As a collective we have to decide about the application of Nitrogen fertilizer to the Field of Wheat. This is stage two of a discussion which is happening in three parts. To read a summary of stage one please click here and scroll down to the green box.
We have outlined two areas for further discussion during Stage Two. When commenting please try and be clear about which option you are referring to and where possible address them in separate comment boxes. As a reminder, if you want to add a new comment then simply write in the box at the end of the thread, however if you want to add a response to someone else’s reflection then press ‘reply’ below that same comment.
An Extra Note to The Collective:
A number of vigorous side shoots emerged as part of Stage One discussions, particularly around the value and cost of food, the true costs of cheap and affordable food, the health of the soil, water and environment, economic viability of both organic and non-organic sectors and personal ethics. We would like to enable and encourage these conversations to continue after Decision No.1 closes on the 28th February, and we will send out an email with details about this.
Please read the guidelines below when participating in Stage Two of the decision.
The two areas for discussion at this stage are:
Nitrogen fertilizer options
The possibilities put forward were: adding no nitrogen to the crop at all; reducing input of nitrogen below current levels; splitting the field so half is nitrogen the other half is no nitrogen or keeping nitrogen inputs as Peter normally would.
Any alternatives to Nitrogen fertilizer
We invite further enquiry into possible alternatives including: adding an organic compost tea, under-planting the crop or adding a nitrogen cover crop into next year’s rotation (we realise this last option goes beyond the harvest time end date but want to discuss this as a possibility) or other options we may not have considered.
Many of these options depend on more information about soil health of the field and learning more about financial and management implications as well as considering the importance of financial investment and returns for The Collective. Peter will support where possible with technical and quantitative information to help the Collective consider different options.
Summary of Stage Two.
This stage of the decision is now closed, thank you to all those who contributed and followed the process. Stage three (the final stage) will go live tomorrow.
In order to explore, understand and observe the complexities of modern wheat farming in this country and unravel its networks and impacts within a global context we have had to start somewhere. Conventional farming is the reality of ‘where we are at now’ in UK agriculture. Observing and being implicated in a growing cycle is a good starting point to see and feel how this system works. A Field of Wheat has a number of considered elements to allow dynamic and creative ways of exploring the prevailing framework for UK agriculture as well as where we have come from and where we might be going or want to go. The different lenses of the Farmers Almanac, Collective Enquiries, The Artists Pages and farm events provide different contexts through which to explore these aspects.
This has been designed in such a way to create broad discussions around the options leading to a final decision. As you have witnessed, this framing can lead to a discussion which jumps between addressing very specific quantities of Nitrogen fertiliser on our field right now, to the wider global environmental impacts of fertilizers and touches on different systems or possibilities.
To make a decision as to whether to use Nitrogen fertiliser or not when the conventional seed we are growing is ‘designed’ for high inputs on impoverished soils mean that we have limited room for manoeuvre. We realise some of you may be feeling quite trapped by this. The duration of the project (following one cycle) means we are impacted by decisions made previously and earlier on in the cycle. We are including a focus on seeds at harvest time so this doesn’t get missed.
Deciding whether to ‘experiment’ with the wheat comes with its own complexity. If thought about as a scientific experiment what would it tell us? What do we want to know? Do we need to think about it as a scientific experiment? Is the desire to ‘experiment’ with a low or no nitrogen area motivated by something else?
There are many different ways of approaching this decision; it could be driven by a strong desire not to damage the soil in spite of risk to yield and money; an experiment to see for yourself what the differences are, a desire to support Peter’s preferred choices, a wish to increase the yield and profit as much as possible. Whatever is decided by the Collective along with Peter, we hope you have valued the stories that this process has revealed.
A Field of Wheat
Ruth and Anne-Marie