Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Down to Earth

I was pleased to see my investigation of soil so skilfully set out in the March issue of Ecologist magazine. The material is mostly taken from my chapter on soil in We Want Real Food. The magazine has used it as part of an extended feature on how climate change and peak oil will impact on our food supply.

It’s good to know the importance of healthy soils to our lives and health is getting the recognition it deserves. In this age of record crop yields it’s easy to get the impression that it’s the chemists, plant breeders and GM technologists who feed us.

The truth is that, however smart our technologies, it’s the living community below ground that enables plants to grow. They supply plants with the nutrients they need, provide them with water and protect them against toxins and disease. Without the activity of soil life – from microscopic bacteria to earthworms – life above ground would quickly grind to a halt.

Sadly chemical farming subjects these living communities to a non-stop toxic barrage, wiping out whole species and disrupting the intricate subterranean network that keeps plants healthy. With their natural support systems weakened, crop plants become more dependent on pesticides to keep them growing – which is great for the chemical industry but bad news for the rest of us.

For the full story of why we owe so much to the life of the soil, take a look at Ecologist magazine. Alternatively, of course, you can read the book, We Want Real Food!

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