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Farming on empty – California in the 4th drought year

Marianne Landzettel: Californians are taking shorter showers, rip out the front lawn to plant cacti while in the nearby mountains numerous forest fires feed on tinder-dry brush. Leave the Pacific behind, cross the Coastal Range and you’ll get to the Central Valley. Over 700 km long, flat as a pancake, with rich soils, mild winters and an average of 300 days of sunshine, the Central Valley is the most productive and profitable agricultural region in the United States: California produces 97% of all kiwis, 95% of all celery, 89% of all spinach, consumed in the US. With roughly 1.8 million cows California is the nations biggest dairy producer. But by far the most valuable crops are nuts, pistachios, cashews, walnuts and of course almonds.

25 August 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 4

Soil, organic matter and The Archers

Marianne Landzettel: There has been some public grumbling about story lines in ‘The Archers’ recently - which is a shame because Ambridge is really onto something important right now: soil quality. To bring you up to speed: Ambridge got flooded this spring and when Adam inspected his wheat fields he was shocked by the amount of soil erosion, the flood had just washed away the top soil.

13 May 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 4

How to grow from seed: eight tips for new gardeners

Jess Gotham: Want to grow your own but don’t know where to start? The task of growing from seed can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. Now is the perfect time of year to begin getting your hands into the soil, but if you haven’t got naturally green fingers and find your plants die for no apparent reason, this blog will help you turn your patch into a source of satisfaction instead of stress. The Soil Association’s head of horticulture, expert gardener Ben Raskin, gave us some tips.

17 April 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 2

Magical, mysterious, essential - and being unthinkingly destroyed

Peter Melchett: Soils are magical and mysterious, essential to all life on earth, but extremely vulnerable, and being terribly damaged. We know enough about soils for them to fill us with wonder, but so little that they remain places of great mystery. We do worse than take soils for granted, we often behave as if soil, and particularly life in the soil, was not there at all.

14 April 2015 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 2

A second green revolution?

Anna Louise Batchelor: Last month I attended a special lecture held at the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture. Entitled “Balancing food production and environmental protection” the speaker set out to overcome the thorny issue of increasing yields without increasing damage to eco-systems. The lecture was given by Poul Christensen, President of the National Federation of Young Farmers and former chair of Natural England.

30 March 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 2

Soil and the power of poo

Marianne Landzettel: ‘Give me five more minutes’ signals Gualu Goud as he’s standing on top of one of his five compost heaps working the top layer with a hoe. I met Gualu earlier this month in a village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa). He’s been a cotton farmer for most of his life. Things were ok until about 10 years ago when yields started to drop even though he used increasing amounts of expensive chemical fertilisers.

12 February 2015 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 9

Why we should care that it is World Soil Day

Louise Payton: So today is World Soil day. Why on earth do we need a day on soils? It’s no coincidence that our planet shares its name with the stuff. Soil, earth, or dirt, as it is known in the USA, is important.

05 December 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 2

World Soil Day

Monty Don: What struck me at the recent Soil Association conference is the incredible amount of sheer hard work that is being done within the Soil Association and by its partners to look after our soil. For me, their work translates as a real engagement with the soil; with the earth itself - not the idea of it - but the actual physical soil. This engagement is also what motivates me. So, for me, to have a Soil Association is a beautiful thing. It’s a profound thing. Soil is at the core of everything that goes on with their work, whether it be in schools, whether it be project based, whether it be raising money... it’s about the soil. Nothing could be more important.

05 December 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

The ground beneath our feet

Tim Young: Most parents probably have phrases they find themselves using far too often. “Say thank you”, “clean your teeth”, “don’t pick your nose”, and so on. This year the phrase my children have become heartily sick of hearing at our allotment is “don’t tread on the soil”, usually exclaimed urgently as one them wanders across one of our vegetable beds. Again.

05 December 2012 | 73 Comments | Recommended by 11

Future of Food depends on vibrant living soils

Caroline Corsie: It was great to hear Helen draw attention to this in her opening remarks. Simple 3rd Law of Thermodynamics in that energy can only pass from hot to cold! There’s something about promoting the organic message to conventional farmers. Perhaps to do this the Soil Association could hypothesise how the likes of Nocton might sit in as part of a range of farming systems (e.g. might it free up land for wildlife, rebuilding soil health).

09 February 2011 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 6

Making the decision

Ben Raskin: Managing a piece of land part time is not easy, just ask my poor neglected allotment. and although I have to some extent adhered to the mantra of "grow for the market" I have also had to limit my choice of crop and site because of the time i will be able to devote to the enterprise. On the plus side of course since i will still be earning on the other days of the week, if the whole enterprise sinks without a trace i won't be responsible for my family's destitution.

15 December 2010 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 4

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