|The rather splendid Victorian village hall at Appleton|
Went to a meeting about soil at the garden club in Appleton-Le-Moor at their village hall. Miserable wet weather as always, there was practically a river running down the road when we went back to the car.
But inside plenty of people, all of a certain age, sat and listened to a fascinating lecture by someone from Harrogate agricultural college. She was witty and funny, and talked of agro-forestry like a dedicated permaculturist, and inside I giggled slightly at the thought that slowly the 'green argument' now about 30 years old has slowly trickled into mainstream thought. Did she say that our soils only had about another 50 harvests in them, but we were in a good place compared to on the continent and America, their soils are trashed through heavy machinery that has broken up its structure. So says Gove (the man I always call Mr.Toad, but I am beginning to warm to him).
“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”
Commonsense would have dictated this anyway but the blind leading the blind comes to mind, what will those young farmers coming out of college think or do I wonder, planting trees down in lines, and here we are talking of fruit, and nut trees, and then growing catch crops in between the rows. I notice also on a separate issue that farmers are being encouraged not only to grow wildflowers strips down the side of the fields as encouragement for insects and birds but also strip sown down the the middle as well, to stop the over-use of herbicides and pesticides - think about that one! And in America the idea of always keeping a crop on top of soil, in this instance, a green manure, one you can easily turn back into the soil is also catching on.
Does anyone remember Hart and Forest Garden,
"Forest gardening is a way of working with Nature which is not only productive and requires minimal maintenance, but creates great environmental benefits. As Herbert Girardet says in his Foreword, "Robert Hart was a rare person . . . For decades he waged a lonely battle for life, patiently writing books and articles and quietly planting trees on his small farm in Shropshire. Robert created a magnificent forest garden which had a profound influence on the way people have cultivated their own land. It was a garden dedicated to human needs for fruit, nuts, vegetables and plant medicines. But it was at the same time a celebration of the myriad interactions of life; for it was based on profound observations, both intuitive and scientific, of how different life forms interact in order to stimulate and support one another."
Anyway some of the company had bought their garden soils in and they were tested by chemicals in a little test tube. Some soils went up into the red, an indicator of acid.
Having mentioned Hart, I should also mention of course Charles Dowding, he of the no-dig method, something close to my heart as I get older ;)
Of course, these ideas worked out over the years are probably not going to provide the answer to feeding a growing world population, but neither is feeding cattle, and watering them when we can get a lot of our nutrition from vegetables and fruit and of course nuts;)