Category Archives: Farm incomes

Climate change

Direct drilling will yield as good as any other system of cultivation, sometimes more. But only if it is understood as a system. Understand the drill itself.

I have been doing a significant amount of research recently, into climate change and its effects on all of us, but farming in particular. Firstly, the rate of change really does appear to the scientists involved to be picking up speed – still slow but beginning to speed up. The next ten years will be critical.  The love affair with the car is the worst offender in producing CO2, then aircraft, but there does appear to be a growing lobby seeing farming as one of the bad bogey men.  The culprits are methane (from ruminants) and CO2 from diesel engines and the production of mineral fertilisers (one tonne of N nutrient made in a modern, efficient USA factory takes 21,000 kWh to manufacture and deliver).

Yet more reasons to go direct frilling.  However, do not think it is an easy way out, there is just as much husbandry in direct drilling as in 4 or 5 passes of conventional cultivations. Particularly watch compaction in previous operations.

Bill Butterworth   Land Research Ltd, 7 February ‘19


Ethics, regulations and enablement

Life is made up of compromises. How do we balance over-population, care of the environment, regulation and making a profit, to pay taxes, to pay got government, to make regulations?

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 on the morning of 25 Oct 18 would have heard Melvin Bragg discussing, with some very eloquent and informed people, the book “Fable of the Bees” by Bernard Mandeville, published 1714.  The book argues that it is not possible to be ethical and commercially successful. The historian, Jane Marshall, argues that empires always regulate, over regulate and end up destroying themselves. Many large waste producers in the EU, including the UK, survive the costs and delays caused by over-regulation by “avoidance”,  (or is it “evasion”). What we have does not work and can be argued to be counter-productive on all counts. If the economy and the environment are to survive, we need a root and branch review which will give controlled enablement.  Possibly, self-regulation by licensing might work.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 4 November ‘18

Only farming can do this

This kit is on a farm recycling urban wastes to farm land and reducing/avoiding the use of mineral fertilisers. Not so obvious but globally vitally – it is taking Carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it up in soil.

According to World Bank figures, the global production of urban waste is above 2 billion tonnes and rising. My own experience of composting urban wastes suggests that, technically (if the regulators could come to terms with this) maybe 25% of that could be composted and put to farm land, and possibly more if put to forestry land. If the compost contained only 2% of each of N, P and K, then that would be 10 million tonnes of each.  One tonne of N nutrient, made in a modern USA factory, takes 21,000 kWh to make and deliver.  So, or the N alone, that would save the use of 210,000,000 kWh of electrical power generation, most of which comes from burning coal and oil.  Bearing in mind most N production in the world is several times less efficient than in the USA, and that the rest of the figures err on the side of caution, then recycling urban waste by composting to land would save probably around 1 trillion KWh pa and the associated Carbon dioxide production.  .

There is a bonus, crops grown on high organic Carbon soils need less irrigation and less crop protection sprays.  Cereal crop lodge (fall flat) less. Crops yield more. What we need is active, controlled enabling, not ever-increasing suppression and indifference form government.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd. 24 October 18


The Soil Rumen and Ion Exchange

The soil is much as the cow’s rumen. It is not the cow that digests the food, it is the rumen micro-organisms. then the micro-organisms feed the cow.

Think of the soil much as a cow’s rumen. Click on the blue band above here on “articles” and go to no 16 and click.

or try

Food security is a UK issue

This years drought in the UK was a warning shot. The global starvation issue affects us all – people with full bellies are less likely to go to war or emigrate.

New evidence in The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2018 confirms a rise in world hunger: the number of people who suffer from hunger has been growing over the past three years, returning to levels from almost a decade ago.
Multiple forms of malnutrition are evident in many countries: adult obesity is growing even as forms of under-nutrition persist.
The reports says that climate variability and extremes are key drivers behind this rise, together with conflict and economic downturns, and are threatening to erode and reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition.

The current need to secure home-produced food is as strong now as it was in the 1939 to 45 war; the threat is different but just as potentially lethal, We neglect UK food production now at the cost to our children.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd  11 September 18

drought and crop yields

A lot of this, this year. Yields down too. It is largely avoidable.

A sandy soil will hold about its own weight in water.  A clay 2 or 3 times. A typical natural peat around 16 times!

A compost made from urban green waste will hold up to 10 times its own weight in water, maybe only 5 times if it is made from woody cuttings in winter (and it would have less N).  However, compost made from urban green waste plus industrial wastes will (depending on the wastes used) hold 8 to 14 times its own weight in water and possibly a lot more NPK.  Although the Environment Agency will restrict quantities, the truth is that the Fens, when Vermuyden drained them some 300 years ago, were up to 40 foot deep of almost pure compost. (Organic soils do not leak excessive N.)  It is also true that high organic, well-composted soils, can halve cultivation energy inputs and reduce chemical spraying.

So, there really should be a national policy of maximizing urban waste recycling to urban farm land. Suggest get a copy of “Survival”, read it and send a copy to your MP.


Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 1 August 18

Brexit sadness

I have to admit that while my original objections (corruption at the centre and the weight of prescriptive regulations) were valid and still stand, my hope was that everyone would get pulled up to think about it and find another solution.  There was then, and is so now, as far as I can see, a choice between two options.  Firstly, Brexit.  Everyone here is ashamed of the UK government’s shambolic infighting. Similarly at fault is the centre of the EU itself.  This idea of “make it difficult for the UK because we don’t want anyone else to leave” seriously implies that Brussels realises that there is something wrong and instead of getting everyone (ALL EU Members) round a table and see if  a better way forward can be found, they sit and complain that it is all the UK’s fault.As far as I can see, there is little hope of Brussels exercising some common sense, taking the initiative and inviting the UK to discuss with all the Members how we can all produce a better EU framework. If we, all the EU, do not do that, the entire world order will be different with a less safe global environment and weakened western-economies.  this is a really sad situation.

Bill Butteworth, Land Research, 13 July 18



I share your sadness.