First published in 1985 by agronomist Francis Chaboussou, Healthy Crops: A New Agricultural Revolution is republished online in full here for the first time!
A forgotten classic, Healthy Crops offers a critical exploration of the plant science behind the success of organic, agroecological, biodynamic and other holistic agricultural approaches, as well as the catastrophic failure of chemically-intensive industrial agriculture.
The book’s central thesis, though technical, is put simply by Gaia ancestor and Brazilian organic pioneer Jose ‘Lutz’ Lutzenberger in the foreword:
“A pest starves on a healthy plant…the more poisons we apply, the more diseases and pests we get”
Trophobiosis – a challenge to chemical agriculture
Francis Chaboussou’s theory of ‘trophobiosis’ describes how and why, on a biochemical level, healthy crops which are getting what they need from the surrounding ecosystem – in terms of minerals, nutrients, fungi- are more resistant to pests and disease.
Far from protecting these crops, Chaboussou argues that chemical pesticides undermine plant health and resilience, making pest attacks more likely and, by extension, undermining the health and resilience of all who consume them.
Trophobiosis, he argues, “explain(s) the reasons for the failure of chemical pesticides, whether fungicides, insecticides, or (above all) herbicides.”
Healthy Crops challenges the foundational assumptions of agro-chemical corporations the world over, whose business model is based not on promoting plant health, but eliminating pests by chemical means.
Instead, it advocates for holistic, integrated approaches to maintaining plant health, as part of the wider agro-ecosystem, as the best and most effective means of reducing the impacts of pests and diseases.
These approaches, which place plants and their health at the centre of agricultural concern, have the dual benefit of producing more nutritious produce, which Chaboussou argues should be considered alongside yield as a measure of success.
A forgotten classic rediscovered
Despite the critical importance of his findings in the context of the worsening impacts of toxic chemical agriculture around our living planet, Chaboussou’s work has gone largely under the radar for more than 35 years.
In his foreword to the book, Lutz lamented the lack of attention Chaboussou’s work has received, writing:
“Chaboussou is still unknown to most workers in agriculture, even in organic agriculture. I knew that pests shunned healthy plants, as most observant organic farmers knew. But I didn’t know how and why. Chaboussou was a revelation to me … I dare say that Chaboussou’s work is the most important discovery in agricultural chemistry since Liebig.”
By republishing Healthy Crops online in English, for free, for the first time, it is our hope that others are able to discover and be inspired by Chaboussou’s vital work.
The resurgence of this book is down in no small part to the work of a few dedicated followers of Chaboussou, including Lutz’s successors at the Centro Ecologico and Fundação Gaia in Brazil, as well as Gaia allies Helena Paul, Ulrich Loening and Daisy Martinez.
We salute them and dedicate this re-published edition to their continuing work.