Only 55 years of farming left before soil runs out, according to senior UN Official
The prediction in 2014 by Scientific American Magazine was that; “…if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years”, a senior UN official Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.
But there is good news; An Australian consultant has successfully shown South African supermarkets a way of growing nutrient dense fruit & veg that uses no chemicals, and makes them more profit at no extra cost. The best part? It builds soil.
“With our work with Woolworths South Africa, we have reduced their throwaway fresh food by 58%, from 17% to 7% by teaching them to grow chemical free, nutrient dense produce. Nutrients are keeping food fresher for longer.” Said Australian consultant Graeme Sait (left) from Nutri-Tech Solutions.
Why would we need extra nutrients?
- Research has shown micronutrient deficiency to be linked to a higher risk of overweight/obesity and other dangerous and debilitating diseases.
- 90% of Americans fall short in providing the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) or Adequate Intake (AI) for one or more vitamins and mineral. 
- Research by Kings College University of London showed the minerals in food between 1940 and 1991 have decreased:
- copper by 76%
- calcium by 46%
- iron by 27%,
- magnesium by 24%
- potassium by 16%.
Australian soil ecologist Christine Jones and others believe that depleted soil is the culprit. But rather than being deficient in minerals, argued Jones, today’s soils are often deficient in the microbes necessary to help plants access those minerals.
Nutrients increased in Fruit & Veg in 540 Supermarkets a success
Graeme Sait’s team trained 200 fresh food suppliers to South African Woolworths, which launched their Farming for The Future initiative, where all 540 of their stores deliver more nutrient dense food with much less chemical intervention. It was an immediate success.
Kobus Pienaar (Pictured), Technical Manager Foodsecurity at Woolworths stated: “The quality produce in South Africa saw a decline in the late 1990’s early 2000’s. … we found that the “industrial farming method” is to blame. The fertilizer rep did not take pest and disease management in consideration and the pesticide rep did not care the impact his/her recommendations had on soil health … we saw a decline in the quality (appearance, flavour and texture) of our produce with a sharp rise in input costs.”
“…the NTS (Nutri-Tech Solutions) course helped us to understand that soil is not only chemistry but also biological. We…focussed on the “how” to build soil structure (with) humus and to understand the impact of pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and tillage on the structure of soils.
“(Farmers) saved water, fertiliser inputs came down and the quality of their produce increased. Secondly the farmworkers worked in a much safer and happier environment.”
“Conventional farming methods were not sustainable, and were in fact, depleting the soil’s capacity to produce quality fruit and vegetables as its carbon and biodiversity content shrunk.”
– Woolworths South Africa CEO Simon Susman
Farming for the Future initiative improved soil health, decreased the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers; used less water, reduced chemical runoff into river systems, and allow the earth to more effectively bind carbon, helping reduce global warming.
Researchers at Stanford University agreed, stating Woolworths’ Farming for the Future project has a “favourable environmental impact because farmers change their farming practices to be part of the project.”
Graeme Sait Author/Educator, Graeme Sait, is the co-founder of QLD Company, Nutri-Tech Solutions (NTS), a recognised world leader in sustainable agriculture/horticulture. NTS now exports to 42 locations around the globe. Graeme is a sought-after, keynote speaker at international conferences. He consults to the Governments of South Africa, Brazil, Canada, India, Laos, Vietnam, Maylasia, Holland and UK. Also consults to Greenyard Farms, the largest food producer in the world ($6.3 Billion p.a). Graeme has recently had comprehensive meetings with Waitrose, Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco, which involved 22 of their management staff for 5 hours. In December 2018, Graeme consulted to U.K. Minister of Agriculture George Eustice regarding the increased sustainability in this sector.
“Nutrition Farming is a hard-science approach based upon the inextricable relationship between minerals, microbes and humus.” States Graeme. “It involves an understanding that plant disease and insect pressure are never just bad luck. They are always linked to the interplay of this trio. We are concerned with getting back to root causes rather than just treating symptoms.
“The current symptom-treating model is plainly bankrupt. On a global scale we apply more chemicals to our crops and soils each year and, each year, for ten decades now, there has been an overall increase in pest and disease pressure.
The extractive, industrial agriculture model has resulted in depleted, damaged soils and a loss of 2/3 of our organic matter, which is now the lions share of the C02 blanket trapping the heat and dramatically impacting our climate. We are what we eat, and what we eat has been coming from these depleted soils.”