Tag Archives: sustainable

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

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

Shale gas and the NHS

This can pay for more of ………….

……. this. (and in-patients, too!)

Cut the discussion and get down to the raw facts.  The NHS certainly has its faults and can be improved without the addition of cash BUT the NHS and the social services which can take people out of hospital beds for care after treatment ARE short of cash.  The NHS really is a national gem and needs significant and on-going extra cash.  If we want it to care for us, we have to care or it.

It does not have to be supported by extra taxes.  We are sitting on enormous energy reserves of shale gas.  We are importing shale gas in specially made ships from the USA and Arab countries. We are importing natural gas from Russia which owns part of Centrica which, of course, owns British Gas. THIS IS INSANE. The UK has the best shale gas technology in the world and, yes, we can do it safely. In terms of environmental balance, it is better to do shale gas here in the UK and use the revenues to build the NHS and develop renewable energy sources.

Bill Butterworth, Member of the British Society of Soil Science

Land Research Ltd, 24th June 18


Synthetic N Fertiliser

In the UK , around 80 % of the cultivation energy we use is to undo previous traffic compaction and around 50 % of the energy we use to manufacture and spread fertiliser goes into the groundwater. This is neither profitable in the short run nor sustainable in the long.

The nature of the Nitrogen molecule carrier/store dramatically affects not only N fertiliser losses to groundwater, but how it gets into the plant and promotes growth.

Nitrogen fertiliser can be applied in two forms; as soluble in water (such as ammonium nitrate) and as organically bound N (as part of long, Carbon-chain molecules).If the molecule is relatively small and in-organic (mot part of a Carbon chain molecule), then it can be absorbed across the root-hair wall and progressively built up by the plant metabolism into amino acids and plant proteins. This route has served us well and saved countless billions from starving and postponed their death.

There is a problem.  While “artificial” or “synthetic” fertiliser N certainly has its place, the energy cost of manufacture and the losses to groundwater are unsustainable. The alternative will be discussed in the next post on this blog.

Also see “Reversing global Warming for Profit” by Bill Butterworth published on Amazon.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd,   20 May 2018


Nitrogen in the next 10 years

Whether government and do-good “environmental” lobbyists agree or like it, or not, in a western economy, cash is the driver

I have come across several cases recently of the Environment Agency refusing to allow Deployments to spread processed wastes because there was “too much nitrogen” present.  The Nitrogen would, in composts and organic wastes, be present substantially, if not completely, as organically bound N.  In a grassland or direct-drilled arable soil, that might release as little as 1 or 2 % of the total Nitrogen in that soil, to ground water per annum.  (That might be just enough to keep the weed in a trout steam growing at a natural rate.)  At the other extreme, in a much-cultivated clay soil, the release of N might reach 10%, and in a much cultivated sandy soil, maybe 15 % per annum.  Now, to be economic, if the farm did then not have composts made from “wastes”, and used ammonium nitrate, then the percentage of N lost to groundwater would be between 30 and 60 or even a bit higher (85%) on an irrigated sandy soil.

The point is this. Read the research. Recycled wastes spread as well made compost are generally safe to add to farm land at any N content, without limit on quantity added.  Don’t believe the research?  Try common sense; when Vermuyden drained the Fens some 300 years ago, it was, and remains, possible to grow a crop (probably the best crop in the UK) every year, without ever adding any N fertiliser in any year for 300 years.  By the way, some of these Fen soils were 10 or 12 m deep when first drained (the N reserves were enormous) and the dykes and Norfolk Broads were not full of green slime and dead fish.

If the human race is to survive, we have to recycle wastes to land.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd   18th May 2018

Food security, global population and IVF


Global population and human survival are issues not just for our children but for this generation. There will be a global collapse. When?

The British people and government would do well to look to food security.  Note the graph; there will be . repeat WILL be, a global population collapse.  The evidence is compelling.  (See “Survival”).   There was a discussion on Radio 4 today about whether a woman could or should be able to get IVF on the NHS.  We already have twice as many people on this earth than is, by reasonable thought, sustainable. There are plenty of kids already here who need a family.  For everyone’s sake, don’t make any more!

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 31 October 2017


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