Skip to main content Accessibility help

Agricultural use of organic amendments: A historical perspective

  • James F. Parr (a1) and Sharon B. Hornick (a1)


Agricultural research conducted in the United States since establishment of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Land-Grant University System in 1862 has shown that regular and proper additions of organic materials are very important for maintaining the tilth, fertility, and productivity of agricultural soils, protecting them from wind and water erosion, and preventing nutrient losses by runoff and leaching. Several millennia earlier, Roman agriculturists were advocating crop rotations, green manuring, composts, legumes, farmyard manures, crop residues, wood ashes, seaweed, and sewage wastes for supplying humus and nutrients to restore or enhance soil productivity. Even earlier, Asian farmers also used these practices to maintain healthy and productive soils. Today the most serious problem in U.S. agriculture and agriculture worldwide is the widespread degradation of agricultural soils through erosion and the consequential decline in productivity. In view of how much information is available on the benefits of organic recycling on agricultural lands, one wonders why we aren't doing a better job of protecting and conserving our land resource base. We discuss strategies for using organic resources more effectively to achieve a more sustainable agriculture for the future.



Hide All
1.Allison, F.E. 1973. Sou Organic Matter and Its Role in Crop Production. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
2.Brosten, D. 1988. How much can we lose? Agrichemical Age 32(10):78. HBJ Farm Publications, Inc., San Francisco, California.
3.Brown, L.R., and Wolf, B.C.. 1984. Soil Erosion: Quiet Crisis in the World Economy. Worldwatch Paper No. 60. WorldWatch Institute, Washington, D.C.
4.Chaney, R.L. 1990a. Twenty years of land application research. BioCycle 31(9):5559.
5.Chaney, R.L. 1990b. Public health and sludge utilization. BioCycle 31(10): 6873.
6.Fussell, G.E. 1965. Farming Technique from Prehistoric to Modern Times. Pergamon Press, London, England.
7.Gibbons, B., and Wilson, S.C.. 1984. Do we treat our soil like dirt? National Geographic 166(3):350389.
8.Hornick, S.B., Sikora, L.J., Sterrett, S.B., Murray, J.J., Millner, P.D., Burge, W.D., Colacicco, D., Parr, J.F., Chaney, R.L., and Willson, G.B.. 1984. Utilization of sewage sludge compost as a soil conditioner and fertilizer for plant growth. Agric. Information Bull. No. 464. U.S. Dept. of Agric. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
9.Hornick, S.B., and Parr, J.F.. 1987. Restoring the productivity of marginal soils with organic amendments. Amer. J. Alternative Agric. 2(2):6468.
10.King, F.H. 1911. Farmers of Forty Centuries: Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan. Reissued by Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
11.Leonard, J.N. 1973. The Emergence of Man: The First Farmers. Time-Life Books, New York, N.Y.
12.Lowdermilk, W.C. 1953. Conquest of the land through 7000 years. Agric. Information Bull. No. 99. U.S. Dept. of Agric. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
13.MacKay, A.I. 1950. Farming and Gardening in the Bible. Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
14.National Research Council. 1989. Alternative Agriculture. Board on Agriculture. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
15.Parr, J.F., and Colacicco, D.. 1987. Organic materials as alternative nutrient sources. In Helsel, Z.R. (ed). Energy in Plant Nutrition and Pest Control. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 8199.
16.Parr, J.F., and Hornick, S.B.. 1992. Utilization of municipal wastes. In Metting, B. (ed). Soil Microbial Ecology: Applications in Agriculture, Forestry and Environmental Management. Marcel Dekker, New York, N.Y. pp. 545559.
17.Parr, J.F., Stewart, B.A., Hornick, S.B., and Singh, R.P.. 1990. Improving the sustainability of dryland farming systems: A global perspective. Advances in Soil Sci. 13:18.
18.Parr, J.F., Papendick, R.I., Hornick, S.B., and Meyer, R.E.. 1992. Soil quality: Attributes and relationship to alternative and sustainable agriculture. Amer. J. Alternative Agric. 7:511.
19.Power, J.F., and Pollett, R.F.. 1987. Monoculture. Scientific American 255(3):7986.
20.Reganold, J.P., Papendick, R.I., and Parr, J.F.. 1990. Sustainable agriculture. Scientific American 262(6): 112120.
21.Smith, G.E. 1942. Sanborn Field: Fifty years of field experiments with crop rotations, manure, and fertilizers. Missouri Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. No. 458. Univ. of Missouri, Columbia.
22.Soil Science Society of America. 1984. Glossary of Soil Science Terms. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer., Madison, Wisconsin.
23.U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 1957. Soil. Yearbook of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
24.U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 1978. Improving Soils With Organic Wastes. Report to the Congress in response to Section 1461 of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 (PL 95–113). U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
25.U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 1980. Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
26.U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 1988. Low-Input/Sustainable Agriculture: Research and Education Program. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
27.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989a. EPA's policy promoting the beneficial use of sewage sludge; and the new proposed technical sludge regulations. Office of Municipal Pollution Control, Washington, D.C.
28.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989b. The Solid Waste Dilemma: An Agenda for Action. EPA/530-SW-89-019. Office of Solid Waste. Washington, D.C.
29.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1990a. National sewage sludge survey: Availability of information and data, and anticipated impacts on proposed regulations; Proposed rule. Federal Register 55(218):47210–47283.
30.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1990b. Characterization of Municipal Waste in the United States: 1990 Update. Executive summary. EPA/530-SW-90-042A. Washington, D.C.
31.White, K.D. 1970. Roman Farming. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York.
32.Willson, G.B., Parr, J.F., Epstein, E., Marsh, P.B., Chaney, R.L., Colacicco, D., Burge, W.D., Sikora, L.J., Tester, C.F., and Hornick, S.B.. 1980. Manual for Composting Sewage Sludge by the Beltsville Aerated Pile Method. EPA-600/8-80-022. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.


Agricultural use of organic amendments: A historical perspective

  • James F. Parr (a1) and Sharon B. Hornick (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed