“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I believe constant learning is an imperative, and should be enjoyable. I find learning something new about life and living processes to be exhilarating and exciting. I have read hundreds of books and thousands of papers that relate to agriculture and living systems in some manner. Of course, the areas of science that touch agriculture in some way are so large it seems certain we will never run out of new things to learn.
I find it intriguing that much of the emerging foundational science which promises completely different approaches to agronomy and agricultural management is not coming from people who are closely connected to agriculture but in other life sciences. Very often, the implications of their work are not directly spelled out, but when we connect the dots, we realize how powerful this new information will be in the future.
Our present mechanistic approaches to agriculture since the “Green Revolution” have been based primarily on chemistry and genetics. I very strongly believe the agriculture and agronomy of the future will be based on biophysics and a very different understanding of the organism. This is an area that all growers and agronomists should have a working knowledge of the concepts and principles since it will be the foundation for the next agricultural revolution happening now.
Many people have asked me for a recommended reading list of the most pertinent and valuable books I have read. This list is a live list of books that I continue to update.
I have divided them into different (somewhat arbitrary) sections based on how accessible they are and their general topic area.
My preference is to have post-it flags within easy reach as I read, and mark each page with a flag that I want to use as a reference in the future. It is easy to observe how useful a book might be based on the number of flags it has. Most of the books who made it onto this list have hundreds of flags. For the very few which have fewer, they are still on the list because of the importance and relevance of their message.
Foundational Soil & Plant Science
This group of books is very accessible, from my perspective any serious grower will have at least half of them on his shelf. These are pretty much in the must-read category for farmers who want to begin thinking differently and prepare for the agriculture of the future.
Eco Farm – Charles Walters
Science in Agriculture – Arden Andersen
Life and Energy in Agriculture – Arden Andersen
Foundations of Natural Farming – Harold Willis
Soil Grass and Cancer – Andre Voisin
The Organic Method Primer – The Rateavers
A Soil Owner’s Manual – Jon Stika
The Biological Farmer – Gary Zimmer
Nutrition Rules – Graeme Sait
Humusphere – Herwig Pommeresche
How Soils work – Paul Syltie
From the Soil Up – Don Shreifer
Agriculture in Transition – Don Shreifer
The ideal soil handbook – Michael Astera
Exceptional Peer-Reviewed Soil and Plant Science References
The books in this group are written by and for academics, rather than for growers, but the information they contain is gold. How much is it worth to you to have a reference book that can tell you precisely why a certain disease organism is showing up, and how you can create an environment so that it is no longer present? If you are an agronomist or a consultant, each of these is a must-read. Reading these books will change how you approach managing soils, crops, and pests.
Soil Microbiology and Higher Plants – NA Krasil’nikov, Free PDF Here, This second PDF contains more figures and illustrations.
Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants – Marschner
Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease – Datnoff, Elmer, Huber
Organic Soil Conditioning, Humic, Fulvic, and Microbial Balance – William Jackson Or Here.
The Biophysics of living organisms, with strong agricultural implications
The coming agricultural revolution which will supersede the “Green Revolution” will be a revolution of biophysics. We are reaching the limits of chemistry. The information contained in any one of these books will require us to shift our thinking and approach to growing crops. Some of these are more accessible than others. Any one of them will have you on the edge of your seat as you understand the implications.
Bioelectrodynamics and Biocommunication – Ho, Popp, Warnke
The Rainbow and the Worm – Mae Wan Ho
Living with the Fluid Genome – Mae Wan Ho
Cells, Gels, and the Engines of Life – Gerald Pollack
Gravitobiology – Tom Bearden
The Body Electric – Robert Becker
Cross Currents – Robert Becker
Tuning in to Nature – Philip Callahan
Paramagnetism – Philip Callahan
Biological Transmutations – Louis Kervran
Morphic Resonance – Rupert Sheldrake
The Universal One – Walter Russell
Report on Radionics – Edward Russell
The Biophysics of Water
Water is THE fundamental in agriculture. The information here is so valuable and important, it deserves a section of it’s own.
Living Rainbow H20 – Mae Wan Ho
Living Water – Olof Alexandersson
The Fourth Phase of Water – Gerald Pollack
Nature as Teacher – Callum Coats
Living Energies – Callum Coats
The Water Wizard – Callum Coats
The Fertile Earth – Callum Coats
The most successful growers are those who connect with their plants, much the same as producers connect with livestock or horses. Stephen Buhner is perhaps my favorite author for his writing style. These books are very accessible and read like a thriller. Many people have said they couldn’t stop reading when they began because the information is so captivating. I have gifted these books a lot.
The Lost Language of Plants – Steven Harrod Buhner
The Secret Teachings of Plants – Steven Harrod Buhner
Plant Intelligence – Steven Harrod Buhner
The Secret Life of Plants – Christopher Bird
The ‘culture’ of Agrarian Culture
“People laugh at me because I am different. I laugh at them because they are all the same.” ~ Gabe Brown
The present model of commercial agriculture has adopted a very mechanistic worldview and ethos, with little room for ‘culture’. As we implement more regenerative models our cognition changes. We are present with our plants and livestock in a different way. We begin thinking about the ecosystems we work within, and how we can enhance them. This culture of caring is what consumers associate with farming culture. There are many good books that would fit into this category. Some are exceptional. Here are a few of the exceptional ones.
The marvelous pigness of pigs – Joel Salatin (A must-read)
Folks, this ain’t normal – Joel Salatin
Grain by Grain – Bob Quinn
Growing a revolution – David Montgomery
Dirt to Soil – Gabe Brown
The unsettling of America – Wendell Berry
Call of the Reed warbler – Charles Massey
Nourishment – Fred Provenza
What books do you think need to be added to this list?