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Fundamentals of Nutrient Management: Why Nutrient Replacement is Essential in Organic and all Agriculture

Merfield, Charles (2008) Fundamentals of Nutrient Management: Why Nutrient Replacement is Essential in Organic and all Agriculture. In: Teagasc Organic Production Research Conference Proceedings, Teagasc, Ireland, pp. 71-98.

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PDF - English

Document available online at: http://www.teagasc.ie


There is a belief, going back to the foundation of organic agriculture, that nutrient replacement, i.e., the use of ‘fertilisers’, within organic agriculture is not required. Scientific theories and laws as well as practical farming evidence, now conclusively shows that this belief is incorrect, and nutrient replacement / cycling is essential for all forms of agriculture including organic. This paper is an explanation of why nutrient replacement / cycling is essential, starting at the most fundamental levels of the physical laws of nature, progressively building a holistic / systems based view of the behaviour of nutrients, and also energy, in farm systems and the biosphere as a whole. While such a view may at first appear overly detailed, even irrelevant to agriculture, one of the primary keys to the success of scientific understanding is the ability to create a theoretical understanding with precise predictive power. Much of agriculture is based in the complex sciences of biology and ecology where random processes prevent theoretical explanation and prediction i.e., much of agricultural science is empirical. Nutrient management is one of the few areas of agriculture where fundamental physics, even at the sub-atomic level, can penetrate right through the noise of biological systems to directly inform the actions of farmers. Empowered by such understanding farmers have the ability to fully understand the fundamentals of nutrient management and make better informed decisions about their own practices. Such a holistic perspective also ‘shines a light’ on the unsustainability of nutrient management in ‘industrial’ agriculture and the wider human societies of which it is the foundation, as well as reiterating the solutions that have been known for two centuries.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation:Ireland > Teagasc - Agriculture and Food Development Authority
Deposited By: Clavin, Mr Dan
ID Code:19852
Deposited On:25 Nov 2011 11:31
Last Modified:25 Nov 2011 11:31
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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