Justus von Liebig ‘The search for agricultural recycling’. Engelse versie
Justus von Liebig will forever be associated with the agricultural sector as the inventor of artificial fertiliser (and the stock cube) that makes him the originator of the most revolutionary development in agriculture.
His reputation as the first and most prominent critic of the use of artificial fertiliser is, however, far less known. In the same way that Albert Einstein sharply criticised the application of his work in weapons of destruction, Justus von Liebig fiercely fought against the use of his own discovery. He saw the unrestrained sprinkling with artificial fertiliser as a very big and real danger to a healthy soil life and a responsibly grown agricultural product.
Being directly involved enabled him to present the strongest of arguments in the debate over soil fertility, the nitrogen cycle and the health of the environment, crops, animals and humans.
Summarised in one quote:
“. . . if the soil lacks mineral elements, using ammonium salts has the same effect as brandy on poor people to increase their capacity for work, in both cases the result will be exhaustion. . .”
Even then (halfway through the 19th century), the financial interests of artificial fertiliser producers and agricultural businesses were more important than care for a healthy soil and responsible production.
This publication contains the translation of a critical essay that was first published in 1861. The importance of the now one hundred and fifty year old text is still substantial. In respect of the current debate in agriculture this booklet, because of the strength of von Liebig’s arguments, can make a meaningful contribution to the awakening of all who work in or for the agricultural sector.
The editorial staff
Mulder Agro BV