September 23, 2004
Bumper Crop Puts Scots Couple in Limelight
SCIENTISTS are investigating how a Scottish couple transformed a boggy Highland hillside into a garden of plenty.
The garden's gigantic vegetables, which include tomatoes the size of baby's head, onions the size of footballs and strawberries the size of apples, have astonished visitors.
Viewers of BBC Scotland's Beechgrove Garden will tonight see the results of Cameron and Moira Thomson's use of rock dust on their organic garden.
Now scientists from Glasgow University have begun a three-year study of the Thomson's pioneering work, which has seen gardeners from throughout Scotland converting to remineralising their ground with simple rock dust.
The former art teachers have spent 20 years experimenting with remineralisation, and in 1997, set up a charitable trust, the Seer Centre, in Highland Perthshire, for experimental research, organic gardens and smallholdings.
In July, the 64 trial plots of land, spread with crushed-up volcanic rock that stimulates the natural cycle of earth, were harvested and now, Glasgow University and independent scientists have begun examination into the effects.
The couple's success has also been shortlisted for an environmental project at the Biffa Awards in London in October.
Mr. Thomson, 56, and Mrs. Thomson, 42, were introduced and converted to remineralisation in 1984 after reading the Survival of Civilisation, by American scientists, John Hamaker and Don Weaver. Since then, the pair have been on a long and arduous campaign for its research and promotion.
Their land at Enochdhu, near Pitlochry, has been transformed from "infertile, poorly-drained upland grazing", into deep fertile soils and gardens that produce gigantic onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, and strawberries.
At first, Mr. Thomson said people thought they were cranks, but after years of ploughing on, people have started to take notice and backing from the Scottish Executive has allowed the first UK field trials.
The executive, through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme, gave the Seer research project £95,280 in 2003 for the trials investigating the application of rock dust in agricultural systems.
In March this year, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency gave them £30,000 to pay for staff to run the visitor centre until the end of October.
The Thomsons source the rock dust for free from the Collace Quarry, with Tayside Contracts, which cares for the roads in Perth and Kinross, Tayside, and Angus, formally agreeing to provide the Thomsons with as much rock dust as they require.
The dust is spread over the crop trials and left for microbes and worms to naturally fertilise the land.
Last year, the Thomsons planted a trial patch of potatoes between June 13 and July 3 - normally far too late in the season, especially in the harsh climes of the Scottish glen.
The patch remained unwatered throughout the drought last year. Despite all predictions, the crop was a bumper one.
got massive spuds out of there, bigger than mangos. They had less water in
them and last so much longer than anything you would ever have seen before.
We were eating them until about a fortnight ago," said Mr. Thomson.
Courier and Advertiser
July 28, 2004
Minister hails 'rock dust' field study
A FIELD study of soil remineralisation by the Sustainable Ecological Earth Regeneration (SEER) Centre in Perthshire was yesterday hailed as "being at the very heart of sustainable practices", by environment and rural development minister Ross Finnie MSP.
Visiting the innovative environmental organisation in Strathardle, near Pitlochry, Mr. Finnie spent time with SEER founders Cameron and Moira Thomson, seeing the fruits of their application of quarry industry "rock dust" as a natural fertiliser or compost feedstock for farmers, gardeners and horticulturalists.
He said, "the Executive is committed to protecting our environment and enhancing the profitability of Scottish agriculture. The research carried out at SEER demonstrates that innovative approaches to recycling can improve agricultural productivity while mitigating the impact of fertilisers on our water environment. We look forward to seeing the results of these field trials and assessing the potential for wider application across Scotland."
The SEER Centre was set up to research and promote soil regeneration techniques. This pioneering form of agriculture is free of added chemicals, environmentally-friendly and is sowing the seeds of change for sustainable land management in Scotland.
Confirmation of the value of the work pioneered at the SEER Centre came in a recent research award of over £95,000 from the Executive, invested in soil fertility trials over an acre of land in rural Perthshire.
John Ferguson, SEPA's waste and resource strategy unit manager, added, "Soil supports the natural vegetation, agriculture and forestry upon which people depend, and its sustainable management is crucial.
"SEER's work in the field of soil remineralisation is invaluable. These field trials will allow SEPA and others to begin to evaluate the potential for value-added markets for composted materials from their co-utilisation with rock dusts, their effects on soils, plant yield, carbon sequestration by soils and the nutrient status of crops.
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