Agroecosystem integrity and the internal cycling of nutrients

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter evaluates the origins of our soil stewardship instinct and asks whether or not the soil health paradigm embraced by agroecology is principally derived from current science or, instead, from social movements developed in reaction to modern agriculture and reductionist approaches to research. Humans associated soil organic matter with fertility and sustainability long before scientific evidence gave support to this notion. Early beliefs in the lithic origin of life that resulted in the use of soil as a metaphor for human well-being explain why soils are revered. The attack on the humus theory that took place in the nineteenth century was a rejection of this spiritual or metaphysical view of soils. Historical recountings emphasize that the humus theory wrongly argued that plants obtained their mass by consuming soil but leave out the fact that the theory considered questions about the origins of life and decay that trace back to Aristotle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSustainable Agroecosystem Management
Subtitle of host publicationIntegrating Ecology, Economics, and Society
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781420052152
ISBN (Print)9781420052145
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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