Treating soil less 'violently' and moving away from a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ approach to agriculture could help ensure food production can continue for future generations.
That was the message from Guy Singh-Watson, the Riverford founder and organic farmer, who has released a video 'rant' to mark World Soil Day 2018 and encourage people to care about the health of the soil.
He said: “We’ve got 7.5 billion people on this planet, and we’re going to have 11 billion before too long. We are going to have to cultivate the soil. But we have to look after it better than we have done so it’s there for future generations as well.”
Farming is inherently damaging to the soil, through ploughing that disrupts the structure and ecosystems within the soil, as well as adding artificial chemicals that kill biodiversity and beneficial bacteria.
Guy continued: “We turn it over, we put the bugs that like to be on the top on the bottom, we expose the stuff that’s on the bottom to the sunshine. We drive over it with 10-tonne tractors and squeeze the life out of it. The way we treat the soil is a violent act.”
Moving to a more ecological way of farming, with more diversity and mixed farming systems, adding organic matter such as compost to the soil, and using perennial crops that don’t require re-cultivating every year, will all help soils recover.
He continued: “We’ve got to get away from a one-solution-fits-all approach to agriculture. We’ve got to get a lot smarter and not just plough because we can, or apply pesticides because we can, and take a more ecological approach to looking after our soils. We’ve got to look after these soils, or they’re not going to produce anything at all.”
World Soil Day is an annual awareness event coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and participated in by people and organisations all over the world through events, and on social media under the hashtag #worldsoilday and #stopsoilpollution.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Riverford.