Wendy Sue Harper
The foundation of organic Ag Comes from work done by Sir Albert Howard published in An Agricultural Testament in 1940 in England and The Soil And Health: The Study of Organic Agriculture published in 1947. His work compared organic soil fertility management to the conventional materials of the day. He brought the Indore method of composting to the west. However, it is in his writings where he examines the connection between soil fertility management with organic materials and the health of crops, and livestock and people who eat the crops. He believed some type of immunity passed from healthy soil to plants and then to people and livestock. This connection of healthy plants to healthy soil is the historical foundation of organic agriculture.
Scientific work shows the interconnectedness of healthy plants to healthy soils, and especially to soil microbial communities. Soil microbes live inside the cortex of roots. Plant exudates simulate and feed microbial communities in their rhizospheres. Plants can take up antibiotic produced by soil microbes and use them in their defense systems. There is even research that shows released corn bore moths chose corn plants grown in soil with poor organic matter management (statically significant) over those grown in soil with well managed organic matter in a randomized block design in a greenhouse. Soil organic matter management an healthy soil is the foundation of an organic farmer’s pest management system.
Antagonistic soil microbes are stimulated by additions of organic matter. These organisms can suppress some diseases in the soil; this disease suppression lasts about 6 months. Sometimes These antagonist soil microorganisms can even turn on the immune systems of plants—sometimes. This system-acquired resistance can immunize plants to some diseases. There is much we do not know about these interactions, and of course, more research is needed.
Organic matter management is the foundation of organic farming. Organic materials feed and stimulate soil microorganisms. The health of the soil is the foundation of crop and livestock health and the heart of organic farming.