Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose
Photo: Journey Worker Productions, CC SA 3.0 (C)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Review of ´Soil Food´

Some notes of Jackie French´s ¨Soil Food¨, Melbourne: Aird pr. 1995, ISBN 0947214445; viii; 181pp + ind. 4pp.

Jackie French is a notable Australian author of organic/conservation/sustainability themed works I have mentioned before here - her book on natural pest management for example. In this older work, she addresses how to add fertility to soils.

The book is quite good, although like her other works, it contains a 1. manageable amount of scientific research, 2. quite useful tips and tactics (in this work adding nutrients and structure to soil), her own historical anecdotes, 3. tips and tactics apt for orchard/farm sized operations, and 4. some personal (and sometimes annoyingly didactic) political-social observations.

Its worth getting for the mix of the 1 and 2 (and 3 if appropriate), and sucking up the presence of 4. If you´ve read a good work on soil structure, 1. will be a light reminder, but otherwise it is a bit too light to be the only thing to rely on. Get a guide to soil structure science/ecosystems and spend an hour with it and cover it properly.

The chapters are: intro, intro to soil deficiencies, what plants need what nutrients and minerals, fertilisers (organic vs artificial), green manure, manure, compost, mulch, test cases - 10 plots and how to feed them.

I am about half way through, reading chapter 4, which is what I bought it for - on green manures. This is where you grow a crop and then slash it to mulch for things growing around it. The book details combinations to grow together, which is really very precise and well written. (This is also a sort of mulch strategy; she is generally very good on mulch strategies)

Ch 4 on fertilisers is also very good. Her position on artificial fertilisers is that they are a bandaid for an emergency terrible situation that is dire, and shouldnt be used for regular, general use, and that their bandaid function should be respected. I think this is reasonable, although one has to recognise (and the book does this but not explicitly enough) that in the absence of the sort of techniques and care she advocates, there will be a drift of commercial agriculture to needing more and more bandaids! The book is mostly practical in its orientation (fair enough) there is not really a focus on comparing systems of agriculture and land on-dwelling (what post-Lockean world calls ´land use´). And that´s ok: the value of the book is what is says on particular tactics.

I will write more when Ive

No comments:

Post a Comment