Author Topic: We Want Real Food


We Want Real Food
« on: May 14, 2008 »

We Want Real Food
Why our food is deficient in minerals and nutrients - and what we can do about it
by Graham Harvey

from the book:
Of the more visible players in the drama, earthworms are the stars. Charles Darwin wrote his final book on the subject of earthworms. He showed that the collapse and partial burial of many of the great monumental stones at Stonehenge had been the result of earthworm activity over many centuries.

Britain has twenty-five species, of which ten are common. An earthworm can live for up to five years, ingesting many times its own weight of soil each day. In doing so it creates a network of pores, which improve drainage and soil aeration. Along the walls it secretes calcium-rich mucus, and from time to time it expels casts containing a range of plant nutrients. Plant roots snake their way through these underground channels, making good use of the nutrient-rich deposits so conveniently left for them.

If earthworms are the stars of the larger soil animals, there are many others playing supporting roles. Among them are soil arthropods, including mites, springtails and beetles. This group is important in breaking up organic wastes and starting off the process of nutrient recycling.

For all its savage competition, the soil acts almost as a single organism spread across the land surface of the planet. Within it the ceaseless building up and breaking down of living matter accumulates minerals and locks them in the system to they are not leached away in the groundwater. And it creates humus, the group of long-chain carbon compounds, which links with clay particles to form a fine, crumb structure. In short, it maintains the perfect conditions for terrestrial life.

Down through the ages - with no knowledge of science - farmers have striven to build up the life of their soils. The more active the life of the soil the greater the store of nutrients for crop growth. In a fertile pasture producing meat or milk, there'll be at least twice the weight of 'stock' below ground than there is grazing on the surface vegetation.

In the ancient wisdom of the fields, farmers have always known this. The return of animal and plant wastes as manure and compost was aimed at stimulating the life of the soil. Bacteria and soil fungi need a constant flow of organic material to work on or their numbers will quickly fall. When this happens, nutrients are lost from the system. In extreme cases the structure breaks down.