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APPROACHES TO SUSTAINABLE FARMLAND MANAGEMENT. ESRC TRANSDISCIPLINARY SEMINAR SERIES Talking soil ethics. The conventional, the organic and the biodynamic.

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Presentation on theme: "APPROACHES TO SUSTAINABLE FARMLAND MANAGEMENT. ESRC TRANSDISCIPLINARY SEMINAR SERIES Talking soil ethics. The conventional, the organic and the biodynamic."— Presentation transcript:

1 APPROACHES TO SUSTAINABLE FARMLAND MANAGEMENT. ESRC TRANSDISCIPLINARY SEMINAR SERIES Talking soil ethics. The conventional, the organic and the biodynamic point of view. Ethical Production and Protection for Sustainable Farmland Management Kostas Baginetas Supervisors: Prof. Charles Watkins Dr. Richard Field

2 Summary of the presentation Brief introduction Description of the presentation –Rationale –Methodology Questions & answers –Farmers’ views Similarities & differences Discussion –Emerging themes Conclusions –Farmers’ ethical stands Summary Acknowledgements

3 Introduction World’s population > 6 billion (2025, > 8 billion) (New Scientist, 2002) Agriculture is the prime source of food –Feed a growing population using sustainable farming methods Growing awareness of the need for sustainability in agriculture –“Our Common Future” (Brundtland report, 1987) –1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) Soils are crucial for life on earth: –Medium for plant growth –Influence water cycle –Nature’s recycling system –Habitat for organisms –Engineering medium –Cultural heritage, part of the landscape

4 Introduction Soil is a major resource of most agricultural ecosystems –Farming is inextricably linked with the existence of soils Maintaining the quality & health of soils should be a major goal of a society trying to achieve agricultural sustainability Little attention paid to the views of the most important agricultural stakeholders/actors involved directly with the soil –The farmers –What are the values they ascribe to soil Stewards or Abusers of the soil? Production ethic or Stewardship ethic Important to understand it in order to achieve a more sustainable way of agricultural production Farmer’s ethics –The moral principles by which a person is guided, the rules of conduct (Oxford English Dictionary)

5 Becker, 1997 Multi-dimensional nature of sustainability

6 Description of the presentation Case study –Three farming systems represented by three farmers Conventional Organic Biodynamic –Compare their views/attitudes regarding soil Reach conclusions regarding soil ethics Methodology –Same education –Same farm land use –Same age & years involved in farming –Same geographical area –Different farming practices In a way using quantitative methods to do qualitative research!

7 Tress & Tress, 2001 Interactions of farmers & agricultural landscapes

8 Description of the presentation Rationale –Three farming systems –Three production ethics –Three soil ethics Production ethics Perceptions, views Farming practice Soil ethicsSoil management Interviews –Analyse answers –Gaine insight in their perceptions & views –Understand their soil ethics and subsequent soil management

9 Marten, 2001 Co-adaptation of farmers & agro- ecosystems

10 Characteristics of the farmers Same education –Wye College graduates (BSc Agronomy) Organic farmer (NFU representative, his wife Wye graduate) Similar age/experience –Involved in farming for 25-30 years Similar land use & farm management –Mixed farming Arable crops, dairy, beef Same geographical area/Spatial proximity –Their farms are in the same area Different way of farming –Different views, perceptions & understandings –Different attitudes to farming –Different soil management & ethics

11 Area of research

12 N 1:50 000 Biodymanic farmer Organic farmer Conventional farmer

13 The three farming systems Conventional farming –Mechanisation –Use of external inputs (pesticides and fertilisers) –Intensive management/increased yields Organic farming –No use of synthetic external inputs (pesticides and fertilisers) –Use of cultural, biological or natural methods of pest control and fertility Biodynamic farming (Rudolph Steiner, 1924) –A type of organic farming –Differs in the use of fermented preparations in compost and as field sprays

14 PreparationMain ingredientUse 500Cow manure (Bos taurus)Field spray 501Ground silica from quartz or feldspar Field spray 503Chamomile blossoms (Matricaria recucitata L.) Compost additive 504Stinging nettle (Urtica dioeta L.) Compost additive 505Oak bark (Quercus robur L.) Compost additive Preparations used in biodynamic agriculture (Steiner, 1974)

15 Reason for becoming a farmer How come you decided to become a farmer? Conventional farmer: –“My dad was a farmer and I grew up in a farm” Organic farmer: –“It’s a good question. I don’t know, something I’ve always wanted to do I suppose and neither of my parents are farming so … it just happened” Biodynamic farmer: –“I don’t know really, I wanted to work outside and we lived in the country and so farming just seemed to be a natural way to do that really”

16 Reason for becoming a farmer ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Father’s influence 2.Growing environment influence 3.Predetermined 1.Search 2.Luck 1.Romantic motives 2.Luck

17 Importance of soil in farming Focusing on soil, how important do you consider it to be? Why? Conventional farmer: –“If the soil is not any good we aren’t farmers, we need the soil, yes the most important” Organic farmer: –“It’s the most important thing. Because without it, especially when farming organically, without your soil being in good condition and full of humus and workable basically you might as well not bother” Biodynamic farmer: –“Crucial, it’s absolutely, it’s the basis of, the soil and the heavens are the, that’s, that’s what drives the whole thing in farming”

18 Importance of soil in farming ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Soil makes a farmer 1.Soil is farming1.Soil is the basis of farming

19 Importance of soil in comparison Compared to other resources used in farming, how important do you think soil is? Why? Conventional farmer: –“The most important. If you haven’t got the soil you can’t farm, can you? I can farm without pesticides but I can’t farm without soil, so I would say the most important” Organic farmer: –“Probably the most important, we don’t use any fertiliser, I can’t, you know if it’s knackered I can’t suddenly go and buy a bag of fertiliser and stick it on to make the crops grow, so it’s vitally important when you are farming” Biodynamic farmer: –“It’s much more important than everything else. I mean the farmer is also important and the farmer’s wife but looking after the soil is, is really and the animals you know, those are the two most important things on the farm”

20 Importance of soil in comparison ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.The most important resource

21 The term “soil quality” Scientists use the term “soil quality”. What does it mean to you? Conventional farmer: –“The ability of the soil to grow crops, the size of the crops it can grow, the better quality the better yields” Organic farmer: –“Probably the nitrogen content, clay content of the soil, loam basis, it’s micro flora, micro fauna content, how easily workable it is, sort of humus content and that’s about it” Biodynamic farmer: –“Primarily I would say a good quality soil is a very lively soil, it got plenty of humus in it, plenty of organic matter and everything is, lots of worms, everything is moving, it’s a dynamic, it’s not, it’s not fixed, it’s always changing and it’s never going to be, it;’s always going up or down, it’s not, it’s not stationary”

22 The term “soil quality” ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Production & big yields (big monetary returns) 1.Mostly physical properties (leading to good crops) 1.Mostly biological properties (more than production, ecological understanding, dynamic equilibrium theory!)

23 The term “soil health” Scientists use the term “soil health”. What does it mean to you? Conventional farmer: –“Well, that’s not the soil’s potential but the soil’s, quality is down to it’s potential, soil health is down to the way we treat it, if it’s looked after properly it will be healthy, I think, yeah” Organic farmer: –“Soil health would mean sort of how many living things are in it, I suppose, yeah, how many earthworms etc., what sort of bigger flora and fauna is in it” Biodynamic farmer: –“Well I think you can only probably measure it from looking at the plants growing there, the plants are the indicator of whether the soil is healthy or not and they will soon tell you. You don’t need any fancy laboratory to tell you whether the soil is healthy, you just need the plants growing there”

24 The term “soil health” ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Confusion (seen during interview) 1.Identified with biological properties 1.Healthy plants reflect the health of the soil

25 Use of term If you wanted to describe a soil what term would you use? Conventional farmer: –“Fertility is one I use, soil fertility yeah, … but health or quality is all the same thing” Organic farmer: –“I’d probably use the soil quality one just cause that’s the one that’s sort of more easily used around. But thinking about it soil health is more important to me and it would be better” Biodynamic farmer: –“Soil health probably, yeah, because it’s a bit more, it, it probably tells you more at the end of the day by looking at the plants you can get a broader picture of the soil”

26 Use of term ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Fertility (leading to production) 1.Soil quality(Confus ion, affected by what the other farmers use, isolation) 1.Soil health (plants matter a lot but as plants or as production factory?)

27 The good soil In your opinion, what makes a good soil? Conventional farmer: –“Free draining, a good loamy soil … a good cross section of all different types mixed together I would think” Organic farmer: –“One that breaks down easily to start with … one with plenty of humus in it and with good structure … not too clayey and one that grows good crops” Biodynamic farmer: –“Drainage, it’s very important … a whole list of things really, livestock, very important, I don’t think you can have a good soil without animals, rotation, a balanced rotation that doesn’t always take, take, take, you need some legumes … and then it’s water holding capacity, humus content, organic matter, earthworms, bacteria and fungi”

28 The good soil ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Physical properties (so they can cultivate it) 1.Physical and chemical properties 1.Physical, chemical and biological properties (more holistic)

29 The bad soil In your opinion, what makes a bad soil? Conventional farmer: –“Wet, cold, poorly drained” Organic farmer: –“A very heavy clay … that sits and looks at you … a difficult soil, … also perhaps a very sandy one, … one that is sort of structureless, no microbacteria, yeah dead” Biodynamic farmer: –“No livestock, no worms, artificial fertilisers, compaction, poor rotation”

30 The bad soil ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Physical properties (difficult to cultivate it) 1.Physical and biological properties (difficult to cultivate it) 1.Physical, chemical and biological properties (referring mostly to the state of the soil not to the cultivation of it)

31 Assessing a soil How can you understand if a soil is good or bad? Conventional farmer: –“I kick it, pick it up, I mean you can see the potential, roll it in your hands” Organic farmer: –“By what the soil grows and how, what happens when you plough and cultivate it … so yeah it’s sort of practical” Biodynamic farmer: –“By looking at the plants, I think the plants tells you pretty much ”

32 Assessing a soil ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Physical properties/sign s (hands on, trust what they see) 1.Physical/visibl e signs and by the quality of the plants grown 1.The state of the plants

33 Comparing farming practices Focusing on soil, do you think that conventional farming improves it or deteriorates it? Conventional farmer: –“Improves it, it’s got to do it, you feed it for what the crop doesn’t get and … of course it does, of course it does” Organic farmer: –“Generally deteriorates it … simply because they use poor rotations, mostly is cereal based … there is no grass there, nothing to improve the soil structure … so when it rains all the soil runs down the drains” Biodynamic farmer: –“Well, if it’s an all arable situation then I would say it’s going to deteriorate … it cannot go on”

34 Comparing farming practices ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.Improves it (use of fertilisers) 1.Deteriorates it (interested in yields not soil management) 1.Depends on the management used

35 Comparing farming practices Do you think that the soil in organic farms is better than the soil in conventional farms? Conventional farmer: –“No, often not, no reason to think that it is at all, if it was better you would grow bigger corps wouldn't you, you don’t get half the crop, it’s like if you feed an animal well it grows well, healthy animal, give it half the food and it’s stunted, what’s the difference?” Organic farmer: –“Undoubtedly. Simply because we use rotations … there’s hardly any part of this farm that it’s bare, it all has green manure growing on it … we are trying to return as much back to the soil to meet actually what we take out” Biodynamic farmer: –“Yeah. But it depends on the farmer … I‘m sure you can find conventional farms where the soil is better than on some organic farms, if they are really concerned about the soil … it’s not black and white ”

36 Comparing farming practices ConventionalOrganicBiodynamic 1.It’s worse (no use of fertilisers so reduced yields) 1.Undoubtedly (use of rotations for fertilisation) 1.It depends on the farmer

37 Conclusions Possible influence of family and growing up environment –Conventional Narrow-minded Predetermined future, somebody else decides –Stressed during interview –Organic Open-minded –Searching for something »More relaxed during interview –Biodynamic Open-minded –Being close to nature »Very relaxed during interview The importance of soil –All agree Soil is farming Without soil they wouldn’t be farmers

38 Conclusions Importance of soil in comparison –All agree –Soil is the most important resource in a farm You can’t farm without soil but you can farm without fertilisers Soil quality –Conventional Unexpected question, confusion Equals yields (production oriented) –Organic Slightly confused Physical, chemical and biological properties Broader view –Biodynamic All properties but a sense of deeper understanding (more in depth) It’s more than just producing (had thought about it!)

39 Conclusions Soil health –Conventional Unexpected question, more confused –Organic Related with the organisms in the soil (more consideration of biodiversity) –Biodynamic Related with the health of the plants Use of term –Conventional Fertility-Production oriented –Organic Externally influenced, against his views, feeling of belonging –Biodynamic Biologically influenced

40 Conclusions Good soil –Conventional Physical conditions, easy to cultivate –Organic Physical & chemical conditions, help grow good crops –Biodynamic Chemical & biological conditions Bad soil –Conventional Physical properties, related to production –Organic Physical & biological properties –Biodynamic Chemical & biological properties

41 Conclusions Assessing a soil –Conventional Physical, tangible signs, hands on, in the field –Organic During cultivation, in the field, plant growth, yields –Biodynamic State of the plants Comparing farming practices –Conventional Improves it, use of fertilisers (what a stupid question?!) –Organic Deteriorates it, poor rotations (feeling of threat) –Biodynamic It depends (not a polemic view, more thoughtful)

42 Conclusions Comparing farming practices –Conventional Worse, no use of fertilisers (everybody knows this!) –Organic Undoubtedly better, use of rotations (fight back) –Biodynamic It depends on the farmer

43 Summary Three soil management ethics –Similarities & differences –Acknowledgment of the importance of soil But for production (abusers) Or for farmer’s existence (stewards) –Based on the physical, tangible that can be seen signs in order to “understand” soil Limited insights –A polemic stance towards the other farming practices –Influences on their perceptions Father, education, fellow farmers

44 Acknowledgements The University of Nottingham Research Scholarships, School of Geography Supervisors Farmers


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