Introduction – Issue 11

Welcome to another 100 pages of Direct Driller magazine. Pages that tell farmers so much about the mysteries of soil and the ways ingenious engineers and scientists have devised to handle it. This story has only recently become news. In recent years the world of media, politics and education have begun to grasp the story, but often in a negative way.

The headlines are about the final harvest being just 60, or is it 100, years from now. Farm chemicals polluting waterways; insecticides wiping out whole species of insects… we’re all too familiar with the stories. In a recent BBC broadcast Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, echoed Sir David Attenborough’s evidence of unfolding global catastrophe, and agriculture was at the top of his list of ills which are reducing the population of the natural world of insects, plants, birds and animals.

The world, quite rightly, nods in agreement but does little more, continuing to buy fresh peas from Zimbabwe when the same crop was growing here in the UK. I wrote to him (no reply, naturally) saying that it was wrong to tar the industry with one brush. I reminded him that agriculture is highly diverse, ranging from the total sterility of poly tunnels to the improving habitat from cover cropping and No-till. I explained that farming is making giant strides in accommodating the natural world into their production systems, not to appease the campaigners but because it actually makes long term economic sense.

The world of microbes is being harnessed to help, and crop protection is changing out of all recognition as farmers learn to love the insects they had been brainwashed to hate. The inveterate old codger Dan Archer – “it’s all in the soil” – might have been onto something all those years ago, but his message was villified by all involved in modern agriculture.

Is his message being told on farms in Africa and other developing parts of the world?

Certainly no evidence when I visited Zambia, where centre pivot irrigation, ploughs and cultivators is the modern way of farming. What a shame it is that people with real influence can only think negatively. Imagine the results if the converse were true. Sir David telling his global audience how farming techniques are not set in stone, and modern farmers can and are working with rather than against nature. How the techniques of creating soil biomass are getting amazing results.

Where all that green waste which the world now takes to the recycling centre (dump) ends up. Stories that are positive for both the natural world and farming itself. Publicity which converts into funds for research, for knowledge exchange, globally. It’s a real honour to edit a magazine which does just this. I know that readers will be fascinated by the contents of this issue. The mixture of science, engineering, ethics and, of-course, the invaluable Farmer Focus articles.

Reading how farmers have coped with the savage season that was 2020, and what changes they have planned as a consequence are always interesting. Finally, a quick reminder that I am available to take on speaking engagements over the upcoming winter season.