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Feeding Plants to Feed the World
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June 19, 2017
Green Teacher

Originally appears in the Summer 2017 issue

Photographs: Kent Lewarne

“England and all civilized nations stand in deadly peril…  As mouths multiple, food sources dwindle.”1 These words by Sir William Crookes in 1898 in his inaugural speech as the president of the British Academy of Sciences, underscored his prediction that by the 1930s, humans would begin dying of hunger in large numbers. The audience sat silently, straining to hear his every word. Crookes spoke of many of the same issues we face today such as finite supplies of arable land, loss of soil fertility, limited “natural fertilizers” such as manure and bird droppings, and crop rotation. He argued that the best farming practises at the time would not be enough to stymie world hunger. For Crookes, the answer was in making what he called “chemical manure”, the discovery of which was the greatest challenge of their time.


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