Dirt Doctor, JIM O'GORMAN of the School for Environmental Recovery, discusses his pioneering work restoring to health and high productivity the damaged land and soils depleted by common agricultural practices in New Zealand. To address the problems of degraded soils and agriculture's contribution to global warming emissions, farmers worldwide could learn from nature and sequester carbon naturally into the soil by soil recovery production methods.
As founder of New Zealand's first retail store selling only certified organic produce in Dunedin from 1986 to 1993, I was frustrated then with the small quantity and low quality of produce available. I decided to research the literature on organic growing methods and the recovery of depleted soils. This led me to buy two acres of land at Kakanui in North Otago. I wanted to see if I could address the quality issues and put the soil recovery theories of others into practice. I deliberately chose the most damaged piece of agricultural soil I could find which had been exposed to intensive horticultural chemical use for three generations. Each year the soil had been rotary hoed to a fine powder. Use of heavy machinery had compacted the soil and formed an impervious hard pan about 15 cm below the surface. When I first tried to put a fork into the ground it would not penetrate even when I jumped on it. The property was also covered in California Thistle which stood higher than our heads. I knew I'd found a perfect starting point.
Recognising that all is not well with our agricultural practices, I believed I could find remedies for damaged intensively-farmed soils in the soil literature and practices of the past, and that I could show others how to help the soil recover as I put the theories into practice myself. I established a School for Environmental Recovery.
I had set myself a very difficult task. In spite of encouraging nutrient and mineral test results, most things I planted in the first few years collapsed or died from fungal and bacterial rots, the reason the previous owners had given up on the land. The soil would not hold water adequately for...
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