Soil-health is all important if we mean to grow healthy crops and food.
For soil to be healthy and fertile it must have the capacity to receive, store and transmit energy to support healthy plant growth.
Just as our bodies need to be supplied with healthy food to enable our systems to function correctly, so, for our food to be healthy, it must be grown in healthy soil.
Soil-health or soil fertility requires living, self-organising systems with physical, chemical and biological components all functioning and in balance. Continuous use of acidic or salty synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides will disrupt this delicate balance.
Biological farming presents a viable method of producing high quality nutritious produce without the dependence on inorganic fertilisers, pesticides or gene modification. Biological farming is based on scientific principles and common sense and ensures good soil-health.
Many progressive Australian farmers are seeking alternatives to their current management practices and are turning to biological methods.
"I think it is vitally important to work with nature, not against it, to encourage the ecology - all the ecology but especially the soil ecology.
It all revolves around the soil or the ecology, most of all the soil ecology, and we know so little about it."
This was a quote from Organic Pioneer Alan Druce when he was interviewed for the ABC Landline program this week - Click on this link and then 'Organic Pioneer' to watch the program.
A recent episode of "Australian Story" shown on ABC Television featured Dr Maarten Stapper, a farming systems agronomist who has paid a high price for promoting a greener, cleaner way to grow food. As an advocate for biological farming, Dr Stapper travels the country to educate farmers on how to use fewer chemicals in their soil and on their crops.
Dr Stapper has extensive experience in healthy agriculture having worked in the Netherlands, Canada, USA, Iraq and Syria before coming to Australia in 1982. He has been involved in research related to organic/biological farming for many years and worked as a Scientist with the CSIRO until it became clear that his views on biological farming were incompatible with those of his employer.
Right from the start, Dr Stapper questioned the genetic modification of food and the policy of CSIRO in going down that path. Because the policy of the CSIRO plant industry was completely on the track of genetic modification, all funding went in that direction. He questioned that system because he believed it all must start with the soil and soil-health - genes don't make the crop better, it's the soil that make the difference.
Maarten is passionate about discovering and using the power of nature in food production systems – and the connections between soil biology, soil health, and the overall functioning of agro-ecosystems, and sees many opportunities for Australian agriculture to reverse soil degradation and regenerate soils.
Dr Stapper believes that the soil is the real key to our life on planet Earth. The soil provides us with the living plants that give us our food and that soil has been decimated over the last decades.
The CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is the national government body for scientific research in Australia. As a publicly funded body it should be working for the public good. Recent press releases indicate a potential industry conflict of interests that has resulted in the sacking of one of Australia's leading soil scientists, resulting in a setback for Australia's ability to be carbon neutral and to improve the health of their environment and their citizens.
"Public Resources for Private Profit" is the title of an article from a press release in 2007 that outlines the drama:
CSIRO Plant Industry sacked leading soil and organic researcher Dr Maarten Stapper last week. His research on healthier soil systems and criticisms of crop Gene Manipulation (GM) upset CSIRO management.
"This travesty of justice shows again that priorities for taxpayer-funded research are grossly distorted by CSIRO contracts with companies, that direct public funds to private profits," says Bob Phelps, director of Gene Ethics.
"Stapper was sacked because GM giants like Bayer and Monsanto can't patent know-how on healthier soils," he says.
"Scientists who publish negative evidence about GM technology and its products are victimised, everywhere in the world," he says.