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Oct 28, 2016


Polyface Farm, Soil Carbon, Joel Salatin


Polyfaces Facebook Page


Joel Salatin


Soil carbon from 2007


This is the World Organic News podcast catch up episode. Jon Moore reporting!

Well at long last the voice is back, sort of and I have some thoughts to catch up on and some housekeeping too.

Housekeeping first. I heartfelt thanks to Angry Genghis for the review on iTunes. Really, thank you so much. I might point out though that I'm not in New Zealand but in Australia. The wonder of the interwebs is the dissolution of borders and the possibility of direct conversations across the globe. If anyone is doing interesting things out there and would like to be interviewed, drop me a line at:

Now let's turn to the news!

I’ve had time to think these past few weeks and there has been one stand out idea stuck in my mind the few weeks. Soil carbon! The post from millennial mutt entitled: The Call of the Farm: The Polyfaces Vision for a Better World explains how we can reverse the excess carbon dioxide accumulated in the atmosphere by returning it to the soil. This has the added benefit of increasing the fertility of the soil. Why, I hear you ask, is there a need to place carbon in the soil? More correctly, back in the soil?

Well, I’m sooooo glad you asked. When the Second World War ended, there was an industry designed to pull nitrogen out the atmosphere. There had been a huge demand for this Nitrogen as part of the munitions industry. These people pushed for the use of this nitrogen as a fertiliser. Nitrogen is one of three key macro elements necessary for plant growth, Phosphorus and Potassium being the other two.

Now the application of synthetic Nitrogen has the effect of destroying humic acid and the fungal communities under the soil surface. The deal with artificial fertiliser is this: Increased short term production for 1 to 2% loss of topsoil. Seems like a good system to start with but, but in the end what happens is basically hydroponics in subsoil.

The process also releases soil carbon to the atmosphere both in the production of the synthetic Nitrogen and in the application to soil. So a return to organic farming, regrowing soil structure, humic acid, fungal communities and tree cover are relatively simple to introduce and effective. The UN argues only smallholder organic farming can feed the world anyway so let’s get to it!

I’ve included a link to an ABC Science page back in 2007 regarding a soil carbon conference in Orange, NSW. This idea is nothing new, the problem seems to be most climate activists are focused upon urban and industrial CO2: coal fired power stations and motor vehicles. If they look at the bush it’ only to point the finger at factory farms. As I think I’ve made clear before, they and I are on the same page with factory farms. But the “simplicity” of returning soil carbon seems to have passed the urban types by. This is a shame.

Polyface Farm, Virginia, USA is run by a contrarian individual: Joel Salatin. I have links to his site and the Wikipedia page in the show notes. He’s been walking the talk for decades so it is possible. In the same way Permaculture, Natural Farming and Biodynamic methods all work and are productive, we have a way forward. It’s under our feet.

And that brings us to the end of this week’s catchup podcast.

If you’ve liked what you heard, please tell everyone you know any way you can! I’d also really appreciate a review on iTunes. This helps others to find us. Thanks in advance!

Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at

Thank you for listening and I'll be back next week as usual.