Praktijkworkshop: 11 maart 2016: Opening in verdichte bodems (Dutch)

Bruisend bodemleven: opening in verdichte bodems

  • Locatie: 11 maart 2016, Aardehuis, Olst
  • Door Fransjan de Waard en Ruben Borge

Het leven in de bodem is onmisbaar, onschatbaar – en nog vrijwel onbekend. Ook voor mensen die met de bodem werken, zoals boeren, groenbeheerders en hobbytuinders.IMG_20151029_110404

Nieuw is ook dat een boost voor het bodemleven cruciaal is in de aanpak van bodemverdichting.

Een ‘grondig’ probleem dat veel beter voorkomen kan worden, maar dat met de klimaatverandering zeker nog verder zal groeien. In de workshop “BRUISEND BODEMLEVEN: opening in verdichte bodems” draait het om de principes èn de praktijk. Deelnemers worden meegenomen in de aftrap van een integrale oplossing voor de verslemping en wateroverlast op de zware kleigrond ter plekke.

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Info en aanmelding via: thuisopaarde@xs4all.nl

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Reaching the trace-element age

A micro element to a plant is like a chip to a computer. As result of 60 years of N P K, our European

basaltic formation in Hidalgo, México

Basaltic formation in Hidalgo, México

soils are exhausted. Nowadays farmers are aware of the importance if micro-nutrients to ensure production and Industry sells them in small jars. They are the most expensive input in agriculture. 

In plants and animals micro nutrients are the key to endless enzymatic reactions, metabolic routes. They enable growth, development of flowers, fruits and seeds. The are not just an input to get quality product but there are essential to life. A decade ago this view was not so obvious.

First, industry created Urea, Phosphorus and Potash. After a few seasons, the first symptoms of crop deficiencies appeared. agricultural experts met. They agreed that calcium and magnesium and sulfur and silica were limiting the crop production. The market supplied, engineers calculated universities started to teach about these other “less important” elements.

Agro-minerals (basalt quarry at Solulta (Ethiopia)

Basalt quarry (Ethiopia)

Soon after, micro nutrients became the bottleneck. Iron, Zinc, Boron, Cobalt, Copper, Molybdenum, Selenium, manganese… Again the same response: Experts met, industry supply, sell and university teach to a new generation of micro element sensitive engineers.

Recent research points that the elements called rare earth elements play crucial role in the metabolism of plants and or symbiotic   microorganisms. Experts are meeting again. Industry is prepared already and so do Universities. The tendency now is to consider that crops need all elements, but in each one in the right proportion. Many igneous rocks in nature have high diversity of mineral elements in secondary and micro nutrients and can serve farmers to re-mineralize their soils in a affordable way.

Rocking soils works with farmers to build capacity, develop and share the skills to extract plant nutrients from rocks and regenerate exhausted soils.

Lab-less soil check

Farmers that keep their soils fit require less inputs and assume less financial risks. Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) help farmers to determine the condition of their soils without lab.

When it comes to farming, Improving soil has the highest return on investment. Knowing the soil and how to interact with it has top priority for the farmer of the future.

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Knowledge is out there…

Nowadays practical knowledge of the soil is int in the farm. It is segmented among a cloud of consultants. These consultants are linked to commercial firms that sell agricultural inputs. They never get the hands dirty but they know how to link soil analysis to the products they sell. Independent consultants have little place in this market of free advice and expensive products. After 60 years of industrial agriculture knowledge is gone it only remains sales. As consequence, farmers do not have objective information. Visual Soil Analysis (VSA) provide direct and objective information to farmers about the soil and help to make integrated decissions to improve the farmer’s natural capital.

Farming or paperwork?

To know about soil, modern farmers rely on lab analysis. They put the soil sample in a bag, fill a form and send both things to the lab by post. It is easy.Lab soil analysis reports contain a long list of parameters. These parameters mean nothing if they aren’t are interpreted by consultants that know that is normal and what not. These consultants live far away from the farm and have never seen it. They work for farmers but spend more than 90% of their time in the lab among computers and coffee dispensers.

With these soil analysis other consultants and fertilizer re-sellers make fertilization schedules. This second type of consultants know more about products. they see chemical deficiencies and put a combination of commercial product behind to solve the problem. They also live far away from the farm. They do not even see the soil samples. It is just paperwork. At the end farmers get a pile of papers, numbers invoice and no recomendations but a shopping list to put some tons/ha of this and many other tons/ha of that. They buy the products and contract laborers to apply them. Nobody knows what happen in the soil until the next season time farmer goes to the lab with another bag, and gets the next shopping list. If the soil would get any better, we might expect that the shopping list shorter is or the costs go down but the experience tell us that during the last 60 years the inputs only go up and yields only go down.

The European “modern” farmer is so busy paying bills and applying for subsidies, that he/she has little time to farm. He/She has little time to have a look in the soil and to realize that mainly bad soil is a synonymous of a hole in the pocket. The main productive factor of agriculture is forgotten.

Farmers can do it themselves

Any farmer that work close to their land know when a soil is good or when it is in trouble. They perceive the tinniest differences in performance. But often, they cannot point to the causes and rely on external expertise.CIMG3866

The VSA was developed in New Zealand by Mr Graham Shepherd. With a Shovel and a field guide, they can survey the soil tehmselves with their own eyes. VSA gives insight about:

  • Soil Organic content
  • Structure
  • Soil life
  • Root development
  • Hard pan
  • Land cover
  • pH
  • Redox

Rockin Soils works to test this method in the Dutch dairy farms. In the Netherlands VSA is called Bodem Contitie Score (BCS). At this moment VSA helps Duth dairy farmers to assess the condition of grass and maize in the area of the Beemster to improve the soils.

Be the first to know your soil

If you want to learn to asses your soil, to start improving the natural fertility, you can contact rockinsoils.

More about VSA, visit

Please, give me broken flowers

Dutch flower farmers in Ethiopia work with local miners to re-mineralize exhausted soils and use farm waste to make organic fertilizers.

Rocking Soils works in Dutch-Ethiopian flower farms.  These farms operate often in erosive soils with low fertility levels. Fertilizer is their largest production cost. At the same time they face problems to process their organic waste. The quality standards of the flower export market are high. More than 30% of the produced flowers are broken or damaged in some way and are rejected at the farm. More flowers break on their way to the airport and will not reach Europe.

CIMG2658

Finding good cheap resources to feed soil’s system is a profitable venture. Composting broken flowers is a new trend. Compost enriched with rock dust improves the soil quality of these farms and minimize the need for other inputs to correct nutrient deficiencies and combat pests.

In Holleta, we work at a 25 ha farm employing 550 Ethiopian workers. The farm produces Hypericum, Eryngium and Hydrangea and is implementing a program to produce most of their inputs by composting and fermenting waste and prepare mineral solutions.  This program will improve soil fertility, reduce costs and create a toxic-free working environment. More and more Dutch and Ethiopian farmers see the returns of this system.

The impact of this project goes beyond the borders of the farm. Each of the 550 workers have small family farms back home. Family farms are the backbone of the local food supply chain. These farmers are learning to use local resources to grow their food and feed their families with healthy and affordable food.