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Earth with good heart

Farmers are increasingly using compost on fields around Britain as more councils collect food scraps from homes. Research on behalf of the Association for Organics Recycling found the use of compost increased by 10 per cent last year.

Farmers said the increase was because of the rising cost of artificial fertiliser and the increasing quality and amount of compost coming from local authorities that now collect food and garden waste.

A recent study also showed that organic farms have a "more diverse range of fungi", which is crucial because fungi help the roots of plants to absorb nutrients and fight disease. How often do any of us think about the helpful role of the humble fungus?

Albert Howard, the 'father of organic farming' did. His ideas and his book, An Agricultural Testament, have gone all over the world since he first worked to put organic gardening on a scientific footing and nurture earth 'with good heart' so he could increase yields.

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Fernleigh Farm, Australia, shows the well-turned, well-composted earth of farmers using Howard's methods. Albert found that organic farming reduces pollution, increases the ability of plants to resist drought and weeds, and helps animals to resist disease. Image: Photo: Fernleigh Farms

We're aware that increasing yields requires the work of genetics. With all due respect to those concerned about GM foods, we give credit to 20th century pioneers William Bateson and Rowland Biffen whose work in genetics (Batesen coined the term) and on creating wheat with higher yields and less disease (Biffen) have helped hungry people around the world to eat.

Our own experience with compost - a bit messy to make, lovely to see the results in our lettuce!

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