Tag Archives: food production

Cities must go up, not outwards

This building land was, a few months before this picture was taken, productive farmland. Instead, we will import a bit more food and have a bit more national debt which our kids will probably fail to pay off.

Compact cities produce fewer emissions than urban sprawl because they tend to offer better access to public transit and cycling and walking paths, have greater energy efficiency, have lower environmental costs for infrastructure, and allow for more green spaces. It is more expensive to construct and operate infrastructure that services sprawling communities than it is to serve compact ones (i.e. built upwards). According to the World Recourse Institute, one estimate suggests that a more compact approach to urban growth could reduce global infrastructure capital requirements by more than $3 trillion between 2015 and 2030.  Building upwards can be socially difficult and unsafe but, with good design, it can also be socially beneficial and safer than urban sprawl/

Also, productive farm land is shrinking.  Common sense inescapably says stop building on farm land, build upwards and limit population growth.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 22 November 18


Drug residues in rivers

Small amounts of drugs in our drinking water, built up through the food chain, may explain many a malaise of our society, including transgender growth, depression and many others. Maybe not? Nevertheless, it can;t be good.

Researchers in Australia have detected 69 medications in small aquatic creatures in rivers. The residues identified included antidepressants, painkillers, antibiotics, and blood pressure-lowering agents. The highest levels were found in insects near wastewater plants, but low levels were also detected in those from more pristine areas.  There is a food-chain effect with river-borne pharmaceuticals most likely to accumulate in flies and beetles while they are underwater larvae, then transfer to spiders that feed on them after they emerge as adults, and, of course, on upwards into their predators like fish, platypuses, birds, bats and frogs.  Eventually, no doubt, into humans.

How to stop this?  Well, firstly to reduce the use of drugs to what is strictly necessary.  Secondly, by increasing aerobic digestion in waste water treatment works.  Carefully controlled composting can crack these molecules.  There are now new digestion processes developing.  On the scale required, only farmers can do this.


For more detail, go to https://www.newscientist.com/article/2184420-more-than-60-prescription-drugs-are-getting-into-river-foodchains/

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd. 11 November ‘18

Winds will get stronger

We know that burning aviation fuel advances global warming by producing GHG (Green House Gas), BUT, it also delivers what is called “global dimming” because the ice crystals which allow us to see jet contrails also reflect sun radiation back into space. Complexity yields uncertainty.

The global weather system is complex and how it will change with respect to the global warming that we all (except, apparently, Mr Trump) know is happening is difficult to predict in detail and fast enough. One of the problems with that is that by the time we are sure of something, it may be too late to do much about it. The evidence so far does not suggest that climate change causes hurricanes. However, it’s becoming more and more clear that a warming climate leads to more devastating hurricanes.

As far as UK farming is concerned, the implication is that winds generally will get stronger and storm winds will do more damage to crops. Wind breaks and stronger cereal straw are still likely to be part of the defence strategy.  Wind turbines may be a better investment, too.


Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 3 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 https://landresearch.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/the-soil-rumen-and-ion-exchange1.pdf

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

Zero till – less cost, more yield

Zero till with a Moore Unidrill; note the independent discs and seed coulters (right) and press wheels on the rear (left) giving even depth of placement and good seed-soil contact. (Photo courtesy Agri-Linc.)

Direct drilling comes in two guises; drilling after a little cultivation (“min till” really), and what in the USA would be called “zero till”.  Each has its own consequence in terms of weed control. Maybe I learned, years ago, most from a farms manager called Richard Noyce, he always had clean bottoms to his crops simply because, after harvest, he cultivated the surface several times to get weeds seeds to germinate, before putting the next crop in. The alternative of one pass to put the crop in does imply more work to do with selective herbicide – but that is probably going to happen anyway, so it is not an extra cost. Generally, in the hands of a sensitive husbandry man, zero till costs less and gives higher yields.

Good husbandry and using the right machinery is aiming at even depth of placement, good seed-soil contact, giving even emergence.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 20 August ‘18

3D’s- Direct drilling and drought

In direst drilling, getting even depth of placement and good seed-soil contact is important.


Some will be old enough to remember the Bettinson 3D drill.  Direct drilling went out of fashion in the early 1990’s but it is back and what a year in 2018 to start direct drilling! Drought is a killer in the seedbed and cultivations drive off water. So, this year will take a bit of managing and some luck, too. Harrow to get the weed seeds to chit.  Shower of rain, please. Green up. Spay off with glyphosate. Direct drill. Showers of rain please.  Roll if useful. Would that it were as easy as that.  However, it is still much easier than trying to get a wider range of conventional cultivations through. Direct drilling is lower cost, faster and therefore there is a timeliness gain, conserves soil moisture, over-all does give a little better yields, certainly at lower cost.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, August 18