Why Ploughing is Detrimental to Health
A comparative study made by Good Gardeners International
(reg. Charity 255300)
Radha Krsna das ACBSP
Note: all comparative photos in this article were taken at the same time in the same year, 2017.
I was walking with the field agronomist on the neighbouring 42 ha. field yesterday at Shenley Park and discussing with him how modern agriculture has bred three fourths of the fertiliser out of their own crops. “How?” he said, “Because they have bred short straw varieties which were originally four feet high” I replied.
Yes, I can remember on my Father’s farm the grain used to sway in the wind up to four feet high and we didn’t have the lodging problem experienced by so many farmers, because they added too much nitrogen trying to always get maximum gain out of the soil.
They claim they have bred short straw varieties to increase yield and because of lodging. This is the falling over of the grain and rotting in the field due to high winds and heavy rainfall. But the truth is that they have tried to exploit too high a yield by adding too much nitrogen. This in turn weakens the plant and the top heavy grain ears weigh down and will collapse when high winds or heavy rains come. Previous long stem varieties did not lodge because they had no artificial nitrogen added and because the soil structure was good and the roots went down to a much greater depth. Today’s root structure and quality of grain, of the modern varieties, leave much to be desired.
The deep mouldboard plough was invented in the west to turn Prairie into arable land. It only needs to be used once to do this, then with proper soil management it is not needed again.
The claim is that heavy land has to be ploughed to lighten it up, to allow the frost in to break up the soil and to improve drainage. After this operation, which incidentally brings up stones from the shale layer, in soils that have a lower shale layer, from the thousands of years natural formation from the rock substrate below and which have unnaturally been brought to the surface. These stones would naturally be converted into top soil by the natural action of time and weather if only left alone. On the surface they form like concrete with the heavy clay that has also been brought up by the plough.
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After ploughing which on heavy soils brings clay to the surface too, you have to further cultivate the soil by discing and harrowing and because you have brought so much air into the system you have then to roll it to compress in the seed that you sow, so as to make a good capillary action, or wicking action, to get soil moisture to make contact with the seed. None of this is necessary with the No Dig Good Gardening and farming system.
The opposite is actually true when you plough. You destroy the soil structure and destroy the crumb structure of the soil. The crumb structure is the space between each soil particle that is crushed by the heavy iron plough. (Kali Yuga is the age of iron and steel and concrete) Ploughing with the iron plough also destroys the soil structure, or the soil profile, the delicate formation of channels and pathways created by the myriad of wildlife present in healthy soil and the appropriate layers of decomposing surface organic matter that falls on the surface (Nature). This also destroys the miraculous drainage capacity offered by these creatures. Waterlogging can be the result which kills the roots of plants. Ploughing cools the earth down rather than warming it up, as it exposes the lower layers to the atmosphere and wind and rain get in thus cooling it down. Each half a degree in temperature decrease affects subsequent crop germination. The frost gets in rather than being kept out by the insulating properties of a good mulch cover from the previous harvest which is left on the surface with a dressing of compost. So over winter you get a much colder start for the crops, which slows down germination and inhibits the ultimate harvest potential.
“You should clean the soil after a harvest”. This is the western concept and takes away the valuable worm food that worms thrive on and digest – but they can only do this when it is in a rotten condition. Life comes from Life. And decaying life forms the basis for that which is about to take birth again. (recycling)
Not only that. Earthworms are killed by the heavy metal plough that cuts deep through the soil and turns over the turf to bury the weeds. Birds pick off large numbers too (if worms are present) And if you don’t use weed killer, the plough cuts the weed roots up and spreads them more and more for the coming years. Thus making a toxic carpet of often sour weeds, which do not improve the land, rather they make it sour (Howard) and take away the sweetness that is afforded by good soil management.
Those worms that aren’t killed or picked off by birds have all their worm eggs displaced, which causes chaos in the subterranean world which must be a consideration for a true environmentalist who does not wish to see Nature or wildlife unnaturally disturbed and should be encouraged to proliferate at their natural rate. The saying goes. One year seeded, seven years weeded.
If you plough this again in the spring to get rid of these weeds you will end up with crops smothered and inhibited by even more weeds
This all increases the acidity of the soil and lowers the population of the humble earth worm which is trying to do its natural job in Nature by breeding prolifically by greatly improving drainage and increasing fertility with their worm casts. They also take down decomposing organic matter to the right depth for further decomposition and will survive and breed in profusion if the soil is kept warm and undisturbed.
On our farm we have worms breeding all the year round in our undisturbed soil and we are trying to achieve what Howard called ‘Land in good heart’. Howard worked with Darwin on this and they claimed that you can have as many as 16 million earthworms per acre in really fertile soil.
Agriculturalsciencetellsusthatworms produce five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and eleven times more potassium than is found in surrounding soil.
(Lady Eve Balfour, The Living Soil, nine editions and co founder of the Soil Association). Providing a mulch cover over winter if it can be found or afforded really warms up the earth even more and you can visibly see the myriad of worm castings under these mulching sheets when they are lifted. So by actively decreasing worms populations by ploughing and cooling down their breeding grounds we are decreasing the natural productivity of the soil. So what do we do? Add tons and tons of cow dung in a raw compressed state with undecomposed straw in it. This is a classic example of overworking the soil (Howard, Lost Science of Organic Cultivation) and expecting it to digest this material and at the same time grow a crop. (Howard) It especially can’t digest this raw material when it is being turned upside down and placed in anaerobic conditions which prevents the faster action of aerobic decomposition above ground. Worms only eat vegetation that has got to a certain state of decomposition. They do not eat living plants or fresh vegetation (Lord Brahma).
The answer to this major dilemma is composting which is the fastest way to get the waste materials including sanitation waste into the right condition to be digested by earthworms so that the next crop can be grown without overworking the soil. With this HH-2 equipment you can include all cooked and uncooked food waste, left over Prasad etc., This all falls within modern day health and safety regulations because the system is rat proof and fly proof and there is no run off.
If you put raw organic matter on infertile soil nothing will happen or if you dispose of it in the woods it will just stay there and attract rats. Fifth Canto says All things from the Earth should be returned to the Earth. But we understand this to mean in the right condition.
Consider the Earth like a child. If you don’t properly feed a child it will not develop into its full capacity. If you feed a child properly it will have full cognitive development and develop to his or her full capacity (Crawford, Institute of Brain Chemistry).
This nutrition will set us up for life and will greatly help us in old age. Good nutrition will ensure we have a far less painful exit from this world. So actually to improve the health of the population who live on the produce of the soil we must not plough it. Ploughing also destroys the mycorrhiza fungi that transfer the nutrients from soil to the root hairs of crops (Dr. Claire Rayner, 1931) Once ploughed this fungi takes two years to re-establish itself (Rodale Institute, USA, 2014). These are the scientific results of compost farming. Also a report by DEFRA, UK, 2007 says that the keeping power of vegetables is dependant upon their mineral content. We have kept courgettes for three months or more.
We see in the ancient literature of India Lord Balaram has been casually leaning on his scratch plough throughout all eternity, this must surely tell us something. It is made easy for us in picture form. He is not pictured holding a mouldboard plough. He is holding a scratch plough. Not only was the scratch plough used for killing demons, but he used it to till the ground to produce grains by trundling over the surface of the ground and Krsna took care of the cows and the milking of the cows. It’s all in the Hare Krsna mantra…. It is said everything is contained within this mantra.
Health comes from the soil. We are what we eat. We read in the fourth canto that minerals and fertilisers come from the hills. This means from extinct volcanoes where there are outcrops of Basalt rock which contain 72 listed minerals and trace elements (Good Gardeners,1968). Today the soils of the world are depleted and lacking in these constituents therefore to replenish soil and our health we must seek out these valuable commodities and engage them in the service of the Lord and His devotees. Otherwise why is this included in the Srimad Bhagavatam? If we treat the soil badly, we treat ourselves badly. Mother Nature is the shadow of the Supreme Lord.
Volcanic rock dust is part of our formulation of HH-4, A PLANT
We have the backing of spiritual authority (Srimad Bahagavatam) regarding the adding of minerals and fertilisers and not to dig the soil but rather use scratch implements (pictured left). These implements only till the very surface of the soil, thus not destroying soil structure, soil crumb structure or worm drainage channels. This is extremely scientific and Howard called it The Post Graduate study of Agriculture. It is now becoming the prefered method of modern sustainable farmers all over the world.
We also have the material authority… of top London doctors namely professor Michael Crawford who is chair of the Institute of Brain Chemistry http://ibchn.org.uk/team.html and of the Mother and Child Foundation http://motherandchildfoundation.net/
Professor Crawford came to visit our farm with his men and fully supports our methods of agriculture. He ran a hospital in Uganda for thirty years and they were doing a similar system as we are today. He also tells us that they were adding the sewage residues, after processing, back to the land. This is also what Srila Prabhupada said we should do. This is listed in a previous paper. ‘The Tollygunge Compost Factory’. Which was presented to the entire GBC,. in 1995 on my discovery of Howard’s work.
Professor Crawford’s contention is that if the nutritional content of our food decreases, as it has because our soils are depleted, what we can expect is poorer and poorer states of mental health. This he says in his lectures, is the world’s greatest fear. Only by proper recycling and good gardening and agricultural methods can these nutrient levels be reinstated and maintained. The professor’s comment on our farm was “What you are doing is in a sense revolutionary and at the same time traditional.” http://www.themotherandchildfoundation.org/ see this link to HH-2
Crop increases and weed decreases with no digging
Howard always said that you can get 300% increase in crop production with this method of fertility making. This we have seen time and time again on our humble one acre demo farm and it is achieved with surface cultivation for weed control.
If you want to scale this up as I mention in my release of The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation you either need more people or more machines but you can’t do it with neither.
His Holiness Smita Krsna maharaj and
His Grace Gurudas visit the Well End project.
So there we have it. Don’t plough the soil for all these reasons. Because a quick fix to heavy cropping is the desire, regardless to the condition of the land it is on a parallel with modern industrial farming and this is talked about in the famous book by Jacks and White of 1939.
If one man owns hundreds of acres and farms it with one man on a tractor he will make loads of money, only made possible by exploiting the blood of the earth (oil). Because modern civilization is trying to exploit all the resources of material Nature and always get maximum gain by overworking the soil and by adding chemicals (also oil based products) he is not considering the future of fertility IE., for his children and their children. This is the road to starvation. And Howard says ‘the time of reckoning is not far off.’ As soil depletes all over the world by bad agricultural practice and loss of valuable carbon through ploughing – millions of tons of topsoil are lost each year. This will lead to poverty and suffering. People move to cities in vast numbers as they cannot see a way to make a living off the land. This is encouraged by the industrialists and architects etc., This will not help as where is sufficient food going to come from to feed the growing population? It comes from the soil. It is only shortsightedness and the greed to control people, land and seed production etc., that will cause the suffering of the future.
View over our Well End farm
If there is no one to take responsibility for the land and produce food in a sustainable way no amount of intellectuals will save you.
If mankind cannot devise and enforce ways of dealing with the Earth, which will preserve the source of life, we must look forward to a time, remote though it may be, yet clearly discernible when our kind having wasted its inheritance will fade from the earth because of the ruin it has accomplished. (Professor N.S. Shaler, Harvard University, 1896)
The prediction of Lord Caitanya is that the chanting of Hare Krsna will spread to every town and village.
If we do come to understand the importance of the soil as the substratum of all that is living as depicted by the authorities we have mentioned we will be able to prosper both in physical and mental health and have longer in this body to develop our relationship with Krishna.
We hope the word will spread that we are offering this facility to all temples so they can create a space where this kind of farming can go on to produce food of the highest quality that may be offerable to Krsna.
It is our desire as Good Gardeners of the soul and of this planet to help support the Vedic Care Charity (www.VedicCare.org) and provide the devotees of the Lord who have given their lives to serve the mission of Lord Caitanya with a peaceful and caring atmosphere in which they can leave this world and go back to Krsna.
The Living Soil, Lady Eve Balfour, nine editions, 1943, is considered a seminal classic in organic agriculture and the organic movement.
The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation by Sir Albert Howard and Radha Krsna das, 1996 an update of Howard’s earlier work entitled the Waste Products of Agriculture, 1931
The Rape of the Earth, Jacks and White, 1939, references to how ploughing caused the dust bowls of the USA.
Ploughmans Folly, Edward Faulkner, 1951, seven editions
Support by Professor Crawford, President of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and the Mother and Child Foundation, Imperial College London.
Srimad Bhagavatam, Krsna-Dvaipayana Vyasa.