Growing for Nutrition
Welcome to Sustainable Agriculture London – Health and Nutrition through Permanent Agriculture, which includes Regenerative Agriculture, and Agroecology techniques. The mainstay of this web site is derived from the work of Sir Albert Howard CIE., MA., etc., who spent 30 years in India researching this subject matter. This system of growing produces the most possible nutrients in food crops. No Dig technology preserves soil structure and does not destroy the natural Mycorrhiza fungi system in the soil. Mycorrhiza is the mass of fungi threads that transport nutrients from the soil into the root hairs of plants and thus makes the maximum uptake of nutrients possible. This immediately improves the nutrition of animal and man who may consume food grown in this way. The modern conundrum is to plough is good but ploughing destroys the natural Mycorrhiza fungi structure in the soil (Rodale Institute, USA) and so automatically depletes nutrition.
Soil based products available from us: HH-4, HH-6, HH-7
These products bring into your soil the totally organic inputs to transform you soil in either your farm, garden or pot plants. Nutritional values in your crops will be increased whichever you do. Please go to http://ggi.org.uk/faqs/ for purchase details
Analyses of HH-4 print out from Laverstoke Park Laboratories
This system of farming – The Howard-Higgins system is much easier to carry out for example than Biodynamic farming. It is scientific not esoteric and gives equally good results. We promote green, brown and black carbon farming read more….and low till and zero till soil management. Sir Albert Howard lived 1897-1947. His method of ‘black carbon farming’ was second to none and ‘sequesters three times more carbon than any above ground growth’ (Lawton/Liu). Chemical free Zero Till and Low Till management results in more nutrients being transferred from the soil into the root hairs of plants and therefore into the fodder crops for animals and food for humans. The fertility making work of Sir Albert Howard, whose work was the founding cause of the Soil Association, is explained within these pages. The work of Sir Albert is now all but forgotten and does not form any current part of the standard ‘organic’ farming we find today. It is the work of Sustainable Agriculture London to re-introduce these back into farming today. Summary of above analysis:
Summary of Analysis
I quote here Sykes, co founder of the Soil Association, 1947
The Nations of the world must speedily learn that soil fertility is our only true capital, and the soil health the only sure and lasting basis for public health in its true and widest sense. Whichever way we look at it, true health begins in the soil. Efficient farming, therefore, calls for an understanding of scientific husbandry which I have seldom met with in the many estates of England and Eire that I have had the honour to visit professionally; and these cover an enormous area of agricultural land. Unless a man can really and truly farm, he ought not to be trusted with the care of the soil, for he will never understand the message that disease conveys. (Sykes, Humus and the Farmer, 1946)
The HH-2 system, developed from Howard’s science on fertility making, creates fertile top soil in 90 days. (John Innes Laboratory, Suffolk, England)
Within regenerated eco systems (John di Liu) we need to be able to produce continuous heavy crops without a fallow period in order to feed growing populations and at the same time build the soil rather than deplete it. This is the story of Permanent Agriculture which Howard discovered in the early part of the last century. This science was particularly well exemplified by the ancient Chinese, who fed the densest populations on the planet. The work of Howard who took his mentorship from this ancient culture from the works Dr. F.H. King who wrote the title Farmers of Forty Centuries. (Modern day Permaculture is the study of ancient sciences, Lawton.)
This work has been studied and formulated by the author of this web site, Richard Higgins, for modern day applications. Higgins has drawn together this ancient science of fertility making and that of zero till and low till technology and compressed it into the Howard-Higgins system for the 21st Century and beyond.
It is a symptom of this age that people very quickly forget something that was very important only a few generations hence; coupled with the fact that the world today is driven by economic persuit rather than the persuit of pure science.
In Howard’s time many communities world-wide were consuming foods grown with this ancient system of agriculture. The population s of China, Korea and Japan during the early part of the last century were found not to harbour disease, without the use of inoculations. There were virtually no cases of birth defects, disability or degenerative diseases in animal or man. These populations had built up good immune systems which were cumulative. Today degenerative diseases are on the increase and this is due to decline in agricultural knowledge and poor water quality.
Ordering the HH-2 Horticultural System
Write to us for an accurate quote to firstname.lastname@example.org for purchasing the HH-2 with the shipping cost to your country. The HH-2 Superfast Composting system is available with other associated equipment. The units generate HH-4 fertilser/soil conditioner in 60 -90 days depending upon use. The correct application of this material once yearly can guarantee virtually pest and disease free crop production on any soil type. Please read through this web site and email us for more details. Please also see our testimonial section. We are currently manufacturing the HH-2 units in large quantities for volume price and ease of deliveries. They have been formulated over a twenty year period with the best design for generation of the correct fungi and bacteria that is the key to first class healthy top soil, or fresh humus.
The problem with modern farming
Today there is very little or no humus content in the soil. And this this has caused the lodging of grain crops which has resulted in the breeding of shorter and shorter straw varieties to prevent this happening. The problem being is that the results of doing so has been overlooked and emphasis is put completely in the wrong direction which has now resulted in agriculture losing three fourths of its natural carbon and fertiliser. Crops grown on healthy soil are not prone to lodging (Howard, Sykes.)
The concept that arose from the concept that farming is all about yield rather than about productivity began around the time of the Leibig theory from 1868. Thus Justus Von Leibig’s theory of ‘the minimum’became ever increasingly popular.
Now is the time of revival with the Higgins law of ‘the maximum!’
The health of the population has been deteriorating gradually sine this time and now 1 in 3 have cancer. The law of return should so be practised and even more than that the law of the maximum. The more organic matter (in the right condition) that you can return to your fields will gradually have a benefit to the animals and humans that sustain themselves from it.
Colin Tudge and Pre 1960’s
‘Humus the substratum of all that is living’ (King wrote in 1911) and this substance with the law of ‘return’ is not even considered today. According to a statement by Colin Tudge, the founder of the Oxford Real Farming Conference, “anything pre 1960 is not even considered by modern agriculture.” This is their greatest mistake. Every square inch is about production rather than fertility. The result being that there is now increasing crop failures and more and more pests and diseases.
programme leader for the Permaculture project Greening the Desert has gone as far as to say: ‘if we don’t demonstrate these soil management issues properly we won’t have any future. The world will turn to dust.”
The agricultural systems developed by Howard were based on the Permanent Agriculture of the east. This is where the term Permaculture has derived from. The HH-2 system of horticulture and HH-1 system for agriculture have been formulated for modern day use by the author of this web site, Richard Higgins.
Our demonstration Micro-farm at Well End, Hertfordshire is a living example of the Howard fertility making system and that of the ancient Chinese which has been rolled into one by Higgins for modern day use in all food growing climate zones. We are able to grow 2-3 crops a year on the same land without any fallow period even without necessarily a crop rotation. This land at the Micro-farm has not been previously cultivated for 40 years. The crops are all remarkably pest and disease free and grow to larger sizes than found in conventional or organic farming. We employ no chemicals whatsoever, nor use nets against butterfly pests, nor do we purchase nematodes for use against slugs. We have no slug or snail pests. The HHS system of agriculture and horticulture is a grand addition to all forms of horticulture, agriculture and Permaculture because it directly increases the micro-biological diversity in all soil types. The zero till aspect of the Howard-Higgins System (HHS) is a fossil free system and the low till cultivation is effected with modern equipment gravitating back to animal traction. Both these systems of farming have great potential for developing countries who are increasingly restricted by the costs of fossil fuels, machinery and the cost of chemicals.
We offer on farm consultancy for scale up with our Bio Fertile Farming Consultancy.
Another main factor in food production world-wide is phosphorus, without which food cannot be grown. Dr. Rosemarrin, Communications Director of the Swedish Environmental Institute comments most comprehensively on the depletion of the world’s phosphorus supplies for agriculture. This subject is again overlooked by many of the modern growers of today. This is because sustainable agriculture has been lost and many input sources are not talked about and the main source of sustainable phosphorus is never mentioned.
Dr. Rosemarrin at the Swedish Environmental Institute.
A presentation was made to this institute about the HH-2 system of waste Management and fertilizer production
The system was fully approved by the Institute.
Opportunity to teach other sustainable technologies
At the Well End Micro-farm we are also offering a venue for teachers to teach their specialist subjects.
Courses from Anthropology to Vegetarianism from Biodiesel to Yoga, all are welcome. Anything that optimises the health and longevity of all species and the planet is welcome. That’s Permaculture!
The Following is a list of essential elements in Agriculture and Horticulture. While this list points out the deifficiencies in plants the elements which head each section can all be replaced with HH-4 via the HH-2 Horticultural System.
Plants use phosporus to form the nucleic acids DNA and RNA and to store and transfer energy. Phosphorus promotes early plant growth and root formation through its role in the division and organization of cells. Phosphorus is essential to flowering and fruiting and to the transfer of hereditary traits.
Phosphorus is adsorbed by plants as H2PO4–, HPO4-2 or PO-3, depending upon soil pH. The mobility of phosphorus in soil is low, and deficiencies are common in cool, wet soils.
Phosphorus should be applied to fields and gardens before planting and should be incorporated into the soil. This is especially important for perennial crops. Application rates should be based on soil testing.
Potassium is necessary to plants for translocation of sugars and for starch formation. It is important for efficient use of water through its role in opening and closing small apertures (stomata) on the surface of leaves. Phosphorus increases plant resistance to diseases and assists in enzyme activation and photosynthesis. It also increases the size and quality of fruits and improves winter hardiness.
Plants take up potassium in the form of potassium ions (K+). It is relatively immobile in soils but can leach in sandy soils. Potassium fertilizer should be incorporated into the soil at planting or before. Application rates should be based on a soil test.
Calcium provides a building block (calcium pectate) for cell walls and membranes and must be present for the formation of new cells. It is a constituent of important plant carbohydrates, such as starch and cellulose. Calcium promotes plant vigor and rigidity and is important to proper root and stem growth.
Plants adsorb calcium in the form of the calcium ion (Ca+). Calcium needs can be only determined by soil test. In most cases calcium requirements are met by liming the soil. Potatoes are an exception; use gypsum (calcium sulfate) on potatoes to avoid scab disease if calcium is needed. Gypsum provides calcium to the soil but does not raise the pH level of the soil. Keeping pH low helps prevent growth of the bacteria that cause scab disease.
Magnesium is a component of the chlorophyll molecule and is therefore essential for photosynthesis. Magnesium serves as an activator for many plant enzymes required for sugar metabolism and movement and for growth processes. Plants take up magnesium as the Mg+2 ion.
Sulfur is a constituent of three amino acids (cystine, methionine and cysteine) that play an essential role in protein synthesis. Sulfur is present in oil compounds responsible for characteristic odors of plants such as garlic and onion. It is also essential for nodule formation on legumes.
Plants take up sulfur in the form of sulfate (SO4-2) ions. Sulfur can also be adsorbed from the air through leaves in areas where the atmosphere has been enriched with sulfur compounds from industrial wastes. Sulfur is susceptible to leaching, and sulfur deficiencies can occur in sandy soils low in organic matter. Sulfur needs can be only determined by a soil test.
Zinc is an essential component of several enzymes in plants. It controls the synthesis of indoleacetic acid, an important plant growth regulator, and it is involved in the production of chlorophyll and protein. Zinc is taken up by plants as the zinc ion (Zn+2).
Zinc deficiencies are more likely to occur in sandy soils that are low in organic matter. High soil pH, as in high-lime soils, the solubility of zinc decreases and it becomes less available. Zinc and phosphorus have antagonistic effects in the soil. Therefore zinc also becomes available in soils that are high in phosphorus. Wet and cold soil conditions can cause zinc deficiency because of slow root growth and slow release of zinc from organic matter.
Iron is taken up by plants as ferrous ion (Fe+2). Iron is required for the formation of chlorophyll in plant cells. It serves as an activator for biochemical processes such as respiration, photosynthesis and symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Turf, ornamentals and certain trees are especially susceptible to iron deficiency, although in general, lack of iron in the soil is not a problem. Symptoms of iron deficiency can occur on soils with pH greater than 7.0. Specific needs for iron can be determined by soil test, tissue test and visual symptoms.
Manganese serves as an activator for enzymes in plant growth processes, and it assists iron in chlorophyll formation. Plants obtain this nutrient from the soil in the form of manganous ion (Mn+2).
Manganese deficiency in soils is not common but can occur in sandy soils with a pH of 8. Soil pH is a good indicator of manganese availability, which can increase to toxic levels in highly acidic soils (pH less than 4.5). Crops most responsive to manganese are onions, beans, potato, spinach, tomato, peas, raspberries, strawberries, apples and grapes.
Copper is an activator of several enzymes in plants. It may play a role in production of vitamin A. Deficiency interferes with protein synthesis.
Copper deficiencies are not common in soils. Plants take up copper from the soil in the form of cuprous (Cu+) or cupric (Cu+2) ions. Crops most responsive to copper are carrots, lettuce, onions and spinach.
Boron regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates in plants. It is essential for the process by which meristem cells (cells that divide) differentiate to form specific tissues. With boron deficiency, plant cells may continue to divide, but structural components are not differentiated.
Boron is taken up by plants as the borate ion (BO3–). Plants differ in their boron needs. Plants with high boron requirements are cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, brussels sprouts, apples, celery and alfalfa. Boron can be limiting on sandy soils low in organic matter. Do not overapply, because boron toxicity can occur ( e.g., beans). Soil testing for boron can predict fertilizer requirement.
Molybdenum is taken up by plants as molybdate ions (MoO4–). Molybdenum is an essential micronutrient that enables plants to make use of nitrogen. Without molybdenum, plants cannot transform nitrate nitrogen to amino acids and legumes cannot fix atmospheric nitrogen.
Molybdenum deficiency can occur in acidic, sandy soils. Liming the soil to pH 6 will correct the problem. Soil applications, foliar applications or coating seed with molybdenum are also effective. Cauliflower is the main vegetable crop sensitive to low levels of molybdenum in the soil.
Chlorine is required in photosynthetic reactions. Deficiency of chlorine in soils is rare because of its universal presence in nature. Plants take up chlorine as chloride ion (Cl–).
Nickel is taken up by plants as Ni+2. Nickel is a component of the enzyme urease, which is needed to prevent toxic accumulations of urea, a product of nitrogen metabolism in plants. Nickel is thought to participate in nitrogen metabolism of legumes during the reproductive phase of growth. It is also essential for seed development. High levels of nickel in the soil can induce zinc or iron deficiency by competition between these elements in plant uptake.
The soil test is an excellent gauge of soil fertility. It is an inexpensive way to maintain good plant health and maximum productivity without polluting the environment by overapplication of nutrients.
Soil fertility fluctuates throughout the growing season each year. The quantity and availability of mineral nutrients are altered by the addition of fertilizers, manure, compost, mulch, lime or sulfur and by leaching. Furthermore, large quantities of mineral nutrients are removed from soils as a result of plant growth and development and the harvesting of crops. A soil test will determine the current fertility status. It also provides the information needed to maintain optimum fertility year after year.
Some plants grow well over a wide range of soil pH, while others grow best within a narrow range of pH. Most turf grasses, flowers, ornamental shrubs, vegetables and fruits grow best in slightly acid soils (pH 6.1 to 6.9). Plants such as rhododendron, azalea, pieris, mountain laurel and blueberries require a more acidic soil to grow well. A soil test is the only precise way to determine whether the soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline.
A soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and is extremely cost effective. It not only eliminates the expense of unnecessary fertilizers but also eliminates overuse of fertilizers and helps to protect the environment.
When is the best time for a soil test?
Soil samples can be taken in the spring or fall for established sites. For new sites, soil samples can be taken anytime when the soil is workable. Most people conduct their soil tests in the spring. However, fall is a preferred time to take soil tests if one suspects a soil pH problem and wants to avoid the spring rush. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH. Sulfur should be applied in the spring if the soil pH needs to be lowered.
How to take a soil sample?
Most errors in soil testing occur when the sample is taken. Potential sources of errors include the following:
- Too few cores per sample
- Failure to properly divide the area to be sampled
- Failure to cover the whole area
- Contaminated sample
Taking a representative sample is important in soil testing. Use a trowel, spade and sampling tube/core samplers.
- For garden and lawn establishment or renovation, take a 6-inch sample.
- For established lawns, take a 3- to 4-inch sample after removing thatch.
- Sample from five or more scattered/random spots in the test area.
What soil sampling tools do I need?
A soil sample is best taken with a soil probe or an auger. Samples should be collected in a clean plastic pail or box. These tools help ensure an equal amount of soil to a definite depth at the sampling site. However, a spade, knife, or trowel can also be used to take thin slices or sections of soil.
Push the tip of a spade deep into the soil and then cut a 1/2-inch to 1-inch slice of soil from the back of the hole. Be sure the slice goes 6 inches deep and is fairly even in width and thickness. Place this sample in the pail. Repeat five or six times at different spots over your garden. Thoroughly mix the soil slices in the pail. After mixing thoroughly, take out about 1-1/2 cup of soil and mail or, preferably, take it to your University Extension center. You can also mail or deliver it to the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory in Columbia or at the Delta Research Center in Portageville. It is important that you fill out the soil sample information form (Figure 5) completely and submit it with your sample. By indicating on the form the crops you wish to grow, you can get specific recommendations.
How often should I test my soil?
Soil should be tested every two to three years. In sandy soils, where rainfall and irrigation rates are high, samples should be taken annually.
What tests should be run?
In general a regular fertility test is sufficient. This includes measurement of pH, neutralizable acidity (NA), phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, organic matter (OM) and cation exchange capacity (CEC).
What do the test result numbers mean?
Some labs report soil test values as amounts of available plant nutrients, and others report extractable nutrients that will become available to the plants (Figure 6). Fertilizer rates are given in pounds of actual nutrient (as distinct from pounds of fertilizer) to be applied per 1,000 square feet.
The MP555, Soil Sample Information for Lawn and Garden form for MU soil testing laboratories is available online.
Figure 6. A soil test report from MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory shows the results of soil analysis and recommends fertilizer and limestone needs to improve plant health and productivity.
All fertilizer recommendations given in a soil test report are based on the amount of nutrient (N, P2O5, K2O) to apply for a given area. Lawn and garden recommendations are given in pounds per 1000 sq. ft. From the given recommendations it is necessary to select an appropriate fertilizer grade and determine how much of this fertilizer to apply to the garden area. Numbers on fertilizer bags indicate the exact percentages of nutrients by weight: 100 lb of 5-10-10 fertilizer contains 5 lb of nitrogen (N), 10 lb of phosphate (P2O5), and 10 lb of potash (K2O). Because it is difficult to achieve the exact amount of all recommended nutrients from the garden fertilizer blends available in the market, it is important to match the nitrogen requirement.
A soil test recommendation for your vegetable garden calls for 2 lb of N/1000 sq. ft, 0 lb of P2O5 /1000 sq. ft and 1 lb of K2O. The garden is 40 ft by 10 ft.
- Step 1
Calculate the area to be fertilized. Multiplying length by width, the area of the garden is 40 x 10 = 400 sq. ft.
- Step 2:
Select the fertilizer to be used. Match the ratio of nutrients recommended to the fertilizer grades available. The N-P-K nutrient ratio based on the soil test is 2-0-1. Ideally, a fertilizer such as 10-0-5 or 20-0-10 or 30-0-15 should be selected. At the local garden store, fertilizer bags marked 20-10-10, 27-3-3 and 25-0-12 are available. The one marked 25-0-12 best matches the ratio of 2-0-1 recommended by soil test.
- Step 3
Determine the fertilizer amount to apply: Divide the recommended amount of nutrient by the percentage of the nutrient (on a decimal basis) in the fertilizer.
- First calculate the fertilizer recommendation for the garden area:
2 lb of N/1000 sq. ft x 400 sq. ft/ garden = 0.8 lb of N per 400 sq. ft garden. 100 lb of the 25-0-12 garden fertilizer blend will have 25 lb of N and 12 lb of K2O.
- To provide 0.8 lb of N for the 400 sq. ft garden you would require:
100 lb for fertilizer blend /25 lb of N x 0.8 lb of N = 3.2 lb of the fertilizer blend required to provide the N requirement of the garden. Since the fertilizer blend ratio is almost the same as the recommended ratio, it will provide the required amount of K (1.6 lb of K2O) to the garden.
- First calculate the fertilizer recommendation for the garden area:
The weight of 2 cups of dry fertilizer is approximately 1 pound. Therefore to meet the garden fertilizer recommendation, you will need about 6 cups of the fertilizer blend (25-0-12) material for the 400 sq. ft area.
Recommended application rate for various granular fertilizers to apply one pound of nitrogen.
|Per 1000 square feet||Per 10 square feet|
Sustainable Agriculture London
Well End Permaculture and various regenerative practices (RegenAg) have been brought together to facilitate those in the persuit of sustainable practices that produce highly nutritious foods. The processes involved can help reduce the burden on the Earth, of excessive mining for elements for agriculture that are found and supplied from the surface of the earth. This will increase labour opportunities and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and clean up a lot of pollution. This will make life for all of us a lot less expensive and more sustainable. More food will be produced per acre and of a far higher quality. This will improve the health of both animals and man.
By pulling together the works of Sir Albert Howard, Sir Robert McCarrison, Dr. F.H. King, Lady Eve Balfour, Friend Sykes, Newman Turner, A. Guest and other leading proponents of certain organic systems along with the techniques of ‘zero till’ and ‘low till’ agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture London has been formed. Working in conjunction with Permaculture principles the results (and the health results) obtained have been astounding.
Courses are provided and on farm consultancy is offered with our group Bio Fertile Farming. Please write in for our current fees for consultancy. Responces of our course takers and clients can be viewed in Testimonials
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