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‘We don’t have food security if we’re dependent on imported fertiliser and fossil fuels’

Today (World Soil Day), Talamh Beo discusses soil and its Soil Biodiversity Literacy and Enhancement EIP  Project.

Soil, that few inches deep, thick layer that covers our planet, is a living, breathing substance.

They say one teaspoon of healthy soil contains more life than there are humans on earth.


  • Provides us with food, fibre, fuel and medicine;
  • Filters and stores water;
  • Hosts a quarter of earth’s biodiversity;
  • Has a vital role to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

A valuable natural resource, often overlooked, mistreated and as such under threat.

Threatened by old and new agricultural practices, the FAO stated in 2014, we had less than 60 years of fertile topsoil left.


Talamh Beo, a grassroots farmer-led organisation, has been granted EIP-Agri funding to conduct a project on rebuilding healthy soil.

The Soil Biodiversity Literacy and Enhancement EIP project is about “putting our feet back on healthy ground by growing the biodiversity in our soils”, Bridget Murphy, project coordinator, said.

The project has 16 participant farms of different scales, soil types and enterprises (horticulture, tillage, pasture grazing, woodland, or agroforestry etc.).

Given soil’s link to water filtration and storage, the project team decided on using water catchments rather than counties to select participants.

How will it work?

Each participant farm will take part in a soil course with some of the world’s leading soil scientists.

This will improve their understanding of how soil functions and offer practical knowledge on how to kick-start sleepy or degraded soils.

Participants will trial and document technical and physical innovations on their farms, discussing and sharing their experiences in a Knowledge Transfer group.

Joanne Butler, a small-scale grower in Donegal, said: “Firstly, I am aware of how important our soil is.”

“I wanted to take part in this project as a way to educate myself and my family. I want to protect my soil for future generations”.

Eleanor and Richard Murphy from Robin’s Glen organic tillage farm in Co. Kilkenny, when asked why they are taking part in the project, said,

“Why wouldn’t we? It is an amazing opportunity to learn about the little-known world under our feet.”

Ger Buckley, an intensive dairy farmer from Cork taking part, said,

“I’ve spent the last 30 years learning how to feed the plant.”

“Now, I want to learn how to feed the soil. We don’t have food security if we’re dependent on imported fertiliser and fossil fuels.”

Ger, like some participants, hopes having completed the project and learning how to improve the diversity of their soils, to reduce and/or remove synthetic fertilizers from their operations.

Instead, they aim to focus on close to nature, biological inputs to support the growth of their soil’s biology and diversity.

New pathway

Talamh Beo believes these Lighthouse Farms will provide a resource to councils, local environmental networks, schools, and colleges as they engage with understanding and responding to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Considering current fertilisers, fossil fuel and feed prices, the Lighthouse Farms have the potential to light up a new pathway for farmers built on reduced inputs, healthier soils and, in turn, healthier food, people, pockets and the planet.

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