Feed the soil

Save the date: Donations given to the Feed the Soil Appeal 18 – 25 April will be doubled!

Soil is one of our greatest natural assets – the role it plays is fundamental to life on earth. Widespread deterioration in soil health has significant environmental, economic and societal consequences.

We need to raise £200,000 to fund a project that will explore ways to feed the soil with organic composts to rebuild soil health.

Rothschild Foundation have kindly awarded ORC a grant to enable us to start the project. With your help we hope to raise the remaining funds required to carry out the whole project. To secure resources and sites for field testing we must raise the full £200,000 by the end of May 2024!

Follow our progress

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/donation-thermometer/.£200,000Raised £30,000 towards the £200,000 target.£30,000Raised £30,000 towards the £200,000 target.15%

Appeal deadline: May 2024
Project beneficiaries:
Farmers, Growers, wildlife, nature, environment, humankind, climate
Location:
UK
Project Length:
2 years
Project Start date:
February 2024

The problem

In the UK, 6 million hectares are at risk of soil compaction and erosion. This soil degradation increases drought, flooding risk, water pollution, threatens biodiversity and reduces the soil’s ability to sequester carbon. UK soils currently hold around 9.8 billion tonnes of carbon, only around half of their carbon-storing potential. Poor soil health can also negatively affect food quality which in turn can be linked to chronic diseases. Action is urgently needed to restore the UK’s soil.

The ORC working with The Land Gardeners will establish a research and knowledge exchange programme with an organic estate, linked to a network of satellite sites which are currently trialling a range of approaches to feeding the soil, centred around the use of composts, their teas and extracts at farm scale. This will enable us to conduct a comparison of different composting methods and application strategies under robust, controlled, conditions so that clear guidance for farmers can be developed.

Project aims

Specific questions to be answered include:

  • What is the best composting method and application system to optimise microbial diversity and function?
  • What is the best composting method and application system to produce crops of high nutritional quality and density?
  • What will be the impacts of implementing these methods on crop yields and farm economics?
  • What will be the impacts of implementing these methods on the farm’s overall carbon footprint?

The project will be delivered in two phases:

Phase 1: the evidence about different composting methods will be reviewed and current research activities will be mapped.

Phase 2: Field testing will be conducted to investigate the impacts of different composting methods, carbon footprinting will be conducted and knowledge exchange activities delivered.

What difference will the project make?

This project has the potential to reduce reliance on synthetic crop inputs and the cycle of dependence on these inputs among conventional farmers. There is also the opportunity to improve soil microbial diversity and function, sequester carbon, increase soil resilience to drought and flooding, reduce pollution of waterways, and increase nutrient density of plants. Such changes need to be made if we are to preserve our environment for future generations.

A survey of current practice in the UK will be conducted initially to allow ‘before and after’ comparison.

Field testing will be conducted to investigate the impacts of different composting methods, measuring a range of indicators of soil health on participating farms, with results analysed and reported annually.

A manuscript for peer-reviewed publication reporting on results of field testing, carbon footprinting and economic analysis will be produced at the end of the project.

A project page will be hosted on the ORC, Agricology and The Land Gardeners websites.

Two knowledge exchange workshops will be held at the research hub.

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