Organic Trust Ltd

Soil Conference - Monday July 6th 2015 - Galway

Event | 17 Apr 2015

This Conference - which is being organised by Klaus Laitenberger - will take place on Monday July 6th 2015 in Claregalway Castle, Co Galway - an event not to be missed by current and potential organic producers!

Soil Conference - Monday July 6th 2015 - Galway Image

The main problem humanity is currently facing is not global warming, extinction of species or any other environmental crisis – the main problem we will have to face is the degradation of our soils. The world population continues to increase while we destroy more and more topsoil.  Every child could do the sums – there won’t be enough fertile soil left to feed a growing world population.

Here are some disturbing facts:

• 24 billion tonnes of fertile topsoil are lost every year. 
• Or 12 million hectares of topsoil are lost every year.
• 25% of the earth’s surface has already become degraded.  This could feed 1.5 billion people.
• The UN FAO calculated that we have about 60 years of harvests left – and then?
“We are using the world’s soils as if they were inexhaustible, continually withdrawing from an account, but never paying in.”  FAO
More soil facts:
• Soil stores 10% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
• A fully functioning soil reduces the risk of floods and protects underground water supplies by neutralising or filtering out potential pollutants and storing as much as 3750 tonnes of water per hectare.
It takes a long time for a soil to recover:
• Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form 2 centimetres of topsoil.

We completely depend on our soils.  Without soil the earth would be completely different.  Apart from some algae, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic creatures there would be no other life.  We certainly wouldn’t be around. So why does nobody care about the soil and why do so many of us still call this precious substance “Dirt”?  How come these facts that were known for many decades were ignored by scientists and the general public? As a matter of immediate urgency we need to wake up to the fact that our soils may just give up.  They had enough of the ill-treatment since industrial chemical farming started. However, there is a little glimpse of hope at the end of the tunnel:

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has declared the year 2015 as the International Year of Soils to highlight the dangers we face.
The organic movement is also increasing throughout the world.  One of the key concepts of organic farming is the care for the land and recognising that our soils are the givers of life.  They need to be kept healthy and alive.  Only a fertile soil can produce healthy crops and only with healthy crops can we have healthy animals and people.  The mantra of organic farming is ‘to feed the soil which in turn will feed the plant.  The reverse is true for conventional farming where the soil is considered just a medium on which plants grow and anchor themselves.  The soil is considered as an inert sponge on which plants are force fed like being on a drip.

Over the last few decades our soils have suffered immensely and are close to the brink of collapsing.  As a matter of urgency we need to learn how to care for our soils we need to learn how to “bring soil back to life” as Alex Lavarde appropriately called for.
Yes – I’m pointing a finger.  Industrial farming has caused this degradation.  Amongst a few other factors, the use of artificial fertilisers is one of the main causes for the degradation of soils.  If farmers and growers rely solely on artificial fertilisers our soils will degrade.  The reason for this is that artificial fertilisers only do one thing.  They supply NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) in a soluble form which means fast release.  So they work quickly but also cause damage quickly.
But soils don’t just need NPK.  Soils need inputs of manure, compost, leafmould, seaweed or green manures.  If you add any of these organic fertilisers you will enliven the soil in many different ways.  The billions of living creatures that are in just on handful of topsoil need to be fed and only organic fertilisers will provide this food.  Also by adding these bulky organic fertilisers the structure of our soils will be improved.  There will be better drainage, water infiltration, less compaction, better water holding capacity and importantly it will be easier to work the soil.  If you think about it – through a change of farming systems flooding could be controlled and wouldn’t that be much cheaper than putting up concrete defence structures around our towns?
Artificial fertilisers don’t provide any soil services – they literally just pump up plants. As a matter of urgency we should give up using artificial fertilisers immediately.  They should be treated by governments just like other dangerous substances and should be taxed highly.

George Monbiot summarised this unnoticed danger:
“Almost all other issues are superficial by comparison. What appear to be great crises are slight and evanescent when held up against the steady but unremarked trickling away of our subsistence.”

In order to celebrate the International Year of Soils we are organising a Soil Conference: 

Soils Matter

It will take place in Claregalway Castle, Co. Galway on Monday 6th July following the Galway Garden Festival on the previous weekend.  Even during the Galway Garden Festival there will be talks and demonstrations for children and adults about the importance on how to keep our soils healthy. 
The conference on Monday is limited to 150 participants so early booking is recommended.  There are excellent speakers and workshops organised throughout the day.

- Dr. Elizabeth Stockdale (Soil Scientist at Newcastle University)
- Ian Tolhurst (Organic Grower and Author from the UK)
- Jim Cronin (Organic Grower)
- Pat Lalor (Organic Farmer)
- Kitty Scully (TV Gardener and Head Gardener at Airfield House)
- Frank Macken (Organic Unit – DAFM)
- Dara Molloy (Celtic Priest)
- Clive Bright (Organic Farmer)

For more information contact Margaret on