From Glencolton farmshare member Gary Wilson:
In 1938, long before the presumed effects of global warming were being discussed, the soil scientist, William A. Albrecht, Ph.D, listed some of the consequences of declining soil fertility. Number five on this list was “Greater weather hazards”. In 1954, in a paper discussing the increasing records being set for both floods and droughts, he asked, “Are these new records other than man made?”
Albrecht points out that the severity of a drought is measured by damage to crops rather than by meteorological indexes. While droughts are attributed to a lack of rainfall, they are really should be attributed to a lack of water. The soil itself, both the topsoil and the subsoil, as well as the water table below the surface of the soil act a as reservoir for water that can get plants through a period of time of little or no rainfall.
When it rains, this surface soil acts as a blanket, holding rainwater allowing it to penetrate further into the subsoil. When soil fertility is in decline, the surface soil becomes shallower. As a result, of course, less water is held to penetrate into the subsoil thereby raising the level of the water table. On shallow soils, heavier rains are more likely to cause soil erosion which further compounds the problem. The excessive runoff makes it to the rivers and streams where it builds up until downstream the rivers may overflow their banks causing a flood. Simply put, more water held by the soil leading to raising the water table means less water runoff causing floods in the spring while providing a source of stored water when later in the season there are periods of time without rain. If you are using well water to irrigate crops during a period without rain, it would make sense to ensure that when there are rains or spring melts, enough water penetrates to the water table so that a decline in the level of the water table itself does not occur. Digging deeper wells to reach a declining level of the ground water is no solution to the problem.
Roads with solid surfaces and their drainage ditches add to the problem of excessive water runoff and lack of penetration of the water into the soil. The same ditches that carry off the rainwater from the roads can also carry away the water running off the farmers’ fields. In the spring wet fields can prevent the farmer from getting out with his tractor to prepare the fields for planting. One solution is to tile the fields to promote better drainage. Later in the same year, the farmer with the tiled fields may complain about a lack of water for his crops. Perhaps more of this temporary excess of water in the spring could be retained for service later in the season during a period where there is little or no rainfall.
In another article published in 1960, Albrecht describes a demonstration by two adjacent experimental plots at the Missouri College of Agriculture of how soil fertility is the underlying cause of soil erosion. These two experimental plots alongside each other were planted with corn year after year. The management of both plots was the same except that one plot was receiving six tons of manure annually while the other plot received no soil treatment. All of the crop, both grain and fodder, was removed from both plots. One year, after both fields had been ploughed, a single rain demonstrated the difference that soil fertility makes. The untreated field was hammered flat by the rain. As the soil particles settled after their movement with the larger particles settling first followed by smaller and smaller particles, the soil surface sealed over thereby preventing the penetration of the rainwater. Without the border of sod around this plot, the surface soil of this plot would be somewhere downstream as silt in a river. On the plot receiving the manure treatment, however, the same rain did not disturb the ploughed appearance of the field. The water falling on this plot soaked in, soaking a deeper layer building up the stored water supply. It’s surface soil was cooler by ten degrees (F) in the summer than the untreated plot. The rills of running water only appeared on the plot that received no soil treatment. For those who do not understand the role of soil fertility in erosion, rills caused by running water may evoke mechanical responses to the erosion to “fight” or “control” the running water.
In light of Albrecht’s evidence, to make a claim that man made global warming is responsible for this or any year’s drought conditions or for increased flooding seems similar to ignoring Galileo’s evidence in order to maintain the claim that the earth is the centre of the universe. Is “science” today essentially the same as it was in Galileo’s day? Are we satisfied to exist in our own self-delusion or should we take a look back at evidence we have ignored for so long? Perhaps if we looked at droughts and floods from Albrecht’s point of view, we might reduce the damage to crops during periods where there is a lack of rainfall, and, if in the future global warming does tend to increase the damage done by droughts and floods, applying solutions based on Albrecht’s evidence might mitigate this increase in damage.
The Albrecht papers used as a basis for the foregoing article are:
1/ 1938, “Feeding the Animals by Treating Soil” republished in chapter 5 in Volume IV of “The Albrecht Papers” (currently out of print)
2/ 1954, “Droughts– The Soil As Reasons For Them”, republished as Chapter 23 in Volume I of “The Albrecht Papers” (republished as “Albrecht’s Foundation Concepts”)
3/ 1960, “It’s the Soil That Feeds Us” republished in Volume I of “The Albrecht Papers” (republished as “Albrecht’s Foundation Concepts)
“Albrecht’s Foundation Concepts” is available from Acres, U.S.A. The evidence presented in this volume is at odds with so many things we are taught about agriculture, nutrition and health. Maybe some day this evidence will be “rediscovered”.