WORDS USED IN AGRICULTURE
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2021, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Agriculture is a most important subject, and one that most people do not know much about. Human health is directly dependent upon the health of the soil, and the crops and animals that live upon it. Agriculture is our external metabolism.
This article is about the words and terms used in agriculture today. Several other articles discuss Organic Agriculture and Regeneration of The Soil with The Development Method.
The terms are arranged in alphabetical order.
This is a method of organic agriculture originated by Rudolf Steiner in Europe about 150 years ago. It is quite an extensive system involving enzymes on compost piles, mixing certain plants, diagnosing soil problems based upon the weeds that grow in a field, and much more. We do not agree with Mr. Steiner on a number of issues, but the biodynamic agricultural method is very good.
This is the technical name for the companies and industry that researches and offers GMOs or genetically modified crops and animals. It is a highly controversial area of agriculture today. For more, see the section on GMOs below.
CAFO stands for Concentrated or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Over 65 billion livestock animals live on this type of farm in which the animals are crowded into large houses or pens, with hardly enough room to move around.
According to the US government, these farm operations are:
A. Animals must be confined for at least 45 days.
B. In an area that does not produce vegetation (meaning the animals cannot graze naturally)
C. The farms must be of a certain size. For example, a large CAFO must have 1000 cows, or 125,000 chickens, or 30,000 turkeys.
There are some 257,000 CAFOs in the United States alone, and many more around the world. The main problems with them is the concentration of animal manure, which can easily contaminate wells and other waterways and water supplies in the area. As a result, they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Some people also object to the crowded and confined conditions of the animals. Some are better than others in this regard.
The opposite of the CAFOs are the free range farms, where animals are allowed to roam over large areas and eat pasture or grass and bugs as they please. This trend is also growing across America and throughout the world.
This is the method of agriculture that involves heavy use of pesticides, insecticides, and perhaps other toxic chemicals spayed on the crops.
Livestock raised in this way are given antibiotics, vaccines and perhaps other drugs which find their way into our meat, eggs and dairy products. The animals are often sick because the food they eat and the conditions in which they live are often not that good.
Problems with chemical agriculture are:
1. The chemicals applied to the crops always poison the soil micoroorganisms, to some degree. This damages the soil and reduces the nutrient content of the food.
2. The food grown by this method often contains residues of toxic chemicals. These remain in the food that is eaten by human beings and farm animals. This causes both human and animal diseases.
3. The toxic chemicals used on the fields poison the water supplies and at times, the air all over the world.
4. The farmers who use this method are particularly at risk for disease, as they handle the chemicals, and often breathe them because they are often sprayed on the crops.
Fortunately, the situation is changing in agriculture. As more people demand organically grown food, the organic sector of agriculture is growing fast.
These used to be the dominant type of farming in America and around the world. They have largely been replaced by large, highly mechanized farms. However, small farming is making a comeback in some areas.
Most fish today do not come from the oceans, lakes or streams. Most come from fish farms in which many fish are concentrated in large pools or lagoons.
Advantages. On the farm, it is much easier to observe, feed and harvest the fish on a large scale than if they are swimming freely in the ocean or a large lake. This makes the fish less expensive for the consumer.
Disadvantages. Fish farms vary a lot. In most, however, the fish are not permitted to eat their natural food and are crowded together in very unhealthy ways.
Instead they are fed whatever the fish farmer decides. This is often fish waste products, grains and other food that is not natural for the fish.
As a result, farmed fish is quite a bit less nutritious, in general, than fish from the ocean, lakes or streams. Many are also sick and weak.
At some fish farms, the fish are so crowded in that they can hardly move. Because they are ill, or due to fear of epidemics, they are often given drugs such as antibiotics on a routine basis. These find their way into the flesh of the fish.
I do not recommend eating any farmed fish at this time. There are exceptions to the above, but it is difficult to know the exact conditions of a fish farm.
Sardines. We only recommend sardines because these are mainly wild-caught. This means they are swimming freely in the ocean when they are caught, and are not raised on a fish farm.
In Norway, some fjords are blocked off and used as huge fish farms, including a few for sardines. This is not too bad, however, because the fjord or inlet is enormous and the sardines can eat their natural food.
FREE-RANGE ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
This is the opposite of CAFO or concentrated animal feeding operations. Free-range chicken, beef, and other meats means the animals were able to move about freely and graze on grass, pasture land and eat other natural food.
Some farmers combine free-range and barn raising of animals due to harsh winter climates that make it impossible for the animals to graze outdoors in the winter. So free-range does not mean that an animal spent its entire lifetime eating pasture or fresh grass.
Advantages. Free-range meats are generally much high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in grasses. Animals raised on CAFOs are usually fed corn or other grain, which is low in omega-3 fatty acids.
Disadvantages. Free-range farms take up a lot more space and must have enough pasture land so the animals can graze freely. This is very difficult in some areas of the world, and it makes this type of food more expensive for consumers.
NOTE: in my experience, free-range meat is not always better than conventionally-raised meat. It depends upon what the animals are fed, and other conditions on the farm.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. This is a newer method of creating hybrid plants and animals. It has been around for only the past 20-30 years. Unlike earlier methods of creating hybrids, it involves direct manipulation of the genetics or DNA of a plant or animal.
Advantages. Hybrids can be created much faster with this method. The desired traits, such as larger size, resistance to pesticides, or something else, can be selected based on genetic research, and the crop can be ready in a year or two.
Standard methods of making hybrid crops or animals take generations of slowly selecting the plants or animals with the desired traits and then breeding them together to make more of them.
Disadvantages. GMO crops and animals have many problems:
1. They represent genetic manipulation on a mass scale whose long-term consequences are often unknown. For example, a larger, GMO salmon has found its way into some waterways and can kill off the smaller, natural salmon and cause an environmental disaster.
2. Genes from animals and plants are sometimes combined, and this is another area of research whose consequences are not well-understood. Again, there is a possibility of an environmental disaster.
3. GMO crops are rarely bred for better nutrition. As a result, they may survive better, but their nutritional value is usually worse.
4. GMO crops are almost all more yin than the original plants and animals, and this is a negative trait that is bad for our health.
5. Companies that produce GMO foods have patented their GMOs. This is something new in agriculture, which used to be an industry in which farmers shared their hybrids freely without patents.
Patenting crops angers many farmers, and there have been many problems with this. For example, if the seeds of a patented crop blow onto a neighbor’s farmland and some grow, the neighboring farmer has been sued by the manufacturer of the patented crop for patent infringement, when the growth of the patented plants was not his fault.
6. The public is very skeptical of GMO foods. Europe has particularly been opposed to it.
7. The public wants GMO foods to be labeled. However, the manufacturers of it do not want this as they fear it will reduce sales. They have resorted to all sorts of political tactics to stop GMO labeling. This has caused even less trust between the public and the GMO companies, also sometimes called the biotech industry.
THE “GREEN REVOLUTION”
This was a radical shift in agriculture that occurred about 70 years ago in many parts of the world. It has now spread to more nations.
The Green Revolution, as it is called, consists of:
1. The widespread use of superphosphate or N-P-K fertilizers. These are growth stimulants that increase crop yields but are horrible for the body.
2. The need and application of toxic pesticides to crops. The crops grown with N-P-K fertilizers are more delicate and less hardy. The pesticides are needed because the plants are more easily attacked by bugs.
3. The development of hybrid crops and even hybrid animals that are more adapted to eating food grown with N-P-K fertilizers and pesticides.
This is a type of agriculture that does not use soil. Instead of being planted in soil, plants are arranged so that the roots are in a liquid nutrient solution.
Advantages. Hydroponics is much cleaner without soil. There is no need to till the soil, pull weeds, and there is no worry about lack of rain. Hydroponic gardens are generally inside greenhouses and the nutrient solution is pumped around the roots of the plants.
Disadvantages. The plants are more yin because they are constantly in water. This is damaging to the quality of the plants. I do not recommend hydroponic gardening for this reason.
This is the growing of one crop at a time on a large acreage of land. It is the standard on large industrial farm operations.
Advantages. Monoculture is easier because one machine can usually plant, weed, till and harvest the crop more easily.
Disadvantages. Monoculture is harder on the soil and tends to deplete it more. The way around this is to practice crop rotation. This means that one grows a particular crop one year, and the next year one grows a different crop. The following year a different crop is grown, or the land is left fallow to recover.
Another possible disadvantage is that if an insect or disease attacks a monoculture crop, it could tear through and devastate hundreds of thousands of acres of the one crop. This disaster is less likely if crops are mixed together.
Mixing different crops may also offer more protection against some aberrant weather patterns that would be hard on one crop.
This is the use of chemical fertilizers that mainly contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This is now widespread and is part of the so-called ‘Green Revolution’.
Unlike using manures, fish heads, kelp and other natural products, N-P-K fertilizers are missing most trace minerals. They are unbalanced, in other words.
William Albrecht and others warned against their use, but the greater crop yields were a big temptation and their use continues today, on both commercial and organic farms around the world. The results of using them are now becoming clear:
1. Greater crop yields, although this is not happening as much today because the soils are burning out.
2. Much lower trace mineral and protein content of the crops grown using them.
3. More delicate plants that are more easily attacked by pests.
4. Damage to the soil.
This is farming method that does not require tilling the soil. Tilling means running a tractor over the soil with a special attachment that digs into the soil and turns it over, exposing dirt that was hidden, and opening up the soil so that moisture will enter it more easily.
Tilling is very time-consuming, so the idea of avoiding it is appealing to farmers. Some farmers say it can work, but others disagree.
NUTRITIONAL BALANCING FOR SOIL REGENERATION
I am told this method works, and works very well. It is based upon the same principles that are used to rebuild and regenerate the human and animal bodies. In this case, the target is the soil microorganisms. For details about it, please read Nutritional Balancing For Soil Regeneration on this site.
This is a method of farming and raising livestock that does not use toxic pesticides and insecticides. At this time, organically grown does include the use of superphosphate fertilizers.
The public is very interested in food that is free of toxic residues, and this sector of agriculture is the fastest growing. Coming up with standards and certification has not been easy, however.
There are private certifying agencies in the United States that certify that crops are produced organically. The US government (USDA) has also stepped in with organic food standards, although some people believe they watered down the standards so that some large farms can be certified even though their methods are not as good.
Small farms often remain uncertified because of the cost of meeting certain standards. This does not mean their products are not organically grown, however.
This is a method of farming that uses less of the toxic pesticides and insecticides. However, some may still be used. In other words, it is in between chemical farming and the organic method of agriculture.
Changing a farm over from chemical to organic takes at least five years or more, and requires that the farmer relearn how to grow food using different methods to cope with pests, to fertilize the land, and to handle other difficulties that may arise.
For some farmers, moving to sustainable farming is the first step as they move away from chemical farming and toward the organic method.