly into the
sea. To a certain extent, however, an exception was found in the case of
Durban, one of the biggest coastal centres. Here the Director of Parks
and Gardens has set a worthy example to other similar centres by
producing about 1,000 tons of compost annually from organic refuse on
the true Indore principle, instead of allowing such materials to be
passed through the city's incinerators.

The same lack of interest was encountered in large inland centres with
properly equipped sewage disposal schemes. Their objections were in many
instances well grounded as the adoption of a composting scheme would
have meant the carting of raw materials over considerable distances to
the site of the actual disposal works, thus making the scheme not only
unpractical but also uneconomical. Fortunately in such centres compost
is nevertheless made according to the true Indore method by Directors of
Parks and Gardens, but usually on a scale only large enough for their
own demands. The rest of the valuable refuse constituent usually finds
its way to incinerators where it disappears in smoke instead of being
conserved and used on the land.

7. Fear of disease dissemination. In certain areas, especially the
subtropical parts of Natal, local as well as medical authorities were
afraid that amoebic dysentery might be spread by the use of the final
product as a fertilizer. The Union Department of Public Health, however,
expressed itself quite definitely on this point by issuing the following
statement at the time: 'There is no likelihood of the matured compost,
used as a fertilizer, acting as a medium for the dissemination of
infective material of amoebic dysentery and parasitic worms, provided
the process of composting has been carried out in accordance with the
instructions issued by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, where
temperatures of 150 degrees to 160 degrees F. are attained in the pits for
two to three weeks.' Although this statement, issued by responsible
authorities, sounded convincing enough to most urban bodies, some
diehards were nevertheless still encountered. The irony of it all is
that some of these very same ardent objectors and critics will no doubt
cheerfully buy and eat, without any objection or discrimination,
vegetables raised by Indians in the sub-tropical parts on soils
fertilized with crude and most probably amoebic dysentery-infested night

Notwithstanding all these objections and difficulties, which naturally
had a hampering effect on a more general adoption of the composting
process, the results after two years from the inauguration of the scheme
are spectacular and encouraging. From the table given it will be seen
that before long this country may have at least 100 urban areas in which
this process has been adopted. Although actually only about one-third of
the urban centres in the Union are actively engaged in this work, the
figures rather tend to give a wrong impression of the true position,
since about two-thirds of the total urban population are included in the
100 centres mentioned.

Were it not for the instructional short courses held mainly at
Ficksburg, Potchefstroom, Walmer, Fort Beaufort, and Graaff-Reinet, it
is doubtful whether the actual position would have been as it is to-day.
At these centres the various urban representatives became acquainted
with the process in general very much more readily and thoroughly than
would have been the case if they had had to be taught by their own

Apart from the above, a very encouraging development has taken place at
Darnall in the sugar belt of Natal, where Mr. G. C. Dymond has
demonstrated so clearly that the vast quantities of sugar waste could be
composted with little difficulty and at small expense to serve the
essential purpose of linking up the productivity of soils of the sugar
belt with the most important factor in the production of cane or any
other crop, namely, yield. The same investigator hopes to prove that it
may be possible to prevent the degeneration of varieties by practicing
such conservation methods. For many years these mountains of valuable
sugar waste were burnt or neglected, or their value as a compost manure
overlooked, but now many scientists and planters in the sugar industry
have become compost-minded. The author was invited to read a paper on
this subject at their recent conference held in Durban in April 1944.

Although the practice of burning trash before the cane is cut and
transported to the mills may result in a saving of labour and expense,
it is nevertheless an extremely wasteful procedure. The sooner some
other and less wasteful method is discovered by means of which the plant
could be stripped of its leaves in an economical and practical way, the
better for the industry as a whole. By virtue of its high organic matter
content cane trash is a very valuable fertilizer material when composted
with nitrogenous substances. Even though the resultant manure may not be
required on the plantation itself (which in itself is still a debatable
question), together with megasse and filter press cake it may form a
valuable by-product for any sugar concern if turned into compost and
disposed of to fruit or vegetable farmers in the vicinity.

Compost is also manufactured at Durban on the Earpe-Thomas principle,
mainly from vegetable leaves, fruit peels, leaves, and similar
materials. It is claimed that according to this method the composting
process can be completed within thirty-six hours by the inoculation of
the material with special bacteria. The cost of production of this type
of compost called, Organo, is very high in comparison with that of urban
compost, but chemically there is very little difference between the two.
A considerable quantity of otherwise wasted organic material is thus
finding its way back to the soil, which otherwise would not have been
the case.

In addition, some of the larger inland centres are making available
considerable quantities of sewage sludge to market gardeners in their
vicinity, while the effluent from sewage disposal works is often used
for irrigating artificial pastures.

The above is a brief summary of the position as it presents itself
to-day in this country. Very much more could undoubtedly still be done
in utilizing the enormous quantities of valuable organic materials which
are accumulating daily somewhere within the boundaries of urban areas.

As regards the return of the bulk of such materials to the land in the
form of properly prepared compost, the question arises whether the State
should not step in and either compel the local authority to make compost
under supervision or itself undertake the composting of urban refuse

Before proceeding to a brief description of some of the experiments
carried out at Ficksburg during the past two years in connection with
urban compost, the author would like to give the chemical analysis of
some samples, calculated on a dry basis, in the following table:

  Origin      Percentage  Loss Percentage  Percentage  Percentage
of Sample     on Ignition        N             P2O5       K2O

Ficksburg        34.43          1.14           1.42      1.24
Ficksburg        44.94          1.18           0.99      1.46
Ficksburg        39.17          1.12           1.41      1.39
Ficksburg        46.24          1.36           1.34      1.00
Ficksburg        47.61          1.53           1.92      1.08
Ficksburg        49.79          1.40           1.59      1.31
Walmer           44.37          1.54           2.76      1.10
Volksrust        30.21          0.78           1.49      1.11
Alberton         43.64          1.62           1.46      1.93
Bethlehem        42.30          1.58           0.90      1.19
Bethlehem        38.03          1.41           1.11      1.31

According to these figures and other observations made at Ficksburg,
urban areas in the Union of South Africa are annually accumulating: 230
to 240 thousand tons of organic matter; 15.7 to 26.2 million pounds of
nitrogen; 5.4 to 9.3 million pounds of potash; and 5.2 to 8.8 million
pounds of phosphoric oxide, in the form of human excrete and town
refuse. (The urban population is taken at about 3 3 millions for
Europeans and non-Europeans.) Of these quantities, at least 50 per cent
is lost or destroyed in one way or another with the result that, no
matter how thorough the methods of salvaging and conservation, the
quantity ultimately returned is only about half. The longer the return
of this material to the land is delayed, the greater is the actual loss.
The composting of urban refuse, therefore, is not only an essential but
also a most urgent duty resting on the shoulders of those responsible.

As far as the process itself is concerned, in any composting scheme
there is one dominating factor which must be borne in mind continually
and that is temperature. This factor is not only an indication of the
success with which the process is being carried out, but also determines
the degree to which fly maggots and harmful pathogens may be destroyed.
Temperature, therefore, may serve as one of the best indications of the
success of a composting process. If it fails to develop, everything goes
wrong: if, on the other hand, it develops favourably, we may take it for
granted that the process is being carried out properly and successfully.

In the experiments carried out at Ficksburg since the inauguration of
the national scheme temperature, therefore, played a major role. In view
of the fact that harmful pathogens are destroyed at certain temperature
levels if subjected to such temperatures for varying lengths of time, an
experiment was carried out to determine average temperature ranges in an
urban compost pit, the results being as follows:

Temperature Range    Time Expressed as Percentage of Total
in Degrees F.        (30 days) at which Compost Material was
                     Subjected to such Temperature Range

51-60                              1.78
61-70                              1.11
71-80                              2.89
81-90                              2.00
91-100                             1.77
101-110                            2.22
111-120                            2.67
121-130                            9.55
131-140                           24.67
141-150                           33.33
151-160                           18.00

It may at the same time be stated that this experiment was carried out
during the winter months when the minimum temperatures were as low as
18 degrees F.

If 125 degrees F. could be regarded as the minimum safety limit (cysts of
amoebic dysentery, for example, are destroyed at 122 degrees F. in two
minutes) then one may conclude that the material in a compost pit is
exposed to temperatures above this limit for 80 per cent of the time and
that the possibility is, therefore, exceedingly small of harmful pathogens
surviving or being disseminated when subjected to such limits of heat
over such long periods.

Temperature has also an important bearing on the extent to which flies
will breed in a compost pit. Flies are not only a nuisance but a menace,
since they are largely responsible for the spread of certain diseases
and epidemics. After a careful study the conclusion was reached that,
wherever excessive numbers of flies are encountered at a compost site,
this may be taken as an indication that the process is not going
properly, the most probable cause being carelessness. Experiments
conducted at Ficksburg in this connection have proved that 85 per cent
of the maggots present in the compost material during the process can be
destroyed by giving the contents a thorough turning. The heat generated
as a result of this will be sufficient to destroy them, provided the
material containing such maggots is buried in the centre of the pit
where, as a rule, the temperature is very much higher than at the bottom
or along the sides. Naturally it is impossible to kill all the maggots
in this way and some of them will ultimately escape as full-grown flies,
but if poisoned bait is put out these may be got rid of as well. In the
early stages of the process fly maggots fulfil a rather important duty,
since they help to break up lumpy material, thus bringing about better
aeration and advancing the process in general. They should, however, be
carefully watched and destroyed as soon as their job is done, otherwise
they may complete their life cycle and cause endless trouble.

During periods of excessive rain one cannot rely on the above method
alone, namely, that of killing maggots by working over the contents of
pits, as the rain tends to cool down the material before the maggots are
destroyed. An experiment was therefore conducted with certain chemicals
harmless to the process but harmful to the maggots. Two relatively cheap
by-products of the Iscor Steel Works were tried out. These were crude
naphthalene and interstill residue. The former was used in a fifty-fifty
mixture with sand, scattered over the surface of material and lightly
worked in, while the latter, emulsified with soap water and used in a 4
per cent strength, was sprayed over the surface of the material in a
pit. Both of these chemicals proved effective enough to destroy about 80
to 90 per cent of the maggots during excessively wet periods, when
ordinary turning of the contents could not be resorted to. At the same
time, these chemicals appeared to have no ill effects on the development
of the pro. cess itself, judging by temperature observations during the

For the above two reasons alone it ought to be the aim of every compost
producer to obtain as high temperatures as possible in the Compost pits
under his supervision. There are certain external influences, however,
over which one unfortunately has no control. Such factors are rain and
atmospheric temperatures.

During the coldest months of the year a rainfall of 15 to 2 5 inches had
the effect of decreasing the temperature in a compost pit by anything up
to 15 degrees F. On the other hand, a fall of less than 1-5 inches had no
material effect on the temperature in a compost pit at all, and obser
vations seemed to point to the fact that such precipitations may be
expected to promote rather than hamper the process.

Minimum atmospheric temperatures of 16 degrees F. to 18 degrees F. during
the winter months caused the temperature in a compost pit to drop only
2 degrees F. This only seems to happen when temperatures fall to
20 degrees F. or lower; above this, it was shown to have no material
effect at all on compost temperatures.

Factors which influence the temperature in compost pits and over which
definite control can be kept are depth of pit and quantity of night;
soil added per volume of dry refuse. Experiments proved that a four-foot
depth of pit gave rise to about 30 per cent higher temperatures than did
a two-foot pit, while a proportion of one gallon of night soil to one
cubic foot of dry refuse gave the best results as far as temperatures
were con cerned. The wider the ratio of the latter, the slower the rise
in temperature and naturally the longer the time before the process is

Until such time as further tests are carried out, it may be stated that
preliminary experiments seem to indicate that during the ripening
process, over a period of six months, urban compost did not undergo any
material change chemically, whether stored in the open or under
protection. A reduction in volume may, however, have taken place in the

Urban compost production in South Africa has undoubtedly come to stay.
To most of the municipalities in the country who have adopted the
process this way of refuse disposal means more than just a possible
source of extra revenue or an answer to the call of the Department of
Agriculture and Forestry to produce compost in order to relieve the
fertilizer shortage in the country. To such centres it means, in the ma
jority of instances, a solution to long-standing sanitary and other dis
posal problems that called for urgent attention long ago. It offers
above all a hygienic, harmless, beneficial, and economic method of
disposal of obnoxious collections accumulating in urban areas, where up
to now these valuable, though dangerous, materials were merely lying
scattered or buried on town commonages as a constant source of nuisance
and possible disease infection. Furthermore, a proper composting process
renders such materials harmless in a quick and efficient way, and may
ultimately result in creating a healthier environment for congested

Cities and towns have for too many centuries been veritable graveyards
where, in most instances, only the charred remains of the youth and life
of many a soil--and ultimate civilization--lie buried and forgotten. It
is our duty, as well as our privilege, to ensure that such destructive,
almost criminal, practices are no longer allowed to continue. It is
sincerely hoped, therefore, that this brief description of what has been
done along these lines in South Africa will serve the worthy purpose
which Sir Albert Howard intended when he sent me his kind invitation to
write this appendix.

If we are 'to endure, if we are to project our history, through four or
five thousand years, as the Mongolian nations have done', according to
the late Professor King in Farmers of Forty Centuries, 'we must
re-orient ourselves; we must square our practices with a conservation of
resources, which can make endurance possible'.

Ficksburg, South Africa. 19th December 1944.



The task of compressing into an article of 4,000 words and yet I doing
justice to the story of the enterprise indicated above is no easy
undertaking. The whole story needs the book now in course of preparation
which is likely to be published by Messrs. Faber and Faber in due

For the last hundred years neither farming nor farmers have received at
the hands of their fellow citizens a 'fair crack of the whip'. With
ideas on trade and international commerce founded upon a thesis which
has proved to be without equal in unsound thinking, with conceptions of
economic theories which are as far apart from true economics as the
North Pole from the South, our industrialists and their political
counterparts have, since the year 1846 which saw the passing of Peel's
Corn Laws, sold the farming of England for industrial gain. Slump has
succeeded slump, unemployment has become an incurable cancer in our
lives, upon one great war has followed a still greater war within the
space of twenty years, all showing that something somewhere is wrong
with our way of life.

Few industrialists, viewing their declining exports, would ever think
that the cause of this vanishing trade was brought about by their own
neglect of the agriculture of their native land. They would, indeed, be
surprised should this even be suggested to them. But such, nevertheless,
is the case. They have built up a false doctrine that without exports
this small island of Britain simply cannot live. They are without any
panacea for re-establishing that trade, because they, too, recognize
that the countries which were their one-time customers are now not only
making for themselves the goods they once bought from us, but because of
even better methods than we were wont to employ can now beat us in open
competition in those few remaining world markets which are, though in
diminishing quantities, still buying goods from outside. So that the fur
ther we go, the more complex and insoluble becomes the economic problem
which this country--and the universe--has got to face.

In what way can agriculture contribute towards bringing order out of all
this chaos? Can cosmos emerge out of chaos? Yes, definitely. Agriculture
is the fundamental industry of the world and must be allowed to occupy a
number-one position in the economy of all countries. The story of
Chantry Farm, Chute, Wiltshire, points the way.

We must begin by making one basic assumption: That a farm is analogous
to a country and in matters of foodstuffs it must sooner or later become
self-supporting. Like a country, again, it cannot entirely ignore
trading with the outside world, for the farm requires tractors and
implements, buildings and other things, which it cannot provide for
itself. Food, however, must be produced at home, and any produce in
excess of that required for the farm's own human population and its
livestock can be sold in exchange for those implements and services
which are the production of citizens not engaged in farming. The farm
and the country, therefore, are in every respect analogous, and this
simile must be borne in mind, firstly in order clearly to understand the
message implicit in this farming story, and secondly in perceiving the
practical application of this lesson to the rectification of the ills of
the world which are entirely man made.

After having farmed in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere for over twenty
years, I eventually migrated at the age of forty-eight years to an
estate of 750 acres on some of the highest land in Wiltshire. This
property lies on the eastern escarpment of Salisbury Plain. It is
situated in the parish of Chute and at its highest point lies some 829
feet above sea level. It is windswept and bleak. These features are
somewhat redeemed by a southern aspect, but, on the other hand, are
counter-balanced by the force of uninterrupted gales from the south-west
whenever the wind comes from that direction. The land was more or less
derelict, and in the records of title which I examined I found that a
very large number of so-called farmers had occupied this plot of earth
in the course of some sixty years, each of whom had been forced to leave
the bleak, unprofitable farm because they were financially worse for
wear, or likely to reach insolvency if they continued in occupation. The
whole estate was exposed for sale in 1929 and at 50s. per acre freehold
it could find no purchaser. It was just 'space out of doors', as one of
my farmer friends described it, 'and not fit for any decent farmer to

There is evidence in the ancient barrows to be found on the property
that this piece of agricultural land has its farming roots embedded in
remote antiquity. We have had incidents of discoveries from time to time
which show that history has been written here before, both in farming
lore and in 'bloody battle', for here was fought the Battle of the
Bloody Fields some four thousand years ago. This land was probably among
the very first that the earliest inhabitants of these islands attempted
to cultivate and dive upon, land such as Sir Albert Howard had in mind
when he wondered 'whether there ever would arise a farmer in our own
time who would attempt to wrest a living from the highlands of our chalk
country and cultivate again the lands which were the first to be farmed
in England and which, because of their poor quality, their remoteness
from towns and railways, and their altitude and other disadvantages' had
been lost to British agriculture. Visiting Chantry for the first time a
few years ago, he uttered an exclamation of delight that at long last
this dream of his had really come true, for here he saw this ancient
piece of England under the plough and in course of re-fertilization
according to the rules of good husbandry, as we understood the meaning
of that term in the days of our great-grandfathers.

A quite reasonable query may here be asked: If the story of this farmer
is worth even the reading, to say nothing of the writing, why should he,
if he knows anything about his job, deliberately take a piece of waste
land possessed of these obvious disadvantages? Surely, if he has indeed
the knowledge of farming which the writing of this chapter suggests must
be his, he could have found a more useful sphere in which to expend his
time and talent, and withal make 'more out of much instead of making a
little out of next to nothing'. And I entirely agree, but when I took on
these obvious difficulties and obligations I did so with my eyes wide
open. As a land valuer I have had no little experience; I have surveyed
and valued land in nearly every county in Britain from Aberdeen to
Cornwall. I have seen farming throughout Britain in many phases of its
practice. Few people could have been more conscious of the magnitude of
the task that I voluntarily imposed upon myself when, in 1936, I came to
live upon and farm these now most beloved, but then forlorn and
derelict, acres.

The whole question depends upon what object you are pursuing when you
begin any task that really matters, and one of the lessons of my
experience and observation of farming everywhere was that livestock are
inseparable from good farming, that the best and most stalwart of all
stock appeared to be produced on the highlands, that hardy climatic
conditions were the invariable accompaniment of constitution and health
in livestock, and, moreover, the saying of that old septuagenarian
Wensleydale farmer in Muker market place still rings like a clarion call
in my ears, 'Remember, young man, the higher the land, the sweeter the
herbage, the better the cheese.' This is no mere tale told for the sake
of humour, and those who have the inherited attribute of
'farming-in-their-bones' will feel that instinctive respect for those
country sayings, which are usually founded upon the kind of wisdom which
has close observation of Nature as its university. Furthermore, we are
breeders of racehorses and I have found that the best thoroughbreds are
all bred on land with high lime content--either limestone or chalk.
Here, in this otherwise wasted 'space out of doors', I saw the raw
material out of which I could breed and develop bone of that density and
texture which is only to be found in the cannon-bone of the deer, and
where constitution and stamina would be outstanding characteristics.
When the reader appreciates this, he will understand that there was some
method in my madness in taking on the burdensome responsibilities which
the reclamation of this large farm involved.

The farm from which I came in Buckinghamshire, Richings Park--Rich-ings
means rich meadows--was in a belt of the richest land to be found in
these islands. One hundred pounds per acre was paid readily by buyers--a
striking contrast to the land I was to take at Chantry. Richings,
however, from my point of view had severe limitations. For the growing
of market-garden crops it was almost unequalled, but the bone in both
cattle and horses did not develop well or soundly. My observations
throughout England had taught me that the vales and the rich lands were
useful to fatten a bullock, but were not the place to breed him. When
this fundamental truth is fully appreciated in Whitehall, we may one day
have an agricultural policy of greater enlightenment than any ruling
to-day, a policy which deliberately fosters and encourages stock
breeding by every means, using our hill farms for this purpose and
leaving the lower-lying farms for the finishing of those hardy 'stores'
which the hills have bred. That this is an unassailable fact I have
proved to my utmost satisfaction. The hills breed constitution, bone,
stamina: the vales develop the fat. Our agricultural livestock policy,
therefore, should visualize the hill farm as the true complement of the
farm in the vale.

Before we came to Chantry I proved my theories in this regard at Aston
Tirrold in Berkshire, where for years I kept thoroughbred mares. Here I
had the good fortune to breed Statesman, by Blandford ex Dail, who ran
third in Hyperion's Derby and was the winner of several important races;
he is now the leading stallion in Japan and the sire of one of Japan's
Derby winners. Another high-class animal we bred was His Reverence, by
Duncan Gray ex Reverentia; this horse won ten prominent races with a
total of over 8,000 pounds in stake money. Solicitor General, a good
racehorse and now among the elite of New Zealand sires, was another animal
bred on the chalk hills above Aston Tirrold.

To-day at Chantry there stand seven distinguished thoroughbred mares,
with foals at foot and with yearlings in the other paddocks, of a class
and quality better than any we have ever bred. These achievements,
regarded by many people as rather outstanding, are the result of the
work we carried out at Chantry in bringing this derelict countryside
into a system of agricultural usefulness, where this land now vies with
the best in England for the weight of its crops, their health, and their
general excellence. Horses are my life love, and I could indeed fill a
book with interesting experiences in connection with their breeding and
their subsequent performance; but space herein calls for abbreviation
and I must now refer to our cattle.

At Richings Park we first of all bred Friesians. We had the finest
foundation stock that could be obtained. Many of those cows were from
the original herd which won the Silcock Five Hundred Guinea Cup. We
ourselves won the One Hundred Guinea Makbar Gold Cup for the best herd
of dairy cattle in the three counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire,
and Berkshire. One of our cows, the famous Kingswood Ceres Daisy, was
for several years the European Champion in so far as she gave 6,600
gallons of milk with her first three calves. At the Royal Show our stock
was often in the winning lists.

In Berkshire pigs, of which we have been breeders for many years, we won
the supreme championship at the Royal Show at Leicester in 1924. Progeny
from this sow was exported throughout the world and reference to her was
often made in catalogues of pedigree pig sales. She was regarded as the
finest example of a pig that had been seen at the Royal Show for forty
years. The list of our winnings shows interesting achievements, but all
this success was to receive a severe check one day.

'Vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of
his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave.'

And, indeed, so it happened to my two brothers and to me, for our long
run of achievement in livestock production was to end with dramatic
suddenness. The Ministry of Agriculture had been made aware by medical
and public opinion that all was not well with the nation's milk supply
and by way of grading up the dairy cattle the first Accredited Milk
Scheme was inaugurated. As one of the leading breeders, we were asked by
the University of Reading to show the way to other livestock men by
submitting our herd to the Tuberculin Test. We agreed. Judge of our
surprise when 66 per cent reacted--the premier herd of the three
counties--what must have been the condition of the other dairy herds in
that area?

This startling result gave us much food for thought and it was some time
before we could diagnose the cause. We pedigree breeders have a saying:
'50 per cent of the pedigree goes in at the mouth'. Therefore we
concluded there must be something amiss with our system of feeding, and
we eventually suspected that the cow with her four stomachs was not a
concentrated food converter, but, in her natural surroundings, a
consumer of roughage. Were not the highly concentrated cakes with their
well-known stimulating abilities for the production of rivers of milk
the cause of the decline of the health and stamina of our cattle? We
thought it over. We consulted authorities famous for their eminence. We
had produced fantastic milk records, had been accorded the highest
awards in the show-rings, but it was at the expense of the health and
constitution of the cows.

We then took a decision requiring both courage and action. We would
completely reverse our milk production policy; we would feed the cows
more normally, abandon high milk yields, and make the health and
constitution of the cattle our primary object and milk production
secondary. We held a dispersal sale of our valuable Friesian cattle
which had taken so many years to breed and which had, in the eyes of the
showman and record-breaker, achieved so much. We then went in for
Channel Island cattle, and here good fortune again attended us in the
show-ring, for we bought as a calf the bull, Christmas of Maple Lodge,
which won the supreme championship at the Royal Show at Chelmsford.

But troubles seldom come singly.

'In trouble to be troubl'd Is to have your troubles doubl'd.

And at this same period our most valuable thoroughbred mare contracted
the dreaded disease, contagious abortion. An eminent veterinarian
advised her destruction. I declined the advice and determined on a
treatment of my own, which was to turn the mare out into a large paddock
where no horse stock had been grazed, where artificial manures had never
been used, and where she was condemned to live for two years eating
practically nothing but grass. At the end of this period she was
examined by a competent veterinary surgeon and declared clean. She was
mated by natural means, proved to be in foal, and subsequently bred over
the next seven years four valuable colts, she herself living in good
health to the ripe old age of twenty-one. Here was my first attempt to
cure an allegedly incurable disease by giving the creature nothing but
grass grown on land where no artificial manures had ever been
applied--in other words, Nature's food from humus-filled land.

In the early nineteen twenties I had the good fortune to meet the late
Major Morris of Aston Tirrold, Berkshire. He became the trainer of my
thoroughbreds and in succeeding years I was to see and learn much that
was to shape my future agricultural policy and practice. Morris was a
man of the highest character, education, and farming knowledge. He was
years ahead of his time as a grass-grower, and knew how to establish the
sward for a racehorse paddock such as none of his generation ever
created. His experience was not available to all, but, being both a
patron and a friend, I was privileged to learn much from him. From
Morris I learned those elementary lessons which stood me in good stead
in later years. Morris farmed some 2,000 acres of Berkshire light
downland, yet on that thin soil he grew the heaviest crops of grass and
clovers I had ever seen.

As the system of farming at Chantry is now regarded as somewhat
original, I will detail the plan of management which I formulated when
we left Richings with its accumulated experience and began on this very
different, light, high-lying land in the mid-western region.

Travelling about England in pursuit of my professional activities in
land survey, I had seen widely varying results everywhere and, after
over twenty years of actual farming myself and experience obtained from
the examination of other people's work, I had got down to a few
principles of my own which might here for the first time be stated.

Fertility on all land can be brought about by following four items of
farming husbandry:

1. Good cultivation. 2. Clean land. 3. Subsoiling. 4. Organic manuring.

What a volume of literary work these four headings could provide!

Take good cultivation--if there is one craft which the modern farmer has
almost completely forgotten (or would it perhaps be truer to say, never
learned) it is that of cultivation. Neither in theory nor in practice
does one farmer in a hundred realize how important it is to cultivate,
cultivate, and cultivate. The old Wiltshire saying, 'A season's fallow
with good cultivation is worth more than a coat of dung', is of all good
old adages the most forceful. If I can lay claim to be a good farmer, or
better still if those who follow after me will but say, 'He was a good
farmer', then indeed my bones will rest in peace; but if I have any
justifiable claim to being called a good farmer, it is because I believe
I really understand, perhaps better than most, the art of thorough
cultivation. What exactly do I mean by thorough cultivation?

Let us assume that I am beginning work on a piece of derelict downland,
of which I had hundreds of acres when we started at Chantry. My first
act of husbandry is to plough that ground four inches deep in October
with an eleven-inch furrow; this would lie all the winter and have the
benefit of rain, snow, and frost; as soon as possible in the spring it
would be cross-ploughed; if the weather was favourable and dry, it
would be ploughed again in three or four weeks; it would be ploughed
again in a further four weeks--four ploughings in all. Then throughout
the summer, as often as I could do it, I should cultivate with a
Ransomes Equitine cultivator, certainly the finest implement yet
invented for doing a really good job of cultivation. I have cultivated
four and even six times in the course of a summer. By this means all
weed seeds are encouraged to germinate and are ploughed or cultivated
back into the ground. Couch, creeping thistle, buttercup, ragwort, and
other noxious weeds are killed outright. The land is oxidized so
thoroughly that wireworms and leather jackets and all anaerobic
bacteria, which cannot thrive in the presence of air, are killed, and
the earthworms, fungi, moulds, and microbes--the unpaid labour force of
the farmer, there awaiting in millions to serve him as nothing else can
if only he knows how to harness this vast army of workers--are ready to
prepare the food materials the crops need. If I could persuade the
farmers of England to learn these very elementary and fundamental
truths, I would give everything I possess to achieve such an end.
Scarcely a farmer anywhere really appreciates these all-important facts.
I know, of course, that ploughing may cost 1 pound sterling per acre at
each operation, that four ploughings may cost, therefore, 4 pounds,
similarly that cultivations may cost from 5s. to 10s. per acre according
to the nature of the land operated upon, and that 10 pounds or even
12 pounds per acre may be spent upon such a cleaning fallow, even so
it pays.

My third item is subsoiling. If you do not know what this means, it
would not surprise me for when I ordered such an implement at Chantry
the agent who took my order said, 'What on earth do you want a tool like
that for in this God-forsaken country? My firm has been in business over
a hundred years and has never supplied such an implement before.' What,
then, does the subsoiler do, and why do I use it?

From five to seven inches below the surface there is a hard colloidal
pan sometimes quite impenetrable by the roots of plants. This has been
accumulating for untold centuries. Break this up by means of the
subsoiler to a depth of two feet: moisture will then readily sink to the
lower strata; deep-rooting plants will go down through those cracks into
regions below in search of minerals and trace elements, which are often
there in quantity and sometimes not available in the surface soils.
While moisture will sink down, so it will rise again by capillary
attraction when the hot sun is playing upon the surface soil or
stimulating the plants into summer growth, causing increased root
activity. The difference between using a subsoiler on almost all lands
and not using one is perhaps the most dramatic in all farming
operations. I have seen land that would not grow anything come into life
and produce a heavy crop purely through the use of the subsoiler. A
minimum increase of two sacks of wheat to the acre can be expected, yet
it would not surprise me at all if claims of an increase of six to ten
sacks were made. An eminent farmer, who saw me use a subsoiler, told me
he had improved the output of 5,000 acres of his land by 50 per cent
since he used this implement. Until you have seen what the subsoiler can
do, its beneficial effects cannot be appreciated. Ransomes C.I.C.
subsoiler, however, requires a Caterpillar or Tracklayer tractor to pull
it. Wheel tractors will not touch it. The cost of the operation varies
with the type of land, but on this ground, where serious physical
difficulties are encountered in large flints underground, it costs about
25s. per acre. A cut to this depth of two feet is made every four feet
all over the field. In this way the entire subsoil is broken into fray
meets underground. No subsoil comes to the surface. This would be most
undesirable; you must keep your subsoil underneath and this implement
will not bring it up. If a farmer does not possess a Caterpillar, then
he can hire one from his County War Agricultural Executive Committee and
perhaps they have a subsoiler as well. As a matter of fact, I do not
believe that all the War Agricultural Executive Committees in Great
Britain do possess one, but if agitation is sufficient, they will all
become enlightened and buy one or two.

Lastly, but by no means least, we come to the all-important subject--
this controversial subject--of re-fertilization. Of course I believe in
organic manuring and do not use inorganic fertilizers. Is this opinion
founded upon experience? Most certainly, and these are my findings. A
portion of the land at Chantry would not grow cereal crops at all when I
took over the land. None of it would grow any good grass; the herbage
was not capable of keeping the cattle alive and we had to purchase
outside foods, which cost some 80 pounds a month. To-day, after less than
seven years of farming, we are growing some of the biggest crops of
wheat and grass that can be found anywhere in England. This has been
achieved by following the technique already described and by the
exclusive use of organic methods of re-fertilization. Let me say,
however, with all the emphasis at my command, that unless a farmer is
prepared to cultivate thoroughly, he is wasting time and money in
applying manure of any kind to his land. The indispensable forerunner of
manuring must be thorough cultivation and subsoiling. After that we can
talk about applying new fertility to the soil, for it is then in healthy
balance and in a condition to receive added humus to restore and
maintain--and increase amazingly--the fertility of which almost all
land is capable.

The systems of applying organic manure to the land employed at Chantry
are many and various. Again, unless I could allocate a very long chapter
to this one subject, I could not do full justice to it. I will confine
myself, therefore, to outlining broadly two systems of fertility

The first system is to bail the dairy cattle over a mixed fey. The bail
is a movable dairy which travels over the fields and secures an even
distribution of dung and urine. As a system it stands alone in economic
milk production. It also produces milk of T.T. Attested standard--that
is to say, the highest grade. The cattle are controlled by electric
fencing, so that their dung and urine are evenly distributed over the
field. Dairy cattle are fastidious feeders and are given the cream of
the feeding, leaving the folds with much unconsumed food. They are
followed by Galloway beef-breeding cattle, who eat everything as it
comes and clean the leys right down to the ground. Sheep, too, usually
join in this roughage clearing. There is thus left a field covered with
the dung and urine of three types of animals. The bacterial life of dung
and urine of these varying species is important, for it keeps each class
of stock in a balance of health that is truly remarkable. Disease is
nearly absent, I believe, from this farm now as a result of this method
of field-controlled grazing.

At the end of the grazing period the field is harrowed thoroughly,
spreading evenly the pats of manure, and then is rested for a short
time, during which rain doubtless falls; sheet-composting of the area
takes place; worms in thousands visit the surface and draw down below
the dung and waste vegetation, which revivifies the soil by increased
bacterial activity and breeds untold millions of protein-consuming
fungi, moulds, and microbes, all of which--the farmer's best friends and
unpaid labour force--are ready to develop an abundance of those plant
foods which will produce another heavy growth of grass and clovers ready
for further treatment of a similar kind, or a variation of it.

My leys are usually put down for four years. The first year is all
grazing; the second, hay and grazing; the third, hay and grazing; the
fourth, grazing until June, after which it is ploughed, fallowed until
September and then in that month ploughed again. It is then sown with
wheat, and crops up to eighteen sacks per acre may sometimes be expected
from this complete system of farming technique. After wheat a crop of
roots can be taken, followed by oats or barley, after that a fallow
clean until the following July when rye may be sown, then the land may
be grazed until Christmas, and in the spring undersown with a mixture of
grass and legumes somewhat of the following composition and quantities:


Cocksfoot                    10
Timothy                       3
Italian ryegrass              3
Rough-stalked meadow grass    1
Crested dogstail              2
Meadow fescues                2
Common milled sainfoin       10
American sweet clover         4
Hants late-flowering clover   2
S.100 white clover            2
Kidney vetch                  2
Burnet                        3
Chicory                       3

Total (to the statute acre)   47 lb.

It will be observed by any student of botany that here is a mixture of
grass and legumes of unusual character and quantities, but my experience
has shown that it pays well to sow fairly heavily to ensure a good take.
The deep-rooting legumes like sainfoin, sweet clover, kidney vetch,
burnet, and chicory are important for the establishment of a good and
continuous sward. The roots penetrate deeply for lime, minerals, and
trace elements, making these essential materials available for the she 1
lower-rooting grasses, while the nitrogen fixation effected by the
inclusion of sweet clover is, perhaps, the greatest magic of all.
Furthermore, all these plants are Nature's own subsoilers, and once they
are established in the land the necessity for frequent subsoilings with
the subsoiler disappears to a large extent.

Now I come to the second system in the scheme of re-fertilization. This
is composting. I am a great believer in composting. My men believe in it
too, but mostly when someone else is doing the digging and turning. The
digging of farmyard muck out of the heavily trodden stock-yard is the
hardest, most soul-destroying, and most disagreeable work on the farm.
In the old days cheap slave labour from Ireland used to be hired
especially to do this sort of wretched job. The way those Irishmen used
to handle muck was to me a marvel at which I shall never cease to
wonder. But the enlightened English farm worker will not do it, and I
cannot honestly blame him. In this connection I well recall an incident
of a year or two ago. My men had been muck shifting for weeks. We had
moved some 500 tons. It rained and rained; it looked as though it would
never stop raining. Their rubber boots-were leaking and were filled with
squelching liquid manure. One morning they all came to me in open
mutiny. 'Look here,' the leader said, 'if this is the only bloody job
there is on this farm, we're going somewhere else to work.' I
sympathized with them and told them to go to the barn and find work
there until the weather improved. Meanwhile I went to my old
drawing-board and worked upon the designs of a machine to mechanize the
muck heap, a question about which I had been thinking for some time.
When this was completed, I took the result to Messrs. Ransomes & Rapier
Ltd., the famous crane makers of Ipswich, and asked them to make it for
me. They examined my drawing and in due course asked me to call. 'You
have invented something, Mr. Sykes, in this machine. We think we can
help. May we do so, and then let us take out a patent together in
connection with it?' This was agreed, and the Rapier muck shifter is now
on the market and accomplishes by mechanical means the most hated of all
farming jobs. Why it has never been invented before I do not understand!

What does this machine do? Plate XIV shows the machine itself, and its
practical effects on farming technique are quite revolutionary. For
instance, we moved an estimated 400 tons of muck, carted, and spread it
for 32 pounds--a cost of 1s. 8d. per ton. We have never done this by hand
for less than 12s. 6d. per ton: 1,000 tons per year is our output of muck.
Here is a saving of over 500 pounds per annum, which is more than the cost
of the muck shifter.



And here we come to that all-important subject of composting. Composting
by hand on the large scale is indeed terrible in both cost and physical
fatigue. We can now do the turning mechanically at a cost of a few pence
per ton, and we estimate we can turn from 200 to 300 tons per day. Two
things, then, are accomplished here: (1) an enormous saving of cost in
the preparation of farmyard muck in composting, digging, and loading
into carts, and (2) a great saving of time, for we can now do in a few
days what previously took months. A fellow farmer said to me one day,
'If you stop to tot up the cost of farmyard muck from first to last, you
would never put a forkful on to the land; the cost is enormous.' With
the Rapier muck shifter, however, we have now not only eliminated the
high cost of handling and distributing this valuable material back on to
the land, but we have so reduced the costs in comparison with
artificials that economically the latter cannot enter into consideration
any more.

The title of this Appendix, 'Farming for Profit . . .', suggests that my
final words must relate to the profitable character of farming with
organic manures as a whole.

Using all the implements we possess in as effective a way as possible,
grazing our cattle by the system of mixed grazing already described,
making compost with the Rapier muck shifter, as we now do, I can assure
the readers of this book that organic farming is not only profitable,
but even more profitable than farming and re-fertilization with
inorganic manures. There are, of course, still further reasons why
organic fertilization is better. A healthier livestock is produced.
Disease in plants is eliminated. I no longer need to dress my seeds with
mercurial dressings. Poison sprays have no place on the farm. The farm
is entirely self-supporting. Over 250 head of cattle and sometimes many
hundreds of sheep get their living here from food grown on this land.
The horses, too, are home supported. We do not find it necessary to
change our seeds so frequently, perhaps not at all. We are growing the
same wheat here now that we have been growing for six consecutive years.
When we bought it--Vilmarin 27--it was subject to black smut. To-day the
amount of disease which makes its appearance is negligible. The yields
are enormous. And the same results apply to oats and barley.

Lastly, I must refer to wholemeal bread. I wonder how many farmers have
tried wheat grown with muck or compost as compared with wheat grown
entirely with artificials. Not many, I am sure. Then try it. If you have
not got any wheat so grown, send for a sack of our wheat and carry out
the following instructions. Grind it, just as it is, in the Bamford mill
which you doubtless have in your barn. Bake bread from the wholemeal
flour so ground according to the recipe to be found in Mrs. Gordon
Grant's book, Your Daily Bread (Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1944) and
then try your own artificially grown wheat similarly treated, and you
will need no further assurance that wheat grown with muck or compost is
sweeter to eat, more enjoyable, and more sustaining than wheat grown
with the aid of inorganic fertilizers. The incidents I could further
relate, showing the increased food value of organically fertilized
crops, are many--too numerous to fall within the scope of this appendix.

In conclusion may I express the hope that when peace returns,
agriculture may take its proper place in the world of to-morrow and that
a public health system may be founded in the future which will be based
upon a soil in good heart--a soil that will produce life-sustaining food
for both man and beast, which means a soil that is living in every sense
of the word. 'A fertile soil is one rich in humus' (Sir Albert Howard).
'Humus is the product of living matter, and the source of it' (A. Thaer).

Chantry, Chute, Andover. 6th July 1944.


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