Rev Trevor Sargent’s Ecological Notes for January 2019 – Anyone can be a ‘Citizen Scientist’: Will you help with research into soil health?

Grow ObservatoryRemember the drought of last summer 2018? The soil moisture levels in the south-east dropped alarmingly. Grass stopped growing. Crops and animals (including my bees) suffered. The reality of climate breakdown hit home as predicted. Unfortunately, climatologists are also predicting that further extreme weather will become increasingly common. How can we help one another to adapt to changes in growing conditions?

Collecting data to map changes in soil moisture content in 2019

Satellites are now able to correlate readings of soil moisture from soil moisture sensors stuck in your soil, as long as they are more than 30m from a road and at least 20m apart.

EU wide project needs data from thousands of food growers

‘Grow Observatory’ is the name of an EU Commission funded project which provides soil sensors and support for anyone interested in ‘adopting’ one or more soil sensors, ‘planting’ them and uploading the data every two weeks. This requires the use of a smart phone.

Train to be a Citizen Scientist on Sat. 2nd Feb. in Diocesan Office, Kilkenny

ECOCFO, the diocesan environmental group, is hosting a morning training session with Ms Dee Sewell from the Grow Observatory for anyone interested in becoming a ‘Citizen Scientist’. The high-tech soil sensors, which normally cost €60, will be available free at this training session on Saturday, 2nd February, in the Diocesan Office, Kilkenny, from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Check out For information phone 087 2547 836.

Healthy soil is at the heart of a good Harvest Thanksgiving  - (Matthew 13:8)

Kathy Merrifield, a nematologist at Oregon State University has said, ‘Soil is much more than a prop to hold up our plants, healthy soil is a jungle of voracious creatures eating, defecating and reproducing their way toward glorious soil fertility. A single teaspoon (1 gram) of organically rich soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes. Soils with more organic matter tend to have more life, are better at retaining moisture and are less likely to flood. Mulching with compost, cover cropping and no-till farming practices tend to increase organic matter that is truly the foundation of life’.