Soil Matters: A reflection on the future of food production

By Fiona Carnie |

The author (pictured far right) and participants of the 'Soil Matters' in discussion at Lochaline Community Allotments. Photo: Isla Robertso
The author (pictured far right) and participants of the 'Soil Matters' in discussion at Lochaline Community Allotments. Photo: Isla Robertso

I have seen the future of food production and I’m not sure I like it. Our soil is in deep trouble such that, according to one UN report, there are only 60 harvests left. We are going to have to find new and better ways to grow our food.

One response to this crisis is to set up vertical farms - trays of crops grown on vast mobile shelves in huge, digitally enabled greenhouse structures, devoid of human contact. People are kept out and the plants are grown in little or no earth, fed nutrients by smart systems and tended by robotics to minimise the risk of disease. This approach is gaining traction to the extent that Ikea is investing millions of pounds trialling such a system in Dubai.

Alternatives to current farming methods are needed because of the rate at which our soil is being degraded. 95% of food production relies on soil - and the quality of the soil determines the quality of our food. Soil that is rich in nutrients contributes to food which can nourish the body. But across the globe soils are becoming so barren that whole communities are being forced to move. This is not a new problem and the dust bowl of 1930’s America, caused in part by agricultural devastation, led Roosevelt to declare that “a nation which destroys its soil destroys itself”. The rate of soil degradation caused by current farming practices has lent a new urgency to his words.

Industrial farming methods also contribute to global warming. Intensive agriculture requires around 12 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food by comparison with organic methods which take 6 calories of fossil fuel energy for the same result, and small scale farming where only one calorie of fossil fuel is needed to produce one calorie of food. In terms of the target to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050 food production is clearly a major factor.

Furthermore, 30 to 50 billion tons of top soil are being lost every year – the equivalent of 15 football pitches every minute - and when this is set alongside the realisation that it takes 1000 years for 10cm of soil to form, the scale of the problem is laid bare. Soil is needed as a carbon sink and yet the rate at which land is being ploughed up is causing the release of vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Adding all this to the fact that the global population is set to rise to 8.3 billion by 2030 requiring 50% more food and 30% more water, it is clear that new approaches to food production are urgently needed.

My disillusion at the highly technical solution of vertical farming to the huge and complex problems that we face is underpinned by a sense that as human beings, our connection with the land is - in the literal sense of the word - vital. Even though more than half the world’s population now lives in an urban setting, it is through our contact with the natural world that we understand ourselves as living beings, part of the web of life. If this connection is lost we lose our understanding of the need to care for the planet.

But there is hope. At a conference on 'Soil Matters' which took place in June in Morvern on the west coast of Scotland (organised by the Andrew Raven Trust) vertical farming was just one of the solutions that was discussed.

We heard about the role of urban green spaces as carbon sinks. 60% of London, for example, is green space, and many other cities across the world have large areas of parkland and gardens. These areas must be retained because they play an important part. In New York it has been found, encouragingly, that new soils are forming. We heard about different methods for enriching the soil, for example through the addition of charcoal which builds soil structure, aids water retention and helps fight disease. Different methods of animal grazing are being trialled whereby animals are moved around between enclosures more frequently allowing the soil time to recover. The role of peat in sequestering carbon is now understood and there are increasing efforts to stop harvesting it and rather to retain, protect and restore peat bogs. And carbon markets are being developed to reward soil improvement and carbon storage.

Alongside such measures there is growing understanding of what needs to be done to preserve and enrich the soil. But we need to listen - and act now.

Vertical farming certainly offers one way forward, one that we should be grateful for given the scale of the challenge. But if we acknowledge the crisis now and change our food production methods as part of a global response to climate breakdown and the crisis of soil, we will be able to continue with low tech, community-based methods alongside high tech solutions. Both are needed. As with everything, one size does not fit all. Instead a diverse panoply of initiatives is required, and required now.

In the words of the native American Chief Seattle “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors—we borrow it from our children.” We need to look after it.

37 comment(s)

1 at 12:51pm on Sunday 19 July 2020

I really amaze to what you propose to other for food production.

2 at 1:30pm on Wednesday 29 July 2020

This is a nice read.

3 at 6:13pm on Monday 3 August 2020

This article offers clear idea in favor of the new visitors of
blogging, that genuinely how to do blogging.
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu
live casino sicbo
sicbo dadu
tebak dadu
daftar sicbo
agen baccarat
judi dadu


visit website at 12:06pm on Tuesday 4 August 2020

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished
to mention that I have really enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts.
In any case I will be subscribing in your feed and I’m hoping you write once more very soon!


Compound E at 5:49am on Tuesday 11 August 2020

I’ve been browsing online more than three hours as
of late, yet I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours.
It’s pretty price enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right
content material as you did, the web will be much more helpful than ever before.


Clavulanate lithium at 6:40am on Tuesday 11 August 2020

No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail,
therefore that thing is maintained over here.


cocktroach pest control at 2:00pm on Tuesday 11 August 2020

Since the admin of this site is working, no hesitation very
soon it will be famous, due to its quality contents.


Raska Muvuluzi/Cleva c/Kitoko prod/ at 10:29am on Monday 24 August 2020

Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.


Slot online at 8:00am on Wednesday 26 August 2020

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any
widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite
some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly
enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new


Joker123 at 2:43pm on Wednesday 26 August 2020

It’s an awesome paragraph in support of all the online
visitors; they will take advantage from it I am sure.


Clavulanate lithium at 11:43am on Thursday 27 August 2020

I was wondering if you ever thought of changing
the page layout of your site? Its very well written; I
love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?


Joker123 at 4:23pm on Thursday 27 August 2020

all the time i used to read smaller posts that also
clear their motive, and that is also happening with this post which I am reading at this place.


Slot Online Terpercaya at 5:37am on Friday 28 August 2020

Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is
awesome, nice written and come with approximately all important
infos. I’d like to peer more posts like this .


Tin-protoporphyrin IX at 9:11am on Monday 31 August 2020

Howdy, I do believe your site might be having browser
compatibility issues. When I take a look at your
web site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening
in I.E., it has some overlapping issues. I just
wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!


Slot online at 7:32am on Wednesday 2 September 2020

You made some decent points there. I checked on the web for additional
information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this
web site.


Joker 123 at 2:18pm on Wednesday 2 September 2020

I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this
website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking
to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from.

appreciate it


online casino malaysia at 7:51pm on Wednesday 2 September 2020

Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person’s website
link on your page at suitable place and other person will also do similar in support of


Joker 123 at 8:45am on Monday 7 September 2020

Awesome article.


Joker388 at 2:18am on Thursday 10 September 2020

Hi, I do believe this is an excellent site.

I stumbledupon it wink I am going to revisit once again since I saved as a favorite it.

Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


Joker123 at 2:53am on Thursday 10 September 2020

We are a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.

Your website provided us with useful info to work on. You have done an impressive job
and our whole group shall be grateful to you.


KITOKO PROD at 5:05am on Monday 14 September 2020

What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
precious knowledge about unpredicted feelings.


Joker388 at 4:11am on Wednesday 16 September 2020

Remarkable issues here. I am very happy to see your post.
Thanks a lot and I am having a look forward to touch you. Will you please drop
me a mail?


login to mydlink at 7:53pm on Wednesday 16 September 2020

I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a
blog that’s both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.

The problem is something too few people are speaking intelligently about.
I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something regarding this.


Fosdagrocorat at 8:26pm on Saturday 19 September 2020

Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off
topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
My website looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to
find a theme or plugin that might be able
to correct this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.

Thank you!


zara at 8:19am on Monday 21 September 2020

<a href = “”>Orbi Login</a>
<a href = “”>Arlo Login</a>
<a href = “”>Linksyssmartwifi com</a>
<a href = “”>find Synology</a>
<a href = “”>Routerlogin</a>
<a href = “”>Orbilogincom</a>
<a href = “”>Dlinkrouterlocal</a>
<a href = “”>Setupamped</a>
<a href = “”>orbi login</a>
<a href = “”>mywifiext</a>
<a href = “”>tplinkwifi</a>


JENNY at 9:00am on Wednesday 23 September 2020

I found your blog very informative and really well written. Otskare for the good effort you’ve put in. Visit me for Router tech support. 24/7 Chat Assistance for complex Routers issues. Call me for Assistance 9177320091 Visit me for making good relations. Thanks.

<a href = “”>Orbi Login</a>
<a href = “”>Arlo Login</a>
<a href = “”>Linksyssmartwifi com</a>
<a href = “”>find Synology</a>
<a href = “”>Routerlogin</a>
<a href = “”>Orbilogincom</a>
<a href = “”>Dlinkrouterlocal</a>
<a href = “”>Setupamped</a>
<a href = “”>orbi login</a>
<a href = “”>mywifiext</a>
<a href = “”>tplinkwifi</a>
<a >re.rockspace.local</a>
<a ></a>


Joker 123 at 2:30pm on Wednesday 23 September 2020

I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This
post posted at this web page is really pleasant.


Edasalonexent at 3:20pm on Wednesday 23 September 2020

Hello, all is going perfectly here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts,
that’s really fine, keep up writing.


Joker slot at 7:05pm on Wednesday 23 September 2020

When someone writes an post he/she keeps the thought of a
user in his/her brain that how a user can be aware of it.

So that’s why this post is great. Thanks!


Joker123 at 5:53am on Wednesday 30 September 2020

Hi, after reading this remarkable paragraph i am also
delighted to share my familiarity here with mates.


oil painting at 10:02pm on Thursday 1 October 2020

Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the issues.
It was truly informative. Your site is extremely helpful.
Thank you for sharing!


Joker 123 at 3:28am on Thursday 8 October 2020

I just couldn’t go away your site before suggesting
that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person supply to your guests?
Is going to be again ceaselessly to inspect new posts


josh richards at 3:21am on Friday 9 October 2020

jksh richards


Rowena Ravenclaw at 6:45pm on Sunday 11 October 2020

I found your blog very informative and really well written. Otskare for the good effort you’ve put in. Visit me Orbilogin


Chris Hamilton at 6:46pm on Sunday 11 October 2020

Very well written blog. Keep it up Arlo login


Joker 123 at 5:10pm on Monday 19 October 2020

I like it when folks get together and share views. Great site, continue the good work!


Joker123 at 4:08pm on Tuesday 20 October 2020

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after
I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

Submit a comment

Is the Earth 'round' or 'square'? (5 characters required)