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For those growing in soil, organic fertilizers and soil conditioners have literally been around since the beginning of time. After all, an organic fertilizer is nothing more than a plant nutrient derived from a natural resource, regardless of whether it's source is animal, mineral, or vegetable. For centuries before the advent of chemical fertilization, farmers and gardeners successfully relied on natural plant nutrients to ensure their success by following natures' examples. For obvious reasons, animal manure and "green" manure, or cover cropping, were the primary sources of nutrients used to enrich the soil of early farms and gardens.
As the modern agricultural revolution progressed, increasing amounts of research was undertaken to determine the level of nutrients in various organic materials and manures, and the conditions necessary for those nutrients to break down into their basic elemental form, which is necessary for the plant to utilize them as food.
One of the primary lessons learned was that the soil must be alive with microbiological activity for the nutrients locked up in the manures to be successfully transformed into a usable elemental form that the plant can utilize. And it was also discovered that earthworms play a vital role in this function. Not only do earthworms naturally aerate the soil, which helps to increase the amount of another element a plant uses, oxygen, to the roots, their excrement, or "castings", has been found to be natures version of what is necessary to free elemental nutrients from their host manures.
Teeming with microbiologicial activity in addition to a full complement of minor and trace elements, their use was fostered by famous organic philosopher and practitioner Robert Rodale, Jr. Earthworm castings have become internationally recognized for their superior soil conditioning and plant rejuvenation properties, and were even proclaimed by Mr. Rodale as "...the finest form of humus known to man." Recognizing the multiple benefits of worm castings, many entrepeneurs now operate "worm farms" specifically for the production of worm castings to be bagged and sold to eager backyard gardeners and hobby farmers.
Until recently, their availability in the retail marketplace was rare, and even today, most garden centers and hardware stores don't carry this valuable gardening commodity. Worms not only aerate the soil, their castings are on of the best forms of humus for the garden.
The good news is, most Earth-Friendly, Water-Wise Garden Retailers, especially those that feature organic and soil-free hydroponic gardening products, recognize and promote the innumerable benefits of worm castings by selling them bagged in a number of sizes, with many of them willing to ship bagged worm castings directly to your door.
During the early agricultural revolution of the mid-1800's, guano (the droppings of bats and seabirds), was recognized for it's extremely high concentrations of plant nutrients, as well as it's soil rejuvenation properties.
Guano from different species of bats and seabirds was found to have unique properties, some better for blooming plants, others better for green growth, and still others with all-purpose characteristics. As a result, the guano industry fluorished in the United States and shiploads of high fertilizer value bat dung and seabird guano were regularly delivered to American farms and orchards via the Merchant Marine from such faraway places as Peru, Nambia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Mexico and others, well into the mid-20th century.
Utilizing these specialized guanos, farmlands and orchards not only produced bountiful yields of high-quality fruit and produce, their soils remained healthy and retained the tilth and nutrient value necessary for continuous use.
While commercially produced synthetic fertilizers first appeared in Europe in the mid-1800's, and did increase yields significantly where applied, their use remained relatively limited until new manufacturing techniques and marketing efforts in the late 1940's spurned a massive increase in their use worldwide. As a result of these new "miracle" fertilizers' universal availability and low cost, the synthetic fertilizer industry quickly brought an end to the importation of the more expensive organic guanos and manures.
Of course, it was realized after some time that the miracle alone was too good to be true. And yes, while the synthetic fertilizers did increase food production at the time dramatically, it was learned that their sole use virtually decimated the soil it was used in, killing off the earthworms and microbiological activity necessary for healthy soil, and leaving many farms as virtual dustbowls due to their overuse.
The results sparked a renewed interest in organic and sustainable growing methods, and now many different guano's are available again for home gardeners and organic farmers, again imported from far-away places, who will be amazed at the results that are achieved from this wonderful renewable and long-lasting natural plant fertilizer resource. As with earthworm castings, puzzling as it may seem, guano fertilizers are again generally only available at Earth-Friendly, Water-Wise Garden Retailers.
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