The answer lies in the soil (you have to have a sense of humus)

Ssomething a little different: soil expert Graham Sait talks about the importance of soil humus and its potential as a way to mitigate climate change at the recent TEDx in Noosa, Queensland. I’m not going to vouch for all his numbers, but as he devotes time to mycorrhizae he’s OK with this truffle grower… 😉

17 thoughts on “The answer lies in the soil (you have to have a sense of humus)”

    1. Aspect ratio is fine (ie it’s not stretched or compressed): but it’s being cropped 4×3, it appears on the right of frame — which suggests you need to make the image smaller, Gareth so it fits within your column limits.

      By all means delete this when it’s fixed.

  1. Thanks for posting this, Gareth.

    Soil health is one of the most important subjects for our future ability to deal with approaching problems, from climate to feeding 9bn+ people. As someone who spent the 2000s filming sustainable agriculture projects across the world, it became very clear, very fast, what huge damage rampant agriculture is doing to our planet. This hit home first in the vast agricultural regions of north east Brazil where scrub land has been turned into farmland for growing a wide range of crops, many for export. But the problem is that after a few years of industrial farming much of the substance of the soil has been lost as the micro-organisms break down the organic content of the soil until in many places it becomes little more than sand. This is what has also happened in much of Australia where it’s been worsened by the use of pumped artesian water, which turns the soil saline.

    The problem of depletion is that nothing will grow without huge imported inputs of fertilisers and nutrients — with their attendant energy inputs, much of fossil origin — and, back in Brazil, huge amounts of imported water pumped from the rivers, often by old lorry engines surrounded by piles of oil barrels, that sit on the banks of canals and rivers pumping water miles to the fields. This is simply not sustainable for the long term. Degraded soils are prone to leaching and erosion from rain and wind.

    Much is being done to try and extend the life of these new agriculture areas by introducing sustainable methods, but generally the huge short term financial benefits are being used to justify the long term damage that’s being caused. The only solution is a long term reduction in pressure to bring production back to more sustainable — and therefore often less profitable — level, to ensure soil health is maintained, and hopefully improved.

    The whole situation is reminiscent of the way we’ve put our oceans in a spiral of diminishing returns.

    As I’ve indicated, work is being done, but often trumped by the pressure of quick returns. The current human mindset of quick-buck short-termism, driven by a faith in expensive, never ending (usually fossil-fuelled) technological solutions is something we must overcome.

    Our hubris needs puncturing, hopefully before it’s too late to reverse the decline.

  2. Thanks gareth and John

    From age 7 one of my frequent jobs was holding open sugar sacks while my father shovelled humus into them from under a stand of macrocarpa to aid his nursery where he grew seedlings for distribution all round the district thus earning for the school he was principal of as well as providing a teaching medium. I also recall something that puzzled me greatly at the time – some excitement when a farmer gave us a load of sods said to be particularly rich in worms and what grows plants . When I asked where they came from I was told they came from a “fairy ring”. Thereafter I was always speculatively excited when I found such rings but never wiser.

    In a different place we still gather humus from under our own trees and compost everything. We need to. Somhow builders or developers get to scrape off all the topsoil, put a little back after a house is built, then sell the rest to people who need to put soil back on their properties for the same reason.

    I’m intrigued to learn brown coal has something for gardeners.

  3. Last year we made a worm farm from an old tin bath, and get extraordinary humus and liquid fertiliser (worm pee). We have oranges as big as footballs (ah…almost). What a huge con the fertiliser/pesticide industry have been running since the so-called green revolution! Get a worm farm, astonish your friends. As kids we used to laugh at old gaffers who said, ‘Ach, the answer lies in the soil…’

    They were right all along.

  4. We have a drum on rollers with a drain hole, a side hatch and a crank handle, mounted about chest high. Food scraps turn into worms and tomatoes planted in the stuff grow monstrous. In a corner there is also a compost heap for everything else. That area, surrounded by trees, I dub “the wilderness”. We used to have a couple of open bottom plastic things for composting but eventually the rats burrowed beneath.

    A tin bath eh? I’ve just thought of a use for the totally unused bath taking up room in this house. 🙂

  5. Noelfuller, the old bath works fine, just raise it a bit and tip it on a slight angle so the pee runs through the hole into some container you’ve provided. Put down a layer of soil and pretty raw hummus, add Japanese Tiger Worms and you’re away laughing. They’re surface feeders so you regularly chuck in your kitchen scraps (except onion and citrus family). They adore coffee and kelp! They go for cardboard, too. Takes a while for their numbers to build up, depending on how many you put in.

    Another tip. I shelled out $250 for a second-hand plastic tank, 44 gallons. Then cropped the comfrey that was coming up all over the property, added water, and now have a potent comfrey juice, augmented by the kelp the worms don’t get. Mix the worm pee with the comfrey/kelp juice and you’ll outgrow any fertiliser freaks! Our tomatoes went mad.

    And…it’s always good to have a ‘wilderness’ area. That’s where the elementals and spirits live, vital to the life of your garden – and much beloved of poets.

    1. So it’s the wild hunt that crushes the arum lilies during the summer solstice! I have blamed catfights, maurauding dogs, boys who have thrown balls over the fence and even sumer drought. 🙂

  6. There was a young turk from Monsanto
    who invented this product El Planto!
    But when put in the ground
    it proved unsound
    and now he’s lost this granto!

    (have a great day…)

      1. noelfuller, you can bet your bees those nicotine based nasties are being used here. I would suspect golf courses and bowling greens, since these poisons kill off worms – those same little beauties we’ve talked about in this thread. It would be useful to know who does use them here, and in what context. We do have bee colony collapse here, I believe.

        Wouldn’t it be nice if those we hesitate to blame would step up and take responsibility.

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