Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

An Agricultural Testament

Rate this book

266 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1973

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Albert Howard

35 books31 followers
Sir Albert Howard (8 December 1873 – 20 October 1947) was an English botanist, an organic farming pioneer, and a principal figure in the early organic movement. He is considered by many in the English-speaking world to have been, along with Rudolf Steiner and Eve Balfour, one of the key founders of modern organic agriculture.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
35 (40%)
4 stars
28 (32%)
3 stars
19 (21%)
2 stars
4 (4%)
1 star
1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
644 reviews15 followers
November 27, 2014
Five plus stars for potential importance to world health as the seminal work in soil health. Take away two stars because though well-written it is not my favorite book to read for enjoyment. Four solid stars remain for expressing so influentially the concept that, next to water, healthy soil is the world's most important resource. See also Aldo Leopold's writings for a poetic treatment of the soil as a living presence on which we all depend for life.

Most of Howard's ideas have been adapted by Rodale and others; you don't have to read him to get started on organic farming and gardening, but if you want the big original book for a reference and a talisman this is it.

We practice composting with barn floor waste that then goes on fields; we have one composting toilet; we compost kitchen scraps and garden/lawn clippings (but the word lawn gives me away as not a 100% committed environmentalist, uh oh).
Profile Image for Nadia.
30 reviews
August 1, 2016
Brilliant, brilliant book. It is still hailed as the book which laid the foundations of organic agriculture, but it is, I think, more than that: it gives us a holistic view of agriculture as a partnership between Man and Nature. Most ideas still ring true today (or perhaps today more than ever): that healthy soil breeds healthy plants and animals, which, in turn, keep the people feeding on them healthy; that doping the soil to get ever bigger crops neglects the „second part of the ring of life” by forgetting to return to the soil the wastes and thus help matter go the full circle (a double problem: not only do we thus deplete soil of organic matter needed to create humus and thus be fertile again, but we create mountains of wastes we don't know what to do with) etc. I believe it should be compulsory reading for anyone working in agriculture and related fields.
Profile Image for David Carver.
14 reviews6 followers
April 26, 2013
As much a political screed against fractured and ivory-tower agricultural research as it is a survey of causes of and impediments to soil fertility, Howard's Agricultural Testament is a must-read for those interested in developing a more holistic approach to the soil and the life of the world dependent on it. Howard spends a good deal of the book explaining his "Indore Process," which he first created in India in the early part of the 20th century. If the results of that process are to be believed, then Howard is right that one of the most fundamental and significant concerns facing modern man - the depletion of arable soil - can be overcome by returning to a system of farming that has already enjoyed long use by Nature and Chinese peasants but which the splintering disciplines of Western academia have rendered "inefficient" or "backward." In addition to the broader issues involved, the book covers specific, practical ways for the independent farmer to improve the quality of the soil and its produce.
Profile Image for Amy.
86 reviews15 followers
January 31, 2014
I find it interesting that in the first half of the 1900s there was already ample research showing what was being done to the soil and through the soil to our animals, food and ultimately us. It is sad that this knowledge is only starting to become mainstream today. Hopefully as more people become aware, they will take a greater investment in the soil. This book has aided me in my goal of replenishing the soil in my farm and solidly reinforced the fact that we are what we eat.
36 reviews3 followers
July 1, 2009
Do you want to know how dirt works? Do you like "monkey nuts"
and "humus in latrine pails" and green manure?

"The real, permanent capital of the nations is soil."
"The discovery of the things that matter is three-quarters of the battle."
"The improver can write his message on the land itself."
Profile Image for Shawn.
302 reviews3 followers
February 27, 2022
Revolutionary stuff! Indisputably an influential work, the fruit of some four decades of genuine field work as a scientist and a farmer. The book's dated to pre-WWII (~1939), has some antiquated parlance, and veers toward esotericism at some points. Readers will see a parade of names of things that are hardly ever thought of such as the types of plants, the composition of soil, the names of processes that are vital to the life of the soil, the behaviors of fungi, the things necessary for aeration of soil to occur, the various descriptions of topography, and so on. Humus is a central subject. Howard cogently explains the critical role that it plays in generating growth of crops. He basically laid the groundwork and wrote the blueprint for the organic farming method. Furthermore, he dispassionately & subtly made the case against the flagrant use of pesticides and of herbicides.

I enjoyed his every mention of India b/c I've ventured there a couple times in the northern regions and recall seeing expanses of tea plantations and remember the palpable weather of certain climes (e.g. Sikkim or Delhi, India). I likewise found impressive his mentioning of the happenings in parts of Africa and of the West Indies. His purview encompassed the globe. On the horizon, mountains of knowledge about how to revolutionize a country via its agriculture, towers of veritable proof in the efficiency of [the Indore Process], and citadels of understanding in how best to live with our earth, our spaceship, our home-nest.

This book might be just too granular, or outdated (I think it's outside its time--and ours) for some readers. Those interested in green, progressive, innovative farming would ideally appreciate this seminal work. Overall, for anyone with a moderate degree of awareness about things like recycling, conservation, the environment & so forth, it might prove worthwhile to skip this and find instead something more recently written.
266 reviews
November 3, 2022
Let me summarize this book with a few quotes.

On soil health:

“The meaning of all this is clear. Nature has provided a marvellous piece of machinery for conferring disease-resistance on the crop. This machinery is only active in soil rich in humus; it is inactive or absent in infertile land and in similar soils manured with chemicals. The fuel needed to keep this machinery in motion is a regular supply of freshly prepared humus, properly made. Fertile soils then yield crops resistant to disease. Worn-out soils, even when stimulated with chemical manures, result in produce which needs the assistance of insecticides and fungicides to yield a crop at all. These in broad outline are the facts.”

On our current scientific failures:

“There can be no doubt that the work in progress on disease at the Experiment Stations is a gigantic and expensive failure, that its continuance on present lines can lead us nowhere and that steps must be taken without delay to place it on sounder lines.
The cause of this failure is not far to seek. The investigations have been undertaken by specialists. The problems of disease have not been studied as a whole, but have been divorced from practice, split up, departmentalized and confined to the experts most conversant with the particular fragment of science which deals with some organism associated with the disease.”

On the total agriculture failure:

“In allowing science to be used to wring the last ounce from the soil by new varieties of crops, cheaper and more stimulating manures, deeper and more thorough cultivating machines, hens which lay themselves to death, and cows which perish in an ocean of milk, something more than a want of judgement on the part of the organization is involved. Agricultural research has been misused to make the farmer, not a better producer of food, but a more expert bandit.”
June 10, 2022
The book's aim is to draw attention to the destruction of the earth’s capital, - The SOIL. Great emphasis is given to the undiscovered factor in nutrition, the mycorrhizal association. The living fungous bridge between humus in the soil and the sap of plants.

The author places emphasis on the maintenance of the fertility of the soil as the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture. To do this, he looks at nature where Mixed farming is the rule, Soil is always covered, Forest manures itself, and Crops and livestock look after themselves

But when you look at the agriculture of western Europe and North America (Occident), Agriculture here is trying to satisfy 3 pangs of hunger: Local hunger of the rural population, including livestock, Hunger of the growing population in the urban areas, the hunger of the machines avid for raw materials required for manufacturing.

Here, Monoculture is the rule, Machines are rapidly replacing animals, artificial manures are widely used, and Diseases are on the increase. There is a better book to understand the organic movement than this book.
Profile Image for Jeroen WATTE.
21 reviews
May 2, 2021
This classic still deserves to be read and reread. If it is isn't for stressing the importance of the connection between soil health and plant, animal and human health and the crucial role of the mycorrhizal association therein, then it is for its fundamental critique of agricultural research, its admiration for indigenous knowledge and cultural practices and the global outlook on the merits of different agricultural systems. The proposals on what makes good agricultural research are still pertinent and far from what is the standard today in 2021.
29 reviews
May 28, 2021
Amazing book. Goes into necessary details and explains well but not needlessly verbose.
Profile Image for Jasmin Martin.
61 reviews4 followers
April 14, 2022
Very interesting. Worth reading just to gain perspective, compare with other books and come to your own conclusions about organic farming, gardening and living close to nature.
Profile Image for Mahender Singh.
323 reviews2 followers
June 23, 2022
This book tells us about right methods of agriculture and save environment. Needs to be followed rather that read
May 7, 2018
Excellent overview of early sustainability studies.

Titled “An Agricultural Testament”
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.