Tag Archives: food production

5th November – Remember, Remember

Look carefully! The cardboard replica of the Houses of Parliament is backed up by an enormous pile of firewood. Moments after this picture was taken, the whole lot went up in fire and smoke.

Put on one side for a moment the shenanigans of MPs in the Palace of Westminster and elsewhere.  Frankly, apart from a bad example to our kids, they are largely irrelevant. There is more reason to ask why the productivity of the UK lags so far behind other nations. The mechanics of Westminster, however, the Civil Service, is so hell-bent on not making mistakes that their not-science-based development of more and more regulations stifles innovation and entrepreneurial activity. We have lost the art of safe enabling. It is not the Palace of Westminster we need to burn, it is all the regulations and start again with an objective of enough, and only enough,regulation to innovate and produce – safely.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd 5 November 2017

 

 

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink

Water and power; fundamentals of all production and especially farming.

On 24 August 2017 the Water Resources Institute published a piece on their website looking at “7 Reasons We’re 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 4. Water infrastructure is under pressure.

It is certainly true that water companies in the UK are spending £billions to reduce leakage.  However, the Victorians where good at building reservoirs and we, now, are not.

Conservation farming action;

  1. Build traditional, on farm, reservoirs if there is a stream. (Old tyres can be used to bind clay in a dam. (See link below.).)
  2. Clean gutters and harvest water.
  3. Build top-soil reservoirs using composted waste. (See https://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Sustainable-Energy-Wastes-Shale/dp/1523264217 )

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd.,  September 17

 

The real truth about shale gas

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

water-supply-irrigation-direct drilling

If it is like this on top, what is it like deep down? Much of the crps in the South east and East Anglia depend on extraction from rivers and boreholes. there really is a question of how long this can be sustained.

On 24 August 2017m the Water Resources Institute published a piece on their website looking at “7 Reasons We’re 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 3. Groundwater Is Being Depleted.

About 30 percent of Earth’s fresh water lies deep underground in aquifers.

The south east of England is an area of particular concern. It is a highly populated area with relatively low annual rainfall. As a result, the supply of water in the south east of England is limited. Some parts have less usable water per person than countries such as Syria.  Generally, the water level in the aquifers in the chalk areas of the UK are experiencing falling.   The falling level of water near our bore-holes is not going to be helped by more rainfall because high intensity rain tends to run off into the rivers and to sea.

Conservation farming action;

  1. Increase soil organic matter and reduce cultivations.
  2. Trees are a mixed water-blessing; they will reduce water run-off and reduce flash-flooding lower down, and they will respire around 50 % more than a cereal crop.
  3. Look for crops that need less water or are deep-rooted (such as forage maize instead of grass).

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd.,  September 17

 

Organic Farming Failure

 

“The crop on the right was not worth harvesting and abandoned. 4000 people dies as a result. 

I have shown a picture of this farm field before but I now have a further reasons to visit it again.  The farm appears to have abandoned harvest and it appears that the crop yield would not justify the charges by the contractor brought in to combine the crop.  The farmer claims to farm “organically”.

Now, according to the UN, over 100,000,000 people in central Africa are on the edge of starvation.  Most will actually die and it would be kinder to actually shoot them – starvation is not a very nice way to leave this earth. The farm in the picture has, at the time of writing, over 100 ha apparently abandoned. How many people would that feed?  Well, each ha of that land would yield 8, maybe 10 tonnes of wheat, let us say 8, year in, year out.  So, 800 tonnes per annum. How many would that support?  Well, it depends on the dietary level. To survive without getting fat but having enough calories to work, probably around 5 people for a full year on each tonne is a reasonable guide.

That means that if the farmer of the land in the picture had been employing current UK technology, he could be saving the lives of 4000 people, maybe more.  So by farming badly, he has murdered 4000 people?  Too harsh?  Maybe but the observation does underline two things that are as relevant today as they have ever been;

  1. We who farm the land have a responsibility to the global human population to use its productive capacity for everyone’s benefit. Good, safe food is needed and a lot of it.
  2. The question about organic v. technology and chemicals is a real one but we need production. Acceptation of reduced production by any method of farming, really does condemn others to death. So, there is a question of the balance of risks. Certainly, there are risks in using pesticides and mineral fertilisers.  The risk of starvation is very real to some. So, provided these risks are continually managed which option?  Well, British farming probably does produce the safest food in the world. Technology in responsible hands is the only solution to reducing starvation.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,  September 17

Water in farming

 

Does the rainbow promise better weather, wetter weather, both or more extreme weather? What can we actually do about it?

 

On 24 August 2017m the Water Resources Institute published a piece on their website looking at “7 Reasons We’re 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 1. We’re Changing the Climate, Making Dry Areas Drier and Precipitation More Variable and Extreme.

Without mentioning any particular name, one who denies climate change must either be demented or have some ulterior motive. In most farming areas, water will in general get shorter in areas where it is already short and rain, when it does happen, at higher rates and with more wind. In general terms, most climatologists agree, this trend will continue.  However, there is some evidence that we may have already started to switch off, or otherwise change, the Gulf Stream. If that turns out to be the case, the western areas of the UK may get colder, not warmer, especially in winter.

The effects of these changes will affect everything in farming including field drainage, soil organic matter, the way we control weeds in crops.  We had better be ready to respond to these pressures.  One thing is for sure – it will not stay the same.

There is one rule to watch; mostly, where rain is already short in the eastern areas, we will get less and when it happens it will be in heavy weather.  Cereal crop lodging before harvest will be an increasing risk.  All areas may experience flash flooding.

Conservation farming action;

  1. Add organic matter and reduce cultivations to reduce oxidation of organic matter.
  2. Subsoil at intervals.
  3. Maintain ditches and field drainage.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd.,  September 17

Husbandry inputs and safe food

In a field in Wiltshire – I’d be ashamed if it were mine. More thistles and wild oats than wheat as a crop. Cultivations and sprays need to be used with a sensitivity to weather to get weed control; economically.

As I get older, I worry more about the standard of husbandry in farming – in some farms there seem to be some sliding of standards of cleanliness in crops.  Most of the crops I see as I travel around the country have, what I learned as a student to be described as “clean bottoms”, leaving an almost weed free stubble at harvest. During my vacations as a student at Reading, more years ago than I care to mention, I was lucky enough to serve under a farm manager of the name of Richard Noyce in Hampshire. I learned so much from him in terms of using the theory I had from Reading out in the field. Amongst other things, he knew how to use cultivators, chemicals and timing with the weather, to dramatically reduce the weed load on the following year’s crop. Many things are different, now, but we need food more than ever.  Despite this worry, most crops I see are of a high husbandry standard and Britain does have consistently amongst the highest yields of any nation on earth.  We probably do have the safest food in the world, too. Better tell the great British public.

Bill Butterworth, Land REsearch Ltd, 24 August 2017