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The harrowing business of being a buttercup farmer

Upper Pant Farm: I’ve been chain harrowing all our grass fields today, which involves pulling a carpet of metal spikes up and down each field with my David Brown tractor. The spikes pull out the dead grass from last year and freshen the ground, allowing new grass and clover space to grow. Clover is especially important to us, as it takes nitrogen from the air and puts it in the soil, increasing the fertility of the soil which in turn increases our crop yields. Encouraging clover means we don’t need fossil fuel derived artificial nitrate fertilizer, which is better for soil life and means a smaller carbon footprint!

01 July 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

'Pesticides and our health' – Greenpeace study finds plenty of cause for concern

Marianne Landzettel: Occasionally you remember exactly what made you look at an issue in a different light. For me one such moment was listening to an interview with Klaas Martens, a US grain farmer in the state of New York. The last time he sprayed his fields with pesticides was in spring of 1994, Martens said. It was late afternoon when he tried to fold the sprayer and realised he could not move his right arm. ‘It was never proven that that’s what caused it, but common sense tells me that I was poisoned that day’.

05 June 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

A second green revolution?

Anna Louise Batchelor: Last month I attended a special lecture held at the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture. Entitled “Balancing food production and environmental protection” the speaker set out to overcome the thorny issue of increasing yields without increasing damage to eco-systems. The lecture was given by Poul Christensen, President of the National Federation of Young Farmers and former chair of Natural England.

30 March 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 2

Caring for my cows

Oliver Dowding: It is clear to most sensible observers that the use of antibiotics within agriculture is going to have to reduce due to increasing resistance problems and nightmare scenarios within human medicine. For organic farmers this is not such a big issue: organic standards require farmers to maximise preventative husbandry, and deploy other means than antibiotics, which are reserved for use as a last resort.

09 February 2015 | 17 Comments | Recommended by 5

Working to improve organic production systems

Liz Bowles: Improving organic systems and markets is always at the forefront of our minds at the Soil Association. As part of our ongoing work we have prioritised a number of areas for special attention over the coming months and years which I wanted to update you on. However we are keenly aware that we may not always know about the challenges that you face from day to day so we really do welcome your thoughts on where you believe we should be placing emphasis.

19 January 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Why we should care that it is World Soil Day

Louise Payton: So today is World Soil day. Why on earth do we need a day on soils? It’s no coincidence that our planet shares its name with the stuff. Soil, earth, or dirt, as it is known in the USA, is important.

05 December 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 2

My organic hero

Janet Blikmans: Imagine a beautifully sunny day in August, not too hot, a few clouds in the sky, a slight breeze and rolling hills. I arrive on a 100 acre suckler farm in Wiltshire to spend the day with owner Miss Lydia Otter and farm manager Richard Hurford and many more people I meet throughout the day. As well as a small herd of organic Angus sucklers and their offspring (oh and the not so friendly bull Jaguar) there are chickens, donkeys, pigs, goats, dogs and a cat. When I arrive in the morning, like on any average farm, business is in full flow already.

30 September 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 3

Armchair farming...

Marianne Landzettel: ... is not a synonym for a journalist writing about agriculture. An organic farmer I recently met coined the phrase. Jim Dufosee raises sheep and beef cattle in Wiltshire and grows feed. When he switched to organic it wasn’t necessarily because he was one of the converted. Back then there were financial incentives to do so. "Today I just know I’m doing the right thing", he says, and he wouldn’t go back to conventional farming even if they paid him.

26 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 7

You are saving our wild bees - the unsung heroes of our countryside

Louise Payton: It has been all over the news - the dramatic decline in our bees. The most attention has been centred on our honeybees, and they are indeed faring badly with a third of bee colonies lost by British beekeepers last winter (2012/2013). But our wild bees are in deep trouble too.

05 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 6

You are helping to save the colour in our countryside

Louise Payton: Our countryside has changed colour in the past century. Now mostly green or perhaps yellow with rapeseed (and more recently brown with flood water), it used to be a profusion of reds, blues, whites, yellows and purples when wildflowers bloomed in all their splendour. Agricultural intensification has been the reason for this change in palette - 97% of our wildflower meadows have been converted, weed-killers have obliterated the huge variety of wild plants (weeds) that insects and farmland birds depend on, and mixed cropping (used to control insect pests and break-up disease cycles), have been replaced with inorganic fertilisers and repetitive monocultures.

21 February 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 8

You are helping to save our skylarks

Louise Payton: Skylarks are an iconic British species - they are the very voice of British Spring and their song was once commonplace in our countryside. During the World War I they were one of the most powerful symbols of hope for British Soldiers, as they soared and sung above the trenches, reminding troops so clearly of home. But we face losing our iconic species - in recent decades with the advent of intensive farming systems, we have seen the decline of skylarks in their millions.

14 February 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

The old problem and the new "terrorism"

Lynda Brown: The week has started with a headline story about the Chief Medical Officer’s chilling warning that antibiotic usage and bug resistance to them was now so serious that in 10-20 years time, we could be back to the stone age: due to the risk of infection every visit to a hospital could potentially be fatal, and simple and complex operations, including those for organic transplants and cancer could be futile.

11 March 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 4

The future of our food

Catherine Fookes: It’s hard not to notice that our food prices have shot up, and while we might not be going hungry just yet, what’s the bet that a lot of us are starting the New Year slightly more cash strapped than last, armed with ways of feeding ourselves on a budget, planning imaginative meals with leftovers and generally cutting back on dining out. The increase in food prices is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s increasingly becoming a worldwide issue of food security. Launched this week, the Enough Food for Everyone, IF campaign, is tackling world hunger head on with a hard hitting celebrity backed campaign supported by industry and charitable organisations - the latest in a string of initiatives to tackle this issue.

25 January 2013 | 654 Comments | Recommended by 9

Forty nine giga tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – sounds quite a lot to me

Rob Haward: Conversion of all of the world’s agricultural land to organic could reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 49 giga tonnes/year, delaying climate change by 4 to 5 years. The research presented by Urs Niggli at the conference, a professor at one of Europe’s leading research organisations, showed that in a 16 year trial organic farming offered the potential to sequester 2.4 tonnes of CO2e per year more carbon than an equivalent non organic farm. The benefits were most marked in horticultural holdings but were demonstrable in every farm type.

09 February 2011 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 4

Worm man

Tim Young: A short film about Uprendra Kumar Mohanta, an Indian farmer who's using worm compost to bring life back into his soil.

01 February 2011 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 3

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