THE SOIL WORKS IT SELF
- THE NATURAL WAY OF FARMING
THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF GREEN PHILOSOPHY
WRITTEN BY MASANOBU FUKUOKA
TRANSLATED BY FREDERIC P.METREAUD.
THE SOIL WORKS IT SELF
The soil lives of its own accord and plows it self. It
needs no help from man. Farmers often talk of "taming the soil" and of
a field becoming "mature" but why is it that trees in mountain forest
grow to such magnificent heights without the benefit of hoe or
fertilizer, while the farmers' fields can grow only puny crops?
Has the farmer ever gives any careful thoughts to what
plowing is? Has he not trained all his attention on a thin surface
layer and neglected to consider what lies below that?
Trees grows where it can thrive to its great size, mixed woods rise up
where mixed woods must, and pine trees germinate and grow in places
suited for pine trees. One does not see pines growing at the bottom of
a valley or cedar seedlings taking root on mountain tops. One type of
fern grows on infertile land and another in areas of deep soil. Plants
that normally grow along the water's edge are not found on mountain
tops, and terrestrial plants do not thrive in the water. Although
apparently without intent or purpose, these plants know exactly where
they can and should grow.
Man talks of "the right crop for the right land" and does
studies to determine which crops grow well where. Yet research has
hardly touched upon such topics as the type of parent rock and soil
structure suited to mandarin orange trees, or the physical, chemical,
and biological soil structures in which persimmon trees, grow well.
People plant trees and sow seed without having the faintest idea and
of what the parent rock on their land is and without knowing anything
about the structure of the soil. It is no wonder than that farmers
worry about how their crops are going to turn out.
In the mountain forests, however, concerns over the physical
and chemical compositions of the top soil and deeper strata are
nonexistent; without the least help from man, nature creates the soil
conditions sufficient to support dense stands of towering trees. In
nature, the very grasses and trees ,and the earthworms and moles in
the ground, have acted the part of plow horse and oxen, completely
rearranging and renewing the soil. What can be more desirable to the
farmer than being able to work the fields without pulling a plow or
swinging a hoe? Let the grasses plow the topsoil and the trees work
the deeper layers. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of how much wiser
it is to entrust soil improving to the soil and plant growth to the
inherent powers of plants.
People transplant saplings without giving a thought as to what
they are doing. They graft a scion to the stock of another species or
clip the roots of a fruit sapling and transplant it. From this point
on, the roots cease to grow straight and lose ability to penetrate
hard rock. During transplanting, even a slight entanglement of the
tree's roots interferes with the normal growth of the first generation
of roots and weakens the tree's ability to send roots deep into the
soil. Applying chemical fertilizers encourages the tree to grow a
shallow roots structure that extends along the topsoil. Fertilizer
application and weeding bring a halt to the normal aggregation and
enrichment of topsoil. Clearing new land for agriculture by pulling up
trees and bushes robs the deeper layers of the soil of a source of
humus, halting the active proliferation of soil microbes. These very
actions are what make plowing and turning the soil necessary in the
There is no need to plow or improve a soil because nature has
been working at it with its own methods for thousands of years. Man
has restrained the hand of nature and taken up the plow himself. But
this is just man imitating nature. All he has really gained from this
is mastery at scientific exposition.
No amount of research can teach man everything there is to
know about the soil, and he will certainly never create soils more
perfect than those of nature. Because nature itself is perfect If
anything, advances in scientific research teach man just how perfect
and complete a handful of soil is, and how incomplete human knowledge.
We can either choose to see the soil as imperfect and take
hoe hand, or trust the soil and leave the business of working it to
Typed by Raju Titus
Natural farmer of India