It’s been announced today that this summer is officially the worst on record. Well, I take that with a big dose of salt not least because it seems odd that the worst weather should go hand in hand with the most bountiful harvest. We’ve had a better crop of fruit and veg in our kitchen garden this year than ever before and from what I hear, we’re not alone in that. Why should this be so when the summer has been so cold and damp? One theory has been put forward by Ian Bell who is a biodynamic farmer from Dorchester. He argues that it’s to do with last winter’s heavy snowfall. This is what he says:
“Nitrogen joins with carbon and minute quantities of arsenic, lead and mercury, all of which are held fast in the crystalline structure of the snow and carried to our soils: an infinitely more powerful mediator of fertility than anything you can buy from the garden centre”.
He’s undoubtedly right on the latter point – you won’t find many garden centres listing “arsenic, lead and mercury” among their list of ingredients, and I’m not sure that I want them leaching into my veg.
Whatever the merits of Ian Bell’s argument, there is no doubt at all that the increase in carbon dioxide in the air improves crop yields. It’s common practice for horticulturalists who grow crops under glass to use air enriched with carbon dioxide to improve growth rates. When the increase in carbon dioxide in the air was first recorded, about 70 years ago, it was noted that this could prove of great benefit to humanity because of the effect on crop yields. They have been proved right, but this is a fact which is barely mentioned nowadays, when the increase in carbon dioxide is portrayed as being wholly evil. If the prediction of warmer weather ever turns out to be true we’ll have a double benefit, because there’s nothing crops like better than a little extra warmth.