Soil Depletion
Even Dirt Needs a Rest

Soil depletion of our country's farmland, meaning the loss of basic nutrients found in rich, black healthy soil, occurs for one reason...overuse.  As the population of a country increases, the demand for food increases.

There are two ways to meet that demand.  The first is to convert more land to growing crops; the other is to farm the existing farmland more intensely.  In the U.S. the land available for agriculture is already under cultivation. 

In flying across the country in an airliner at 20,000 feet, we can look down and see miles after mile of empty land, especially in the southwest and western states.  Why don't we just start farming that?  

The answer usually comes down to a lack of water.  Drought and massive water consumption in major cities are depleting the countries large aquifers at an alarming rate.


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A Lot More to Dirt Than Meets the Eye

The availability of land suitable for the expansion of agriculture is very limited meaning that there is little choice but to farm the existing land very intensely. 

The DVD documentary Dirt is available from Amazon.com and is an intriguing look at the stuff beneath our feet that feeds us.  Click on the "Dirt" icon and be surprised just how cheap this DVD is; it's cheaper than dirt but the value is huge. 

<p>Continuous farming of land season after season, without allowing it to lie fallow periodically, without allowing livestock to graze on it and fertilize it, allows us to fall into a monoculture trap.

Crop Rotation

When crop rotation is no longer practiced and natural farming methods are no longer deemed efficient, soil depletion is the result, meaning a very sterile soil base.  Watch the very short embedded video on why crop rotation is important to avoid soil depletion.

NPK and Not Much Else

The answer to soil depletion from the large commercial corporate farms seems to be a saturation of NPK; Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. 

It grows great looking crops but all we have to do is bite into a commercially farmed tomato and an organically grown tomato and our taste buds will detect which is which immediately.  That is assuming one has ever tasted a real tomato.

The same is true for every commercially grown crop; nice looking produce but lacking in taste and nutrition; no trace minerals, no phytonutrients, and few natural vitamins.

Just Can't Escape Interactions

The science of maintaining soil fertility is extremely complex in that researchers have found just as there are food, drug and herbal interactions in humans, there are also nutrient interactions in soil.

Below are a couple of books that cover the science of soil very well and show how healthy soil can revitalize the world.  Click on the book covers to see if they meet your needs.

A change in the level of one nutrient can often affect the absorption and/or transport of another nutrient within the plant. 

A good analogy is that in humans, vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium but iron retards the absorption of calcium.

Iron can be responsible for a deficiency of zinc and too much zinc can retard the absorption of iron and copper; and Vitamin C and E work better together than separately.

Similarly in plant cultivation, some important nutrient interactions include ammonium-calcium, phosphorus-iron, phosphorus-copper, phosphorus-zinc, and potassium-magnesium-calcium. 

To complicate things even more, nutrient interactions in plants can vary for different plant species. 

Nutrient interactions may be the result of rain or irrigation levels affecting the nutrient content of ground water available for absorption by the plants root system.

No End to Complications

Other complicating factors could be competition for nutrients during uptake, efficiency of transport of nutrients within parts of the plant, or even metabolic function within the plant.

Instead of trying to sort out all the interactions affecting the nutritional content of food crops and soil depletion, why not just strive to eat a balanced diet.  Go for organically grown if possible and supplement with a good quality vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient formula?  It sure simplifies things.  Plant a garden; it does wonders for ones mental state.

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Nevertheless, if anyone wants to give themselves a headache over nutrient disorders in food crops, they could start by visiting the University of Minnesota's Extension Center and doing some not-so-light reading

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