National Biological Farming Conference

“Reducing Soil Inputs and Increasing Profit”

Dr Maarten Stapper gives a presentation about typical results in Biological Farming decreasing use of synthetic fertilizers by 50% and chemicals by 80% for similar yields with improved quality. Click here for this presentation in audio with slides on the Conference webpage.

National Biological Farming Conference

“Healthy Soils for Healthy Quality Food: Producing the real ‘Clean & Green’”

Dr Maarten Stapper’s closing address of the National Biological Farming Conference dispelling the ‘Clean and Green’ myth of current production systems, and demonstrating the cleaner and greener biological farming systems on healthy soils. Click here to watch the presentation on the Conference webpage.

Matching Supply with the Demand for Healthy Foods

by Dr Maarten Stapper

Conference AGRIFOOD XXIII: ‘Food and the Asian Century: Opportunities and Challenges in the ‘Neighbourhood’

Industrial farming compromises both environment and food quality. Industrial farming is degrading soils to low fertility, instigating increasing dependency on synthetic fertilisers and chemicals. This process greatly lowers food nutrient-density and increases chemical contamination of food, soil, water and air.

Nutrition-related diseases are escalating but science, governments and public institutions keep ignoring the link with methods of food production. They hold onto the money trail of vested interests from industry. However, at the grassroots, consumers and producers are moving increasingly to foods produced with less (Biological) or no (Organic, Biodynamic) synthetics. Such production systems are defined as agroecological farming, which is still being treated as ‘alternative’ by government institutions and academia.

Agroecological farming has been endorsed by UN agencies as the way to feed the world without a need for Genetically Modified foods, whose long-term safety hasn’t been proven. It avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, and aims for harmony with nature in a biodiverse landscape with healthy soils. Associated soil carbon sequestration (= soil fertility) and reduction in emissions will help slow global warming. Scientific papers are being published that quantify the resulting improved food quality in regards to nutrition and chemicals.

Real medicine must start with our diet and how we produce, process and prepare that food with minimal use of synthetics. Consumers are slowly driving this process of change. Demand for ethical & ecological food is leading to changes in food provisioning. It is time for science and governments to follow and help guide!

The Real ‘Clean & Green’ Farming and Demand for Healthy Foods

Dr Maarten Stapper FAIA, BioLogic AgFood

PO Box 4209, Weston Creek ACT 2611

World-wide soils are degrading to lower fertility under high-input farming, thus requiring more and more synthetic fertilizers and chemicals which do exacerbate the problem. The outcomes on foods produced are reduced nutrient density and increased presence of chemical residues. Recurring use of more synthetics affects the health of soils, landscapes and people. Food processing and preparation is further reducing the nutrition of food. All these factors increase malnutrition and contribute to obesity and chronic diseases.

Australian farmers have become highly dependent on outside suppliers and advice. To secure income they have to apply synthetic inputs of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers to maintain yields under high risks of weather and markets. Such farming tends to compromise the environment and farmers now also face pressures to reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian agriculture is still being promoted as ‘Clean and Green’. However, Australia does not have a pesticide monitoring system. The difficulty in assessing the use of agricultural chemicals led to a 2002 report recommending the establishment of a comprehensive and integrated pesticide use reporting system to assure the integrity of the quality of agricultural produce. However, little has changed as a 2013 report finds very little data on pesticide use and environmental impact. It questions implications for human health and the environment under continued exposure to these toxins.

Possible impacts of diet on human health were assessed in Australian studies by measuring presence in urine of, for example, organophosphates (OP; active ingredient in many insecticides). One study showed that for adults one week on an organic diet reduced OP by 90%. Another study with children showed the OP exposure to be higher than in US studies with no differences between rural and urban kids; thus OP through the food chain.

Producers’ awareness of negative impacts of synthetics may come from direct contact during work, seeing environment degrading or lower returns on inputs. Some producers then become certified Organic, which doesn’t allow the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.

A more recent practice has been reducing the use of synthetics by improving soil carbon through re-activation of soil biology and biodiversity in landscape. Such Biological Farming re-generates soil and soils become healthy. Thresholds are raised in critical soil and plant processes, and plants become resistant to diseases and insects, not needing fungicides and insecticides. Nutrient density of produce is high, and product quality generally not affected by small amounts of synthetics of choice. Farming beyond thresholds, within resilient local ecosystems, is called agroecological farming, which includes Organics.

Agroecological farming is still being treated as ‘alternative’ by government institutions and academia. It receives little R&D as it works against vested interests. It has received, however, in several UN reports science-based endorsement to enable feeding the world. This without a need for Genetically Modified (GM) foods, whose long-term safety hasn’t been proven.

Consumers, supported by nutritionists, are slowly driving this process of change and create a demand for the real ‘Clean and Green’ agroecological foods: healthier with better taste and shelf life.

The Canberra Times: Scientist Maarten Stapper takes us inside his Canberra garden

We last met agricultural scientist Dr Maarten Stapper when he was working with grains at the CSIRO (Kitchen Garden, August 31, 2004). Since then, he has featured on the ABC’s Australian Story (2009), about his road into biological farming systems and withdrawal from the official world of science.

He wants to help farmers harness the power of natural soil processes to regenerate and create healthy soils, to improve the quality of food, animal feed and landscapes, and make them more resilient in a variable climate.

Read more from Goodfood, March 7, 2016 

 

Outback Story: Restoring the Balance

“The shift to agro-ecological farming is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of the people of our planet,” says former CSIRO scientist and now regenerative consultant Dr Maarten Stapper. “Using regenerative agriculture we can feed nine billion people with half the fertilisers and 80% less chemicals, and increase yields by half for traditional farming systems in developing countries by stimulating soil biology.”

Click here to read the full article from Outback Magazine, issue 101, June/July 2015

WellBeing: Farming for the future

Agriculture may be what feeds us but industrial farming methods are threatening our planet. How can farmers produce enough food to feed a swelling population in a way that benefits the Earth, themselves and their communities, and anyone who eats? Solutions exist — we just need to embrace them.

Adopt agroecological systems

New agriculture systems are needed and “agroecology” seems to be a winner. Agroecology seeks to apply ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable food systems, farming in a way that overcomes the need for synthetic fertilisers and chemicals. It encompasses organic, biodynamic and biological farming systems.

One of agroecology’s major benefits is it helps to replenish lost stores of carbon in the soil. According to farming systems agronomist Dr Maarten Stapper, the harsh synthetics used in current farming methods ignore the delicate balance of microbes, humus, trace minerals and nutrients in the soil. “A healthy system is based on healthy soils, but our farming methods have degraded soils by 20–80 per cent across the world,” he says.

“We need to improve the amount of carbon in the soil. Agroecological farming puts carbon dioxide back into the soil as plants capture the C02 and transmute part of it to soil organic carbon through the stimulation of soil microbes — life in the soil — and earthworms become active and create castings,which are mainly carbon. We can double our carbon in the soil in two to three years. It’s absolutely amazing to see that happening.”

Dr Stapper says many farmers in Australia and worldwide are switching to agroecology after personal experiences. “They see the landscape going backwards. Some people have problems with health and they change their farming to use less chemicals. Lots of negatives lead individual farmers to create big change.”

Yet, adoption rates for agroecological methods are still low, he cautions. There are few advisory services to guide farmers, few R&D dollars have been devoted to agroecological methods and, equally, successful agroecological farmers need a “green thumb”: an intuitive sense of what’s good for soil, plants and animals.

An easily adopted option is biological agriculture, a practice that’s emerging in the US and helps farmers move profitably, gradually towards organic farming. Dr Stapper says farmers incrementally create healthy soils using biological inputs while still using, but minimising, “synthetic inputs that work against biology and balance”. Costs decrease over time, yield remains high, soil — and food — quality increases and profitability is enhanced as conventional farmers avoid the unprofitable transition phase of converting to certified organic.

Says Dr Stapper, “Biological farming merges the principles and best practices of organic farming and modern farming to make the best path of food production for the future.”

 

How can you help speed up the shift to more sustainable, more ecological — and, yes, more productive — farming?

1. Lobby for all levels of government to work with stakeholders to create public policies, regulatory frameworks and international agreements that encourage more ecological farming practices.

2. Ask your local council to educate farmers in agroecological practices and take the lead in managing community ecosystems.

3. Farmers: research innovative practices, give them a shot — and share them with your neighbours.

4. Anyone who eats food: vote with your dollar for more locally produced, seasonal, high-quality food that’s grown in an ecological way. And ask for it at your supermarket.

As Dr Maarten Stapper says, “it’s the consumer that’s in charge of the whole system.

Click here to read the full article published in WellBeing, May/June 2015

Farm Weekly: Back to basics at Pingelly soil seminar

Published in Farm Weekly, Thursday, August 13, 2015, page 7.

SOIL health is one of the key factors for profitable farming: it may seem an obvious statement but soil is too often placed down the pecking order in from management decisions.

Click here to continue reading article

Narrogin Observer: Talk reveals secret is in soil

“On September 9, I was extremely fortunate to attend a seminar in Dowerin given by Dr Maarten Stapper, a farming systems agronomist, entitled Soil Health for Profit – a cropping and mixed farming forum.”

Click here to view full article.

Published in Narrogin Observer on 18th September 2014.

GM Showdown at Ausveg Debate

Maarten participated in the Great Debate about genetically modified (GM) crops at the 2013 Ausveg National Convention. Four speakers had been handpicked in the GM debate on the pro and against sides. Where does the horticultural industry want to go?

Click here to continue reading