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Keeping Soil Clean is the Key for Successful Nature Farming/Gardening.


Terry Sato


Why Chemical Fertilizers Are Bad?

Why can you grow veggies without chemical fertilizers and pesticides? I’ve been asked this question many times.  What would you say to answer to it? Because of the sun? water?

It is important to clarify the reasons we don’t use chemical fertilizers. We should also understand that plants can grow naturally without them. Don't undervalue the power of nature.  Let's take a look for the answer in the words of Okada Mokichi, who was the founder of Nature Farming:

"Soil Itself Is Fertilizer," by Okada Mokichi, Founder of Nature Farming

  • "Soil is made to produce enough food for feeding humans."
  • "First and foremost, do not pollute the soil, and keep it clean, pure."
  • "Human’s love for the soil and respect to it, will surprisingly enhance its potential innate energy." (1949, 1952, 1954)

Okada said that when the Creator made the earth, soil was made to produce enough food for humans to support. You don’t need any additional fertilizers as long as you keep it clean and pure.  The soil potential is maximized when human works in harmony with the law of universe.

Chemical fertilizers, on the other hand, work as contaminant to destroy the natural ecosystem (details explained later).  What humans can do is to keep soil clean, not to pollute it by using any chemicals, but to work for maximizing the potential power of soil.  In order to do so, you need to love and respect it, and follow the way it is.

Okada began his experiments in 1935, and published books in 1949 through 1954. Studying them thoroughly, I didn’t understand quite well what he was talking about, especially the part of “LOVE SOIL”; however, in later years, many scientists worked on various things about soil, soil organisms, especially microorganisms. They gave good explanations for what Okada meant, and that what he said was very reasonable, and true. Let us explore more about it.

Soil is Alive

Soil is not just physical material, but it is a living thing.  

If you look at soil, the physical part was basically made of rock powders, humus, and organisms. When plants drop leaves, twigs, and other material to the ground, it piles up. With animals’ remains, all these decompose over time. Thus, humus is created. 

But what makes it decompose?  

It is Soil Organisms: animals, and microorganisms; some of them are not visible to human naked eyes. But they are alive. 

In soil, those soil organisms are slowly moving, changing and growing all the time. Just like other living things, soil breathes and needs air and water to stay alive. Just like your pet.  If you love dogs, they happily respond. If you love good microbes in soil, they also positively respond.   USDA provides good information on "Soil is Alive."

Taking good care of Soil is to "Love it."

"Love soil" means, by Okada, taking good care of it.

What you do at Nature Farming is that it is your job to set up an environment for good microbes to easily work with so that they can regenerate and ferment soil, and produce antioxidants for maintaining its health.  Healthy, living soil provides us with our everyday needs.

What makes soil healthy, then?  It is well-balanced diversity.  Various kinds of soil animals working together in order to produce, regenerate a better environment.  On the process, fermentation occurs, and antioxidants are produced.

You might probably be aware, by now, that there are good microbes and bad ones to humans: good ones give us life, whereas bad ones harm us. In between, opportunistic bacteria exist and they decide which side they will be on depending on the situation at that time. It is human's responsibility to encourage those opportunistic ones to support the good guys, and create an environment for the good microbes to get predominant to the bad ones.

Of all good and bad microbes to humans, by the way, those good ones are considered as very sensitive to human minds, LOVE!. You might not be able to believe this but I think it is true from my experience, and many organic farmers can agree with this idea. If you take good care of them, they will get activated more and more.  

Taking good care means that you take all means to naturally enhance the soil potential, for example, mulching, applying kitchen compost, ...etc.  You will learn all kinds of methods through my blog articles.  Gardening without the use of any chemicals might require more work to do, but you will get more joy in your life.

Imbalance causes diseases and bug damages

On the other hand, the loss of good bacteria, or predominance of bad ones creates imbalance of the diversity of ecosystem, eventually causes diseases and bug damage.  Thus putrefaction occurs and oxidation begins.  The imbalances can be contributed by the use of chemical fertilizers.

Diversity in Soil is balanced and maintained by the Natural Process

Okada said that "Soil is made to produce enough food for feeding humans if you keep it clean and pure." Let’s look at part of the ecosystem, how it provides nutrition to plants.

Because of the soil organisms and microorganisms, as you see the above, piled twigs, leaves, dung, carcasses are broken down into small particles by the decomposers, soil animals, organisms and microorganisms.  Those broken down particles are taken into plants as nutrition. This is the regular Natural Process in nature.

Chemical Fertilizer Incapacitates the 'Decomposers' in Soil

The regular process of decomposition, when chemical fertilizers are applied, becomes meaningless because the main nutrition, synthesized nitrogen, is absorbed directly by the plants.  The workers in the regular natural process of decomposition, lose their jobs.  Thus all those soil organisms die because of its unnecessity.  

Applying Chemicals Causes Biodiversity Loss, Deforestation.

By hearing "nitrogen is directly absorbed by plants," some might say, “How efficient it is!”  ”That’s marvelous progress of science!”   However, this is the exact problem. 

The workers in the regular process of decomposition, lose their jobs, meaning, in the Nature, they die and disappear.  Obviously they cannot change jobs like human.  As a result, biodiversity gets lost, and deforestation, topsoil outflow, desertification happens.  This is what it is meant by "Chemicals destroy the natural ecosystem, namely the earth."  Another resource about the advantages and disadvantages of Synthetic Fertilizers.

Restore Healthy Ecosystem by "Loving Soil."

Look at the world now.  Pollutions are observed everywhere.  This means that the important role the beneficial microorganisms play in the healthy ecosystem gets lost, and then nobody cares about purifying it. That is why the healthy environment changes to a polluted one.  

This is exactly what is happening in the world. This is the most serious problem of modern agriculture. Not only chemical fertilizers, but also pesticides and herbicide application has reduced beneficial microorganisms in the soil, creating a putrefactive state, which causes diseases and adverse effects that is preferable to harmful insects. In this way, the soil loses the original function to produce enough food for humans.

We have to care about purifying the environment to restore the healthy ecosystem like Okada said, "Love Soil."  This is for human and everyone in the ecosystem to survive.

Chemicals attract bugs??

Okada said, "Soil is the fertilizer itself, and as long as keeping it clean and pure, loving it, it manifests its original potential to produce enough food for humans."  Also, Okada pointed out an interesting phenomenon below.

"As soon as the crop absorbs chemical fertilizer, it becomes toxic, and becomes food for pests that cause infestation. (1949, 1952)."

This means the chemical fertilizer is the one that attracts pests and disease. Moreover, it can be interpreted that pests come to eat the toxic foods so that humans do not have to eat them (!), which is fantastic for humans (don't you agree?)  When I first heard it, I said to myself, “What is he talking about?” But now I understand why, because there are many researchers started saying about the negative impact of chemical fertilizers.

Aphids Love Nitrogen

As you see in this diagram above, synthesized nitrogen is to be absorbed by the plants. There is recent research data showing that aphids will come in search of nitrogen. They really like it.

Aphids are attracted to a plant high in nitrogen. You can observe in your garden that Aphids tend to come to young seedlings and soft growing parts. It is because everything growing requires a lot of nitrogen intake.  

It sounds like what Okada stated 70 years ago was proven. 

Nitrogen can cause serious health issues

Furthermore, that nitrogen, nitrite ion, or sodium nitrite, flows into underground waterways.  We, who drink it, take it into our body on a daily basis without knowing it.

Also, it’s been now known in the last ten years that sodium nitrite is an oxidizing agent that can cause hypotension, and affect our blood stream in terms of delivering oxygen into our body. It can turn hemoglobin, which carries oxygen, into methemoglobin, which cannot carry oxygen. High levels can cause cyanosis, hypoxia, altered consciousness, dysrhythmias, and death.

We take in those nitrogen, causing such health damage,  through not only water but also conventionally grown vegetables.

Mother Nature Balances Necessary Nutrients for Plants

Even in organic farming, nitrogen is produced as needed. The idea of natural farming, however, is that nature controls the amount, so it will not be produced more than necessary. In fact, we do not hear reports of groundwater pollution damage, such as excessive nitrogen, from fields and paddy fields where Nature Farming is practiced.  In other words, as the nitrogen is produced as much as the crops need and absorb it, the balance is maintained by the function of the soil and microorganisms so that excess nitrogen does not remain in the soil.

Create an Agro-Ecosystem where Chemical Fertilizers are Not Necessary

In summary, as we have discussed so far, chemical, synthetic fertilizers are toxic, and can cause serious health problems. Also they can cause imbalance in the ecosystem, and they malfunction the activities of good microbes in the soil, which also contribute to biodiversity loss, deforestation and desertification.

     Recent research shows that the excessive application of nitrogen can cause bug damage.

Okada said, "Soil itself is fertilizer," meaning you don't need to add the chemical fertilizers. All you have to do is to keep it clean and pure. The soil potential is maximized when humans work in harmony with the laws of the universe. 

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