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News February 2022

New Website

We are excited to let you know that our new website is now working – take a look at wyog.org.uk and see what you think. There are lots of new sections as well as the familiar ones from before. We will continue to add to it, so please send any news and ideas in and we can put them up.

We now have a section on how you can help WYOG so see if there is anything you can offer to help promote organic growing in West Yorkshire. One area where we are weak is on the our use of social media, so if you are good at using it and could use it to promote WYOG please get in touch.

An exciting invite to a garden and a Passivhaus

In 2017, Sue and Peter Taylor took the decision to build a Passivhaus in their garden in Kirkburton near Huddersfield. Work started in 2018 and they were lucky enough to move in about 18 months later, as it was a few months before the first lockdown. Passivhaus is a German concept aimed at producing housing which minimises energy use.

On Saturday July 9th, at 3.00, Sue and Peter will be holding a garden party in their garden for WYOG and Huddersfield Green Party members. There will also be a chance to look round their Passivhaus. So, if you are interested in the house or simply wish to be sociable, it would be great to see you. Please let them know you are coming by contacting us. If you would like to bring a contribution to the food that would be great but please let us know.

A new organic shop in Bingley

Hedgehog Organics will open soon at 90, Main Street Bingley. We'll be selling certified organic (and trusted local but not certified) fruit and veg and a range of other organic foods including bread.  We'll offer a local delivery service too. A range of cleaning products and toiletries will be available as refills and with reduced packaging.  We'll support local growers, producers and suppliers that we know of and we're always on the lookout for more.  We are organic because we want to see more land converted to organic farming.  Organic soils are brimming with tiny lifeforms that enable plants to get everything they need from the soil, without adding artificial fertilisers and pesticides.  Non organic farming relies on massive inputs of fossil fuel for fertilisers and other chemicals, many of which are imported and costing more and more.  The soils end up lifeless and much less effective as carbon sinks.Why hedgehogs? They are a much loved British mammal that are sadly in decline, particularly in rural areas, where chemical treatment might lead to poisoning, but largely reduces the diversity and abundance of hedgehogs' preferred food of invertebrates. Our friends at Bingley Hedgehog Rescue tell us this is leading to many more cases of sick hedgehogs and reducing populations.  A transition to organic farming could help halt this decline by increasing hedgehog friendly habitats and improving the diversity of their food.Our website, hedgehogorganics.co.uk should go live soon. Watch this space.

Keyhole Gardening form Practical Action

A fascinating idea from Pratical Action – keyhole gardens
Here’s how to create your keyhole garden:

1. Plot the area for the garden’s bed – 3 feet all round from your centre point
2. Construct side walls from bricks, logs and stones
3. Build composting basket in the middle – wire, bamboo stakes or hard-wearing cloth work well
4. Secure the basket, making sure it keeps shape
5. Fill the basket, using about 18 inches of good quality soil (the rest can be compost)
6. Add plants to your new keyhole garden – and remember to water!

More on this and other amazing ideas at practicalaction.org

Potato Day 2022

potato day copyPotato Day decision
 
The AGM meeting, held on Saturday 27th November, decided that it would not be possible to run a potato day in February as usual. The uncertain situation with Covid, the loss of some key volunteers at that time for health treatments and the difficulty in working out how to run anything that would attract people and be relatively safe, all contributed to this decision. We are sorry about this as we know many folk have been asking and it is a key part of our social calendar. Following the success of our outdoor event this year we hope to run an outdoor event in the Spring as well as the September show next year, and then be back to the more normal potato day in 2023.  Hopefully you will have time to get some of the more interesting seed potatoes from the specialist suppliers.

The Soil Association Reflections on COP26

Below is an extract form the full blog, to read the whole blog visit the Soil Association website.

So, lots of words, pledges, and commitments. Clearly action and further ambition are now both needed, and the UK must not shirk its responsibilities in assisting the global south in this in addition to its domestic agenda.

Was it worth the long train journey to be there? Emphatically yes.

Whilst it was pleasing to see the UK government’s rhetoric around global regenerative practices at COP, this now must be reflected in domestic agricultural policy, with a shift to support for organic and agroecological farming that place farmers at the heart of decision making. With the Environment Bill receiving Royal Ascent, but lacking protections for soil health, we look to a strong Soil Health Action Plan for England in the New Year. After all, healthy soil is critical in combatting climate change – a solution that is under our feet! Looking ahead to the Biodiversity COP in Kunming in April 2022 it is vital that the UK leads the way in ensuring climate actions do not come at the expense of nature. We must tackle our own demand for overseas commodities that harm ecosystems. We’ll be working hard to draw attention to the impact of commodities grown in sensitive environments in Latin America to feed intensive livestock systems in the UK. As part of this is our campaign calling for Peak Poultry and our calls for dietary changes to include less and better meat. Additionally, given global ambitions on deforestation, we’d like to see Defra to build on the recently approved Environment Bill to ensure that commodities we import are not linked to any type of deforestation.

Was it worth the long train journey to be there? Emphatically yes. Every voice and action count now, both in limiting temperature rise and in making the case that we need to transform food and farming to do this. And we need to keep hope alive on climate change. If not the COP – then what?’

Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN)

Potato Cyst nematode (PCN) is a pest which is decimating Scotland’s potato industry and has also affected daffodil bulb growers. The chemical treatments available are limited and harmful of people and soil. Without a solution, it was expected that the seed potato industry would be annihilated in 30 years. The Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) has picked up on some work undertaken in Holland that showed that creating a chitin rich compost can clear fields of PCN. Chitin comes from shellfish and from Soldier flies. As well as trials on the compost other framers are working on trap crops, where the nematodes hatch and attach themselves to other plants where they cannot complete their lifecycle, and also PCN resistant potato varieties.

For the full article head to www.innovaivefarmers.org and look for the September 2020 news.

UK Goverment Net Zero Strategy - a response from the Soil Association

In October 2021, the Government launched their Net Zero strategy – the Soil Association were not overly impressed about the impact on agriculture and food policies.

The SA write:

This is an emergency – but you wouldn’t know it from the government’s new Net Zero strategy. As it relates to food and agriculture, it is devoid of urgency. Vague statements on emerging technology take priority over concrete commitments to agroecological solutions. Perhaps feed additives with methane inhibiting properties will help to reduce emissions from housed cattle. Perhaps innovations in alternative proteins will shift the balance of the UK diet, as the strategy suggests. The recent National Food Strategy called for an urgent transition to nature-friendly, agroecological farming and sustainable diets– the Net Zero strategy falls short in helping to deliver that ambition.

This is an emergency – but you wouldn’t know it from the government’s new Net Zero strategy.

There are welcome elements to the strategy. The government has signalled its ongoing support for agroforestry and tree planting. It has recognised the damaging impacts of nitrate and ammonia pollutants from slurry, generated in vast volumes by intensive livestock systems. Nods towards expanding legislative prohibitions on the burning of peat bogs are welcome, as is the suggestion that regulation might be introduced to curtail the use of manufactured nitrogen fertilisers. The government is also considering new legislative powers to improve soil management and nutrient management.

The Climate Change Committee has said that Net Zero won’t be attainable without a change in our diets, including a sizable reduction in the consumption of poultry meat – why is the government trying to dodge the difficult public conversation on dietary change? The National Food Strategy called for an urgent transition to agroecological or nature-friendly farming and sustainable diets – but the strategy falls short in helping to deliver this ambition.

It also raises lots more questions than it answers – Is the government pursuing a trade agenda that supports the UK’s climate ambitions? Does the strategy’s emphasis on bioenergy align with the government’s purported intent to protect nature and restore soil health? Is the environmental land management scheme fit for purpose?

Find this blog here on the Soil Association website and see more at the Soil Association blogs on their web site.

The Importance of Soil

The Land Magazine www.thelandmagazine.org.uk has an interesting article in its issue 27 which considers why soil is not seen as interesting or relevant by politicians or people. The UN has reported that a third of all the worlds soils are degraded, yet UK Governments plans to improve the environment (2018 25 year Plan to improve the environment) still have no roads maps, no identifiable milestones.. so no soil health strategy linking the state of our soils with their sustainable management. There is no sense that the Government has any coherent vision for achieving its aims. Last year the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA) campaigned to get soil health included in the Agriculture Bill as one aspect of what farmers can be paid for because it is a means to delivering other public goods. So a step forward. The article outlines some of the problems faced by different levels of complexity; in a country with 747 different soil types how can policy makers decide what counts as a healthy soil – a task the SSA is on with in an attempt to break down the inertia that exists. Currently the monitoring of soil receives 0.4% of all Defra’s spend on monitoring of air, water and soil. At a time when the UK is losing 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil each year, much of which ends up in water courses as sediment contamination. English Farmers have a one in 200 year chance of being inspected for observance of the Farming Rules for Water. The article also looks at peat loss and the role of peat and soil in carbon storage – 95% of UK land carbon stocks are held in our soils, and 40% of this is stored in peat bogs which are decreasing rapidly.

 

Potato Seed Trials

As potato days around the country are cancelled so Alan Romans is offering seed potatoes which are part of the project he has been promoting for a few years now, trying to raise the next generation of blight resistors in association with the Sarvari Trust. He writes ‘I have combined 3 groups of parents to get 3 different sources of blight resistance over 3/4 years. My technique has greatly improved this season and I have thousands of seeds. I can cope with 100/200 of them at most. Nearly all of the progeny will have some blight resistance with a few having great resistance.

Most will be modern maincrop/ late maincrop ie not daylength dependent for tuberization (like eg Golden Wonder) and could have large yield potential.
To stand a fair chance of useful tubers in one season I would sow the seed in February like tomato seeds in a propagator and plant out as soon as conditions permit. Allow at least 12″ between plants if looking for size. I cram the seedlings as close together as I can to give me more to assess and am happy to get a few minitubers of the more promising to plant on in the following year. I am always impressed by how vigorous the little seedlings are.

My seed, so far, has been very good for one year but then loses much of its viability by year 2 – hence my apparent selfless generosity! It would be great if any members interested would join our very informal group and look out for commercial quality tubers coming from very blight resistant plants, which could be assessed at Bangor University in the future. Good but not essential – I am not getting any younger and the more my crosses get out there the more chance there is that something gets passed on. Regards, Alan Romans’
If you are interested in this project get in touch.

First Published in early 2021 on wyog.org.uk

Ten Years for Agroecology in Europe

The recent Soil Association magazine has an article on ‘Ten Years for Agroecology in Europe’ which sets out how ti would be possible to provide a sufficient and healthy diet to a growing population using ecological faming – without the use of pesticides. It discusses the current problem of crops commercially available to farmers being specifically designed for high pesticide use aimed at increasing yields and nothing else, This just leads to an increasing need for pesticides, meanwhile pests and diseases quickly develop resistance so new and more potent pesticides are needed. Pesticides have been shown to play a major part in the catastrophic farmland wildlife crash. Removing a single pesticide, like neonicotinoids, doesn’t work as they are simply replaced by another pesticide. The report shows how moving the farming system away from a reliance on pesticides can still provide a sufficient and healthy diet to a growing population, and this year work on a UK model will illustrate how such an approach can also tackle climate change impacts and wildlife decline.