Soil Erosion

The following are excerpts from a
SOIL ASSOCIATION BRIEFING PAPER titled:Soil – The Importance and Protection of a Living Soil

Soil micro-organisms create the soil’s struc…ture: they convert organic matter into humus which gives soil its physical properties of particle aggregation, protection against erosion, water retention, good drainage, aeration, and compaction resistance….

…During the compilation of a 1980 report on organic farming, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found little evidence of soil erosion on organic farms and noted that many of the practices were those highly recommended by the USDA for soil productivity. The risk of nutrient leaching has been shown to be less: in all published calculations in Europe, the N,P,K surpluses of organic farms are significantly lower than conventional farms. (Stolze et al). Stolze et al, 1999,”Environmental and resources use impacts of organic farming in Europe”

…A 1999 (UK) Government survey suggested that 44% of arable land in England and Wales is prone to erosion and that total annual losses may be up to 2.3 million tonnes of soil every year, an average of 1t/ha/year. Probably the largest problem is water erosion on sloping land during high intensity rainfall. Soil loss is therefore rightly identified as an important concern. However, it would be misleading to assume that erosion occurs naturally. While the processes involved are clearly natural, the rate and scale of soil loss in the UK is not natural. Soil would not have built up in the first place if this were the case.

Main references
Dr Elaine Ingham, Oregon State University, presentation at Soil Association conference, 2001
Rothamsted IACR, Annual Report, 2001-02
MAFF and the Royal Society of Chemistry, 1991, “The composition of foods”
Worthington V, 2001, “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains”, The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, vol.7, No.2, 2001, 161-173.
Houghton et al, “Carbon flux to the atmosphere from land-use changes: 1850 to 1990”
Willison et al, 1995, “Farming, Fertilizers and the Greenhouse Effect”
Stolze et al, 1999,”Environmental and resources use impacts of organic farming in Europe”
DEFRA, 1997, “Assessment of relative nitrate losses from organic and conventional farming systems based on recent measurements”

GA, 30.1.2003, Soil002 (Amended 11.4.2005; 21.10.2005)

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