The NPK philosophy was derived in the 1840’s. Some twenty years later, it’s author, Justin von Liebig recanted his NPK philosophy, having recognizing the shortsightedness of his theory. This was to no avail as an entire industry had already established itself.
The NPK philosophy basically states that nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium were all the elements plants needed. With more than 150 years of experience as evidence, the NPK philosophy has in fact produced substantial yields. While there are many who will argue that these harvests are empty harvests - crops which were produced on primarily quantitative criteria with food quality being an accidental consequence, this has become a moot point. NPK in conjuction with Haber-Bosch nitrogen has lead to bankrupt soils (dirt) and depleted resources. It is dependent upon a volatile, finite resource. We’ve built our subsistence upon a house of cards.
It’s not accurate to say that these industrial processes were intended to treat the soil like dirt. As these processes go, they simply did not require the services of the soil for any purpose other than to support plant roots. The industrial process is indifferent towards soil life. If components of the soil could be utilized to a benefit while still allowing the use of water soluble chemicals and salt-based fertilizers, the potential was capitalized upon.
It’s premise was and remains a matter of feeding the plant roots.
It’s mantra was and continues to be: