“We stand, in most places on earth, only 6 inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends.” (R Neil Sampson)
Usually the only magazines I buy are The Big Issue and a TV guide but recently I bought an issue of Country Life because HRH The Prince of Wales was guest editor. He has run Duchy Home Farm organically for 30 years and he understands farming.
One topic Prince Charles wrote about was soil. Research by University of Sheffield suggested that the nutrients in the soil will run out in 100 seasons if we carry on as we are. Other researchers think 60 years unless we start to reintroduce more sustainable practices now. Forty percent of the world’s agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded (meaning that 70% of the topsoil is gone). Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished. In some parts of the world over-intensive farming has created desert.
Growing plants use 60 minerals and trace minerals which they draw from the soil. Artificial fertilisers do not replace all these trace elements; they focus on three that make plants grow quickly and give high yield: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Sadly this means that the mineral content of our food is reducing. Animals and people need diverse minerals. As the soil becomes depleted, we can suffer from deficiencies that affect our health.
We often see farmers muck-spreading in Cumbria; it gives the land ‘heart’. Don’t moan about the smell, rejoice in the goodness going back into the soil!
Top tips – support our good local farmers.