We are not surprised by the news, reported on Radio New Zealand last week, about the devestating cadmium buildup in New Zealand soils, forcing farmers to stop farming.
For New Zealand, famed for it’s pure environment, to have such a build- up of cadmium in our soils that more than 160,000 hectares can only be used for forestry or, at the moment, dairy instead of meat production is a sad state of affairs.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is proven beyond doubt that the soil contamination is caused by superphosphates used for 60 years having high levels of the heavy metal.
This is known to damage kidneys, bones and is a carcinogen.
Even our farmers who stopped using superphosphate ten years ago have a toxic legacy that is still giving problems.
Research in 2014 for the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries found that dairy farms showed the highest levels, followed by orchards, including vineyards.
Massey University scientist Dr Mike Joy has said that we do not know how much land is now too contaminated to grow food crops:
“The only real published work we can use is the Waikato Regional Council study where 160,000 hectares back in 2004 exceeded that level, and modelling showed it would be over half the region by 2030.”
Dr Joy reports that the cadmium-affected land can still, at this point in time, be used for milk production or forestry but not for meat farming or cropping. How long this will last we do not know: fat including the fat in milk products is known to store and carry toxins.
Dr Joy said if the government had not exempted agricultural land from being classified under the Bio Solids Guidelines, many farms would be officially classed as contaminated sites.
“For me the biggest issue is not being able to grow food from that land in the future; that we’ve put our food security at risk by contaminating our soils with this carcinogenic heavy metal.”
Since 2011, the fertiliser industry has been self-managing cadmium levels. That doesn’t seem like a very good idea to me. Even worse, the cadmium build-up in agricultural soils has been monitored only in the past decade, so we don’t really know what’s happened in the past nor what’s happening now – and certainly not what problems are in store for us in the future.
Lincoln University soil scientist Brett Robinson claimed that artificial fertilisers have reduced the amount of cadmium being put into the soil – and the superphosphate imported now “generally” has lower levels of the heavy metal, compared with earlier shipments from Nauru.
Many farmers are not convinced.
The cost to New Zealand farming may be in the billions of dollars.
It’s a fact that we don’t want cadmium and other heavy metals in our soils at all.
Dr Robinson said the Department of Soil Science was working on innovative ways of extracting cadmium from soil or preventing plants from absorbing it.
“We have a PhD student, who has found that a whole lot of different composts made from green waste can reduce cadmium uptake by plants by up to 60 percent. So that’s a huge potential benefit.”
There’s certainly no time to lose in dealing with the cadmium that has built up in New Zealand’s soils over the past six decades.
In Russia’s Chernobyl, scene of the worst nuclear contamination in history, fulvic acid and humic acid have had some success in removing some of the contamination.
What are these?
Humic and fulvic acids (fulvic acids are humic acids of lower molecular weight and higher oxygen content than other humic acids) can be used as a natural soil supplement in agriculture, and less commonly as a human nutritional supplement.
Funnily enough, when we eat plants and animals grown and reared on healthy soils, we don’t have the problem of needing human supplementation to help meet the nutritional requirements of the body.
These acids are created in extremely small amounts by the action of millions of beneficial microbes, working on decaying plant matter in a soil environment with adequate oxygen. Fulvic acid is part of the humic structure in rich composting soil.
Fulvic acids function in so many ways within a healthy ecosystem that they have been referred to as the missing link in modern agriculture. They are Nature’s miracle of unparalleled proportion and function as electrolytes, enzymes, antioxidants, antibiotics, buffers, and scavengers of heavy metals and other toxins. They improve nutrient absorption by increasing cellular permeability; they catalyze (speed up) metabolic reactions, they scavenge free radicals, buffer the pH in soils and water, deactivate pesticides, radioactive compounds and other toxins.
No other known biological substance can modify so many electrochemical and metabolic processes.
Here at Plasma Biotec our natural organic-based fertilisers have been trusted by smart New Zealand farmers and horticulturalists for more than 35 years.
We know that our farmers and growers are up against stiff competition. There’s a multi-trillion industry trying to separate you from your money, at the expense of the long term health of your farm.
Large corporations are concerned with short term profits. According to respected firm McKinsey in July 2015, the $5 trillion food and agribusiness industry has a massive economic, social and environmental footprint. Already, more than 20 percent of arable land is degraded.
Since 2004, global investments in the food-and-agribusiness sector have grown threefold, to more than $100 billion and these companies on average have demonstrated higher total returns to shareholders than many other sectors, with the 100 publicly traded food-and-agribusiness companies around the world increasing an average of 17 percent annually in the last decade. Do you think your farming health is at the top of their priorities? I don’t either.
There’s increasing pressure to produce food quickly and economically. We know that soils are depleted of minerals: the University of Texas found declines in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C in fruit and vegetables.
What does this mean to you?
The best solution to recovery of degraded land is though thoroughly reviewing proven natural options.
Here at Plasma Biotec, even our name suggests life: it came about when a farmer said to my late husband, “Oh, so it’s like plant plasma”. That’s when we renamed our company Plasma Biotec Solutions, all those years ago.
We look forward to helping you farm profitably for the next three decades as well.
Give us a call here at Plasma Biotec and we’ll pay you a visit, arrange thorough soil testing, then advise on the best liquid fertiliser and animal supplements from our range of seven proven solutions.
Call us free on 0800 752 762: I, Bruce or Neil will be delighted to talk with you.