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Good guy
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:08 am    Post subject: Surprise, surprise! Reply with quote

Here is some recent research from the University of Sheffield, comparing the fertility and condition of allotment soils with that of intensively farmed agricultural fields in the same vicinity:
Compared with local arable fields, the allotment soil was found to be significantly healthier. Allotment soil had 32 per cent more organic carbon, 36 per cent higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25 per cent higher nitrogen and was significantly less compacted.

Dr Edmondson, said: “We found remarkable differences in soil quality between allotments and arable fields. Our study shows how effectively own-growers manage soils, and it demonstrates how much modern agricultural practices damage soils.”

Allotment holders are able to produce good food yields without sacrificing soil quality because they use sustainable management techniques. For example, 95 per cent of allotment holders compost their allotment waste, so they recycle nutrients and carbon back to their soil more effectively.

As well as being good news for urban soils, the results underline the value of allotments.
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Good guy
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, forgot to include the link to the above:
http://facultyofscience.shef.ac.uk/allotments-could-be-key-to-sustainable-farming-study-finds/
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Greengage
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not everything is a black and white as it seems, if you are maintaining a small allotment it is easy to maintain your soils as you see fit. But if you are a farmer and because we are members of the Eu we are required to adhere to strict guidelaines.
Farmers are required to protect the soil from a number of possible threats such as erosion, organic matter decline, compaction and contamination.
Farming activities include arable farming, fruit and flower growing, restoring and recreating habitats for biodiversity, maintaining landscape features, and grazing. To maintain soil structure on an allotment you can easily stay off the soil or put down boards to spread the weight not so easy with large tractors,
Farmers need a nutrient management plan how many allotments have these,
If you want to add organic matter to your soil as a farmer by importing waste organic materials, you must comply with Environment Agency exemptions or permits.If you are in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, you must be able to explain any nitrogen you add to the land. You must also not exceed the nitrogen limit you are allowed to apply to organic manures. You may only apply some types of organic manure during specific times of the year. no such reatrictions on an allotment. Its very easy to jump to conclusions when you are doing something as a hobby and doing it to make a living from it.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The point, though, is that while modern agricultural practices are degrading our soils through the use of heavy machinery and chemical fertilisers, high yields of crops can be obtained from soils without damaging them, when sustainable methods are used.
I know that this begs a whole lot of other questions about agriculture, the food industry and the deleterious effects of capitalism on our environment. However, surely we must maintain healthy soils if we are to be able to feed ourselves and our children's children. That is the simple fact.
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Greengage
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And we try to maintain healthy soils, i dont know anyone who goes out to poison the soil on purpose to make a few bob This comment regularly gets bandied about the."deleterious effects of capitalism on our environment"
The following appeared in Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto,
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature’s forces to man’s machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such forces slumbered in the lap of social labor? and that was written in 1847 so we probably havent come very far since then. We have recently seen the summit on climate change have a meeting in Peru and no matter what the media say, they only had a collaberative understanding rather than a collective agreemment nothing has been signed until maybe the next meeting in paris where the real bargining begins when politicans and their vested intrests get involved.
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Blowin
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

..... but, if this sort of logic means we go back to the use (and ill treatment) of horses, I'd stay with the tractor. Recently the 17 acre field behind me was ploughed and harrowed in a day.

However, if you now take into account that Planet Earth's population is growing at the rate of approx. 70,000 per day, every day, THAT'S a problem!

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kindredspirit
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The increase in population is by far the biggest problem in the world and if it isn't stopped we'll eventually have an Easter Island scenario on Earth.

Almost 500,000 per week! Eeeek!

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Blowin
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Revealed in the USA a year or so ago, they have a death every 12 seconds and a birth every 8 seconds which doesn't raise too many eyebrows BUT, when you realise that equates to one extra per 24 seconds or 150 per hour or 3,600 per day, every day, it becomes more alarming.

The US represents 5% of the world's land mass. Its geography with deserts, farming areas and high density areas is very similar to the world as a whole so, multiplying the 3,600 by 20 gives us a world increase of some 72,000 per day, all of whom will be looking for food and raw materials to exist.

The prospect is easier to visualise in Ireland where we only have to contemplate the position if emigration of the surplus population hadn't been an option. There is no earth overspill opportunity.

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Greengage
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now see what you started.
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Lucy Weir
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really interested to know where you got your population increase stats: using the US as a baseline sample doesn't sound like a good plan, given that industrialised nations in the global 'North' have slower growing populations than industrialising nations in the global 'South' - by some considerable factor. Does anyone have a link? (Yes, I do think this is relevant to gardening, because I think that how we understand our relationship with our ecological background is essentially an issue of personal and species wide responsibility, and gardening is one aspect of that....)
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And I'm very glad to have started it, Greengage. We need lots of debate and consciousness-raising (to use an old '60s expression) on these topics. Especially, we need to have younger people of child-bearing age involved, rather than fogeys like me.
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baabamaal
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greengage wrote:
And we try to maintain healthy soils, i dont know anyone who goes out to poison the soil on purpose to make a few bob This comment regularly gets bandied about the."deleterious effects of capitalism on our environment"
The following appeared in Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto,
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature’s forces to man’s machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such forces slumbered in the lap of social labor? and that was written in 1847 so we probably havent come very far since then. We have recently seen the summit on climate change have a meeting in Peru and no matter what the media say, they only had a collaberative understanding rather than a collective agreemment nothing has been signed until maybe the next meeting in paris where the real bargining begins when politicans and their vested intrests get involved.


I wouldn't think anyone would set out to poison or degrade their soil, but the effect of industrial agriculture would appear in the main to increase yields at the expense of longterm soil health. The nutrient management plans were brought in precisely because farmers were , in many cases, applying too much NPK and this was having a major effect on our rivers and groundwater.

From reading George Monbiot in the Guardian, he claims (and he does have an agenda, but he does fully reference his aticles) that the UK gov has for example got a derogation on the soil management requirements. This is leading to serious soil erosion as the fields are left bare in winter. This is an example of economic pressure (from both the EU and the farming lobby) leading to poor practice. There are many studies pointing to topsoil loss globally as a direct result of agriculture e.g. http://www.pnas.org/content/104/33/13268.full . Ultimately we are going to have to farm differently to the current set up (I am watching the effects of Coveney's "2020 Harvest" on "tidying up" the margins of fields etc which is going to have a massive effect on our wildlife).
I appreciate that the world (human) population is growing and that food output needs to increase, but we are blindly going down the route of increasing meat production and feeding cattle, sheep etc instead of us consuming more grains, veg etc- this is also leading to a loss of sustainability as meat production (outside of places like Ireland where the grazing regime does seem to be more sustainable) is a hopelessly inefficient use of soil resources.
Rant over![/url]
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marx was right about an awful lot of stuff! However, along with many other thinkers of the time, he only saw the up-side of technological development. And we only have to read the news to see that our leaders are still seduced by the hope that technology will solve our problems, not appreciating that each technological 'solution' contains it's own inherent technological problems. I am not arguing, here, against technology, only suggesting that on its own it will not save us.
I am very interested to see Baabamaal's reference to soil erosion. One of the things that has really brought home to me the immediate, local effects of climate change has been what has been happening to the fields hereabouts.
I live on the side of the Swilly valley - it is hilly land. Most of it is arable, with silage, potatoes and barley grow in rotation. These last three winters, with their unprecedentedly heavy rainfall, have seen enormous quantities of soil washed off the land, blocking drains, making side roads dangerous and having who-knows-what effects on the flora and fauna of Lough Swilly. At one point last winter, when the silt had been shoved off a nearby road by diggers, it looked for all the world as though there were brown snow-drifts several feet high at the edge
of a field.
I had wondered if the roots of winter barley might prevent the erosion. However, the fields I have walked past recently are still losing their soil. These six or eight inches of topsoil took between 10,000 and14,000 years to develop under the post-glacial woodlands. Man has been farming it for a very small part of that time - how long will it be before it is all washed away, if we don't change how we use it?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to say, above: the degradation of soil structure and texture that is the inevitable result of continuous cropping using only artificial fertilisers and/or slurry, together with the effects of herbicides and pesticides on soil flora and fauna and compaction caused by heavy machinery can only result in ruined, depleted farmland.
I know very well that farmers have to earn a living and I know how hard they work and the financial burdens they take on, often for poor returns. Surely, if we view all these things together, the only conclusion must be that we have to change the direction of our whole system.
A scheme of things that attempts to generate continuous growth in a world of finite resources must result in failure. You can't get a quart out of a pint bottle!
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baabamaal
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well said good guy. I think the economics of farming is loony toons.As an example of this, I took four rescue hens that were being given away last year. They were in awful condition-no feathers, starved and freaked out. I don'tthink the farmer was a cruel person, the difference between your 7000 hens laying 300+ eggs a year and them laying less is the profit/economic survival. My fear is that, through lack of cooperation by state agencies and others, that we are moving further away from sustainable systems.
My next contribution to this site will be gardening related I swear!
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