The Organiculturist’s Creed

Writing in 1948, J.I. Rodale discusses the growing organic movement and its practices, setting it at odds with the status quo of the day.

By J.I. Rodale


The first tenet of our organiculturist's creed is that we are opposed to artificial or chemical fertilizers. We decry these chemical fertilizers because they contain certain poisonous elements in too great a concentration.  All the chemicals present in these artificial fertilizers are also distributed in ocean waters, but the quantities are so exceedingly negligible that fish can safely swim in such a medium though they could never flip a fin in the concentrations of such chemicals that are found in chemical fertilizers. Certain indispensable soil microorganisms that are essential to the processes of plant growth can tolerate these excessive concentrations no better than the fish could endure their presence in salt water. We can use the elements contained in chemical fertilizers, regardless of whether they are organic or inorganic, but only if they are in extremely minute distribution. Such safe distribution can be found in certain rocks that can be pulverized for fertilizer use, but the subject still requires a great deal of research and experimentation, a project which the Soil and Health Foundation may soon undertake. The supply of such rock materials is enormous and cheap, and recent experimental work has already demonstrated that, if ground fine enough, they become a quick-acting fertilizer. Many rocks contain plant nutrients in considerable amounts which are insoluble until they are pulverized and brought into contact with the soil when they are rendered soluble by carbonic acid and other substances in the soil. Meanwhile, however, better results can be obtained if the chemicals we use are in organic form. 

Besides compost made of plant and animal matter, the organiculturist may employ as fertilizers such substances as raw phosphate rock, dolomite, ground oyster shells, and miscellaneous ground rocks such as granite dusts and pulverized limestone. Quicklime, on the other hand, is much too strong in action and will destroy bacteria. Builders' hydrated (slaked) lime, though stronger than the simple pulverized limestone, can be used if the latter is not available. Even wood ashes may be used as a substitute for lime in making compost. All of the above are chemicals, but they are the kind that can be tolerated in relatively large quantities.

Phosphorous and calcium (the latter found abundantly in lime) are not as dangerous substances as potash, which is a catalyst and is required in small applications only. Too much of it interferes with the growing processes of the plant, which is, however, as intemperate as a drunkard in its thirst for potash. It can't resist it! There is a current medical theory that regions in which the land is overly rich in potash show an unusually high incidence of human cancer