Category Archives: Soils

Only farmers can do this

This Suffolk soil needed irrigation until large amounts of “urban” composts were added. See this website and go to “Articles”and click on No 6.

While attention is often focused on carbon locked up in trees, in fact, most of this carbon lies in the soil. Below ground Carbon includes an array of sources such as the root systems of trees and soil organic matter. Scientists estimate that by managing the world’s land more sustainably, such as by protecting forests and investing in reforestation, we could achieve up to 37 percent of emissions reductions necessary to limit the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030.  So, inescapably, recycle urban organic Carbon wastes to farm land by composting.

Only farmers can do this.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 31 October 8

Soil health-Gove

More organic matter in the soil! Where from?


There is a government dishonesty about the Commons Select Committee (Environmental Audit) report on soil health which was released today (25 Oct 18).  On one hand, the Committee reports (and no doubt correctly so) that “the target of soil sustainably by 2030 will not be met unless further action is taken, and that failing to prevent soil degradation could lead to increased flood risk, lower food security, and greater carbon emissions.”

Probably right BUT on the other hand, the Environment Agency, in its fear of taking any sort of risk, has altered the regulations on composting so that it is possible to obtain a permit to compost 50 tonnes of material a year without concrete, but more than 50 tonnes pa will need concrete.  Now, because of the cost of concrete, that really means to be economic the scale will go up to 25,000 tonnes pa and the cost of that set up will be in excess of £500,000.  Nobody will do that without a contract to supply the input waste material.  So no one will come into the industry.  So, recycling of urban wastes is seriously restricted.  AND that is where the organic matter will come from to make the soils sustainable.

Pity that there appears to be little connection between the regulators and the MP’s on the Select Committee.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 25 Oct 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

Farming in a drought


Desert in Suffolk, UK. Some years, this area really is within the UN definition of desert.


And also see ” articles on the top ribbon of this website home page.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 30 Aug 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

Organic N and crop growth

As the previous post here showed, Organic N, then, is different.  It just sits there in the store, alive with micro-organisms and giving some (but very low losses) to the soil atmosphere and groundwater.  However, it is different in a staggeringly complex and important way.  When conditions favour both plant and fungi, the mycorrhizae feed at one end of their hyphae on the organic matter and the other end of each hypha either crosses the root hair wall into the plant body, or wraps round the root hair (much like the placenta of a mammal).  This is a closed conduit! Not only is this why natural ecosystems do not leak nutrients and pollute the ground water, they also feed the plant with complex molecules, already some way down the route for forming cellulose and amino acids – so accelerating growth. Even more staggering, these mycorrhizae can suck nutrients out of some plants (weeds?) and transfer then to others (crops?).

There is enough urban waste in the world to supply enough nutrients to feed the world – without manufacturing fertilisers. (But we do actually need both.)

See the next blog in this series for more on profitable, eco-mimic fertiliser mechanisms and also “Survival” by bill Butterworth, published on Amazon.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,   29 May 2018


The Soil N Store

S Michael Gove’s staff look at the environment v. Farming, they might do woerse than to read this series of posts on N fertilisers.

When ammonium nitrate hits the soil moisture, it forms two “ions”.  The ammonium carries a positive charge and is an “anion”.  The nitrate carries a negative charge and is a “cation”. Sands have a very low ability to hold onto nutrients whether they be anions or cations..  Clays have some useful colloidal capacity which has some ability to hold onto anions (so it will hold some ammonium ion) but not much ability to hold cations (so it will hold very little nitrate).

“Humus” is a very complex and variable black tarry material made up of large, Carbon-based chain molecules (so in chemists’ language they are “organic Carbon” molecules) forming hydrocarbons, carbohydrates and proteins.  The proteins carry one or more Nitrogen molecules. These molecules are insoluble in water.  So this humus-N will not leach out in rain or irrigation. More than that, humus is very colloidal, so it will hold both ammonium and nitrate ions and reduce the leaching of synthetic N.

So, pushing up the organic matter in soils is a real economic and environmental plus.

See the next post on this blog for how organic N storage work sand promotes crop growth.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,   May 2018