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In her book For the love of soil, the New Zealand agroecologist Nicole Masters sets out a new road map to support the regeneration of soil, while breathing new life into systems of agricultural production.
During the last 40 years, almost a third of the planet’s arable land has become significantly damaged. Yet soil that is diseased can no longer produce enough food, which over time threatens the whole of the food supply chain at a global level.
Based on this observation, the agroecologist specialising in soil science Nicole Masters provides solutions in her book ‘For the love of soil’, a genuine road map to regenerate soil and breathe new life into systems of agricultural production. As she likes to humbly remind us, Nicole Masters hasn’t invented anything – photosynthesis, humus, or the micro-organisms in the soil, nor has she invented ancient techniques such as non-till farming, mulch, long crop rotations, or the crops associated with them. By contrast, the summary of the various expériences she has gone through as a scientist, and the soil management method she is putting forward are resolutely innovative.
Respecting the soil
Nicole Masters states her case directly: we can no longer continue to treat the soil like a slave or a bin. If humanity wants to face up to the challenges of today, it must urgently make the protection of soil an absolute priority. Only the regeneration of soil, the restoration of natural cycles, and renewed ecosystem vitality will be able to prevent the world from experiencing a major farming and food crisis between now and the end of the century.
To do this, the best solution is still to speak to those people who are already experimenting with alternative production methods all over the world, in keeping with the principles of agroecology. As part of her research, Nicole Masters concentrated on Australasia (part of Oceania which generally includes Australia and New Zealand) and North America. She met farmers and breeders who are attempting to copy nature in places where so-called ‘traditional agriculture’ often has a tendency to fight it. Her findings are always the same – after years of effort (this is regularly emphasised), these farmers are ultimately rewarded with land that is regenerated, dignified livestock farming conditions, products with a better taste quality and nutritional value, less stress, and ultimately, increased profitability.
A work of reference
Nicole Masters emphasises the fact that even the most damaged of soil can be regenerated if the method initially focuses on the health of soil, especially by emulating natural systems as much as possible. As what nature takes away it can always give back through its characteristic generosity. ‘For the love of soil’ is a work of reference for anyone who is interested in agroecology, and more broadly for those who are worried about the future of the planet.