Episode 37: Soil Carbon

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 31st of October 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

We begin this week with a reminder! The blog The Unveiling of The Hidden Knowledge reminds us of a UN report on Small Scale Organic Farming.

Quote:

Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments.

End quote.

The report highlights not just food security but the right to food. Surely one of the most basic of human rights?  It sits at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter and clothing. 

It is worth pointing out the priority given to the methodology of agroecology. I and, indeed, others have placed Permaculture, Natural Farming and similar schools under this heading.

Given that many people and soon to be the majority of us will be living in cities, how is this agroecology to be applied to urban areas? As I’ve discussed before, growing food where it is consumed has much to recommend it: fresher food, short supply lines, fossil fuel use reduction and so on.

As the UN reports states, quote:

….in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment (in food production)  is not how much, but how. 

End quote.

The blog Food Governance’s post: Making headway towards urban food security discusses this very issue. The author makes the point that this must be a bottom up process. Locals know what they like to eat and they understand their local microclimates better than outside “experts” or they very quickly learn them throughout a growing season. The danger avoided with a bottom up approach is the Green Revolution, one size fits all approach. Individuals with fruit tree skills meet with gardeners and they all meet with backyard chicken keepers and so on. Depending upon the locale small ruminants can also be worked into local food systems to provide dairy products and manures for the gardens. What is needed is seed funding, leadership and connections between people. Of these three things, the latter two, leadership and connections between people tend to be lost with increasing urbanisation, at least in the initial stages.

Yet progress is possible! The blog:  My Urban Farm posted this week: A Farm Is Born. The author takes us through their process from reluctant starter to back breaking mattock work to sheet mulching to productivity on their test plot. Well worth a read as it shows the succession of thoughts and actions in response to heavy clay and restricted water supply.

This is one way of doing things. The growers made do and adapted to what was before them. The blog TheBreakAway posted a video entitled: What Makes a Good Urban Farm Site? This video describes what we could call the perfect setup. Great if you can get it. The previous post from My Urban Farm shows what happens more often than not. So we need to adapt, improvise and overcome. You know, the problem solving thing that makes us truly human.

The blog DIY Dynamics has an interesting post entitled: To till or not to till? Creating fertile soil. This approach to no till is a little different from the one I use. I just pile organic matter on top of garden beds or a layer of cardboard and newspapers when starting a bed. The system used in the blog post is this:

Quote:

A new technique that the farm has adopted in the last year is the no till method of bed preparation. By using a hand tool, called a broad-fork  to manually aerate and lightly turn the soil. This helps to create an ideal habitat for micro-biotic organisms to thrive. The less you till the soil the more that these flora and fauna can establish their residence.

End Quote.

Thinking this through I can see the logic of the process. I just wonder at the potential damage done to my oft mentioned fungal communities. Maybe the occasional damage to them will release nutrients, maybe they will grow back more strongly or maybe, even in a biodynamic setting, the urge to touch the soil with tools is still too ingrained in the collective consciousness of gardeners across the globe to avoid.

It is this urge to fix the soil through manual labour which is the cause of so much frustration and time consumption in gardening circles. It is the biggest step we have to overcome before the food, flower and feed potential of soils everywhere are fully realised. The moment we realise Nature has been growing food long before we were trapped into domestication is the moment we are truly free. Nature will grow more than enough food for all of us, Nature will do it in a way that provides healthy, nourishing food and Nature will happily do it without the need for returns to shareholders, without the need to rely upon oil based fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. We just need to shut our chattering mind off for long enough for her to be heard. And we can all do this. It is a simple process, not necessarily easy but simple. 

I’ve included a link to a pdf version of The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka as a great starting point. This is the story of how one person learned to listen, observe and biomimic. Highly recommended!

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

If you’ve liked what you heard, please tell everyone you know any way you can! I’d also really appreciate a review on iTunes. This helps others to find us. Thanks in advance!

Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at podcast@worldorganicnews.com.

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back in a week.

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