Holy Shit – Managing Manure to Save Mankind
by Gene Logsdon
Poop Will Set You Free
Get this book. If you have ever been curious about the immense cost and devotion of resources to processing waste, this book will guide you through the world of feces and all its potential.
Our author is no schmo. Gene Logsdon has been writing for decades on all thing’s agriculture, compost, and gardening. He has published more than 20 books and has been a long time contributor to Farming magazine and Biocycle, both top tier periodicals. Biocycle features articles and products involved in commercial waste reduction methods. For instance, digesters for commercial pig farms. I will give you three guesses as to what they digest. Unfortunately, we won't get into digesters in this writeup; we will instead focus on Gene and his 40 years of professional life to give us reliable information. Gene uses his dry wit and frank prose to deliver this crappy news along with a chuckle.
What a Load of Crap
There are two main types of crappy news Mr. Logsdon touches on throughout the book. One, we waste waste. $50 billion is the conservative estimate of pee and poop the US flushes down the toilet each year. And that is just fecal matter as it relates to its value as fertilizer. This does not include the cost to process our excrement. That number is closer to 2 trillion annually. All of that can be avoided by pooping in a hole.
Two, we have low soil fertility from decades of dependance on chemical fertilizer. Using chemicals in your soil tricks the biome and disrupts the Soil Food Web. The plants may get some of the nutrients they need but the rest of the habitat suffers. Then, when you stop using chemicals, you find the land is unfertile due to the lack of soil organisms breaking down organic matter.
Despite all this crappy news, Gene shows that these issues are correctable, and abundance can come from unsung places. It’s almost as if there is an obvious answer right in front of our noses: we spend trillions getting rid of organic waste, yet our soils are starved of organic material…
Soil Food Web - Break It Down
It may come as a surprise to you, but the natural world figured out how to grow plants without the help of humans. It's called the Soil Food Web and it is a complex system of millions of organisms working in concert to recycle organic material. All the flora and fauna in a given area make up the delicate balance life in the soil. If there is a regular supply of organic matter to breakdown, the organisms will be content to stay; but when the organic matter is gone, so are the organisms. Without microbes to provide nutrients for plants, plants won’t thrive, let alone live.
Plants obtain nutrients from the soil through their roots, but they must be in chemical form. To achieve this plant roots work in concert with fungi and bacteria to form an exchange with soil microbes. Soil microbes break down organic matter to chemical form once the larger organisms in the food web do their thing. Shredders: beetles, centipedes, and the like, chop the big bits with their mandibles making it more manageable for the smaller digesters. Mycelia, nematodes, protozoa and others provide work towards the break down.
Soil Fertility-If You Build It, They Will Come
Tilth, arability, whatever you call it-we need organic matter in soil. The adage that gets it done for me is, ‘feed the soil, not the plant’.
This book shares ways improve soil fertility and increase plant production with the same system. Farmers have known this for centuries and have been practicing various forms of manure application to great success. We need to bring back the organic organisms and we need to feed them phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium. Guess where you will find a plethora of untapped organic matter, already partially broken down, just waiting for the last steps to reduce them to elements plants can take up.
Before you would get all willy-nilly about pathogens, please know that on the whole feces and urine are quite clean. In the rare cases where an issue of rash or worms are detected, composting will have these inundated in less than a year, and in two years all traces of the issue are eradicated. Thanks soil food web!
Night Soil is the term for using human waste as fertilizer. While this may be a line in the sand for some people, Gene does a great job laying out its benefits. One of the many is odor. Dry toilets with sawdust smell better than most bathrooms. Given our diets, there are some smells we can’t escape. There is a reason, despite the luxurious expense of flush toilets, products like Poo-pourri thrive in today's marketplace.
I'm not saying go dig a hole poop in it. Okay, I am; at least start peeing in your compost. I am also saying find this book. Human excrement is only a fraction of what this book covers. Gene gives advice on the best ways to handle manure from a myriad of animals, chicken to horse, even cats and dogs. Worst case scenario, if you buy this book and don’t like it, you can use it for toilet paper.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
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