File Under: Bad Religious Dogma - or would that be Fogma ?
What if Agriculture after World War II had the same blank Cheque funding for it's own 'Manhattan Project', instead of going down the Green Revolution path brought to us by today's Toxic Know-It-Alls ?
See this guy over here on the right ? He is Agricultural Ecologist, Dr Jerry Glover who with the help of photographer Jim Richardson of the National Geographic Society and Sculptor Steve Tobin known for his nature exhibits put together a beautiful underground visual of what root systems in healthy pristine prairie soils actually look like. In so doing, they revealed an unknown hidden world and understanding of a complex root infrastructure that the average person above ground couldn't possibly otherwise visualize or imagine. But for the moment, I'd like to explain why most soils don't actually look like this in nature anymore. Mostly, the reason soils today are in poor condition has to do with the so-called scientific modern day enlightenment which has since 1914 -WWI (but especially since 1950), tried indoctrinate all of us into accepting how & why nature is so horribly flawed, badly designed, terribly inefficient and that only their technological innovations of this world's elites will save us from it's primitive foundations. But are the microbiological things of our natural world really all that primitive ? Interestingly other responsible scientific research is beginning to find out that this type of flawed worldview is itself untrue and in many cases caused irreparable damage in some areas. At the end of this post I'll talk a little more on the above exhibit. But here is a short introductory clip:
"Plant roots are vital components of the earth's ecosystem. They are necessary for all plant growth, including the production of food and nutrients for humans and many other organisms. However, as root systems are out off sight, their beauty and importance often go unnoticed. Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots showcases the presence and importance of roots through visually stunning root representations using the work of agricultural ecologist Dr. Jerry Glover, sculptor Steve Tobin, and photographer Jim Richardson."
So where did Humans go wrong when it comes to Soils & Land Management ?
|Image typical of deep soil chiseling of Imperial Valley fields|
|(Imperial Valley Subsoil Chiseling)|
|Image: Blue-Jet SubTiller advertisement|
|image: business recycling Australia|
|Image by Richard Halsey - Chaparral Institute|
|Image: Chaparral Institute|
Somewhere back in the 1960s-70s, it was ignorantly assumed that stripping most all major ridgelines of their chaparral was a great idea for a major firebreak to control any future wildfire event. However, this replacing of the chaparral plant community (which is host to mycorrhizal fungi) by these regular control burns, vegetative mastication, synthetic chemicals, and/or bulldozing actually allowed a bacterial underground system to be created which favoured invasive grasses and other noxious weeds like cheatgrass, mustards, radishes, star thistle, etc. This turned out to be a huge backfiring mistake. Oddly enough those ignorant irresponsible practices are the exact mirror image of industrial farming methods which create far more problems than they were originally meant to solve. The result for the forestry was not stopping wildfire, but rather the creation of a mismanaged landscape scenario which actually fed worse wildfire condition scenarios than preventing them. If the idea was to slow down wildfires, the true reality resulted in speeding up their spread. From that point the domino effect gets worse. Take for example the usage of slurry type phosphate based fire retardants used in stopping fires. Would you believe this actually spreads Cheatgrass and other runderals ? Take a look below.
|Photo by Jed Little|
"The study raises the possibility that the red slurry, while helping to slow a wildfire's advance, could ultimately worsen grassland fires by promoting the growth of cheatgrass, one of the most flammable invasive weeds in the West."
"According to preliminary results, the retardant's fertilizerlike nutrients significantly increased cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard, both exotic annual species, at the expense of native perennial grasses on the mountainside."
"The invaders benefit from the jolt of nitrogen and phosphorous in the slurry, which native and exotic perennials largely ignore because they are accustomed to nutrient-poor soils. Cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard didn't spread where the fire burned alone, but they exploded in areas that were burned and hit with retardant, the study found. The two invaders have spread from 51 percent to 88 percent on Mount Jumbo since the retardant was dropped, although two perennial invaders, spotted knapweed and Dalmation toadflax, decreased."I literally hate going for a hike and receiving the nasty end of an assault of stickers from walking through a mismanaged field infected by a Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion. These stickers in boots and socks are so incredibly annoying that you need to stop periodically to take the boots off and clean both boots and socks to regain your sanity. They can also be dangerous to your pets and other domestic animals. If that is true, then it is also true that their overwhelming presence is not good for wildlife either. Now there were a couple of interesting things referenced in that article by the Missoulian. Notice that these annual plants [ruderals = Cheatgrass, Mustards, Radishes, Tumbleweeds, etc] thrive in a nutrient enriched soil from the presence of excessive amounts of synthetic inputs deliberately applied to soils [for whatever reason or purpose], while the perennials that were referenced in the article like Spotted Knapweed & Dalmation Toadflax have actually decreased. So why was that ? Are not those two plants also noxious invasive weeds ? Yes they are, but they are not ruderals, they have mycorrhizal roots and mycorrhizal fungi will disconnect in the presence of excessive synthetic nutrient inputs. They are invasive weeds in the sense that they originate from eastern Europe and Asia. Minus the checks and balances from their former ecosystems they then thrive and spread in North America. But they are also mycorrhizal hosts. Clearly human ignorance which breeds irresponsible decision making in so many areas of life have snowballed to the present out of control domino effect we find ourselves in. We are battling Nature instead of working with nature for a solution with an elite few making a profit off the misery of others. Nature has always had the most efficient solutions for balance and high yield success through it's genetic programming for 10s of 1000s of years irrespective how anyone says it originally got that way. Now take a look at another area [land restoration projects] which once again illustrate the how the overuse or reliance on mechanized innovations and synthetic chemicals cause setbacks and delays in plant community restorations. This example below comes from the Coachella Valley which is also located in Southern California just north of Imperial Valley. About the year 2001 a report came out on the success of ridding a desert oasis area known as 1000 Palms of an invasive tree called Tamarisk which dried up the streams and ponds and ruined the environment for the native palms and other desert oasis plants and animals which depended upon them for food and shelter. There were several methods and techniques employed like bulldozing, synthetic Chemicals and old fashioned hand clearing. There were two outstanding references of an observation which serve to illustrate the two superior & inferior methods for success from a single sentence in that whole report at the bottom in the last paragraph that spoke volumes to me. As far as I know, I am the only one who has ever caught this important gem of an observation:
"Most areas were cut by hand, thereby selectively cutting out the tamarisk while leaving the native shrubs unharmed. Only a 7.5 acre (3 ha) section that was heavily infested (> 95%) was cleared using a bulldozer."
"In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that was bulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."
So two main techniques employed at this restoration site. One was the commonly used conventional mechanized version by way of large industrial piece of equipment we call a Bulldozer with rippers and the other was the use of volunteers to hand clearing and selectively cut out the cancerous invasive plants within the ecosystem and leaving only the healthy native ones. Okay I get the Bulldozer because it is fast and efficient at eradication and the clearing by hand takes recruiting otherwise busy volunteers and a lot of sweat. But okay so what ? It's the long term goal that we are looking at here if indeed there is a noble goal. One leaves a healthy intact mycorrhizal grid under the ground with cover and the other sterilizes the landscape as some sort of clean slate or blank canvas ready for natives to be replanted by spreading seed on the ground and raking it in to germinate and rebuild the ecosystem. One fixes the situation more permanently with little maintenance afterwards and the other being a quick fix will have to be revisited again and again, year after year and still not get it correct. I immediately recognized the differences and reasons for both success and failure [or delay] because of my own practices on my acreage up in the San Jacinto Mountains which tower over the Coachella Valley. Prior to moving onto my land in 1985, the previous owner had cleared with Bulldozer two large patches of chaparral down to the clean decomposed granite. Other areas were cut and cleared by hand. In all those 20+ years of living there, the cleared areas by Bulldozer always experienced a fight with weeds and attempting to plant any chaparral natives back over the cleared patches of land was always a lengthy process with only a few ever making it. However, in Chaparral area where some places required removal by hand, the ground never suffered. In fact where I would remove a single shrub to make room for a tree seedling to be planted, establishment success was always 100% as opposed to maybe 20%-30% on the bare soils. The reason of course was that the new seedling was instantly inserted into a healthy mycorrhizal grid which hydrated and nourished the young delicate seedlings and the other area had no grid for successful tree establishment which left seedlings to their own struggle for survival, hence the highest failure rates. This was the same method I followed after helping my former landlord Ken Dawson of Terwilliger establish a forest in the chaparral a few years previous. His property was in the Terwilliger part of Anza Valley and considered at the edge of high desert. It was mostly Chaparral covered [Manzanita, Sugarbush & predominently Redshank or Ribbonwood].
|image mine: 2013|
|image: mine 2013|
Collective Intelligent of the Enlightened Higher Lifeforms versus the Primitives ???
|Image Dr Wendy Taheri|
|Image Dr Wendy Taheri|
Now the Gallery below of the art show I opened up with Dr Jerry Glover and National Geographic
|National Geographic & Dr Jerry Glover|
Here, Dr. Jerry Glover works in a soil pit at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas with a garden host fitted with a jet nozzle to expose what the rooting structure on two entirely different plants look like. On the left, we see the deeper roots of a perennial wheatgrass are displayed, while on the right we see the more shallow roots of an annual wheat are visible. Notice the side by side contrast below ? The exhibit theme was to demonstrate how the bulk of a prairie grass plant exists out of sight, with anywhere from eight to fourteen feet of roots extending down deep into the earth. Now why should any of that matter ? Besides being incredibly larger in size, these hidden root mass infrastructures accomplish a lot in storing carbon, nourishing soil, increasing bioproductivity, and preventing erosion. Unfortunately, most of these productive, perennial grass functions of the past are more rare than they once were. This is because they have been replaced by ruderals (annuals) which live a mere few months (six months if lucky).
Common annual variety of annual Wheat here are contrasted next to perennial Wheatgrass. Notice perennials, which come back year after year have a root system which will grow to a depth of few meters, while the annual varieties perhaps a mere foot. This is also illustrative of all ruderals versus perennials in the wild setting. A farmer or rancher with a pasture of abundant diversity of perennials is going to weather the dry season or even drought much better than say those common western states pastures where short lived ruderals such as cheatgrass and other annuals [runderals] reign supreme. This is why many western rangelands and pasture can only have a limited use early in the year. What is most important to a pasture is having a large biodiversity of perennial plants dominating the vast area which encourages an underground microbiological community of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and healthy nitrogen fixing bacteria to allow the soils to breathe. Any rainwater falling on such a landscape will fully percolate into the earth as opposed to running off. This is important to underground storage of water to be tapped into later in the dry season. In times of heavier rainy seasons, several meter deep root infrastructures may also facilitate a process called hydraulic descent which may also help restore underground aquifers and replenish natural springs. The other being hydraulic lift & redistribution, but more on that below. Again, these are also things which even many farmers who do practice biodiverse perennial cover crops may be completely ignorant themselves of the full line of services being accomplished by perennial plant root systems other than mere water percolation through healthy aggregated soil alone. More on that phenomena below. But here is a link to the root system galley:
Now take as another example the common picturesque California Oak Savanna settings that are often romanticized in photos.
|Image - Mine (2013)|
Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve (Oak-Grassland Savanna)
Importance of Hydraulic Lift & RedistributionThis is one natural phenomena which most likely no longer functions properly if at all in most modern day farm pastures and Ranch grasslands and sadly there is not a lot of discussion about it. Those old growth plant root infrastructures provide an invaluable service in the summertime of hydraulic lift and redistribution of water resources from deep in the earth up to the surface layers. But only certain specific plants with the deepest root systems can perform this task of drawing up water, sending it laterally toward other plants by means of the mycorrhizal grid for the night time benefit of other shallower rooted plants. This is the reason some holistically maintained pastures, even in traditionally dry western geographies have a healthy green even during the dry season. The animated illustration below often used by Professor Todd Dawson reveals how the system actually functions.
But there is even more than hydraulic lift at play here. Some way somehow the water has to be driven deeper than mere soil percolation would allow. This is where an reverse in hydraulic function of root systems must come into play.
What has happened to Hydraulic Descent ???
I once read where researchers once discovered something interesting about the common Mesquite Tree of the deserts in the southwestern United States. When the tree is dormant and not visibly growing above ground during the winter rainy seasons, they perform a phenomena called hydraulic descent where their root systems collect as much surface rainwater percolation as possible and pump it deep into the earth. Now, Mesquite & other desert trees and shrubs have some of the deepest taproot systems known in the world. They can actually bore through the earth down to a depth of a couple hundred feet. Please take note of the animation above. What effect has the loss of this phenomena had on large aquifers and natural springs ? How much does such a phenomena have on actually benefiting groundwater recharge beyond helping pasture to maintain green ecosystem viability during the dry season ? What practical applications can be applied in biomimetic inspiration in creating technological innovations such as irrigation systems which save water as opposed to the present wastefulness we have now ? My reasons for bringing the subject of hydraulic lift - descent & redistribution into the discussion is that they cannot be ignored as a naturally occurring phenomena either in the wild, farming, landscaping & gardening. When w landscaper prepares a design on any new project, all such consideration of these remarkable mechanisms alone with the microbiological nanomachines we've looked at earlier should be considered for the long term viable life sustaining system you are wishing to establish. Same with the farm, ranch or habitat restoration. People need to think in terms of their projects being a living mutually cooperating biological machine. While it's wonderful that farmers, professional landscapers and your average home gardener are thinking in terms of practicing a holistic biological approach minus the chemicals, it's also important to widen out and have a peripheral view other other factors that provide checks and balances into the system. For example attracting the beneficial predators both large and small. I'll provide more links below in references.
So let's recap what we know!
In Conclusion: The Winners & LosersNew technological advances by mankind's Elites have seemingly made life easier for the rest of us when we only look at them from an on the surface viewpoint. These bio-innovations created in some high security lab however have put mankind and the natural world at risk. The fate of the world is being placed into the hands of unaccountable elites in bed with powerful political interests who speak from one side of their mouths of their products being the result of ethical responsibility while at the same time being obsessed with the pursuit of fame and personal enrichment out of the other side of their mouths. The problem is our messed up world is the result of a gross lack of Bioethics. These people know full well what their products are doing, but their strategy is to play the dumb card. When a newer consequence strikes, they simply create another synthetic solution to treat the symptoms while totally turning a blind eye to the cause. The pharmaceutical industry works the same way, but hey, are the also not related ? So from a short term monetary, fame, glitter and glory standpoint there are certainly those who appear to come of the winners. Farmers are also the real losers, not the agro-chemical corporations. If any farmer actually becomes truly informed, educated and understands that most of their success is in changing practices as opposed to spending vast amounts of money on synthetic inputs along with magic seeds, these giant corporate entities would fold. Can you now understand the reasons for vast amount of financial resources being funneled into these damage control public relations lobbying by corporate business interests ? The vast majority of other lifeforms including humans will also lose out in the end. I know of no real solution as far as implementing or reversing the damage done on a massive global scale. You all read the News lately, so you tell me. That doesn't mean the information and understanding on how to use the clean viable information doesn't exist. It does. But there always seems to be something powerfully negative out there to throw the proverbial wrench in the works. The best that can be done is for those few individuals who actually get it to make practical application of what they know to use out on the farm, ranch, landscape or garden and allow the light of success to do the talking for you.
How long can people really keep trusting these fallible researchers to be bio-ethically responsible ? Ask yourself, what's been their track record thus far during this modern age of enlightenment ?
Some Further Reading References
Hydraulic Life & Redistribution - Hydraulic Descent
Deep Root Irrigation based on Hydraulics Behaviour in Ecosystems
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