Category Archives: Organic food

Soil and CO2

This is by far the best explanation of soil sequestration (storage) of CO2 in soil that I have seen. I cannot understand why farmers, gardeners and governments are not jumping on this as a way to help to drastically reduce atmospheric CO2.

Get the PDF here

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.

Comfrey juice fertlizer

Looking through the gardening books this morning I found this old favourite. It is an original 1976 first edition of “Comfrey, past, present and future”.  It used to be well known in organic gardening circles but seem to have dropped off the radar in recent years.

I found the book in the HDRA shop, Henry Doubleday Research Association, at Ryton Organic Gardens. Now called Garden Organic there is no longer a shop and the gardens are a mere shadow of their former shadow of what they once were. And just at a time when we need to push for more sustainable food growing.

As we are building a new organic garden it seems obvious that Comfrey juice production should be part of it.

Lawrence Hills bred a sterile version of Comfrey, he called it “Bocking 14”. It will not self seed, which is crucial if you want to prevent it spreading!

There are three linked pages that explain why Comfrey liquid is so good, how to make small quantities and how to scale up production for larger gardens.

A chemical analysis of Comfrey liquid

Making small quantities of Comfrey liquid

Scaling up production for the larger garden

Please note: Comfrey liquid made by pressing the leaves and small stalks is totally different to Comfrey tea.

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.

New garden almost ready to plant

More progress today after a big change of plan. We discovered an old water tank in the middle, of the plot which is only about 15cm (6 inches) below the surface. We could of built raised beds over it giving a total soil depth of around 38cms (15 inches.) Instead we decided on a major redesign to leave the area clear. There are now five, 2m x 1m beds and one, metre square bed (not yet filled.) This has increased the growing area to 11 square metres using the same number of boards with two 1m lengths left over. They might end up as part of a planter for the centre area.

The beds are now in place and have been filled with a soil and composted manure mix. All that is needed is some green waste compost to top off the beds and we can start planting.

Carbon sequestration reduces atmospheric CO2

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are stored in soil and more could be added. All that is needed is a change in the way soil is managed on farms and in gardens.

What is exciting is that it can be done today without the need for new technology to be developed or massive new machines to be built. It just needs is farmers to change the way they treat soil. Not only could that help to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in soil it would also reduce fertiliser and pesticide use which means less the chemical leaching into rivers and streams. See this article about extreme levels of pollution in Europe.

There are several new books explaining how we could 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.]

Small scale commercial growers and gardeners can help by not digging or rotovating their soil. For gardeners 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 parts of the process are 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.

$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.

Organic growing is the only way forward

“Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
(The Huffington Post)

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late”,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.”

It has been a long time coming but now the UN are saying that organic growing is the ONLY way forward. Commercial growing in the UK is dominated and controlled by the agrochemical industry. it is not sustainable and threatens food security. We simply cannot continue to rely on farming methods that are dependent on large chemical inputs.

Soil
The biggest asset we have is soil yet 50+ years on chemical fertilizers has left a depleted soil virtually devoid of organic matter so prone to erosion. See this 2006 report on UK soil erosion.

An alternative food supply
In a time of climate emergency, we need to be aware of the perilous state of our food supply. Supermarkets work on the “just in time” supply principle. They usually have 2-3 days of stock in the local supply chain. We import around 30% of our food from the rest of Europe.  Any disruption to that through weather or politics will see the shelves empty within 24 hours as people panic.

We desperately need to separate ourselves from the supermarket food supply chain and grow food in any available space. It can be done, 25 years of organic growing often in very small spaces has proven that to me. We just need to get on and do it!

 

 

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.