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Past, Present and Future The Pioneers

"The maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture". Sir Albert Howard (1873 -1947) Sir Albert was the man who started the organic farming and gardening revolution. His book 'An Agricultural Testament', published in 1943, by Oxford University Press in New York and London was the result of twenty-five years of research in India. Although he was caricatured as a superstitious believer in 'muck and magic', he was in fact a highly distinguished scientist.

Sir Albert spent from 1905 to 1931 in India, and in 1926 was President of the Indian Science Congress.

As Director of the Institute of Plant Industry, in the state of Indore, he developed the Indore Process. He applied modern scientific knowledge to ancient techniques of composting, using vegetable, animal and human waste.

Although he was not the earliest critic of modern agriculture, he was the first popular champion of practical organic alternatives. His most biting criticism was directed against 'fragmentation'—the unnatural separation between the soil, crops, livestock, and humans.

He believed these were all part of a natural complexity, and research on each one without reference to the others was highly dangerous. In fact, he believed the dependence of chemical fertilisers, insecticides, and drugs for human ills was directly caused by this fragmentation.

To better control the monsoon rains, he developed a system of contouring and terracing the fields; but the real answer, he found, lay in using native, deep-rooted plants to let air into the soil.

This led him to his first conclusions on soil fertilisation. Sufficient air in the soil, he discovered, permits myriad organisms to release plant foods like the nitrogen supplied by green manures.

Petro-chemical nitrates and phosphates are unnecessary, natural forces doing a much better job.

Following his return to England, he devoted the remainder of his life to perfecting and publicising his ideas of good agriculture.

These were founded on his belief that the only real basis of fertility was the return of all wastes to the soil, and that plant, animal and human health were directly dependent on this regenerative cycle.

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