Farmers are continually being blamed for nitrogen leaching. The blame really should be laid elsewhere, on the shoulders of our soil scientists, whose message has always been about growing tonnages of grass. Their farm advisers have gone out and spread this message.

They have treated soil as just a medium in which to pour the phosphate, potash, and nitrogen.

They have never put any effort into teaching farmers how to produce healthy soil that produces high humus, which helps the soil retain moisture and minerals.

To get healthy soil you have to encourage a very high worm burden. They take the rubbish, dead grass, into the soil; in the process they aerate the soil, produce humus, increasing fertility and encouraging soil bacteria — important for a healthy, productive soil.

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A positive effect of a high worm burden is that there is no material for facial eczema spores to grow in, no facial eczema puts a lot of money into farmers' pockets.

So perhaps people should lay off the farmers — they only did as they were told. Scientists have done a lot of good work with GM grasses.

G.R. SCOWN
Whanganui


Marvellous concert

I endorse everything that April Pearson wrote [letters, July 10] re the concert last weekend by the Schola Sacra Choir and the Gloria orchestra.

Were the choir a sports team, we would be marvelling at how they have "raised their game" under new conductor Iain Tetley.

His introductory notes hit just the right amount of information without being too much, and his enthusiasm was infectious. The venue was superb, and it was pleasing to see that extra chairs were needed for the large, appreciative audience.

H.R. HIGGIE
Whanganui

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Beginning of life

Mandy Donne-Lee's letter is a virtual repeat of letters she has penned from mid-2013 to the present. She prefers the biblical fairy tale of Genesis. It is more succinct, certainly, than the epic and thorough story of evolution, relying on third person narrative asserting that God sculpted Adam in His own likeness from mud (dust damped by mist) and Eve by first recorded surgery (blood and bone from Adam's extracted rib).

Well, that story probably went down well around Hebrew camp fires of about 4000 years ago, but not now, surely.

On the other hand, Carol Webb's demand for substantive evidence from Mandy will not — because it cannot — be met. But if we turn to Nick Lane, a current and celebrated research biologist, the story is the ongoing proof of evolution stretching over 40 thousand million years. His book, "The Vital Question", subtitled "Why is Life the Way It Is", was published in 2015. Lane leads the University College London Origins of Life Programme and in 2015 was awarded the Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to the molecular sciences.

By 1998 the evolutionary biologist Bill Martin worked out that the founding of the complex eukaryotic cell from which ALL subsequent complex life developed (including us, in the fullness of time) depended on "a host cell (an archeon) growing from two simple gases, hydrogen and carbon dioxide" from which mitochondria derived.

Martin concluded that the acquisition of mitochondria and the origin of complex life were one and the same event, and that all the elaborate traits of complex cells from the nucleus to sex to phagocytosis evolved AFTER the acquisition of mitochondria etc. (See pp 9>13, Intro. op. cit.)

I cannot, of course, summarise the following 290 pages, but the above paragraph indicates the established biochemical beginnings of complex life, the hugeness of its antiquity and the slow pace of its evolutionary advance.

RUSS HAY
Whanganui


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