by Lizzie Bennett
The practice of dosing livestock with antibiotics combined with putting the same drugs into animal feed is having a profound effect on the soil where the manure is used as fertilizer. We have known for years that antibiotics in livestock has hastened antibiotic resistance but a new study proves just how detrimental the practice can be to our health and our food supply.
Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum MÃ¼nchen, in a joint study with researchers of Julius KÃ¼hn Institute in Braunschweig, have found that the repeated application of manure contaminated with antibiotics lastingly changes the composition of bacteria in the soil.
“After repeated application of manure contaminated with antibiotics, we found a decrease in the bacteria that are important for good soil quality. This means a loss of soil fertility and thus in the long run a decline in crop yields,” said Professor Michael Schloter, head of Research Unit Environmental Genomics at Helmholtz Zentrum MÃ¼nchen.
“Moreover, the number of microbes living in the soil that are harmful to humans increased under the experimental conditions of the study. The increase in human pathogenic microorganisms in the environment has wide-reaching consequences for human health,” says Professor Schloter.
“We are in continuous contact with these microorganisms, and the probability of contracting an infection increases accordingly. This applies particularly to diseases of the respiratory system and the lungs, as bacteria are spread through the air and inhaled. Moreover, many of the bacteria are resistant to commonly used antibiotics, which often makes treatment more difficult. We must therefore urgently develop a new mindset as regards the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.” (my emphasis) (source)
We are already facing food shortages. The drought in California, the state that supplies an amazing 85% of fresh fruit eaten in the United States. The floods in the UK have contaminated thousands of acres of farmland that can’t be planted this year. The crisis in Ukraine is likely to affect corn exports and wheat prices.
The last thing we need at the moment, is for land that can be planted to have soil that is below the optimum condition for food production. We are in a cycle of lowered food availability that is going to start affecting how we feed our families.
Now is the time to start gardening, to start growing as much of your own produce as you can. Like all skills it takes practice so it is something that its best not to leave until you HAVE to do it to feed your family. However small your space is there is something you can grow.
- Cherry and plum tomatoes grow well in hanging baskets. They will trail down just like any other unsupported plant.
- Plastic pots can be fixed to fences, I used small plaster nails as the heads are wide and don’t pull through the pot. This allows you to grow food in a vertical space that may otherwise have gone to waste. Herbs work really well grown like this.
- Fruit trees can be trained up and across fences as well, again using what is often wasted space.
- Many veggies have smaller varieties useful for container growing. Round carrots( Altlas or Globe varieties are good) require much less depth than regular carrots and grow very well in pots.
- Bush beans will give a good sized crop from a container the size of a bucket. They take up much less space than pole grown beans.
- Potatoes will grow anywhere. Six inches of soil/compost in the bottom of a bucket and top it up as the plants grow. A food grade brewing bucket will give you 20 pounds of potatoes. Go for smaller varieties such as ‘Charlotte’ or other salad potatoes.
- Turnips go from seed to harvest in just 12 weeks, they grow shallow and can therefore be used as a fill in whilst your waiting for your slower growing stuff.
- Lettuces like it cool and do not do well in the heat. Plant in any shady corner or under a tree and they should do fine. Just take the leaves you need and leave the plant to grow on giving you a longer supply for your effort.
Thinking what you will get the most from in the least space will give variety to your diet. However small your patch try to get into the habit of preserving some of your harvest. Every single potion of food you freeze, can or dehydrate is a portion of food you can eat in winter when you can’t grow fresh food easily.
We all know it’s coming, the only question is how many people will be ready for it?