Argentinian no till solution

Faced with serious soil erosion farmers in Argentinia have adopted ‘not till‘ farming in which fields are not ploughed during the year. Crops and seeds are planted directly into last years stuble with minimum disturbance to the soil. Coupled with other best practice farming techniques such as rotation and insect management, erosion has been reduced by 90%, evaporation by 70%, soil quality,  biodiversity and production have all increased and CO2 production has decreased. In the UK there are a growing number of farmers finding that ‘no till’ is providing noticeable advantages and it is being encouraged alongside rivers to reduce the amount of silt that washes into the water from the fields.

Scottish Super Honey

Jar of honeyIf you have ever wondered why Manuka honey costs upwards of £30 for a small jar it is because it has unique antibacterial properties. This ability to fight pathogens is becoming increasingly important as microbes gain resistance to manufactured antibiotics and Manuka is widely used in the health care industries. Ordinary, unheated honey has long been used as a wound dressing due to it’s mildly antibacterial properties and it’s ability to stimulate healing. However Manuka honey, principally from New Zealand and made by bees feeding of the Manuka bush, and Tualang honey, a Malaysian multifloral jungle honey made by bees nesting in Tualang trees, have been found to have particularly strong medicinal properties. Both contain high levels of anticeptic phenols.

Now scientists at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, have found that honey produced by bees in certain Scottish coastal regions has similar antibacterial properties. The honey has been named Portobello honey after a small sea-side town a few miles out from Edinburgh.

Although Manuka honey had 10 times more polyphenols than Portobello honey, it was found that both honeys were equally as effective at killing three penicillin resistant bacteria. Dr Lorna Fyfe, Head of Microbiology and Immunology at Queen Mary’s is leading the research to identify the active components. It is believed that the antibacterial qualities are derived from chemicals manufactured by the plants on which the bees feed, in order to create their own bacterial resistance. Dr Fyfe believes that the most active honeys come from robust plants living on poor soils in tough environments. Blossom honeys are a lot less medically active than heather honeys. Tests will now be made on the honey’s effectiveness against super bugs and those that cause food poisoning.

Honey: A realistic antimicrobial for disorders of the skin.

Geothermal Energy in Cornwall

Plans are unfolding to create the UK’s first geothermal power project near Redruth Cornwall. United Downs Deep Geothermal Power aims to be in operation by 2020. 99.9% of the planet is at a temperature greater than 100 degrees Centigrade. The geothermal gradient (temperature increase with depth) in Cornwall is higher than other areas of the UK and extensive research from the mid-70s has pin-pointed opportunities for geothermal energy.

The proposed power plant will be built and operated by Geothermal Engineering Ltd. Initially the plant will supply up to 3.15MW of electricity to the grid. In November 2011, Geothermal Engineering was awarded a grant of £6m from the European Regional Development Fund towards the cost of the project and drilling of the first well was expected to begin in late 2012. However in April 2013, the grant was withdrawn due to the company’s failure to attract private funding for the project. In 2017, sufficient capital was raised by renewable energy crowdfunding specialists Abundance Investment and the project is now going ahead.

Two wells will be drilled into fractured granite. Drilling should begin in the first quarter of 2018 and take around five months to drill a well 2.5km down. This will be followed by a deeper well of 4.5km, creating a circuit for water to be pumped down the shorter well and return up the deeper well. The very hot pressurised water will be converted into electricity using a steam turbine. The water for charging the reservoir will come from flooded mines, not from the local water supply. If all goes as planned, the Redruth operation could be operational in 2020. Ultimately, geothermal could provide as much as 1,000 megawatts of capacity in Cornwall.

Unfortunately the complicated structure of the rocks in Cornwall make this a risky project and as this is new technology to investors finding funding has been extremely difficult.

Another geothermal project that Geothermal Engineering hopes to complete is to provide geothermally heated water for the open air Jubilee Pool in Penzance, Cornwall.

The Eden Project in Cornwall was has also put forward a proposal for a geothermal engergy plant to provide all it’s power requirements and enough power for 40,000 local homes, but it is struggling to find funding.