Green Mantle documents the work of Joanne and Richard Mudhar using Elaine Ingham’s methods to improve the soil food web to improve crop yields and plant health.
If you too are using Elaine Ingham’s methods in the UK or a similar climate then we’d love to host a “guest post” on your work, along with a link to your work, here on Green Mantle: please contact us! Don’t worry if you are still learning, so are we!
We began our Green Mantle work on The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm in Suffolk which Joanne ran for many years, and we are now continuing our work in the South West of England.
Our work is based on the techniques developed by Dr Elaine Ingham of Soil Food Web Inc. which seeks to restore the full, natural soil food web, the rich and varied ecosystem that gives healthy soil its natural fertility.
Over the past decades Industrial Agriculture using chemicals has systematically destroyed this natural food web, thus stripping the soil of its ability to sustain life. Modern Industrial Agriculture uses the remaining dead mineral matter (“dirt” in Elaine Ingham’s terminology) as blotting paper to hold soluble chemical fertilisers. Plants cannot be fully healthy in just “dirt” as a growing medium, and become dependent on various “–icides” to keep pests and diseases at bay, just about.
UK soils are so impoverished that Sheffield University scientists predict they will support fewer than 100 more harvests. Yet we believe that using Elaine Ingham’s methods we could restore these soils, while sequestering vast qualities of carbon, from the atmosphere, in our soils as organic matter which would make a real impact on climate change. However, Joanne and Richard have a scientific background, so we want to test the hypothesis that Elaine Ingham’s methods will achieve these goals. Green Mantle documents our efforts to implement and test her ideas here in the UK. We have limited time and resources, so we have to be very focused and creative when it comes to finding low cost equipment!
The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm’s soil was utterly dead when we bought it in 2009: it contained no earthworms (indicating a very damaged soil food web) and only 2% organic matter. We have added tonnes of organic matter thanks to various soil improvement techniques, but the soil food web was still largely bacterial in mid-2016, though we had enjoyed some dramatic successes in improving the soil and our crops! We needed to restore the full soil food web to bring all of our soil to full health.
Before buying The Oak Tree, Joanne was used to growing on allotments and then a 2.5 acre smallholding that had been cultivated largely without chemicals, so the soil food web was intact (though she didn’t have a microscope at the time to prove it!) Adding all sorts of organic matter, along with minimal tilling, was enough to keep the soil healthy.
The Oak Tree was a totally different challenge which needed a radically different approach: the soil food web had been decimated, so we needed to re-inoculate the soil with the full range of soil life, and then to keep the entire soil food web healthy. The problems we encountered at The Oak Tree are happening far more widely than those 12 acres! Joanne brings her experience of growing and scientific background, and Richard his engineering and scientific background to meet this challenge.