Liberally watered by rainfall (which further favors soil microorganisms), India's soils are all but devoid of humus. Also, with as much as 300 inches of rain in a single year, no soluble chemical remains available for more than a day or two at the most. In one test, Sir Albert applied composted organic materials to soils. The result was a phenomenal increase in yields, as was to be expected, because
of the longer life of organic matter in the soil. Such results could not possibly be duplicated by use of pure chemicals under East Indian conditions, since as much as a pound of nitrogen in soluble form applied to 1,000 square feet of soil could be washed below the root zone of garden plants almost overnight.
A strong case against the superiority which Sir Albert claimed for organic plant foods in tropical climates was offered by the soilless culture used successfully on tropical islands during World War II. Because of the lack of true soil on many of these islands, vegetables were grown in tanks containing all necessary nutrients in soluble form. Production was much higher per square foot than in soil, Nutritionally, the nutrient culture vegetables were ranked as equal to the best.
Toward the end of his life, Sir Albert moved back to England and continued to preach his gospel of organic gardening. Out of this has come a cult of organoculture which holds certain vague tenets but fails to clearly define these to the satisfaction of most scientists. Because the organocultist credo is not stated in words that can be answered with simple scientific evidence, perhaps the best way to give the story is to sum up and analyze a few of the many discussions I have had with various proponents of the all-organic theory.
THE CASE AGAINST ORGANIC GARDENING
The question is not whether organic matter is good or bad. Almost any individual who has worked with soils will agree that organic material is a basic ingredient of gardening. If I were planting a 40-foot oak at this moment, you may be sure that all the well-rotted manure or compost I could afford would be mixed with the soil around the ball of earth, and that there would be at least 6 inches of organic matter in the bottom of the hole. In making a lawn or vegetable garden I would prefer to work into the soil a layer of at least 3 inches of organic matter. All through this book you will find recommendations for the liberal use of organic matter. If anyone wants to make me a present of a load of manure, I would welcome it as much as any other thing I know. In short, I believe in organic matter.