by Prof. Andrei SMAGIN, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Soil Science Department, M. V. Lomonosov State University
The sustainable development concept upheld by many people the world over presupposes a harmonious interaction between man and nature. It calls for a thrifty and scientifically validated approach in the exploration and use of natural resources. Of soil, too - this treasurehouse of fertility. It is only by taking account of all the characteristics proper to this open, dynamic and biologically conserved (inert) system that we can cultivate land in a rational way. The successful record of our unorthodox and comprehensive technologies of landscape gardening on arid land tracts is a graphic example.
Sloil formation takes centuries and millennia. I Generations of plants and animals enrich soil strata with substances and energies vital for the growth and reproduction of subsequent generations Ancient landtillers, though not versed overmuch in soil management, realized that the fertile value of soil depends primarily on its organic components - humus in particular, and they made a wide use of organic fertilizer. Actual methods and practices differed depending on land and region, though: in Russia and elsewhere in Europe one plowed in manure, compost and stubble remains, while in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia they practiced runoff (flood-fed) farming, and in ancient China and in the Low Countries-built multilayer soil structures. That was laborious and time-consuming work, but it improved soil fertility, and the coming generations of people could thus inherit flourishing fields and gardens. Technical progress has reoriented agricultural practices to a full-scale use of mineral fertilizer and chemicals to combat weeds and pests - pesticides, herbicides and other weed- and pest-killers. In arid regions artificial irrigation has been developing apace, with no restrictions for irrigation and watering norms, and water quality; all that regardless of the possible impact on the ambie ... Read more