The emphasis on encouraging soil life is not unique to the primer of Dr. Ingham, recently published on the Hare Krishna Rural Life website (https://www.hkrl.org/soil-life-primer-dr-e-ingham). The organic movement has long been aware of the natural processes of managing fertility; however, Ingham has evolved it to a higher level.
Over twenty years ago, conventional agriculture introduced a program of no-till farming. This entailed primary and secondary tillage (ploughing, cultivating, harrowing, etc.) being replaced by the use of herbicides for weed control.
One benefit is reduced travel across fields resulting in lowering energy inputs of fuel and time. Eliminating moldboard ploughing minimizes plow pan (compaction) which aids the soil’s long-term vitality.
To undertake this program, large, heavy equipment (planters, seed drills, etc.) are required for the planting of seed without plowing. It is estimated that conventional no-till use is employed on about 40% of conventional fields in the U.S., varying by region, rainfall and crop.
It is noteworthy that a component of no-till agriculture is the neglect of plowdowns. Organic matter nourishes the countless living entities residing under our feet and their neglect results in addiction to industrial fertilizers.
Its downside is the excessive use of deadly herbicides to burn off competing weeds. This is a real problem since one side effect of these poisons is the reduction of beneficial soil organisms, which are responsible for naturally liberating soil fertility.
It has been a stretch since I worked in the organic food industry as a farm inspector. But it is notable, even at the time, that the regional agriculture ministry (OMAF) set a goal of reducing groundwater contamination through farm inputs by 50%. So, they were aware of the problem even before no-till planting became popular.
One criticism, encountered during inspections, was that organic farming was denigrated as simply replacing conventional fertilizers and biocides with diesel fuel, based upon the number of passes over the field while preparing a seedbed.
This isn’t 100% accurate as organic farmers typically reduce tillage through the use of cover cropping, under- and over-seeding, frost-seeding, crop rotation, improved implements, agroforestry and use of pasture and hay crops -- which ultimately deliver the same benefits of no-till -- without the deadly side effect.
However, Dr. Ingham has evolved an organic no-till approach by implanting crops into an existing ground cover characterized by a low growth habit. Full details of her program are unknown to me at this time; however, her organic no-till method is enthralling and should be a fundamental component of self-sufficient agriculture within the Hare Krishna movement.
Biological agriculture shatters the impersonal dictate of man over nature by employing natural living processes and elements. The system delivers self-perpetuating fertility, disease control, soil tilth and sustainability through support of a dynamic soil population.
It provides additional significance to the followers of Srila Prabhupada, as it provides a practical understanding of the “Life Comes from Life” principle and how it is energized. It is an important illustration of how creation is controlled via Paramatma through the earth’s biotic component.
On our quest to develop rural communities, this understanding of how life comes from life, must be understood and employed as a foundation of a spiritual lifestyle.
Soil life is the basic building block of food self-sufficiency -- which makes the information contained in the Soil Life Primer -- an essential component of our rural community. It is a reflection of reality and worthy of adoption into our agrarian lives and farm practice.