Season 4 Episode 3 ~ The Loss Of Topsoil

RB: Hello and welcome to Season 4 Episode 3 of RegenEarth, where we look at all things regen and how you can make a difference in your own backyard.

I’m your co-host Rich Bowden, freelance writer and podcaster and this week we’ll be bringing you a tragic tale of how farming methods have caused the loss of topsoil throughout the world.

Part One — The problem

To talk about this tragedy, I’m joined as always by my good friend, farmer, podcaster, writer and much more Jon Moore. And I can see Jon readying himself for a good old fashioned yarn down there in the beautiful North West of Tasmania. Hello Jon!

JM: A tragedy indeed Rich. The seriousness of this cannot be overstated. 

RB: Topsoil. So important for farmers but also for the wider community. We’ve both been doing a bit of research over the last week or two Jon and you’ve come across a remarkable…and really disturbing US study about topsoil disappearing in the corn belt of America. Here’s a quote from Yale Environment 360, summarising the report.

I wonder if you could first share with us the importance of topsoil for farmers and society in general. Then talk about the study.

JM: Yes, The article comes from the US. They have been through this before.

  • Dust Bowl
  • Peruvian societal collapse 1600s
  • The Harappan collapse
  • FDR quote: “A Nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.”
  • So then growing in subsoil
  • Power ag – hydroponics with the subsoil as the matrix
  • No soil, 

RB: Possibly something about how this affects consumers’ health.

JM: Soil health, animal health, human health.

RB: The article ends by stating that, if farmers are forced to use more artificial fertiliser, this will have a massive impact on water quality.

JM: Indeed, 

  • Run off
  • Waste
  • Costs
  • The hydroponic thing

RB: [Now ask you to focus on the Australian perspective, Charles Massy etc, Australian farmers using European methods etc]


  • Regenerative systems Vs the mouldboard plough
  • Hanging onto the nutrients/water/biology
  • Fractional Farming

This is a problem wherever industrial ag has traveled and I believe you’ve been reading a book that puts this in an English Context Rich/

RB: [Talk about the farmer, Henry, in English Pastoral, the last of the “old school” James Rebanks. Henry last of the line.]

Part Two — What can we do?

RB: You’re listening to RegenEarth. OK, we’ve heard the problem. But is there a solution from the point of view of farmers, consumers and backyard regen gardeners? Jon?

JM: The solution has been known for centuries.

  • Feed the soil, rotate your crops/stock and compost.

“Agriculture is our most powerful invention and relationship with the Earth, with soil, with plants, with animals, with oceans. And it’s highly traditional, it’s highly cultural, before industrial agriculture. These bonds must be rebuilt.”

Daniella Ibara-Howell CEO & founder of Savory Institute

RB: How long would it take to regenerate lost topsoil? Particularly in Australia?

JM: That depends on the debt level. Cover crops, zero till, rotational mob grazing, pastured pigs and poultry. Relatively quickly. It just depends upon how much of a financial hit people can take before the biological systems kick in.

RB: You mentioned how we can all help regenerate Australian soil. How would you suggest we go about this from a backyard regen point of view?

JM: Compost, mulch, no digging, keeping small animals: chooks, duck, rabbits or even guinea pigs….

RB: The report, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paints a grim picture for farmers. Is it too late for US corn belt farmers? Is it too late for some parts of Australia?


  • Glaciation/Volcanic eruptions
  • “Weeds”
  • Vegetative succession
  • Natural sequence farming Peter Andrews

RB: And just to back Jon’s words up, I’ve taken this quote from Permaculture Climate Change.

“Soil is the key to sequestering excess carbon. By restoring the world’s degraded soils, we can store carbon as soil fertility, heal degraded land, improve water cycles and quality, and produce healthy food and true abundance. Protection, restoration and regeneration of ecosystems and communities are the keys to both mitigation and adaptation.”

JM: Speaking of climate change, how’s your new podcast going Rich?

RB: Introducing: Climate Shift

Finish. And what have you got planned over at Jon?


RB: OK that’s it for RegenEarth this time. Thanks so much for being part of the show Jon, I’ve really got a lot out of this chat. Thanks too everyone for listening in everyone, it’s been a pleasure having you. Bye for now.

JM: Farewell and thanks for listening!

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