Sustainable agriculture aims to protect the soil's ability to
regenerate nutrients lost when crops are harvested. This regenerative
capacity depends on the diversity, health and vitality of the organisms
that live, grow, reproduce, and die in the soil.
The goal of ecological soil management is to enhance conditions for
the billions of microbes found in every gram of healthy soil. These
microscopic organisms supply plants with the necessary nutrients at the
right time, and in the right form and amount.
The authors describe good management of soil organic matter and
humus to achieve long-lasting soil fertility. These methods include the use
of green manures, crop rotations, on-farm composting, and mineral
fertilizers. Detailed information is given to help the farmer with
everything from collecting soil samples to using practical, on-farm tests
that measure soil structure, water-holding capacity, and fertility.
This guide also tells farmers how to improve their skills of
observation, evaluation and management, as they must when reliance on
purchased inputs is reduced. Specific "how-to" information is given for
monitoring and analysis of many practices, such as application of composts
and manures, interpreting soil test results, and crop responses to
different fertility programs.
In addition to soilbuilding techniques, "The Soul of Soil"
discusses recordkeeping, cultivation, weed control, maintaining nutrient
balances, and soil testing. For those who are considering or have already
implemented organic certification, this book will aid in planning farm
The authors are experienced farmers, farm advisors and writers. Joe
Smillie has worked worldwide as a consultant in ecological agriculture
since 1976. He is co-author of "The Orchard Almanac." Grace Gershuny edited
"Organic Farmer: The Digest of Sustainable Agriculture" from 1990 to 1994,
and recently joined the staff of the USDA's National Organic Program to
implement its accreditation program for organic certification.
"The Soul of Soil" includes many tables, a glossary, lists of
resources, and a bibliography. Published by agAccess, the 158 page book
sells for $16.95, softcover. To order, send a check for the cover price
plus $4.00 shipping & handling (Californians please add 7.25% sales tax) to
agAccess, P.O. Box 2008, Davis, CA 95616. MasterCard, Visa and purchase
orders are accepted. Telephone Monday through Friday 9am to 5:30pm PST and
Saturdays 10am to 4pm PST (916) 756-7177. Email to agaccess @davis.com or
fax to (916) 756-7188.
Free review copies are available to editors or journalists wishing to
review the book for publication. Please send mail (snail or E) to agAccess
for review information and a copy of the book if you are interested.