The winter of 2019/20 has been challenging for farmers to say the least. Incessant rain meaning fields were not accessible, and winter crops were not sowed, large areas of flat or low lying country flooded (sometimes repeatedly) and otherwise generally redefining the concept of mud.
However, now that we’re well into spring of 2020, what’s the ground like out there? Wet, soft, or already hardening-up? Chances are it’s the latter. So how can this be, after the wettest winter in living memory? When the ground across the farm (and the country), it seems, was saturated.
What if I said, that it’s the same root cause that produces both drought and flooding? That your farm, whether it be cropping or grazing, organic or conventional can be reworked to be both drought-proof and immune to extreme rain events. Sound too good to be true? Well read on. …
Ambition of the Report
Simply put, the aspirations of the report need to go much further. If we are to deliver on our climate change targets, ultimately we should be aiming for “gross carbon zero” rather than net zero, and for this to be delivered in a much shorter time frame than 2050, otherwise we almost certainly won’t keep within our 1.5 degree warming objective.
In a nutshell if we’re accepting net zero by 2050 as the target we’re fucked!
Increase tree planting
Rather than the just “planting more trees”, really, management is the key. Unless trees are growing rapidly and are in good health they will not sequester adequate levels of carbon.
In this regard the low-hanging fruit is really to bring existing woodlands and and tree cover under “continuous canopy” sustainable management.
This will involve an increased capacity in the existing forestry sector. This increased capacity can then be also deployed in establishing new woodlands and agroforestry.
Also agroforestry should be seen as one of the the key routes to to achieve these numbers of new tree plantings. Since they will facilitate continued production of existing: pasture and cropping, both of which can and should be carbon negative in their own right. …
Why is it that grass margins are usually in much better heart than the cropped land? Is there something magical about grass? Field margins in many ways set the bar for soil health on your farm.
But is that as good as it can get? And do we need to go down to grass to achieve it?
I believe the answer is no, we can go beyond the grass fallow and achieve good results in a short time frame. …
This piece is perhaps in the wrong order, since it should precede my other piece here but, in what follows I’d like to lay out the main tenets of soil health, some evidence I gathered for them and some examples of their application.
Before that I want to present what I feel are the main motivations for “going to all that effort”.
First of all, in this climate change acceptance world, all forms of agriculture, and land use must wipe their face in terms of carbon. …
My response to the question of whether to use synthetic N to boost spring growth.
First I’m not going to say don’t use synthetics, that’s your call. But I’ll give my thoughts on the the pros and cons and some alternatives, as well as a what the implications to the broader context are.
Why early spring growth rates may be poor
First thing to address is why spring growth might be disappointing. Low temperatures, hard winters, lack of rainfall or general extreme weather.
While none of these are things we can do much about (beyond planting dense shelterbelts to shield pastures from chilling winds, driving rain or snow) the historic management of our pastures will impact the severity of the impact on grass growth (or field conditions, like waterlogging). …
Soil Health advice for graziers in a dry August
Now the rains have finally fallen, in late July, following the prolonged dry spell. What can we do to capitalise on this, get more forage, where there’s little in the pastures and improve the health of our animals?
I’m going to present some observations from pastures around the UK. Along with what I feel are the key opportunities available to graziers (in the West at least).
Below are 2 pics of the same spot in a permanent pasture. …
For graziers and farmers
It’s been a “funny old year” from the wet, water-logged winter-spring to the now, dry spring-summer.
Since we’re in a prolonged dry spell people are watching the sky and “praying” for rain (or at least hoping), I wanted to share some relevant gleanings from visual assessments of soil structure and how they pertain to soil moisture, in these most “drying times”.
To conclude the piece I will attempt to show how these observations could be brought-to-bear on management decisions now, and in the future. With a view to ensuring your soils are “ready for the rain”.
Below are some images of soils under different management. …
We all know about the soil health principles: cover soil, minimise disturbance, diversity in rotation or plantings, minimal chemical usage, living root in the ground as often as possible - they’re repeated ad nauseum, at agriculture conferences and on YouTube.
But how do we make this a reality on our organic horticulture operations? Apart from the standard “go no-till” mantra — which isn’t that useful — and is kind of implied anyway.
We now have working examples at every scale, from which we can extrapolate some principles of how to actually transition to soil health practices. What seems clear is that success stems from a rigorous application of the soil health principles as a whole, rather than a dogmatic adherence to one particular method or another. By that I mean a dogged and on-going attention to every aspect of the growing system. Constantly looking to eliminate- or substitute current management practices with better, more concurrent ones. …