It’s reported that half the planet’s life-sustaining topsoil now resides under water in rivers and the oceans, not ever to be retrieved. Even the remaining half is not actual topsoil, or at least does not have the full complement of fertility and tilth that characterized the soil that was lost.
Fortunately the lower quality topsoil that remains can be upgraded quickly, but not by turning under large quantities of organic matter, as such tilling depletes the key ingredient of inherently fertile soils – stable humus. Through the decomposition of cover crop roots subsoil will also become part of the topsoil complex. In this manner the original depth of topsoil can eventually be achieved. Food can be produced during this soil building process, using high nitrogen mulch.. Applying natural fertilizers and amendments (surface application) can assist the production of food while such supplements are still affordable and/or available.
Soil loss is not only caused by tilling but tilling in combination with subsoil compaction via heavy machinery. Unable to penetrate compacted subsoil much of the rainfall exits the land, taking valuable topsoil with it, often contributing to river flooding. This water is lost for future use, failing to reach underground storage, which capillary action can bring upwards when needed. Oddly this is a commonly overlooked fact, though extremely important, after all you can’t grow plants, even in fertile soil, without water.
To look at the larger picture, industrial agriculture, by exhausting its resource base, proved unsustainable. Nature has been patient while this lesson is being learned, but now she is telling us that learning time is over and it’s time to apply the knowledge learned. Fortunately we are gaining a lot of information, using computer models to tell us what we must do to keep the planet alive and healthy. Actually we knew a lot about this before accumulating computer data, but apparently we need computer confirmation. The gathered information all points towards returning much of our agricultural land to perennials (grassland and forest) that require no tilling or greenhouse gas-emitting nitrogen fertilizers. Perennials, through photosynthesis, pull in carbon dioxide, storing it in its branches (trees and shrubs) and soil (in the form of stable humus), - the only feasible way to sequester large quantities of carbon. At the present time two-thirds of all arable land is used to grow monocultures of annual grains, resulting in an increase in carbon emissions. Until perennial grains enter the picture diets would need to become more vegetable based. Growing annuals (vegetables) comes closest to the soil building feature of perennials if the soil is not tilled. An increase in large, contiguous areas of unspoiled Nature, with its great diversity of flora and fauna, is needed to stop the now occurring imploding of the earth’s ecosystem Once much of our farmlands are thus converted and balance restored in our air and oceans, agriculture can concentrate on food production.
The largest vegetable growing “farms” in the US are in drought prone areas where water sources are dwindling. Such lands will not be suitable much longer for growing water-hungry vegetables. There is sufficient land to meet all our food needs around and within our cities and towns, thus minimizing transportation costs and food spoilage. Though our major food-producing areas would come from lands surrounding our towns, even suburban yards could be food-producing, with gardeners hired to do the gardening, as many home-owners now hire out yard maintenance. If these “edible landscapes” were gardened the no-till way mowed lawns would remain to produce needed mulch, though some shrubs and trees might have to be sacrificed. To make one’s yard available for gardening would overcome a major stumbling block for young gardeners – finding affordable land. During the winter season in temperate zones fresh vegetables would still need to come from warmer climes.
The question is what will initiate the shift from industrial agriculture to agroecology, which adapts the principles of Nature to farming systems? Perhaps climate change and mass extinctions, foreshadowing our own, will wake us up. However maybe even staring into the face of these realities will not wake us up. A common idea is that we must somehow quickly evolve, meaning improve our egos, to save civilization. There is another view coming from someone appearing recently who is seated in Reality. He tells us that evolution of the ego is a false notion and this false view has created an ego-culture which, He says, will ultimately not be survivable. All of us are, in fact, and always have been, already seated in Reality. We are simply asleep to that fact and it is the ego that is responsible for our asleep state. Thus a life purposed to transcending the ego, rather than ego-aggrandizement or fulfillment, is what must be understood and acted upon. This wise one tells us, when awake, the essential unity of existence and intrinsic value of all life forms will be our everyday experience. This is His Reality and He has given Himself as our Resource in this matter of self-transcendence.