The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has announced that 2015 is the International Year of Soils.
This campaign aims to promote the importance of soils for a healthy ecosystem, improved rural livelihoods, and food security.
The key messages are the various methods to protect our soils through sustainable soil and land management, and awareness of the ways in which we depend on soils.
More information can be found in the FAO’s info-graphic here
And on the FAO soils portal
One of our key suppliers Barfoots of Botley has recently been featured on the popular BBC programme, The One Show.
Food critic Jay Rayner, visited Barfoots to understand all their work on sustainable agriculture, particularly around anaerobic digestion, waste control and energy production.
Barfoots built their anaerobic digestion plant in 2010 which generates 2.3 megawatts, 24 hours a day. This means the business is entirely self-sufficient in energy for its factories and remaining energy is exported to the national grid.
Click on the clip below to play
This new report form Newcastle is another positive pointer for organic foods. Organic farming continues to play an important role in our business and is really important to our customers. The issues raised in this report mostly tie in with those we have raised in the Waitrose Farm assessment and the current drive in conventional agriculture to reduce inputs of both nitrogen and pesticides.
We have known for some time that farming methods do affect final quality. As a grower or researcher with the Waitrose supply chain we need to push on with new research while also applying what we already know.
The full report is available on the British Journal of Nutrition website.
The soil association have also written an article outlining their views on the research, this can be downloaded from the Soil Association website.
Last week another report was published linking neonicotinoids to a decline in farmland birds. Many other reports have some chemicals in this group with the decline of bees and pollinators. The reasons for this decline are hotly disputed with land use being cited as a key reason. However with the EU three neonicotinoids ( clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam ) have been banned on crops attractive to bees from 2014. At Waitrose we have gone a bit further with a worldwide ban of Neonicotinoids from all our growers.
We will publish form time to time links to articles that develop the debate and urge you the grower to read them. The protection of pollinators and other species is of key importance to mankind and there we need more science to ensure growers have the means to remove and not replace with broad spectrum pesticides.
To read the full report please click on the link here
The Guardian have also published a summary to this report paper here
The Waitrose Science Day will take place at the University of Warwick on Tuesday 18th February 2014. The day will be a fantastic opportunity for delegates to hear updates from suppliers, academics and Waitrose representatives on key projects relating to sustainability and the Waitrose Farm Assessment.
A provisional program for the day is available here.
Registration for the science day will close on Monday 10th February but spaces are limited. To register for the event please click here.
The Waitrose Farm Assessment (WFA) is an initiative which was conceived by the Agronomy Group in 2011. Over the past year all of our fresh produce suppliers and growers have completed the assessments which cover the key issues of safety, sustainability and quality. The final report from the first version of the assessment is now available to download. To view the document click on the image below.