“The Hidden Half of Nature”

The Hidden Half of Nature, the microbial roots of life and soil by David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle.

We know less about the soil beneath our feet, than the stars above us. In the hidden half of nature, geologist David R. Montgomery and biologist Anne Bikle put forward the case the earths smallest creature, microbes could fundamentally change how we grow food and practice medicine. Revealing how we can restore fertility to land and defeat chronic diseases.

In the last hundred years nutrition value of fruits, vegetables, meats have dropped by around fifty percent. During WWII the development of synthetic nitrogen production for explosives was pursued by the Germans. This was commercialised after the war and this product is the basis of nitrogen fertiliser used today. In traditional farming practice nitrogen was provided by animal manure and plant compost. Early soil knowledge from the 1930’s was forgotten and no consideration was given to the impact of soil life with the intervention into a complex evolved system. The effectiveness of the synthetic nitrogen decreases overtime, as the soil life dies and soil transforms into dirt – confirmed  by scientists at the Morrow Plots in 2007.

Sprinkled with detailed graphics that illustrate the science, which is brilliant for visual learners.  This book is incredibly well researched and details the history of industrial twentieth century farming practices. The science of the soil and plant, the diversity of soil microbial life and connection to the human/animal body. The importance of healthy plants and soil in drawing carbon from the atmosphere and increasing the nutrient density in our food. And does so from a practical experience as it details Montgomery and Bikle’s experience transforming a barren patch of dirt into a flourishing garden.

Beautifully written, a must read for gardeners, farmers and environmentalists.

David R. Montgomery is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Anne Bikle, and Loki, their guide-dog dropout. Anne Bikle is a biologist and environmental planner. Her career spans the fields of environmental stewardship, habitat restoration, and public health. The Hidden Half of Nature is her first book.


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