Read this article from the Guardian by Sophie Elmhirst, who says that some compare the world championships to snooker, others to figure skating. But for those who have given their lives to competitive ploughing, it’s more than a sport, it’s a way of life.
But read on to her observations on the future, with the expansion of no-till conservation agriculture, quoting John Cherry, a leading conservationist farmer, “The soil is a mixture of inert minerals and living creatures, a wonderful world of superhighways and information paths, then you come along with a plough, turn it all upside-down and destroy it”. So convinced is Cherry of the no-till method that three years ago, he launched Groundswell, a two-day summer festival held on his UK farm, where hundreds of farmers learn about conservation agriculture. Among Brazilian soil experts and English worm specialists, Cherry delivered an hour-long lecture, with slides, to a packed barn on the success story of no-tilling his own farm. He likes to quote Franklin D Roosevelt’s 1937 letter to state governors in the USA after dust storms and floods had caused irreparable harm across rural America: “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself”.
Recently, Sheffield University researchers suggested that, given the state of their soil, British farms only have 100 harvests left. But conservationists detect a moment of opportunity. As farmers face the disappearance of EU subsidies after Brexit, Cherry believes they are desperately looking to cut costs. No-till farming uses less diesel, less fertiliser. As well as preserving the soil, it’s cheaper. Every year, he said, more farmers were defecting to his side. In a speech he gave in March this year, DEFRA minister, Michael Gove, talked about giving no-till farmers support “to help control and reduce carbon emissions, demand for chemical inputs and provide a richer habitat for insects and invertebrates”. When he announced his agriculture bill in September, Gove set out out how farming, post-Brexit, would in theory become a paid-for public good.
[Thanks to Michael F for submitting this]