by Patrick Holden, Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust
I am a long-standing fan and an admirer of the stances you have adopted on many key environmental issues, so I hope you won’t mind if I take public issue with you on some of the points that you made in your recent Guardian article about Allan Savory and his advocacy of holistic grazing management systems.
I should first declare my various interests: I am a farmer of ruminants myself, with 85 Ayrshire milking cows, plus their various offspring on my mainly, but not exclusively, grassland farm in West Wales, (which you visited very briefly back in 2007); I have a long-standing interest and engagement with developing improved systems of pasture management, although none of these experiments have been monitored; and, while you were in the library checking out the science on Savory’s claims, I was attending and speaking at the Savory Institute International Conference in London last week, which provided the hook for your Guardian piece.
As I understand it, your key critique of Savory is that he is has made a series of unsubstantiated claims relating to the capacity of holistic grazing management systems (which you referred to as Intensive Rotational Grazing, or IRG), not only to increase ruminant stocking densities but also to build soil carbon in the form of stabilised organic matter.
What clearly rattled you most was his assertion that were such systems were to be applied on a global scale, they would have the potential to sequestrate a significant percentage of the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Biochar. Credit: Research group of Valuation of resources at UPM.
Researchers at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have obtained biochar using manure waste, a new material that can improve soil properties and increase crop yields.
The results of the research group of Valuation of resources from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid suggest an optimal solution to manage the manure from chicken and cattle. Biochar, a material obtained after thermal treatment of this waste through pyrolysis, is an organic fertilizer that applied in soils and not only has positive effects on crop yields, but also represents a significant reduction of CO2 emissions compared to the direct application of manure waste on soils.
Waste production, either from urban, industrial or agricultural source, is a major environmental problem in our society. In fact, recycling, reusing and using raw materials from the waste we generate are some of the environmental challenge that we face today. The European Union is indeed investing efforts within its strategy to promote the efficient use of resources.
Farmers rely on pollination services provided by bees for many crops including apples. Credit: Sylvia Kantor/WSU
A team of international scientists has shown that assigning a dollar value to the benefits nature provides agriculture improves the bottom line for farmers while protecting the environment. The study confirms that organic farming systems do a better job of capitalizing on nature’s services.
Scientists from Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States describe the research they conducted on organic and conventional farms to arrive at dollar values for natural processes that aid farming and that can substitute for costly fossil fuel-based inputs. The study appears in the journal PeerJ.
“By accounting for ecosystem services in agricultural systems and getting people to support the products from these systems around the world, we move stewardship of lands in a more sustainable direction, protecting future generations,” said Washington State University soil scientist John Reganold, one of the study’s authors.
Tests in organic and conventional fields
Earthworms turning the soil, bees pollinating crops, plants pulling nitrogen out of the air into the soil and insects preying on pests like aphids — these are a few of nature’s services that benefit people but aren’t often factored in to the price we pay at the grocery store.