Archive for the 'Soil' Category


The Fragility of Food Supply

There are early predictions more than 90 per cent of Australia’s banana crop was wiped out as Cyclone Yasi hit ‘Banana Central’ – a narrow coastal strip  centred around Innisfail, Tully and Cardwell, North Queensland. 85 per cent of Australia’s bananas are grown here.

“With industry worth AUS$400 million, a total of 75 per cent has been affected,” said Cameron MacKay of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. Bananas are Australia’s third most valuable fruit industry, but 99% of them are eaten by Australians. Exports to Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand only account for 1% of total production. If Australians want bananas in the next 12-18 months the industry will take to recover, then they’re going to have to be imported.

The cyclone will have an even greater effect on sugar. Catastrophic might be the right word here. Farmer lobby Canegrowers has estimated the cost of Yasi will exceed AUS$500 million, including crop losses and damage to farming infrastructure. Sugar is one of Australia’s most important rural industries, worth over AUS$1.5-$2.5 billion. Australia exports 80% and virtually all of it comes from Queensland. NZ’s favourite Chelsea sugar imports 27,000 tonnes of it every 6 weeks. There are a lot of cakes and tea cups in Kiwi kitchens that will be feeling the pinch of increased sugar prices due to Yasi destruction. Bloomberg is reporting that futures prices for the sugar industry have hit a 30-year high.

Things are just looking more and more grim for Australian growers. Floods, fires, drought are just decimating the country. Paul Sheehan has written a very good column in the Sydney Morning Herald about Australia’s topsoil:

“Australia reminds me of an injured person, gushing blood. Others gather around, concerned, yet nobody mentions the gushing blood, or appears to even notice.”


These are not the best of times, and I’m afraid they certainly aren’t going to be the worst. The world is just starting to get an idea about how important top soil is. Soil conservation is a necessity! We need to learn more, protect more, be smarter about one of the most fundamental substances that we’ve taken for granted for far too long.




How to save the world with cow dung

NZOnScreen has put up the trailer and an excerpt of the must-see Peter Proctor documentary One Man, One Cow, One Planet.

This film looks at biodynamic agriculture, a Rudolph Steiner-inspired system of organic farming. The film focuses on proponent Peter Proctor, a worm-obsessed Kiwi gardener; and his work promoting biodynamics worldwide, particularly in India, where he argues that modern industrial agriculture (eg. artificial chemicals, GM seeds) has made soil and plants toxic, and farming unsustainable. Proctor’s simple recipe to save the planet? One man and a bucket of cow dung. Narrated by E.T. actor Peter Coyote, One Man screened worldwide at environmental film festivals.

Buy the DVD here.

More resources and info here.



Entrachyadid wormsOur permaculture worm tower seems to be working well. But we have just noticed that lots of the thin white worms that were in the bin have gotten out and gone wriggling around the garden. There seems to be a heap of them. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we instantly knew what they were and what to do.

Entrachyadids are a type of earthworm, and not a nematode as I first feared. They are a sign that the soil is too acid which is a result of putting in too many kitchen scraps. Although, the entrachyadids don’t do any damage, we will be adding lime to the beds to reduce the acidity.

Watch the short video on permaculture worm towers.


Permaculture worm tower

I love simple, cheap and appropriate ideas that make gardening easier and fun. At the first Seedy Sunday we showed three videos with this philosophy in mind.

My two previous attempts at worm farming had ended badly with the bins being overrun with nasties that killed off the worms. But I so love the simplicity and ease of this idea I’m going to give it another shot. This is a great way to get nutrients straight into your garden.

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August 2020

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