It is a privilege to witness the positive changes unfolding in response to the massive challenges confronting modern agriculture. In a classic example of the silver lining that can sometimes be found in storm clouds, two looming crises are set to trigger tremendous outcomes for the soil, the people and the planet. The twin spectres of Peak Oil and Global Warming are prompting much-needed change. Fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers are all petrochemical-based, so how does oil thirsty agriculture prosper in the face of oil prices that are destined to rise and rise? Climate change is the other stressor. How do we counter the profound effects of a man-made fever?
In the case of peak oil, it becomes an obvious economic imperative to reduce reliance upon petro-chemicals in agriculture and this involves the inevitable embrace of biological principles. The climate change story is even more exciting as it may herald the dawn of a golden era. Agriculture will prove the saviour here because there are no other options. If we consider the CO2 that has been released into the atmosphere since 1850 we find that 470 gigatonnes has come from mismanagement of our soils, via humus losses in conventional agriculture. In that same period, the total contribution from all other human enterprise (including industry, coal fire power stations, motor vehicles and 6 billion souls breathing out CO2) is 260 gigatonnes.
The vast majority of the offending excess in the atmosphere came from the soil and we need to return it there, as humus, as a matter of absolute urgency. Farmers will be paid to do this and it will be the ultimate win/win because humus is the essence of high production fertility, profitabilituy and sustainability. An increase in humus means less fertilisers, less chemical intervention, better water retention and a substantial overall reduction in the carbon footprint. We all get to eat better quality, less contaminated food and farmers literally save the planet! An average increase of 1% organic matter,for example, would be difficult, but achievable (and this is actually more than what is needed to save the day). What has always been the most important profession of them all will finally be recognised as such!
Cellulose-digesting fungi are one key to the turnaround, but their numbers have been decimated by conventional farming practices. When this is widely recognised, anything that compromises the most important creatures on the planet at this point in time, will simply not be acceptable, and the smart operators all over the world are recognising this inevitability and initiating change.
If you would like to be better prepared for the coming biological revolution then consider attending the internationally-acclaimed, NTS Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture four-day course. Please phone +61 7 5472 9900 or click here for further details and upcoming course dates.