Found this book on soil biology which highlights the importance of this soil food web. Excellent microscopy photos here, well worth checking over if you’ve never seen them before or if your thinking about looking at soil under a microscope. It also covers several other things like Seasonal Microbial Activity, Typical Numbers of Soil Organisms in Healthy Ecosystems, Methods for Measuring the Food Web etc. I loved reading this, I’m sure anyone who’s interesting in anything plant/soil related would too.
A major review comparing organic and conventional farming has found organic crop yields are much higher than previously thought.
The analysis of 115 studies showed that organic crop yields were only 19.2% lower on average than conventional crops, a smaller difference than previous estimates.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic and conventional farming.
Senior study author Prof Claire Kremen said: “With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it’s critical to look more closely at organic farming, because aside from the environmental effects of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilisers to increase crop yields has been declining.”
The researchers pointed out that the available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favour of conventional agriculture, so the estimate of the yield gap is likely overestimated.
Soil report shows we should all grow more of our own – New research confirms that soil in allotments and back gardens is richer – and more productive – than on farms
Soil is one of the great failures of modern intensive agriculture. Healthy soils, beneath natural grasslands and – especially – woodlands, contain lots of organic matter. This organic matter holds onto nutrients and gives the soil structural stability, allowing it to resist damage by, for example, heavy rain, thus preventing erosion. There’s also plenty of life in a healthy soil, lots of burrowing earthworms, and so lots of pore space too. A healthy soil is basically a giant sponge, which fills up with water after rain, gradually releasing that water to plants in dry weather.
When land is cleared for agriculture, and especially for arable crops, all that goes out of the window. The organic matter in arable soils is lost to the atmosphere as CO2, and the soil loses its structure and strength, leading to compaction and erosion. Arable soils also lose their ability to hold onto water, nutrients and pollutants, leaking nutrients into groundwater and lakes and rivers, causing eutrophication and, if the water is for human use, the need for expensive water treatment.
Although this is all depressingly well-known, the conventional view is that all this soil degradation is the price we have to pay for the high yields of arable crops on which we all depend. But, says new research just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology [Urban cultivation in allotments maintains soil qualities adversely affected by conventional agriculture], gardening proves the conventional view to be completely wrong. The researchers looked at the properties of soils on allotments in Leicester, along with those from other urban sites, and compared them with soils beneath arable fields and pasture in the countryside around Leicester.
The arable soils showed all the usual symptoms: compacted, lifeless and low in organic matter. Allotment soils, by contrast, were more open, more fertile, and higher in organic matter, in fact they weren’t all that different from soils beneath woodland. The reason isn’t hard to find: composting of allotment waste is virtually universal among allotment holders, most also import household green waste as well, and use of manure and other kinds of commercial compost is widespread. In short, soils on allotments are healthy because allotment holders go to a lot of trouble to keep them that way.
We’ve all seen environmental problems highlighted everyday on the media. Now comes the solution. From the man who said, “You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden” comes Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils DVD. 137 minutes of Permaculture soil creation strategies that really work! Even if you have never built a garden or got your hands dirty before, you will learn the secrets of real soil creation – partnering with the life in the Soil! Geoff will take you through every step of the process and explain in detail how to do it yourself. From Compost creation to larger Kitchen Gardens and then to broad acre farming – this is the future of biological agriculture.
Biodiversity and Compost
Designing a Kitchen Garden
Using Chickens in a Food Forest
Soil Re-mineralization Strategies
Soil Tests you can do yourself
Ripping the Soil
How to build an Instant Garden
and many more Permaculture design techniques are revealed in this unique DVD.
Plus Bonus extras:
“A Couple of Rough Types” – Permaculture cofounder Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton in a very revealing discussion. (part of it at least)