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Acres USA Conference: From the Soil Up


The 3 day conference in Columbus Ohio is a great occasion for all organic and “sustainable” producers and advisers in the US, plus a very few immigrants from the UK, Moldova, New Zealand and Germany. Over a thousand delegates; organic farmers and growers, Amish and Mennonite, good lifers, the IFOAM president and producers adopting one of the multitude of so called “sustainable” labelling schemes: Regenerative, Grass Fed, Animal Welfare Approved, Climate Beneficial, Naturally Grown, Certified Wildlife Habitat, Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Pollinator Habitat, Salmon Safe and Bee Better Certified. Poor consumer! perhaps if they had an organic certification scheme fit for purpose the plethora of schemes would be unnecessary? I even stumbled across a few climate change deniers, which made for some awkward moments!

Compared to our UK events, there were surprisingly few from academic and research organisations and the 100 or so trade stands, apparently doing very good business, were indicative of a fundamental difference between organic farming in the UK and the USA; close monitoring of soils is general and high use of permitted fertilisers, soil amendments, humates, inoculants, foliar feeds and bacterial and fungal preparations is commonplace. On the back of that organic advisers, most of whom are selling something other than advice, are apparently flourishing. All these inputs are somewhat at odds with the pre-conference workshop by Christine Jones and her focus on photosynthesis and carbon, turning the conference title on its head.

On my Fellowship I am trying to get a better understanding of the US approach to soil management, learn something of the soil analysis methods used and the associated management recommendations, find what research evidence is available and visit farms working with them. My experience in the UK is that we are probably giving insufficient attention to soil nutrient levels and management. In my next few blogs I will report briefly on some interesting conference presentations and discussions.

Mark


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