The Current and Potential use of Land

Our guest at the Society's meeting of Thursday 25th April was Professor Peter Bullock of the Soil Survey of England and Wales who delivered a most interesting talk to a 'full house'. Despite a conflict with the meetings of other local societies Cruck House was full and those present were treated to a stimulating introduction and exploration of a vital topic - Soil.

Resisting the temptation to use the jargon of a soil scientist, Professor Bullock eased his audience into the subject by describing the importance of soil in terms of foundations for buildings, food supply for ground feeding animals, contamination, habitat for pests and diseases, anchorage for plant life, water cycling and nutrients for plant growth. But it was the 'soil factory', functioning though unaided growth and the cyclic rotation of nutrients, that provided the central and recurring theme. Those present who are actively promoting the memory of Erasmus Darwin were pleased to hear a leading figure in "the Soil Survey of England and Wales" acknowledge how close this 18th century polymath had been to accurately describing the nitrogen cycle.

Through his familiarity with Lichfield, Professor Bullock was able to examine local soil values in both agricultural and financial terms and in so doing to describe the variation in soil types within this area. Soil textures, changing water tables, the development of soil from ancient desert to familiar farmland, the use and abuse of fertilizers and the significance of climate, rainfall distribution and altitude were described with the aid of a wealth of photographic, microscopic , diagrammatic and statistical slides. It is quite apparent that for the future, in the light of changing policies for food production and varied land use, the soil scientist's expert advice will be required to predict how best we can utilise this valuable resource.

In conclusion this most interesting evening stimulated a wealth of questions which, if allowed to continue, would have taken us through the night.

Ivor Mitchell
April 1991