A living soil is a fertile soil. The fertility of the Indian soil in the past is an expression of the sustainability of Indian agriculture, where people, livestock and the forest worked together synergistically and in harmony. Chemicals have destroyed the life in soils by making them inert. Healing the dead soil requires reviving life in the soil.
Soil is a living system and soil fertility is the key to agricultural productivity. Any input that destroys this living system and undermines soil health basically undermines the agricultural productivity. The maintenance of the fertility of soil is the primary step in any permanent system of agriculture. The soil carries a lot of fertility of its own.
The plethora of micro-organism inherent in any soil system ensures that the nutrient cycle is in place and the large substrate are broken down to minute particles that are easy for assimilation in the root system. The reserves are carried in the form of humus, which is the result of the activities of thousands of microbes such as earthworms, burrowing insects, fungus, bacteria etc. The extent of the enormity is only realized when pouring of chemicals in soil for petty and short-term gains devastate the soil fertility.
Some soils can be highly productive without the addition of purchased external inputs. Farmers should maintain the inherent fertility of these soils by replacing the nutrients removed by crops or livestock grazing by using green manures, animal manures (raw or composted) and other organic fertilizers. Other soils, however, may be deficient in one or more essential nutrients and this deficiency must be corrected.
Truly sustainable farming protects the fertility of the soil and improves towards higher productivity. Soils deficient in nutrients cannot support either crop production or active populations of beneficial microorganisms, which are essential for a productive soil. Healthy living soils will produce healthy plants, capable of survive even in adverse climatic conditions due to increased resilience.