Dedicated to his first wife and co-worker: “To Gabrielle who is no more”. Sir Albert Howard keeps it simple in his introduction:
THE maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture. In the ordinary processes of crop production fertility is steadily lost: its continuous restoration by means of manuring and soil management is therefore imperative.
In the study of soil fertility the first step is to bring under review the various systems of agriculture which so far have been evolved. These fall into four main groups:
the methods of Nature — the supreme farmer — as seen in the primeval forest, in the prairie, and in the ocean;
the agriculture of the nations which have passed away;
the practices of the Orient, which have been almost unaffected by Western science; and
the methods in vogue in regions like Europe and North America to which a large amount of scientific attention has been paid during the last hundred years.
Note this doubling of methods under survey compared to his 1931 publication