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Members of the faculty, alumni and student body:
As a member of a sister educational institution it is a pleasure to come and participate with you in an educational program on this anniversary date. Those of us who work in education deal with little more than ideas. Ideas are the goods of our traffic. They are our commodities. We like to have good quality in our commodity. Consequently we need to study our ideas and guard their manufacture before we put them out as a commodity.
Even the delivery of our commodity is not a simple matter. We deliver it by means of words of usually one or possibly two or three languages. Therefore our ideas, though shipped out are sometimes not received in the same condition in which they were dispatched initially because of the failure to understand the language of transmissal.
Then, in addition to that possible defect in our educational service, the idea as a commodity must always fit in where there may be some traditional, more firmly rooted ideas which the new ones should displace. It is well to point out here that while some of us are doing research, we are dealing only with ideas. Too often we are mis-interpreted. We are credited with saying something which we did not say. So the English language is not always fully efficient in transmissal.
We hope that you will remember those facts today and check clearly over what you have been thinking after you study carefully what actually was said. There is always a danger that we fail to understand purely because of, and different usages of, our own language.
Then we trust also that you are all good observers. We shall use some pictures as illustrations and hope you will observe them critically in order to get a clear concept of what those pictures tell. In our discussion we shall deal with Nature. Pictures are used to bring Nature before you as thoroughly as possible: We should like to present the arguments by Nature rather than by ourself. In general then, we hope that you will forget what we said, but that you will remember what you thought while you were observing the pictures and we were speaking. It is what you are thinking and not what I say that you will carry away.
All too often as we see something, it is difficult to be certain that we understand what we see. Also there is often a wide gap between what Nature presents and what human nature interprets. That is the problem of anybody who deals with defective health. To be a good observer and to interpret properly what he observes is the basis of the surgeon’s success in operations. He must put the facts back of all he sees into complete diagnosis and into a working principle for remedy, improvement or prevention.
As an illustration of defective interpretation of a correct observation, there is the story that two men were driving in their auto through our southern Missouri Ozarks when they came to one of those places where you drive through the running water over the concrete base in the bottom of the creek and not on a bridge above the creek. As they approached this ordinary ford, they were reluctant to drive through for fear the water would get into the carburetor. Suddenly they happened to see a local yokel watching some ducks swimming in the water. They asked him whether it was safe to drive through the water. He replied, “Sure, drive right on through.” They drove in, the carburetor was flooded, and they were almost drowned. They managed to scramble out to the top of the car. At that point they took him to task for telling them that it was safe to drive through the water. “Well,” he said, “I looked at the ducks and the water wasn’t very deep because it came only half way up on the ducks.” Here was a perfectly good observation but a defective interpretation and application when it came to the matter of fording the creek.
As an illustration of how the English language is misinterpreted and misunderstood, but yet accepted as authority, there is the story about the little boy who accepted biblical language as an authority. When he had been given a little teddy bear, they found that he gave it the name “Gladly.” His mother couldn’t understand why he used that name, “Gladly” for his little bear. When questioned about it he said, “That is a name from the Bible. He’s crosseyed and the Bible said, ‘Gladly, the cross I’d bear’.” The English language is easily misused. Because we see different things in words and we take the ideas differently. So today, while we are going to present ideas, we hope you will do your own thinking. We want merely to stimulate that thinking rather than have you depend wholly on memorizing what we say.
The day and age of living simply by authority is past. Educational institutions don’t bring you to their halls in order for you to memorize and accept as authoritative all what they teach. They give you, however, opportunity to think. Educational institutions don’t do much training. They do more educating. One gets training in the army or the navy, for example. Education is something you give to yourself. This is an educational institution where you can learn to think for yourself.
In the two sessions today, we should like to bring emphasis to the fact that any living body depends for its performances more on nutrition than we are prone to believe. The microbe represents a certain level of nutrition. It can carry forward only to a certain degree of complexity in its body processes. The plant, the next higher life in the biotic pyramid, can do certain higher synthetic performances. But it too is limited because it can’t do any better than what the soil under it, and what the microbe can contribute. Consequently decomposition by the microbe is food for the plant. Coming higher in the scale of life, we have the animal. The animal demands something from the plant. It in turn demands something from the microbe. In fact the animal has a great set of microbes in its digestive tract, particularly in the cow’s paunch. The animal, the plant and the microbe all go back to soil as their nutritional foundation. Man as the top of that biological group is still more complex. We have failed to realize his dependence on the synthetic performances and the delivery services of all those life forms below him.
Man has extended his migration over new territory in proportion as he can reach to those life forms under him to help him make it possible to live. Technology extended his movement out into territories where he never was before. But while he has extended his territory technologically, he has not carried with him the realization that if he moves to where these other life forms have not first built up the pyramid for him he must by necessity extend his life lines back to those places where they have, if he is to be truly nourished. As a result of those technologies, man has increased his speed; he has lifted himself to higher altitudes; and he has thrown himself under stresses and strains which he has not commonly appreciated.
While technology has extended man’s territory in terms of length and breadth, or of geographic area, it has not guaranteed him these synthetic performances from the ground up as completely as it did before he became so active technologically. Primitive man stayed along the seashore. He stayed in regions of moderate rainfall because in less weathered soils he had the means of good nutrition. He and his plow followed the cow. She was the assaying agent that selected the quality of the nutrition for herself and for him according to the plants, according to the microbes and according to the fertility of the soil. Modern man, however, with his technological helps reversed the process. He put the cow behind the wagon, his whip on the horses and dragged the cow along. Of her own choice or her assay of the soil fertility she might never have gone in that direction. By the reversal of that procedure this matter of nutrition became a handicap where formerly, when the plow followed the cow instead of the cow following the plow, it was an asset.
Our discussion may well be made up of two divisions. The title for the first may well be given as “Soil fertility–Its climatic pattern.” The soil fertility includes those elements which give life in completeness in all forms not only plants but animals and man. By climatic forces the rock is being worked into the soil which is the basis for all life in terms of delivering the essentials that come from that source. For the second division or discussion we may take that climatic pattern which we have developed first and lead you to see its suggestions about deficiencies coming from the soil as possible causes for what we call bad health or the absence of health. Such absence of health for too many years past has been called “disease.” Too often we give up in the face of the word “disease” because we think disease is insurmountable.
The philosophy we should like to present today includes the idea that man is just another animal. If he is pressed to the point where he isn’t very well fed you will discover that he is more animal than he is man as a sociable being. The hungry man knows no laws, as a Russian proverb puts it. He is then an animal of the worst order because he uses his technological means for purposes that don’t serve very socially. Man is a sociable being only when well fed. Haven’t you always noticed that a church drive for funds or a red-cross drive or a community chest solicitation doesn’t take off until after lunch has been served?
Let us proceed then to give you the picture of the pattern of climate according to which the climate makes soil and gives presence of nutritional quality or absence of it in that soil. Our soils have long been under the process of weathering by the rain. Rocks are made into soil. Much of the product is washed into the sea. With higher rainfalls we have shortages of essentials in the soil.
Nationally, we have begun to worry about our soil. We have been worrying about its physical changes more than we have about its decline chemically and nutritionally. We have concerned ourselves about soil erosion because we can all readily see that the very body of the soil is going. When the soil once erodes, we fail to realize that it has lost much of its creative power long before it eroded. When the soil wasn’t eroding originally it had strength enough in itself to be well granulated, to stand up under the hammering of the rain drops and by virtue of that granulation, to be open to take in the rain more than make it run off. We ought to realize that erosion has come because the stamina, the strength, the internal creative power, the fertility of that soil disappeared. If a soil is fertile, it will grow cover, at least a weak cover, before the next rain will erode it.
Erosion is a symptom of a soil’s decline in fertility rather than a cause of it. It is a symptom in the same way as microbial invasion ought to be considered a symptom following, or telling us of, a previous acquisition on the part of that body of some weakness, whereby the microbes recognize before you did that you were walking around half dead and didn’t know it. You can be going along with one lung missing and you may not notice it. You may have one kidney almost out of service and your body doesn’t complain. Nevertheless under so much body failure the microbes know it before we do. They move in to take over the task of disposing of the prospective cadaver. Under erosion we have the same situation in the soil. The soil is literally nearly dead before it erodes. Erosion is merely a symptom of that previous decline in the soil’s fertility. The mechanics of damming running water to stop erosion is a case of treating the symptom and not striking at the fundamental cause.
We need to study the natural performance of rainfall. Water comes out of the atmosphere and goes to the sea. With more water as rainfall more water is running to the sea. We have considered this water mainly as calling us to fight against its running activity. Ought we to fight running water? On the contrary, we ought to appreciate and study it.
The word “fight” is too readily disturbing. An old Chinese proverb gives us a helpful caution against any readiness to fight. The story is told that an American visiting in China was walking down the street with his Chinese host, when they saw two Chinese with their heads together scolding each other terribly. The American said, “What are those two men doing?” The Chinese host said, “Oh, they are just quarreling.” They walked on, had a cup of tea and came out about a half hour later and there were those two Chinese still scolding each other. And to the surprise of the American their arms were hanging limp along their sides. The American said, “Are they still quarreling?” The Chinese said, “Oh, Yes!” “Well,” he said, “they haven’t struck a blow yet.” “Well,” the Chinese said, “it is our philosophy according to the old saying that whenever you strike a blow that is a confession that you have run out of ideas.”
When we fight running water, under the belief that we are solving the problem of erosion, we simply haven’t gotten at the basic idea. Also when we talk about “fighting” a disease we haven’t encouraged the basic idea of the causes behind that disease.
On Sanborn Field, there are two classic plots that have been in corn continuously since 1888. One gets manure, six tons annually. All the other plot has gotten during the past 62 years is a change to grow corn provided we can get the crop started. Where manure is used continuously, six tons per acre, the soil holds its plow-turned form long after plowing. It has a granular structure, this holds up under the beating rains. Where no manure has been used the weak body of the soil has not been able to stand up and take the punching from even the little rain drops. Those tiny rain drops have a “knock-out punch,” if we may use a slang expression, for that weak soil. It is that same weakness through which that soil failed to grow much of any corn crop on it. When the rain hammers such a soil into a flat surface so quickly, any following rain must run off with erosion resulting.
Where no manure was used for over 60 years, there is a clean plot. This is weed-free not because we cultivated the weeds out, but because there wasn’t even enough fertility to grow weeds. On the other plot given manure regularly, Nature has grown her own cover crop of weeds as late as after the third cultivation of the corn. There is a liberation of fertility in the surface soil after cultivation has removed the corn roots or dry weather has sent them down deeper in search of water. That extra fertility in that surface soil nourished the weeds and other things that grow in that cover crop to hold the soil. That extra and active fertility is part of Nature’s system of giving cover naturally, of making a strong soil body, and giving good crop production. Those results are “natural” if we undergird Nature with the essentials of fertility.
Shall we engage in a fight on those weeds? No, I think we ought to understand them. There were no weeds or we had a clean plot of corn where no soil treatment was used. You might brag about that as good farming, if no more than keeping weeds out constitutes successful farming. But if you measure successful farming in terms of crop production you will need to take some weeds along with the corn crop. The strength of the soil body lies in the fertility which is its creative power, and likewise, is its protection against erosion.
The more fertile soil, so kept by manuring, is cooler in the summer–by ten degrees–than the soil given no manure where there are no weeds. After all, the creative power in the soil is the fertility. It includes the essential chemical elements through which the various synthetic processes build the microbe’s body, build the plant’s body, build the animal’s body and build the human body.
Perhaps you have not thought about lime and phosphorus put on the soil as being parts of our food and stored in our bones to the extent of almost 95% of the total of these in the animal body and the human body. You don’t have much phosphorus and calcium moving into your body before it is lodged in the bones of your skeleton. Our skeleton contains most of the phosphorus and calcium of the body. The same holds for the animal’s skeleton. When you fertilize soil with those two essentials or when you lime and phosphate, it isn’t so much a matter of more bushels that we ought to consider as it is a matter of better nutrition for animals and man. It is a matter of good nutrition for the plant too but it is nutrition for the plant in terms of its reproduction, in terms of a better germ and more seed rather than merely more vegetative bulk.
The soil is not so basic for making starch and sugar in the plant, but it is basic in building a germ, in laying down the protein there around which the sugar is put in making fruit or around which the starch is put as merely an energy reserve in the grain.
If we take the x-ray photograph of the newly born infant you see the full development of the bone in the front of the face. But then if we take the x-ray of the six year old whose mother says he doesn’t care to go to school; he is having trouble growing his teeth; he doesn’t play with the other children; he is a problem child; he doesn’t want to do any thing we ask him to do, we find that he has reabsorbed the bones in the frontal part of his face in attempting to build the rest of the skull. Naturally he couldn’t stand up and have another football player hit him in the front of his face. If he did it would cave in.
If we take a look at that frontal facial picture of some of our under-nourished children we see why some of the experiments by Dr. Pottenger of Monrovia, California with cats were sufficient to enable him now to look into the face of a cat and give you its nutritional history. It is essential that we begin to see calcium and phosphorous in the bodies of our boys and girls, and there in good order according to whether or not we put calcium and phosphorus on the soil.
We have tried so far to build up for you hastily the concept that we must build our health and our bodies from the ground up. We must consider building animal bodies. Unfortunately in Missouri, we have placed too much emphasis to feeding only for the sake of fattening cattle, and fattening pigs, but not enough on how to feed to keep them growing and reproducing. With reference to feeding for reproduction, it is a particularly sad commentary that our pig crop arriving at the market as the finish or the goal is only 60% of that given to us in the litters at birth. Similarly for the dairy cows, from the time of conception until the calf is able to handle itself there is similarly a loss of 40%. We have not seen this matter of reproduction as a problem of nutrition in terms of the soil. We have been watching the markets. We have been speculators in animals instead of producers of them. We must clarify and separate our concept, the buying, selling and speculating in cattle, from that of truly reproducing and producing them. As far back as 2000 years ago they told us that creation depends upon a handful of dust.
If now we turn to formulate the concept of the development of our soils according to the climatic pattern, the soil may be defined as a temporary rest stop by the rock on its way to the sea. Erosion is telling us that the stop as soil by the rock on its way from the mountains to the sea is all too short. We want it to make a longer stop in order that the microbes can get what they need and that the plant roots can snatch out what they need in order to synthesize what they could give in themselves for us and for the animals as food. It is the rainfall coupled with temperature that weathers the rock. If that water is hot, it is more effective in rock breakdown.
If we look at the pattern of rainfall in the United States by starting just east of the Coast Range in the West where we have zero rainfall and by moving eastward, the lines of constant amounts of rainfall run north and south. As we come east to about Missouri, they begin to run east and west. With the increasing rainfall there is increasing change of rock into soil and better soil. Out in the West when most people say, “we don’t have enough rainfall to grow crops” they would be more nearly correct if they said, “We don’t have enough soil formed from the rocks to grow crops.”
We are gradually coming to realize that when we turn water on as irrigation on the underdeveloped soils about all that grows will be mainly sugar and fruits or some bulky vegetation like celery. The climatic pattern makes the soil and it in turn, determines what we can grow. Unfortunately people are given so habitually to drink that they believe the plant is in the same habit and that all it wants is drink. While humans go long distances for drink, a plant can not. It must confine its drinking activities within a rather limited territory. So far as the plant growth is concerned, we need to emphasize the nutritional contribution by the soil more than its relief of the plant’s thirst. Water as rainfall is drink for the plant but it is much more effective in terms of the soil it makes for the nutrition of the crop.
On coming eastward we have better and better soil. When we arrive at about the middle of the United States the pattern shifts. The soil lines, like the rainfall lines run east and west. As the result we have a North and a South in the Eastern United States not because we have a color line in people, but because we have a difference in the soil. In the northeastern part of the United States, the climatic forces form a clay that has a high capacity to hold positively charged ions, including the hydrogen ions or what make them very acid. In the Southeastern part of the United States, it is a clay that doesn’t even hold acid. The people of the South have said for many years, “We don’t need lime because we don’t have soil acidity.” They need lime for the purpose of delivering calcium and consequently are beginning to understand why the people in the South have such poor teeth, and why the mother sacrifices some of her teeth when she bears children. It has been facetiously claimed that it is nothing unusual for the boys in North Carolina to wait for their prospective fathers-in-law to equip the prospective bride with a full set of false teeth before marrying her. In such stories you see some of the social manifestations when we appreciate the causes under them.
We also have an East and a West in the United States according to the climatic pattern. In the East our soils are highly weathered or literally washed out. In the West, they are not. It is the soil that gave us our East and West. It is the soil that gave us our North and South in the eastern half.
If we combine the effects of temperature as an evaporating force with the annual rainfall by dividing the rainfall in inches by the evaporation from a free water surface in inches, (all multiplied by 100) and then outline the points of constant ratios, we find that the rainfall evaporation ratio lines run north and south. They take a particular shape in the middle of the United States in what is the Corn Belt. There we have much of the rain fall coming in the summer when the winds blow from the West. And they carry their evaporating effects far to the East. That means that the rain comes and breaks rock down to form soil but the water evaporates and doesn’t go down through to carry away what solubles as nutrients it breaks out of the rock. It leaves these adsorbed on the clay to give the fertile soil of the corn belt. There are the highly washed out soils of the Northeastern United States because they have rainfall-evaporation ratios of 100. Likewise, the Southeast has ratios in which the rainfall is much above evaporation. This represents much water of percolation and leaching with the fertility of the soil moving to the sea.
We can say that the soils of the eastern United States are all washed out. In the western United States, the soils have much minerals in reserve. But in the middle of the United States with its fortunate balance of the climatic forces we have enough rainfall to break the rock down and then have evaporation enough to leave a stock of active fertility held by the clay. Rainfalls there are not regular enough to guarantee forests. We find grass there as the native vegetation. The climatic pattern in terms of the soil and its fertility determines the ecologicaI pattern of the flora and the fauna. In the mid-continent bordering roughly along the 97th parallel of longitude, we have the maximum of soil development from the rock with the minimum of destruction of soil at the same time. Coming from the West eastward the climate makes more soil or there is more soil construction until we reach the middle United States. Nature built the better soil there and the Buffalo knew that long before we did.
On going eastward from the mid-continent there is increasingly more soil destruction. That pattern keeps on unfolding. Professor Marbut, who studied the pattern of the soils of the United States before we explained them by climate, divided the United State’s soils along the 97th meridian of longitude. To the West we have the pedocals according to him. There is calcium in the upper three or four feet of these soils. To the East of that we have pedalfers or iron and aluminum soils in which the calcium supply is very low. Of particular interest to us is the fact that the prairie soils located along the 97th meridian come well over into Indiana according to the lines of rainfall evaporation ratios. In those soils our major production potential is located. (To be continued)