June 28, 2010

The Story of the Soil, Cyril G. Hopkins

I'm interested in several of the sub-themes of this book, but the story as a whole was almost unreadably dull. I will summarize, in case someone else can be saved the trouble of reading the whole thing.

Overt story: young man armed with the new soil science checks out olf tired farmland while looking for a cheap farm to put back into good heart. Meets farmers' daughter, courts her, carries her off to be a farmwife.

By line count, most of the book must be the hero reciting tables of soil nutrient content and plant nutrient use... table after table after table of values measured east of the Mississippi. He is mostly speaking to a family of Southern farmers (Virginia?), who are suffering genteel poverty not just because of the waw, but because their land has 'worn out', as it does. The hero explains the need for additional nitrogen, and the inadequacy of merely recycling animal manures, and the use of clover; and winds up worrying about the long-term national need to maintain stocks of phosphorus. All of this startles me as evidence that we've known for yonks, since much much earlier than any of our conservation laws, that we were running agriculture on a literally unsustainable basis; and even why; but it's always the next generation's problem.

The other half of the plot is the rapprochement of the North and the South, mostly by admiring Southern women and vilifying or pitying blacks. I think the race descriptions are trying to be as generous to blacks as they can without losing a white Southern audience, but they're pretty awful all the same.

Project Gutenberg: The Story of the Soil

So wrote clew in Gardening. , History (20th c.). , Science.
And thus wrote others:
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