The Immune System of Plants
We're going to begin from a meta & philosophical place today. Do you see yourself as separate from other animals? Do you see yourself as separate from plants? We are moving, I hope & feel, from a place of dualism and separatism, back to a place of interconnectedness between all living things. Back to what our ancestors intrinsically understood & based their rituals on - many of which we still practice today in action, but with forgotten meaning.
The parallels between the needs & functions of us, the human, and every other living thing on earth, including the earth as a whole, are so rich & straight-forward that when we open our minds to this interconnectedness, it is easy to understand our plant brethren.
Let's take the analogy of a human body to understand the plant health. If Nina, for example, is eating a rainbow diet of organic, nutrient-dense vegetables, millets & heirloom rice, drinking lots of herbal tea, not smoking, getting good sleep & exercising regularly, she has probably got a pretty rocking immune system. If she goes to a party and mingles with Suraj, who has a common cold, and Maya, who is about to find out she has the flu, will Nina get sick? Mostly likely not. Her immune system is supported by a diverse range of micronutrients that are keeping her defenses up & her body thriving.
If Nina was eating a standard diet, standard these days, of hybrid vegetables, hybrid rice & hybrid wheat, all chemically grown & fertilized, with sticky sweet chai of refined sugar and a daily treat of vada pao or maggi, with refined white flour, then her immunity will be low and she is likely to pick up Suraj's cold or Maya's flu and fall sick the very next day.
Plant immunity is just like ours. In order to be strong & robust against disease & pathogen ('pests' in farmers speak), it requires a diet that is rich in micronutrients. Those micronutrients are provided by the rich soil food web, a combination of trillions of microscopic bacteria, fungi, yeasts and little critters, including worms, that consume earth & biomass and provide complex plant food.
Modern, industrial agriculture as reduced the needs of plants to just three nutrients - nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Plants can grow big & produce yield with those three nutrients, but they have no immunity against disease or pest. Thus, farmers are locked into a cycle of applying dangerous chemical pesticides to deal with pest invasions - in turn also killing any and all microorganism below the soil that help breakdown soil matter into digestible plant food (that helps supply micronutrients). The soil is left lifeless with the application of these pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Then we are back to the beginning of the cycle, where farmers must spray fertilizers, with you guessed it, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, to ensure plant growth and production.
These plants have no real prana, no life force. They are propped up on plant-life-support until their dying (aka harvesting) day. When we eat these plants, our prana also suffers. We simply cannot consume a wide range of micro-nutrients if the plants we are eating themselves are lacking in these nutrients. The effect on our immunity is the same - it is low & vulnerable and our bodies are subject to falling ill to all sorts of modern diseases because our bodies don't have the essential nutrients to support the functions of our organs.
Plants grown in a mixed, diverse garden with rich, living soil don't fall sick. When the farmer is focused on soil health, and providing the plants what they need for a robust immune system, they don't have to worry about pest and disease control. Healthy soil grows healthy plants, which in turn fuels healthy human bodies.
So how do we, and the plants, escape from this vicious trap of nutrient-deficiencies. The answer, my friends, is in growing our own food - even if just our herbs and leafy greens - in compost-rich, living soil. Realistically, we can't expect urban households to grow millets and rice and wheat and potatoes and onions. I get that! But we can certainly can expect every household to grow their own mint, coriander, parsley, dill, spinach, and leafy greens. If we do just that, just herbs and greens, we will supplement our diets with a rich range of micronutrients that is dangerously devoid from our modern food system.
Now, for the action part. How to make compost??? For full details on how to convert food scraps and manure to epic compost and then how to grow those veggies from seeds, check out our learn-at-your-pace online course - Guide to Radical Self Reliance - or of course you could scour the wide world of the internet and probably end up more confused than when you began. Your choice! ;)