Category Archives: Intensive agriculture

Why can’t we imagine how the land feels?

This article in The Guardian raises issues that explain why the world is in the state it is. If we see the planet only as a resource to be ruthlessly exploited then we will kill ourselves and every other living organism. What we have forgotten is that everything we need we need to survive comes from the Earth.

This is particularly true of soil. If it as only seen a substrate to provide support for engineered plants that rely chemical inputs to survive then we are doomed.

The loss of soil to erosion and resulting prediction that there is only 40 years of topsoil left should be a resounding wake up call. Yet there is no panic, there are no demonstrations in the streets, there is no understanding of what it means.

How supermarkets create food waste from field to table

The article is full of information about waste in the supermarket food chain. What is surprising is that a lot of waste comes from farmers over producing for fear of not being able to supply.

Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson has openly spoken about his experiences in the 90s: “When I used to supply the supermarkets you generally grew about a third more than you thought you would sell, just to make sure that the supermarket buyer didn’t have a tantrum if you ran short, and so routinely, you have more than you can sell and so you just mow it off and plough it in – that’s the normal thing to do.”

The overriding issue is how supermarkets have come to dictate the whole agricultural industry.

See the article here on the Wicked Leaks web site

 

Organic outperforms conventional agriculture

Just to show that all the misguided hype about how we need huge inputs of fertiliser, pesticides and GM is just that, hype from the vested interest of the huge agrochemical companies that make a profit out of fear.

And organic gardening probably outperforms conventional food gardening. See this link to out own trials.

From: “Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World” 2018, Kindle edition, p.138.

Intensive farming produces less nutritious food

A recent article in Scientific American provides more evidence that intensive agricultural methods produce less nutritious food. In the UK food is bought on price, the cheaper the better. This has driven farmers into a corner because supermarkets demand the cheapest possible food. There must be an impact on human health from consuming food with less with nutrients and more pesticides.

“…it is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.”

In the UK a long terms study by government scientists came to exactly the same conclusions , that the mineral content in food had decreased by 70% over 50 years.

It is easy to remineralise soil  we will be doing that in our new garden, more information and photos to follow very soon.

 

$4.7M to Study Storing Greenhouse Gases in Soil

Muir Institute Leads UC Project to Find Shovel-Ready Solutions for Carbon Sequestration

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are stored in soil and more could be added. Yet again the main problem will be extremely powerful business interests, namely the agrochemical companies and massive food producing and processing companies.

What is amazing about all this is that it can be done today without the need for new technology or massive new machines to be built. All that needs to happen is for farmers and growers to change the way they use soil. Not only does this help to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in soil it reduces the chemical leaching into rivers and streams. See this article about extreme levels of pollution in Europe.

There are several books claiming that we sequester enough CO2 to make a huge difference to climate change:

According to Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, a pioneer in the study of “biosequestration” (using plants and microbes to sequester carbon dioxide), humans have put some 500 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the birth of agriculture some ten thousand years ago. But most of that CO2 was emitted during the relatively recent advent of modern agriculture. Through plowing the land, which releases tremendous quantities of CO2, deforestation, urbanization, and land-use change we have effectively taken a massive quantity of carbon that used to be stored in the ground and released it into the atmosphere.

Tickell, Josh. Kiss the Ground (p. 18). Atria/Enliven Books. Kindle Edition.

Also see: “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life”, David R. Montgomery – 21 Sep 2018.

Small scale commercial growers and gardeners can help by changing the way they manage their soil. Switching to no-dig beds is the best way to start. In 2010 I started a trial garden on farmland that had not been cultivated for around 30 years. No digging was involved and it worked.

The other part of the process is the application of organic matter, compost and yet more compost! Next is not leaving the soil bare particularly in winter when heavy rain causes compaction and washes out nutrients.

Work with the land to restore health

At last there seems to be a shift away from agrochemical farming. I discovered organic growing almost 30 years ago whilst recovering from a life threatening and life changing illness. I am sure that helped my recovery.

Switching away from oil based pesticides and the huge amounts of gas need to produce artificial fertilisers will help to combat climate change.

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers do not create health in the food, the consumer, the soil, the air, or the water. We need for all of our systems to be healthy again.

Insect decline catastrophe

There was an alarming article in The Guardian  yesterday, scientists are saying that the rapid decline in insect numbers is a catastrophe and evidence that the sixth mass extinction has started.

Since the late 1940s agriculture has become dependent on the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. The widespread use of various ‘sprays’ to keep crops ‘clean’ is seen as the only alternative to starvation. The agrochemical industry has become a big business dominated by very few companies. In short there are huge amounts of profit in killing anything that crawls or flies near a crop.

There has also been a corresponding increase in the use of pesticides in domestic gardens. That can be even worse for insect life as the density and variety of flowering plants is much higher. Anything that crawls or grows in the wrong place is zapped with adverts on TV telling us how to keep our gardens ‘beautiful’.

But insects are far more than an inconvenient pest. Without them we are in big trouble as they are major pollinators of flowers that become our food. Insects are part of the food chain that sustains us, without them we starve.

What can we do? First stop using pesticides in your garden. Second, lobby governments, farming organisation and growers to stop using pesticides. Most of all buy only organic food! If you grow your own, then switch to organic growing methods.

Industrial agriculture-extraction industry

“Mega-sized farming encourages practices that degrade the soil, waste fertilizer and mishandle manure, all of which directly increase emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, it discourages practices like “no-till” farming and crop rotation that grab carbon dioxide from the air, store it in the soil and improve soil health.”