When the world measures its agricultural success by the number of soil
microbes in its subsoil, instead of by the amount of food produced and the
acres of wildlife preserved, then Charles Benbrook's fixation on subsoil
creatures may become valid.
Until soil microbes become an end in themselves, however, soil quality will
be a means (though a very important means) toward an end -- sustaining as
much food production as possible on the fewest acres.
Even then, Benbrooke may find that his chemical-free preference runs a poor
second to no-till/precision farming. I talked with researchers in Canada
this winter who reported 100 times as many earthworms per acre on a field
which had been no-tilled for 20 years as on the plowed field next door.
(They also noted a large increase in subsoil microbial activity, but counting
it was outside the parameters of their study.)
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Director, Center for Global Food Issues