Synthetic N Fertiliser

In the UK , around 80 % of the cultivation energy we use is to undo previous traffic compaction and around 50 % of the energy we use to manufacture and spread fertiliser goes into the groundwater. This is neither profitable in the short run nor sustainable in the long.

The nature of the Nitrogen molecule carrier/store dramatically affects not only N fertiliser losses to groundwater, but how it gets into the plant and promotes growth.

Nitrogen fertiliser can be applied in two forms; as soluble in water (such as ammonium nitrate) and as organically bound N (as part of long, Carbon-chain molecules).If the molecule is relatively small and in-organic (mot part of a Carbon chain molecule), then it can be absorbed across the root-hair wall and progressively built up by the plant metabolism into amino acids and plant proteins. This route has served us well and saved countless billions from starving and postponed their death.

There is a problem.  While “artificial” or “synthetic” fertiliser N certainly has its place, the energy cost of manufacture and the losses to groundwater are unsustainable. The alternative will be discussed in the next post on this blog.

Also see “Reversing global Warming for Profit” by Bill Butterworth published on Amazon.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,   20 May 2018

 

Nitrogen in the next 10 years

Whether government and do-good “environmental” lobbyists agree or like it, or not, in a western economy, cash is the driver

I have come across several cases recently of the Environment Agency refusing to allow Deployments to spread processed wastes because there was “too much nitrogen” present.  The Nitrogen would, in composts and organic wastes, be present substantially, if not completely, as organically bound N.  In a grassland or direct-drilled arable soil, that might release as little as 1 or 2 % of the total Nitrogen in that soil, to ground water per annum.  (That might be just enough to keep the weed in a trout steam growing at a natural rate.)  At the other extreme, in a much-cultivated clay soil, the release of N might reach 10%, and in a much cultivated sandy soil, maybe 15 % per annum.  Now, to be economic, if the farm did then not have composts made from “wastes”, and used ammonium nitrate, then the percentage of N lost to groundwater would be between 30 and 60 or even a bit higher (85%) on an irrigated sandy soil.

The point is this. Read the research. Recycled wastes spread as well made compost are generally safe to add to farm land at any N content, without limit on quantity added.  Don’t believe the research?  Try common sense; when Vermuyden drained the Fens some 300 years ago, it was, and remains, possible to grow a crop (probably the best crop in the UK) every year, without ever adding any N fertiliser in any year for 300 years.  By the way, some of these Fen soils were 10 or 12 m deep when first drained (the N reserves were enormous) and the dykes and Norfolk Broads were not full of green slime and dead fish.

If the human race is to survive, we have to recycle wastes to land.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd   18th May 2018

“From our Own Resources”

We are loosing land, thousands of acres every year. We produce the safest arable products in the world.

We are losing dairy herds at a dramatic rate and importing milk. Less safe milk!

I hear the talk about “environment” and “countryside” on one side, on the other I hear talk of “productivity”.  Farming remains Britain’s biggest industry and farm production remains a fundamental component of the national economy.  If, for the sake of political correctness, the Environment Secretary ignores, or otherwise takes the emphasis off farm production, he does so at the peril of the national economy.  Where is common sense?  Where is the national vision?  Some will remember a White Paper from Peter Walker, Minister of Agriculture; “From our Own Resources”. What on earth has gone wrong with this nation?  Where is the vision of production and growth? Where is the statesman who can drive production up so that we can afford the NHS?  Without productivity, we are nothing.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,  April 18

Land £ per ha

I am not sure that the puzzle of land prices can be sollved; why do people buy land?

I read an article recently, written by a land agent who was talking up the price of land. I found myself doubting it all and thinking of all sorts of reasons why the theme could not be right. Without doubt, there will be fluctuations and some of any such changes may be painful. I did, however, remember two quotations from a long time ago;

  • Farm land is still cheaper than carpet.
  • Land – they have stopped making it.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,   1st May18

The Land, population and policy

Once we have built on land, it can never again be farmed to produce food.

As I drive around the country, the rash of “toy town” building estates continues to eat up farmland much as the red blotches of measles cover a child’s body.  Apparently, the “build more houses” policy will solve all the country’s economic problems. I remember Stephen Nortcliff saying at a meeting of the BSSS (British Society of Soil Science)  “when land is built on, we can never have it back for farming.”

In round figures, there was a net immigration into the UK last year of over 500,000 and we built a little over 100,000 houses. On top of that there appears to be a growing policy as part of Brexit that we trade exports of manufactured goods and services for imports of food and turn the countryside into a play area for urban people.  We do this as a short term politically correct expedient and our long term peril.  Write to your MP about it.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd  22 April 18

 

 

 

Despite the rain now, water may cost more in future

Britain has too much rain this spring. Nevertheless, farming may pay more for its water in future.

Facing a Global Water Crisis” in a piece written by Leah Schleifer.  With credit to them, I try here to relate those lessons to British farming and maybe farming elsewhere in developed counties that do not really think water may be a significant economic problem sooner rather than later.

 Reason 6. Water Is Wasted

The water in our water main grid is “potable”, i.e. drinkable.  Yet half the water used in domestic households is used to flush toilets, enters the sewage system and is treated and dumped into rivers. It is true that some of that water may be extracted lower down the river and re-used, but this is an incredibly wasteful system.

The washing down of dairies and other livestock enterprises on farms is similarly wasteful.

Conservation farming action;

  1. Harvest water off shed roofs and concrete areas,
  2. Wash down sensibly, limiting use to what is necessary.
  3. Get everyone to remember that water is a valuable and increasingly expensive resource.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd.,  7 April 18

Land values- farming-Brexit

 

The Environment Secretary has repeatedly signally lately that support for farming will progressively shift from production support to environmental protection.  As we already import more than half of what we eat, that presumably means that the post-Brexit trade deals we hear so much of lately will sacrifice UK agricultural production to imports, in exchange for exports of cars, armaments, fashion, university places and computer programming.  That, in turn, implies a change in land values as production will be less economic and cash for the environment will be squeezed in favour of university tuition fees (or whatever is PC at the time). That implied fall in land values will then allow the builders to buy up land and build houses. Obviously an environmental improvement which will allow otters, beavers and bitterns to occupy urban gardens.

I remain unconvinced that government is thinking anything through.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,  1st April 18