Professor Nic Lampkin, Executive Director of the Organic Research Centre, responded to George Monbiot’s article, Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown:
“He is right on many levels, but what he does not state is that we already have an armoury of solutions to resolve many of the problems that are creating this potential ‘insectageddon’:
“At the Organic Research Centre, we undertake cutting-edge science on agroecological approaches, including the provision of habitats on farms to support insects including pollinators and pest predators, to resolve the environmental conflicts caused by unsustainable farming practices. Farming and wildlife don’t need to be separated – they can be integrated to mutual benefit, as they have been for hundreds of years in European agriculture giving rise to the insect and bird populations which are now in decline.
“Our work with farmers shows that many are already engaged in taking up the challenge for the benefit of providing quality food and protecting the environment.
“But this all comes at a cost. Funding for quality research on sustainable farming, focusing in particular on ecological rather than technological innovation and the means to deliver the results on the ground, is in short supply, especially when short-termism by policy makers is the name of the game. Depressingly, the environment is the ultimate loser and farmers get the blame.
“To implement these solutions, we desperately need the will of policy makers and consumers to trigger change”. http://slideplayer.com/slide/5857449/
The road to food sovereignty
Pat Mooney, Canadian author or co-author of several books on the politics of biotechnology and biodiversity and Nnimmo Bassey, Nigerian architect and environmentalist activist, outline the concerns of three United Nations organisations in the New Internationalist:
Their solution for both climate and food sovereignty: “Dismantle the global industrial agri-food system. Governments must give more space to the already growing and resilient interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who, our research shows, already feed most of the world”. The term ‘peasant web’ is used by the authors to include all these food producers.
The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) has published a report: ‘Who Will Feed Us?’ (download link). Some remarkable statistics are given in the report and listed here.
In Agricology, another organisation, farmers and researchers are sharing knowledge to work towards more resource efficient, resilient and profitable agricultural systems
Over 20 UK organisations are working (see here) on practical, sustainable farming, regardless of labels. Agricology is led by the Game and Wildlife Trust, The Daylesford Foundation and the Organic Research Centre.
A 2014 seminar covered the important role of earthworms in helping to improve soil structure; the improved drainage and cultivation implications of improved soil structure; the beneficial effects on soil structure and soil organic matter (SOM) levels of introducing cover crops into rotations; improving the farm drainage system and knock-on benefits in relation to drilling and improved black-grass control; the importance of waiting for soil to dry out before working it, avoiding compaction; and the impacts of increasing SOM on soil erosion, run-off and soil structure.
The first seminar in 2018 will cover:
- Herbal leys and pasture fed livestock in arable systems.
- Experimenting with ley species mixtures for dairy, forage, and soil health.
- Integrating livestock to graze herbal leys, cover crops, and manage arable weeds.
- Diverse leys and building soil organic matter.
- Monitoring the impact of leys on soil health.
Their conclusion: “In response to increasing challenges including declining soil fertility, problem weeds such as blackgrass and increasing cost of inputs, there is a need to rethink the way we farm. Agricology supports farmers and growers to transition to more resilient, sustainable farming systems, bringing together research and farmer experience on agroecological practices (such as reduced tillage, cover crops and reintegrating livestock) to replace inputs with knowledge”.