Category Archives: Recycling

The real truth about shale gas

You can download a copy for free this Sunday, 8th October,  by clicking below on “Buy at Amazon”.

Ferguson and Conservation Agriculture

Ferguson was a revolution which will always be part of production on the land. However, there are opportunities to add new dimensions.

There is no doubt that Sir Harry Ferguson’s invention of the farm tractor 3-point linkage, which gave weight transfer off the cultivation tool down the top link onto the driving wheels of the tractor, revolutionised world farming and has saved many millions of the human race, including ourselves in the West, from starvation. There is no doubt that it is still relevant.

Nevertheless, we have moved on into an era where we need less damage to soil structure, less nutrient loss to ground water, less energy use, less pressure on climate change. And more food to feed a rocketing population.

Quite simply, we need to recycle urban waste to land and use zero till wherever feasible. To do this, another step in tractor development is now a marketing opportunity. Back in the1970’s, I published an article in the then journal “Big Farm Management” which predicted that the global tractor market would split into 5 roughly equal sectors; (i) mid-range, Ferguson design “maid of all work”, (i)  similar but small, up to 30 horse power, (iii) very large over 150 hp and moving to tracked, rather than wheeled, (iv) MHT’s – materials handling tractors, mainly telescopic loaders, and (v) HST’s – High Speed Transport tractors; lighter-weight, transport tractors equipped with PTO and capable of field work.

That prophesy has turned out as predicted for the first 4 categories.  Now, the need to move to conservation agriculture and zero-till, makes the move to this last category of lighter weight, transport-capable, versatile tractors,  over-due and a real opportunity for the tractor trade to supply emerging trends on conservation coupled to more efficient production.

Land Research Ltd, 14 April 2017

3 Million Starving;Food, Famine and Failure

Municipal waste on its way to Frog Island on the Thames estuary There is enough waste in western society, to fertilise enough crop,s to feed western society,

The UN warning of 3 million people facing what will for most of them be unavoidable starvation and death is not new.  Malthus predicted it in 1798 and we have been doing a bit since then but not enough. If you are comfortable, why do anything at all about it?  In any case, as an individual, what you do is insignificant.

An international consequence is that empty bellies always lead to war.  In the history of the world, that has always been true.  Could we fill bellies globally?  Technically, the answer is yes, we can.  Military conflict often gets in the way.  Political will in developed countries always gets in the way.  It is almost a lifetime away that Bob Geldoff stood up in the EU Parliament and observed that the situation of global hunger and the plenty of Western counties was “obscene”.  It is now worse.

How do we fix it?  Simply use urban wastes to fertilise land and grow better crops.  It has been done in the UK and Egypt, and lots of other places. We need to scale it up and urgently. It would save a lot of imports in the UK, too, The environment would be better off, See “Survival”.

Land Research Ltd 25 MaRCH 2017

Soil Organic Matter

Moore Unidrill

The Moore Unidrill’s patents related to keeping the seed sown at the same depth regardless of how much seed is in the grain tank. This direst drill gives an unparalleled even establishment.,

Farmers can get paid to make their own organic fertilisers from urban wastes by composting.  Is it easy and without hassle? Certainly not but it does produce better crops, with lower cultivation costs and higher yields. There is a part way stage and that is to conserve as much organic matter as possible in the soil, including leaving crop residues and minimising cultivations.  In most crops, approaching half the total dry matter of the plant will be below the surface of the soil. Cultivation oxidises organic matter.  Conventional ploughing and power harrowing plus seeding can destroy up to 35 % of soil organic matter per annum.  Direct drilling as little as 10 %. .

For more detail of preserving organic matter and profits, put “Survival by Bill Butterworth Amazon” into your search engine to download details.

Land Research Ltd September 2016

Fertilisers, farming and urban wastes

Manitou compost

Fertiliser costs will be increasingly crippling if we continue to use manufactured ones. Urban wastes are a valuable source of NPK. WE HAVE to develop this route if our children are to survive.

I really have problems with the word “waste”, especially if Brussels and Whitehall (in their great wisdom) wish to label them “Controlled Wastes” and lay down a set of rules. Millions of words and man-hours are spent creating prescriptive regulations – meaning “in this case you do that, in that case, you do this”.  Such an approach can never cover all eventualities and it stifles responsibility on the ground and inhibits economic growth.  There is only one rule that matters – do not pollute or damage the life around you.

How do we achieve that?  By using a technical understanding to identify and manage risks.  By the way, the biggest risk is to do nothing.  We live in a changing world and the tension between production and the environment in which we life is ever-increasing as population increases.  Some of the answers are in Survival!  (Click on the underlined word.)

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd 6 July 2016

The circular economy: 10. Landfill is not a resource bank.


The circular economy: 10.  Landfill is not a resource bank.


Itis a beautiful world and population pressure is changing it. How can we manage the change better?

The science: It is certainly the case that we can “mine” old landfill sites to reclaim resources. Sometimes.  Some of the resources. Not very efficient. Globally, maybe in excess of half the materials we enlist for use get lost to landfill or incineration. Nearly all the energy is lost.

The bad news: Globally, we are still geared up to derive energy form burning hydrocarbon fuels.  We do have enough for decades, maybe a century, but they will increasingly expensive to extract and, we cannot get away from it, they produce greenhouse gas. Further, CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage is not likely to solve the global problem, ever.)

The good news: We can reduce waste in manufacturing. For example, we used to make solid furniture from solid wood, shaved down with the shavings discarded. Now, most domestic furniture is made by chipping nearly all the original timber and making strand board and MDF.  High quality MDF really is a very useful material.  Next step currently is to take discarded furniture and use it for Energy from Waste (EfW). Better still if we could collect it all and make new product out of it. If we could do that at local level to cut out the energy and pollution cost of long distance logistics, we really would be winning.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 29 May 2016




Flood risk, composting urban wastes and Vermuyden



Flooding has enormous cost but much can be avoided.

The current issue of “The Furrow”, the John Deere journal of April 16, prompted me to think again of my own work on top soil reservoirs and what is beginning to be called bio-engineering in flood control.  Sands will hold about their own weight of water, clay two times, and peat 16 times.  Composts made from urban wastes, including a wide range of industrial wastes, will hold 5 to 15 times their own weight.  Put that into context of the Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden, who, in the 1650’s drained the flats of East Anglia. He knew that there had to be not only big, straight dykes but also sacrifice flood zones which were adequately boundaried and with enough capacity to take the worst water emission flow rates from the higher land.  Now increase the organic matter levels of all the soils in the catchment area.  Finally, plant grass, herbs, shrubs and preferably trees and do so at all levels right up to the highest.  The cohesive effect of roots and the evaporation by active plants will buy time to even out the flow to what the lower water courses, adequately dredged, can cope with. As global warming increases extremes, we need to match that, preferably before the event, with buffers that even out flow rates.

Bill Butterworth  13 April 2016

Also see, “How to make on-farm composting work”, by Bill Butterworth, published by MX Publishng, London.