Geoff Lawton on NPK Fertilizer (Indonesian Subs)


we’ve planted our crop, we’re reasonably ethical
about our land use, but uhm, we wanted to make money, so we’re not gonna use any poisons,
but we are gonna use a little bit of fertilizer, because that’s not poison, alright? it’s just
a fertilizer. So, we’ll put down a bit of fertilizer, that
fertilizer is in a bag, we go to the shop and we buy it, it’s in a bag, right? And here’s our bag of fertilizer, some go-go
juice, alright? And it’s got a set of numbers on it, and there
are usually 3, alright? it’s got a, you know, 10, 8 , 12 or something, that is in relation
to the N, P, K, and it might have those three numbers plus a few added trace elements, so
it’s got those, it’s got the NPK, just the main food, and maybe it’s got one or two of
these, but that’s all, and it’s specific to the crop we’ve planted, now just nitrogen
alone you cant, you cant hold on to nitrogen, in a natural sense, nitrogen is something
really smelly, that goes putrified and goes “PFFT” and just disappears in front of you,
it’s like manure or fish or urine or something like that, it’s not something that’s stable,
and often natural elements that are high in phosphorous are the same, fish is high in
phosphorous as well, most things that come out the ocean or come out of water are, but
what’s going on in this bag? what’s in here? uhmm.. well when you open up the bag, it looks
like a load of salt, it looks like a load of crystals, and it’s not deteriorating at
all, it’s just sitting there, it seems to be completely stable, it’s usually, in there
is uh, there’s a cadmium, is that the right spelling? thank you, haha, is a cadmium salt, that is
locked in those fertilizing elements, they’re locked in to a cadmium salt, and it’s water soluble,
it doesn’t do anything to the soil, it doesn’t do anything to the plant until it gets washed
in. So it is not in this form, it is not rock
dust or minerals of any type it is a soluble element that has to be washed through it has
to be washed down and it is not gonna be taken in by the hair roots, its gonna be taken in
here, through the tap roots right the plant has to drink it’s a hydraulic pump if it doesn’t
drink it collapses, that’s called wilt it has to drink, so now we’re gonna force this plant
but, it’s not a poison, it doesn’t really matter does it? You know, it’s still reasonable, it can be
thought of as being not so bad, so we take this and we put it down on the soil and then
we must either irrigate or rain has to wash it in and it goes on down through the soil
and the plant drinks it and it drinks it up and the plant grows, it has to drink a little bit
more water, or liquid as it is, water with this in it than it would normally do to compensate
for the salt, so it has to, it actually bloats as well as grows quickly, so our crop goes
up, so we’re looking good, we’re gonna make money, because our little money making crop’s
boosting up now with this synthetic fertilizer, but um this plant is absolutely saturated
with the base, these three base elements and so it’s bloated, it’s over supplied, it’s
like force feeding you with, you know, meat, potatoes and two veg(etables), or some base
foods, alright, it hasn’t got the diversity because this plant is now full of those elements
and it’s bloated with water, and its root, hair root function shuts down a little bit
because it’s so full, then you’re okay you’re going away, you’re going on with your cash
crop, but this plant being bloated, sooner or later, with a monoculture of this in the
field, and these plants that are really bloated with water, they become very obvious to insects,
because not everything sees the same way as we do, if you ever look into how ducks see the landscape,
they don’t see much at all except for water, the element they interact with, a lot of insect
pests see the water in plants, see the bloat in plants, so, sooner or later after putting
all this investment in you’re gonna get a problem, it might not be this year, it might be
next year but sooner or later you’re gonna get some problem fly in, some insect problem,
and you’ve invested in the crop, now, so, you can’t afford not to, ,maybe, now this your
ethics come in to question, give those a bit of a spray, now that is a pesticide, and that
doesn’t just kill those, and gravity takes everything down, that gets down into the soils
and now if you are in worms, or ant country, but generally those are the larger soil animals
anyway, they get wiped out, and the soil life, this soil life that were structuring, helping
you structure the soil, these microorganisms definitely start to get wiped right out of
the soil and they were helping with this structure and these larger elements like worms, termites
and other things are helping to structure and open up the air passages and the water
passages in the soil, they’re knocked out, but you’re okay, your crop’s still going you’re
fine, you’re gonna make your money, but then also, so the plant grows on, bloating away,
coming towards your crop, but then sooner or later, you might be in rainy season or you
might have an extra wet period, you’ve got a lot of humid air and this bloated plant
is more susceptible to get a fungi problem. So now you, you’ve spent the money, you’ve
spent more money now than you thought you were gonna spend, right? You’ve had to spend the money on preparing
the field, the seed, the fertilizer, probably the irrigation and now the pesticide, and,
you really owe quite a bit to the bank, you might just compromise again and put down over
the top of that, a fungicide, is it fung-AH-cide? Fung-EE-cide ! Fungicide? G-H-I? Come on don’t you get dyslexic on me! Hahahaha, or we’re really in trouble, anyway,
you know what I mean, so you’ve got a fungicide, now, down here, as Bill said, there can be
six hundred meters, six kilometers of fungal hyphy in every square meter, and they are
interacting with all kinds of things, they’re connected to the plant roots, they’re bringing
in a lot of this, the phosphates, they’re harvesting those, and, they get wiped out,
so, because the fungicide, not all of it hits the plant, gravity takes that down and that
soaks on down with the water, so now we’ve knocked out the fungicide, the fungus, and
the fungal assist, we knocked out some hair root, quite a bit of hair root, because we’re
fertilizing and stuffing the plant with three major elements, we knocked out the soil life
or most of it, especially when we’re repeating this over a few years in the same field with
pesticide, we knocked out the fungus, the hyphy, by knocking down, bringing down the
fungicide, letting that go down through the soil, so this soil’s collapsing, this crumb
structure is collapsing down, there’s very little air space, there’s very little water
space, most of our water’s now running off, because it wont go in, there isn’t the porosity
in the soil, so chances are if we get caught with a ploughed field, we’re actually removing
soil off the landscape now, we’re actually sending it to the ocean fast, of course there’s
one more thing to add now isn’t there, because what happens when you knock out the structure
in the soil, what’s the response there? Yeah, erosion physically, but weeds, yeah,
the response to damaged soil is a reparative function in that some of these hardy little
pioneer plants that we demonize and hate and take on as enemies come in to try and restructure
the soil, their germination condition is to send down big tap roots that decompact, there’s
decompactors in germination condition and there’s, where our soil erosion is taking
place, there’s hair root weeds that try and hold the top together for us, that’s their
germination condition, we’ve probably got compaction and soil that’s loose on the
top and compacted underneath and, multiple there, or multiple bad functions, so what
we’ll do now is we’ll complete the biocide cocktail, we’ll put on a herbicide, herb-A-cide? Hahahaha and that is your biocide cocktails,
and on you go, and sooner or later you’ll be out, it’s just a matter of time, depends
how good your soil base is in the beginning, but where did we start? Well we actually started trying to make money,
with a monoculture, but we started, and we could’ve got that right, we could’ve come
into a smaller size field, we could’ve had more interactions on the outside of the field
and things like that, so that’s not saying that it’s impossible to do, but, where we
started was with this bag, we tried to feed the plant and not the soil, it’s as simple
as that, you are not farming the plants, you should not be demonizing the weeds, it’s the
germination condition you’re looking at, not the weeds, it’s the cause, not the symptom
that is the problem, and it’s ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the base element is the soil,
so, until you’ve got that right and you understand that and how to feed that, how to build that,
you are not gonna be successful producing something as difficult as annual crops, it’s
a lot easier to do perennials, it’s a lot easier to do long term trees, but when you
start mucking about with ploughing fields especially in climates which are very dangerous
to ploughing, and you start doing monoculture, and then you start doing monoculture over
large areas with ploughed fields in inappropriate climates, you’re gonna lose the soil, it’s
gonna go, and that is what’s happening, and then what are you gonna do if you are a traditional
people that have been advised to do this and you now have no food to eat, you’re gonna
move to Jakarta, or some big city, I get emails all the time.

27 thoughts on “Geoff Lawton on NPK Fertilizer (Indonesian Subs)

  1. Good video, keep the good work up!

    I learnt a lot fro you. I am everyday gardener that takes interest in soil and the plant ecosystem.

  2. A kind of masterpiece. But is there a role for fertilisers in pioneer and support plants, when you start with really crap land, perhaps covered with lantana? I could see that you don't want to support cash crops in this way for the reasons so clearly explained in this presentation. But Supposing you are starting fresh with nitrogen fixing trees, desert-loving tress and maybe some long-term bedrock trees like a bunch of Oaks? Might there be a role for fertiliser in that situation?

  3. Seems like the modern farming method is planned out by Monsanto. Buy their fertilizer and eventually you buy their insecticides, fungicide and herbicide.

  4. This is a very imprtant and excellent wrap-up what pretty much all of the industrialized agriculture is doing! I Dunno when was that but I guess it's good 20+ years old…and its still practiced like that despite gigantic consequences. Thanks to the uploader and Mr. Lawton! I Wish there would be the whole lecture!

  5. It amazes me – that with all the colossal failures of industrialized agriculture in the 20th century – that people are still repeating the same mistakes (and compounding them) in the 21st century. Too little organic matter – too many synthetic fertilizers – mono-cultures that lack biological diversity – slash and burn farming practices… but the absolute worst of all these things… drum roll please… human sewage ! This one thing has the potential to change everything.

    If the world stopped using modern sewage treatment systems and dry composted their waste instead- we would create enough organic matter to terraform the worlds deserts and actually change global climate patterns. We can terraform deserts into lush rainforests. The most fertile soil on Earth was created in this way – the "terra preta" soil of the Amazon. Today it is mined and sold to local farmers in places like Brazil – who pay a hefty price for their ancestors compost… meanwhile, they adopt our modern sewage treatment and building codes.

    Isn't that ironic? We humans have found a way to remove ourselves from nature almost entirely – while we excavate the feces of our ancestors for commercial profit. We embalm our dead with toxic fluids so they can go on display for a few days… and then poison the Earth when they're finally buried. The whole thing is an analogy of our self-destructive, disconnected behavior. If we continue down this path – then the Earth has already exceeded its maximum population density. But if we challenge our own deeply held prejudices and cultural customs – we can easily support a human population in excess of ~25 billion people without any problems.

    "Overpopulation" is merely a product of our inability to coexist symbiotically with nature… it is entirely a human construct. And remember this: "every parasite was once a failed symbiont." -Mother Nature

  6. i think this applies to so many other things, from our own physical and mental health and modern society. using artificial means to try and improve natural systems to feed our fears and greed.

  7. Back when Geoff Lawton was young. Dark hair, dark mustache, suit. This is of course before he did permaculture gardening in Jordan.

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