After thirty years of interest in organic agriculture I am surprised that the story of the two German scientists Liebig and Hensel is not resurrected more often.

It explains so precisely the disagreements between them both back in the 1860s and the void that still exists between the chemical methods of growing which are now internationally adopted (Liebig) and the more natural methods of growing food (Hensel).

The advantages and disadvantages of both methods, so clearly pointed out by Hensel, are exactly the same today and significantly more obvious. Dr Julius Hensel was a well known agricultural chemist whose findings were in dispute with those of Professor Justus von Liebig who was, ironically, author of ‘The Organic Chemistry of Agriculture’. This text was so well reviewed in the farming journals that it was a signal to the chemical companies to start production of water soluble Nitrogen which is not an organic method!

Liebig burnt plants in a crucible and discovered in the ash only Nitrogen Phosphate and Potash (NPK) because back in the 1860’s he was unable to measure any other elements. At that time there was no method of measuring all the 90 odd trace elements such as boron zinc selenium etc which we now know are essential to plant and human health. Liebig’s close association with the Octopus Chemical Fertilizer Trust contributed to the suppression of Hensel’s stone meal ideas.

Hensel insisted that chemical fertilisers would poison the soil, killing soil bacteria, and earthworms, and destroying the value of humus. He wisely thought that chemical sprays used to control insects, would attack weak chemically grown cereals. These would then get into the food chain and ultimately create diseases in animals and humans. (Read Geffrey’s article in the Telegraph Saturday 31st December 2011 ‘There is bad chemistry in our bodies’ or ‘Chemical Children’ by Dr Peter Mansfield)

Fertile soils are created in part, by the wearing down of rocks during ice ages and volcanic rock dust, which comes from a special quarry speeds up this process. Hensel said that his rock meal produced tastier more vitaminized and mineralised food which enabled cereals to grow strong and to be immune to infestation therefore reducing the necessity for toxic sprays. Food produced in this way stays fresh longer and travels well. Stone meal stays in the soil for 3 to 5 years, and produces increased yields of nutritious crops. It is thought that if food such as this is eaten on a regular basis it can reduce the risks of contracting many unnecessary diseases.

Liebig was a very clever, well thought of scientist who may have been under some pressure at that time to go along with his theory on NPK. Because of large commercial companies taking up the opportunity to make financial gains. Who really knows?

However, being honest and moral, it seems that he later came to realise that his assessments were inaccurate as he had not been able to measure the full findings when experimenting with plants in the crucible.

I quote from Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 1899. “I had sinned against the wisdom of the creator, and received my righteous punishment. I wished to improve his work, and in my blindness believed that, in the marvellous chain of laws binding life on earth’s surface and keeping it always new, a link had been forgotten which I, weak and powerless worm, must supply.”
Justus von Liebig.

We must presume that this entry referred to his inability at that time to measure trace elements which were present in the crucible ash. But by then Hensel’s views had been crushed, with all his findings in tatters.

This quote was subsequently removed from the encyclopaedia. I wonder why?

Food has been produced based on the work of Liebig for over one hundred years. The soils have suffered NPK applications and pest controls. Fertilizers get more and more expensive and we get quantity rather than quality food.

Could we feed the world using Hensels experiments? We certainly need to check him out!

David Wilkin

Chemical Children – by Dr Peter Mansfield and Dr Jean Monro
The End by Larry Ephron
Suppressed Inventions by Jonathan Eisen
The survival of Civilisation by J.D.Hamaker and supported evidence by D.A.Weaver
(N.B. Trace elements can now be analysed by the Spectrolaser Rapid elemental analysis system)
This Could not be done by Leibig 100 years ago