Rise of Organic Farming
The latest Defra figures show that the area of land in organic conversion across the UK rose by 12% last year. Apart from 2019, it has seen a modest increase every year since 2014. The total area of land farmed organically or in conversion is 489,000 hectares, an increase of 0.8% compared to 2019. That shows that land is coming out of organic production at almost the same rate as going in. 62% of that land is permanent pasture and only 9% is used to grow cereals.
Defra has announced £2.27 million of funding to persuade farmers to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis in a 250 sq km area of the South Downs in East Sussex. The trial will last for five years to determine how a project might be rolled out nationally. However, one member of the Government’s newly formed advisory group said that a previous similar trial in Gloucestershire had shown that vaccination is ineffective.
In the face of increasing calls to ban the burning of heather, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has come to its defence. Pointing out that evidence shows that regular rotational burning actually improves carbon capture rather than releasing it, the report goes on to describe the devastating impact of wildfires where the peat burns as well as the heather. One example of that was Saddleworth Moor in 2018 when seven square miles burnt, destroying wildlife and 200 years of stored carbon. Controlled burning of heather in the wetter moths is the best way to avoid wildfires.
A recent report from Rothamsted Research based on a 50 year experiment on arable fields has shown that ploughing together with the use of artificial fertiliser and pesticides has created soil conditions in which detrimental fungi and bacteria thrive at the expense of the beneficial. The microbiome of such soils was described as a gangsters’ paradise!