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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.

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.

 

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

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.

 

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?’