Saturday, 16 September 2017

Letting Go of Friendship

I recently wrote a blog post about friendship where I talked briefly about different type of friendships, the ebbing and flowing of friends, what makes a good friend and the loss of certain friendships. Following that post, I wanted to talk more extensively about letting go of friendship.

When it comes to the ending of romantic relationships, we, as a society, have general guidelines on what to do. We break up, we separate, we get divorced. There is a definitive end, and following that end there is an understood period of mourning, of heartbreak and of moving on.. But when it comes to friendships, things aren't so clear cut. Like romantic relationships, friendships also evolve and change over time. A friendship that was once mutually satisfying and fulfilling, may not always be that way. Sometimes these friendships can become toxic and slowly wear you down, and they can stop adding value to your life. Instead of bringing you up, this person begins to drag you down. But love, history and loyalty prevent us from feeling able to walk away. We can be manipulated into thinking that we can't live without this person, that we need this person and that we owe it to the friendship to persevere.

Unlike romantic relationships, we don't tend to sit down with our once closest friends and talk through our problems. But maybe it would make life easier if we did, if we could communicate and decide when enough is enough. Personally, I think it takes a lot more courage to walk away from those who were once our biggest platonic supports. Because 'breaking up' with your friends isn't really a thing. Instead we tend to describe it as 'drifting apart'. But drifting apart in my opinion, refers to the mutual growth away from a friend, an unspoken acknowledgement that you've both changed and that your friendship is no longer what it once was, but that's okay. Let's be grateful for what we had, for the good memories and the support, but lets move on.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case when a friendship runs its natural course. You may outgrow them, but they may not outgrow you. Sometimes your friends can become parasites that suck your energy for their benefit. And I know I may seem dramatic when I say that, but this parasitic behaviour isn't necessarily done maliciously. In fact, there are two very important relationships in my life that I'm currently in the process of letting go of, and neither one of those friends I believe have become negative forces in my life through their own choice.

A great friend is someone who nurtures you. Who you feel understood by. Whose company is easy to be in. Who encourages you to follow your dreams. Who sticks by you during the rough seas. Who is not judgemental. Someone whose company leaves you feeling positive and uplifted, cared for and understood.

A great friend is not someone who judges you. Who makes you feel inadequate. Who manipulates you. Who tries to control you. Who tries to make you feel guilty. Whose company leaves you feeling deflated and negative.

It can be hard to spot these signs. To accept that this person who you used to share so much with, who used to be your solace and support, who you thought truly got you like no-one else did, is not your best friend anymore. And when that person still considers you their best friend, when they rely on you for so much support, it's nearly impossible not to feel guilty for feeling this way. Walking away involves conflict, hurt and upset. It can make you feel like the baddie, and it can put you in a position for that person to blame you and make you feel like shit, simply because you had the strength to stand up for yourself and respect that life is too short for unhealthy relationships. Don't let that sadness and guilt stop you from doing what is best for you.

Okay, I'm going to go personal for a minute, so if you're here for the general advice, you may want to skip ahead a bit The first friend of the two I mentioned above has been one of my best friends since the end of secondary school. We became very close through being in some very sad situations that your average 16 year old generally won't be able to relate to and the empathy and grief that we both shared forged a bond that will last forever. There's no denying that. However, since we left for university, our friendship has been an uphill struggle. I've grown a lot from that grieving 16 year old, and moved on, and our moving on has taken very different paths.  We've spent three years trying to cling onto our close and special friendship, but we're both different people, who want different things from life, and who prioritise very differently and therefore we struggle to understand some of the choices that we each make. Thats okay. That's just who we are, and who we are isn't as compatible as we once were. There are friends in my life that I can call twice a year and its as though nothing has changed, but for some reason this friendship can't survive like that. It's either all or nothing, and the all just doesn't work, trust me, I've tried it. Giving this friendship my all made me realise that it was a toxic relationship to be in. So we're onto the nothing, which makes me sad, because I will always love and cherish this person, but I have to accept that two very different people and that she is someone I don't need anymore, and haven't really needed in quite some time. I realise that I'm being very vague here, but it wouldn't be fair to go heavily into detail.

The next friendship I consider waaaaay more toxic because some serious manipulation occurred, and it was only after being incredibly hurt by this person that I was able to see just how manipulated and badly treated I was by her. Now I'm not going to go into too much detail because I'm still quite heavily involved in the letting go process and I don't really want to make it glaringly obvious who this person is, but this friend made me feel like I needed her. She would constantly tell me, her friends and family how close we were, how we needed each other, how we were the best of friends. She would disguise mean comments as compliments. She would make me feel guilty for hanging out with other people, for doing things without her, for not telling her things. She bombarded me with her company, and never gave me any space. She essentially suffocated me so that I never got enough space to really think about what she was doing. It was how I imagine being in a relationship with someone who's very controlling would be like, except without the sex. Anyway, luckily for me, she did something that made me feel intense hatred towards her for a while and that allowed me to see things differently. I now realise that she never really understood me. She constantly made me feel judged for my opinions if I disagreed with her. She tried to make me feel less than her, and tried to make me feel as though I needed her. She was so manipulative and controlling, that i'm sad and surprised our friendship lasted for as long as it did. But it just goes to show, that sometimes we are blinded and we don't realise we're being manipulated to feel things we wouldn't otherwise feel.

So if you feel like you have a close friend who isn't actually the friend you thought they were, or the friend you need them to be, here are some tips for letting go.

Distance yourself. Meet new people. Try new things. Create space physically and emotionally. Lean on your other support systems, your family and other friends. Don't text them. Don't be at their beck and call. Think of yourself and do what you need to do to be happy.

You will meet people who are on your wavelength, and you will once again be reminded what a truly good and wholesome friendship looks like, and you'll realise just how toxic that other friendship was. Yes, it's sad to turn away from someone who meant so much, but like a romantic relationship that doesn't work out, the fact that you outgrew this person doesn't take away from what you had. You can still look back on your memories with fondness, you can still keep in contact with these people, you can still maintain a friendship at arms length, but you have to be able to accept them for who they are, and that is someone who may not understand you, who may not be on your wavelength.

Lots of love,

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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Sailing Around the UK

Last weekend, my friends Kendra and Mike (from the US) visited and we drove from Leeds up to Edinburgh for a few days. I thought, considering they've not spent time in the UK before, I'd put a few stops on the route North to give them a good British experience. As I was looking along the East coast, picking a few stops ( Whitby and Eyemouth) I realised that it's been 8 years since me, my mum, my dad and my brother PJ sailed to these places on our voyage around the UK back in 2009 (nb: we lived on a 40ft sailing boat called Moody Rainbow for a few years). So, as a result of an immense wave of nostalgia, I thought I'd repost the blog we (well, mostly my brother, mum and dad) wrote on that adventure, adding a few pictures of the trip. The trip itself was incredible and a complete once in a lifetime experience. I am beyond grateful and happy to have the craziest parents who took us on such an adventure. You can check out the blog here and I'm posting them here too.

Sunday 19th July 2009:
We left to make our way to Ipswich yesterday, with gale force 5-6 winds. We wanted to get to the end of the river Medway before deciding whether the sea was too rough for us to spend an 8-10 hour journey in it. When we got there, there was an imminent gale force 8 warning from the Met office and we decided to go across the Thames and anchor up for the night, where we could buy some new batteries for the boat and also look at a niggling problem with the engine's cooling system. As we reached the end of Southend pier, the niggling problem became more serious and we were forced to drop anchor further out than we'd wanted. My dad took the engine to bits for a while, looking for something that might cause it and we found that strainer on the sea water intake was full of barnacles and sand. Once we cleaned it and restarted the engine, it seemed happy enough to run without the temperature going above 90°C where it had got up to 110°C before.
After we anchored in the place we'd originally planned, I dropped Dad off with the dinghy so he could get the batteries and pick up my Mum, with the plan of picking them up on the dinghy again in an hour or two. However, after 10 minutes of being on the boat, Dad phoned me to tell me to take the boat back to Chatham on my own!

I sailed back over the Thames with the genoa and put it away at the mouth of the Medway since I didn't think I'd be able to tack up the river on my own. This turned out to be easier said than done with some heavy gusts of wind causing a real mess of the cabin below, but eventually I was motoring back to Chatham. Had some trouble with two sailing boats, who felt they'd take the 'give way to sail' ruleto its limit and forcing me right to the edge of the river before tacking back out of my way.

When I reached the lock at Chatham, Dad and Peter from Ladylove took my ropes and I was safely home. The second boat into the lock behind me was one of the sailing boats who'd forced me to the side of the river. turned out while I managed to get the boat in on my own, he and a crew of 3 or 4 couldn't and they made a right mess of things, which cheered me up a bit.

Turned out our first day ending up being more of a sea trial, but the engine problem was fixed and we now have two new domestic batteries. We'll now set off properly next Wednesday.

haven't posted for a while, so i'll quickly sum up the last few days and begin again in scarborough:
After leaving on Wednesday of last week, Mum and I sailed the boat up to Ipswich to meet Candi who had been staying at our Nana's, and Dad who had to work overnight in London. The journey was mainly good, winds were pretty high, but coming from behind, which made it alot more bearable than it would otherwise have been. The sun helped too, and Mum and I both got there with burnt noses. We ran the engine all the way there, which got rid of any of our fears about the engine overheating.
We stayed at Ipswich for a couple of days and then left at about midday on Saturday to Lowestoft. This time Candi and I sailed the boat while the parent's navigated from down below. We arrived in Lowestoft after a fairly uneventful journey with a Southerly wind, at about 8 o'clock. After mooring up, we had a swim in the marina since it's open to the sea. it wasn't as cold as you might expect but cold enough. We've been here since then, the weather has mainly been predicting force sixes, so we decided to wait before making possibly our longest single stint up to Scarborough.

Today, we hired a car and drove back to essex because we had some things to do, dad picked up his new phone case and when we got back, we were about to leave. last minute change of plans and even though we'd stowed everything away, ready to sail, the decision was made to leave in the early hours of the morning, to avoid sailing through the night if possible. Looks like we're going to have to anyway tomorrow night but hopefully we'll be in the routine of watches by then and it won't be so rough.

25th July 2009
We had put into Lowerstoft to sort out a couple of problems one of which was the autohelm as we had planned to sail straight from Ipswich to Scarborough however we didn't fancy 30 Hours with someone at the helm throughout. After some soldering and fuse replacement we were ready for the off.

28th July 2009
Candi woke us up at 2am so that we could leave at 3am but we went back to sleep for a little bit longer and got up at 4am and left at 4.15am. If only we had left that little bit earlier, we could have got into Scarborough. As it turned out there was not enough water in the harbour entrance so we had to anchor in the bay. We took watches to get us up to Scarborough as we anticipated that it would take us 24 hours continual sailing. Peter and Candi took the first 4 hr stint while P J and I slept a little bit longer.
P j and I were at the helm from 0800 until 1200. Thankfully the autohelm was working this time.
We got to Scarborough at around 3am after motorsailing all the way but couldn't get into the harbour until 6.45 as the depth over the sill was too low for our boat so we anchored up in the dark and caught a couple of hours kip.

Total distance travelled 131 nm.

Got into the harbour and moored up on the visitors pontoon which was a pleasant surprise as we were next to a trawler boat last year. While Candi and P J were sleeping, Peter and I went and had breakfast in the cafe overlooking the harbour. After catching a few more hours kip, we spent the day with my sister Anna and Jane. Had the best fish and chips in Scarborough.

30th July 2009
Left Scarborough for Whitby at 9.45am. The last bridge after high tide was at 13.02, so once again we had to motorsail to get there on time and we did with 1 minute to spare. if we had missed this bridge we would have had to wait on the waiting pontoon until 9pm for the next bridge lift. When we first came into Whitby we didn't know what everyone was raving about but after being there for 24hrs it truly is a beautiful town and St Mary's Church sends you back in time giving you a real insight into how life was over 200 years ago.

31st July 2009
Left Whitby at 12.20 to catch the 12.30 bridge and actually sailed without motoring for 4 hours averaging 7 knots. We did have to dodge lots and lots of lobster pots though but the views off the coast were magnificant. Arrived in Hartlepool at 16.45pm. Came into the lock with a small fishing boat which had just caught some mackeral and they gave us a couple. This was the most wonderful mackeral I have ever eaten. We are planning on 3 days stop over in Hartlepool before the next journey possibly to Tyneside/North Shields.

After Fiona and I came back by train at the weekend, Fiona to ready herself for work on Monday whereas I had a few things to sort in London. I finally made it back from London on the afternoon of the 3rd and was met at Hartlepool station by Peter and Candi. We Had some Lunch in town before wandering back to the marina and getting things prepared for the off the following morning. Hartlepool Marina and facilities were good however I am still waiting to see the prices drop as we travel further up North. If you are so inclined there are plenty of bars and restaurants surrounding the Marina.

We finally, after 4 days in Hartlepool, managed to get going again leaving at 0630 catching the tide with a following wind of about F5 and headed up to Blyth about 30Nm. Despite the swell we arrived 5 hours later just as the wind was starting to pick up a little. Blyth is not a Commercial Marina it is owned and run by the boat owners. At last the price dropped, we have been paying approximately £25 a night Blyth was £18. When we arrived the visitors Pontoon was busy so we were about to raft up when a couple of club members very kindly directed us to a single berth . The yacht Club is an old wooden light ship built in 1880 and had all the facilities we needed from beer to showers. We wandered into town (a distance of about 3 miles) to stock up on supplies. The local butcher was reasonably priced the quality was excellent with some beautiful white pudding. The rest of the afternoon we rested and popped into the yacht club for a quick drink and to settle the bill before an early night ready for an early start.

We left Blyth at about half five and put up the mainsail straight away, but there was very little wind. We motored most of the day but the wind picked up a little after the Farne Islands. There's allegedly the largest seal population in the UK in the Farne Islands, but we didn't see a single one. What we did though were lots of castles dotted along the coast and also our first mountains in the distance. As I write, we're just off the shore of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which means we'll shortly sail into Scottish waters for the first time. Eyemouth is in the distance and we should reach there in the next two to three hours depending on the tide.

Tomorrow we're hoping to sail up to edinburgh or Dundee and pick up Mum on the weekend. Where we go depends on whether or not we can find decent flights to Edinburgh or to Dundee. Edinburgh is a long way inland and it will add a day or two to our journey to go there, but maybe we will just for the experience.

Tuesday 11th August 2009:
We made it into Eyemouth on the 5th of August with the intention of stopping overnight. As we stopped the engine we heard a loud banging coming from the engine. The plan had been to sail to Granton so that it would be easier for Fiona to get to the boat from Edinburgh for her weekend visit. The decision was made to stay at Eyemouth so that I could inspect the engine. It turned out that one of the engine mounts had collapsed which will need replacing hopefully when we return to Chatham. I was able to carry out a temporary repair on Thursday which will get us through the journey time will tell. We hired a car from a small place some 34 miles from Eyemouth which meant a bus journey to collect the car then a drive back and then a 50 mile drive that evening to collect Fiona from Edinburgh Station. We had a lovely few days at Eyemouth topped off with Fiona coming up for the weekend. After dropping Fiona back and returning the car we had a further day, finally leaving on Tuesday morning (6 days after arriving).

Setting off at 0800 on Tuesday 11th August 2009 heading towards Arbroath we left with sunshine and light winds. Two miles out we set the main only to have the bottle screw at the top of the mast come apart and shower us with plastic bearings followed by the swift collapse of the main onto the deck. PJ quickly got ropes and the bosons’ chair ready and within 5 minutes we had him lifted to the top so that he could get the bottle screw back down. I know that PJ loves going up and has had plenty of practice however the light winds had picked up and there was a good swell throwing all over the place. Anyway he stayed aloft for approximately 45 minutes while I made repairs and we managed to get the sail back up (outstanding courage PJ). Its times like this that I realise how lucky I am to have PJ and Candi as crew. Candi was on safety rope and working hard holding the sail onto the boat when nature had other ideas. Some 8 hours later and after crossing a pretty rough entrance to the Firth of Forth we arrived in Arbroath and tied up right next to the Arbroath Smokies shop, lovely.

We were going to stay in Arbroath for a couple of days as the forecast wasn’t looking good however once up it looked OK so we made a run for Stonehaven, about 5 hours away. We left at 0800 and arrived at 1330 sailing most of the way between 7 and 8 knots. One hour out of Stonehaven the wind dropped so we put the sails away and motored into Harbour. We are currently tied up to the Harbour wall in a picture postcard Harbour. Weather permitting we will head to Peterhead tomorrow, about an 8 hour journey.

I arrived in Inverness on the sleeper train from London Euston to be met by Peter. Phillip, Louise and Logan came to visit.

We left Seaport Marina in Inverness at 12.30pm to enter the Caledonian Canal. We had four locks to navigate at first and then we were in the canal. We were quickly made aware of a lot of charter boats, some of who didn’t know much about boats and navigation.

We motored through Loch Ness to Fort Augustus Staircase. What a beautiful sight. We still have no mainsail but we do have some new ball barings.

Peter and P J fixed the mainsail so hopefully we can sail tomorrow. We also have charts to take us to Ireland. Hired a car as the weather was so bad and drove into Oban. The scenery is so beautiful . waterfalls, mountains and lots of woodland.
Motored on to Neptune’s Staircase. It rained all day. Stopped off and had lunch on the Eagle barge pub. What a great idea to turn a barge into a pub. Unfortunately the pub landlord’s had seen happier days. Today could have just been a bad day but I really believe they need to move on. There was no warmth or friendliness at all. Not to be revisited.

Left Oban marina on the Island of Kerrera and had a great day of sailing. We managed to get to our record speed of 11.1 knots while sailing. Yippee!
It was so windy we had to have the sails reefed in. Arrived at the Crinan Canal just before 5pm but couldn't get through as it was "home Time" for the staff, so stayed in the "basin" for the night.

Had a wonderful day travelling through the Crinan Canal. We set off from lock no15 at 9 oclock. We wanted to leave at 8.30 but it took the staff all that time to get organised!!!!
It took 7 hours to navigate to the otherside on the canal.
The first couple of locks were electric. The rest were hand operated by the boats who went through. We went through with with another boat Amarilys - Wilson and Elaine and had a great time. Candi and P J manned the locks with Elaine, opening and closing them when appropriate and letting the water flood through.

Opening and closing the lock gates was quite hard because it took a lot of strength but it kept us occupied and was much more fun than the caledonian canal. We had to open and close the sluices to let the water flood through, the boats in the locks ahead forgot to close the sluices so the water was flooding through and the water was above the level it was meant to be. (by Candi Bradford)

Sailed over to Tarbert and stayed there for the night. Saw three dolphins!

Due to the sea weather creating large waves (wind against tide) on Monday 31st August 2009 we were unable to sail across to Ireland as hoped, so we stopped off in Campbeltown for the night and it rained yet again. There is lots of rain in Scotland.
We had to rearrange our journey home as Candi and I (Fiona) have to be back at work/school on Thursday 3rd September. We did have two cheap flights from Dublin, so we are now flying from Campbeltown to Birmingham and then taking the train to Benfleet tomorrow morning.
We anchored off of Loch Ranza on the Isle of Arran on Sunday night and caught mackerel for our dinner. P J caught 4, Candi 5 and I caught 2 fish. It was great and what a lovely fish soup was had by all.

Well a slight delay in updating the blog mainly due to poor or no internet connections between Campbeltown and Dublin.
Wednesday the 2nd September saw Fiona and Candi departing from Campbeltown airport to get back for work and School. Peter and I spent Thursday carrying out some minor repairs to the boat, laundry and a visit to the local Library. It was not looking like the weather was going to break until after the weekend so we prepared ourselves to visit some of the local attractions.
I woke at 0500 on Friday to check the forecast and was surprised to find the forecast had decreased during the night from F5-F7 backing F8 to Backing F4-F5. We took the opportunity to go and were underway by 0600 and rounding Sanda Island off the Mull of Kintyre by 0800. The North Channel of the Irish sea can only be described as rough however we had the best and most exciting sail of the journey so far hitting 13.2 knots as we surfed our 15 ton boat down the following waves. We arrived in Bangor some 7 hours after leaving Campbeltown where we stayed overnight and left first thing the next morning after refuelling fully for the first time since Peterhead.
Sailing to Ardglas we started to see a change of wind direction from the North West to the South West which is not what we really wanted. We stayed overnight leaving at 1000 to head for Dublin unfortunately we had strong winds on the nose and we also developed an Alternator and Engine problem so after 2 hours we turned and came back to Ardglas for repairs and to sit out what developed into an pretty nasty day with gust at F9.
After a fuel filter, oil and filter change we set off the next morning toward Dublin. Once again strong winds on the nose meant slow motoring so engine off we sailed towards the Isle of Man before tacking back in towards Carlingford Lough several hours later. Weather forecasts looked grim for the following 2 days so we stayed in Carlingford leaving at lunchtime on Wednesday the 9th September 2009.
What a change in the weather no wind and plenty of sun not good for sailing of course we had to motor from Carlingford to Howth the day was beautiful and to see the Irish sea tamed (mill pond) was some sight. We are currently in Dun Laoghaire about to head south once again either to Wexford or the Isles of Scilly. We arrived here yesterday 13th September after a wonderful stay at Howth and catching up with the Irish Clan.
Thursday we had lunch at Deer Park Golf Course with Brendan, Marie, Jack, Celine, Joe, Breda (Thank You)it was lovely to see you all, what a view.
Friday Peter and I got the train into the city visited the building where Mum worked as a young lady. We walked to Guinness and did the tour courtesy of tickets from Brendan via Jack we bypassed the queue thank you. We then walked over to Cabra and had some lunch with Brendan and Marie before 9 holes of Golf with Jack and Brendan. The Fagan’s showed no mercy on the Bradford’s. We finished the day off at Sharon and Marks that evening with in Sharon’s words just a salad. If that was just a salad I don't know what I have been eating in the past. It was a wonderful meal and we had such a laugh thank you both.
Saturday Brain and Caraiosa and Children visited us and we took the boat to Lamby Island and dropped anchor had a swim and lunch before coming back to Howth and onto Brian’s House for the evening.
Brian and Caraiosa you have 4 truly wonderful boys, thank you for your hospitality (second to none) and also for doing our washing. Peter and I did not stop talking about the stay all the way to Dun Laoghaire. See you soon.

Ireland We Love You.

Although we only stayed overnight in Dun Laoghaire the marina was one of the best on this trip. It was spacious with good facilities. We set off not quite early enough to get the full flood down to Tuskar Rock just off Wexford which meant a change of plan and a diversion towards Milford Haven and Padstow. The original passage plan was to sail straight to Falmouth. We had pretty fast sail across the Irish Sea during the night averaging around 8 knots. Once we made the turn at Milford Haven and headed across the Bristol Channel escorted for the 10 hours by dolphins. I am sure that we were going so fast they fancied a race either that or they knew we were about to have some engine problems.
We had just got Padstow so decided to start the engine and get ready to drop the sails when once again the engine started to increase and decrease in speed. We managed to limp into Padstow where once again we changed the fuel filters and checked the lines.
Padstow offers a warm welcome and the best organised Harbour wall facilities of our journey so far we were very impressed. Thinking all was well with the engine after checking most things I could think of and then several more items after speaking to the Resident Diesel Expert (Thanks Dad your advice is always so helpful) we set off. We managed to fuel up and then hit open sea before the engine decided to stop completely. Unfortunately Padstow is not somewhere that you can sail into with a boat our size. We already had the sails up so the decision was easy to continue and had around to Penzance under sail. During the voyage we made repeat attempts to start the engine however as we started to drain the domestic batteries we refrained from trying again. The passage was made in pretty good time until we round Land’s End when we hit the doldrums. As the light faded we managed to get a tow from a passing yacht before the rope breaking and the yacht leaving us to continue by sail. We pushed on towards Falmouth at 2 knots until about 0100 when the wind increased from F2 to F6 very quickly. When we tried to reef in the Genoa, we couldn’t which meant a visit up on the deck in complete darkness and mounting seas. We hove to for the next 4 hours, 8 miles out to sea from the Lizard drifting at 2 knots and then managed some shut eye on a short watch system 1 hour on 1 off. Day light came we sorted the sails and headed towards Falmouth making good progress until the tide turned and the wind dropped once again. Tacking slowly towards Falmouth at a speed of 2 knots, 15 miles seemed to take so long. We managed to get to within 2 miles of Falmouth before losing the wind again at which point we were able to organise a tow. The 12 hour passage to Penzance turned into 34 hours to Falmouth where we have now had the engine looked at fuel tank cleaned and all running OK.
Tuesday 22nd September we set sail for Plymouth only to get 30 minutes out before the engine started to play up once again. Creeping slowly back we managed to tie up once more. As I type the Engineer is back on board and after several checks the Fuel pump/governor is coming off and going to be checked and serviced (1 week) I seem to remember the Expert (Dad) saying some weeks ago when this first started that it sound like the governor was sticking looks like you could be right.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Are Rhizobia an effective replacement for nitrogen fertiliser?

1.       Abstract 
The use of nitrogen fertiliser in agriculture worldwide is a cause for concern, with particular reference to the over-application of nitrogen fertiliser, and sustainable alternatives are increasingly sought. One such sustainable alternative is the process of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) through the inoculation of plants with nitrogen fixing bacteria. One type of nitrogen fixing bacteria are Rhizobia, which are most commonly associated with the root systems of certain legume crops such as peas and beans. This report aimed to investigate whether the use of rhizobial bacteria provides an effective replacement for nitrogen fertiliser. Five treatment groups containing six replicates were used during the experiment. One control treatment group, two nitrogen fertiliser treatments, one with a standard application of 0.41g pot-1, one with a double application of 0.82g pot-1, and two rhizobia treatment groups, one with a standard application of 1ml and one with a double application of 2ml. The results after three weeks revealed no significant difference between the nitrogen treatments and the rhizobia treatments in terms of shoot growth and leaf area, indicating rhizobia as an effective replacement. However, the results of the stomatal conductance and chlorophyll concentration showed the nitrogen treatment groups with significantly higher levels. These results suggested that given the time constraints of the experiment, the nitrogen fertiliser treatment may have showed higher plant growth had there been more time for the plants to grow. However, results suggest that rhizobia are still effective and may be of use as a supplement to fertiliser application.

2.       Introduction 
Agriculture underwent significant development post World War II, with the development and subsequent mass production and distribution of inorganic fertilisers, biocides and cross-bred crop varieties in addition to an increase in mechanisation and irrigation practices (de Wit, 1992; Patel, 2013). This evolution led to a new age of agriculture that is now termed modern agriculture. The use of modern agricultural practices has stimulated substantial necessary increases in global food production in line with increasing global population and subsequent food demand (Tilman et al, 2002; Patel, 2013). Von Liebig’s Law of the Minimum states that crop yield is only as good as the most limiting nutrient found in the soil (de Wit, 1992; Paris, 1992). Being an important macronutrient, the absence of fixed nitrogen has typically been a major limiting factor in agricultural productivity (Zahran, 1999). The use of chemical fertilisers has been instrumental in increasing crop yields and between 1960-1995, global crop yields more than doubled and global use of nitrogen fertiliser increased sevenfold (Patel, 2013; Tilman et al, 2002).  

However, this global use of nitrogen fertiliser is unsustainable and a cause for concern as over-application of nitrogen fertiliser is common practice and has negative consequences economically and environmentally (Bohlool et al., 1992; de Wit, 1992). Resource use efficiency states that resource application and plant growth exhibit a curvilinear relationship, whereby plant yield increases with resource availability. However, when the nutrient availability reaches a certain optimal point, any further application of nutrient leads to a reduction in efficiency (de Wit, 1992). This is economically wasteful for farmers as input costs begin to catch up with output revenue, and the profit margin becomes smaller. Environmentally, high rates of nitrogen fertiliser can cause leaching into fresh water systems, leading to eutrophication and loss of biodiversity in some areas. It is also costly in terms of water purification to ensure clean and safe water. Nitrogen fertiliser production is also extremely energy intensive and significantly contributes to emissions in agriculture (Tilman et al, 2002). When crops surpass the peak in resource use efficiency, it becomes both uneconomical and environmentally degradational to continue increasing fertiliser use. Therefore, many farmers rely on soil chemical analysis to determine the fertiliser application rate that will be the most efficient.

However, extensive over-use of nitrogen fertiliser continues. Sustainable alternatives are desperately required to ensure that high crop yields are maintained without being at the expense of the farmer and the environment. The process of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) may provide a suitable alternative to inorganic fertiliser that is both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. If not a replacement, then it may provide a good supplement to farmers to allow a reduction in nitrogen fertiliser application. Nitrogen fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate by forming a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants. The bacteria then create root nodules. This nodulation allows crops to fix nitrogen into nitrate from the surrounding soil and therefore enhance plant growth and yield without the external application of synthetic fertiliser. Rhizobial bacteria are commonly associated with the root systems of certain legume crops such as peas and beans, and certain bacteria only nodulate certain crops. Inoculation of certain plants with these bacteria may lead to increases in plant yield. As a result of the specificity of bacteria, there is a high variance in the effectiveness of bacteria and nitrogen fixation (Mpepereki et al, 2000). Due to lack of widespread practice and research, there is large uncertainty as to how BNF will react with large crop systems in practice (Bohlool et al., 1992). Some researchers have attempted to investigate the effect of rhizobial bacteria in practice but the effectives of BNF appears to be very variable in outcome depending on the environment in which the crops were grown (Seneviratne, Van Holm and Ekanayake, 2000; Mpepereki et al, 2000).

The aim of this report is to investigate whether the use of rhizobial bacteria provides an effective replacement for nitrogen fertiliser. For the purposes of analysis, the hypothesis for this experiment is that Rhizobia are an effective replacement for nitrogen and the null hypothesis is that rhizobia do not provide an effective replacement for nitrogen fertilisers.

3.       Materials & Methods
To investigate whether Rhizobia are an effective replacement for nitrogen fertiliser, 30 soybean (Glycine max) seedlings were transferred into 1L pots and divided into five treatment groups containing six replicates. The treatment groups were as follows:
  1. Control
  2. N1 - nitrogen fertiliser recommended dose/ 0.41g
  3. N2 - nitrogen fertiliser double dose/ 0.82g
  4. R1 - rhizobia recommended dose/ 1ml
  5. R2 - rhizobia double dose/ 2ml
The soil used in the experiment had an index of 0 for N, 3 for P and 1 for K and Mg, therefore was low in nitrogen, potassium and magnesium, but high in phosphorous. The seedlings were kept in a greenhouse for three weeks to ensure optimum growth conditions for light, temperature and water, and the treatment groups were randomly placed within the greenhouse to avoid spatial differences between treatment groups.
Figure 1: Soybean plants at the beginning of the experiment, after initial treatment added.
Figure 2: Soybean plants at the end of the experiment, 3 weeks after treatment application.

After the three week period of growth, the soybean plants were harvested and a series of measurements were taken. Pre-harvesting, stomatal conductance, chlorophyll concentration and chlorophyll fluorescence were recorded using a porometer, a SPAD meter and a PEA meter respectively. The measurements were taken from the first developed trifoliate of each plant for consistency. Following this, the leaves of the plants were placed onto a leaf area machine to measure the leaf area. The plants were then harvested and divided into root and shoot to record the fresh root and shoot weight. The roots were washed and dried before weight measurements. Nodules on the roots were also counted.

3.1. Statistical Analysis
One-way ANOVA tests were used to statistically compare the data between treatments. If the ANOVA results showed significant difference (a p value of <0.05), a post-hoc Tukey test was run to determine which treatment groups were significantly different from one another. All statistical analyses were run using SPSS.

4.       Results
Table 1. Results of a one-way ANOVA for plant characteristics between different treatment groups.
Plant Characteristic
F- value
Stomatal conductance
Fresh shoot weight
Fresh root weight
Total fresh weight
Leaf Area
Chlorophyll concentration

Figure 3: Mean average stomatal conductance for each of the treatment groups.

N1 showed the highest mean average stomatal conductance, 345mmol m-2s-1, followed by N2 with 297mmol m-2s-1. The control, R1 and R2 exhibited similar figures for stomatal conductance, 41, 39 and 48mmol m-2s-1 respectively as shown in Figure 3. These results indicate a difference between the nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups and those not applied with nitrogen fertiliser. A one-way ANOVA showed significant difference between treatment groups.
The post-hoc Tukey test revealed that the N1 treatment group was significantly different in stomatal conductance to the control, R1 and R2 groups. However, the N2 treatment group showed no significant difference to any other treatment group and there were no significant differences between R1, R2 and the control group (See Appendix 1).

Figure 4: Mean fresh shoot weight for each of the treatment groups

Figure 5: Mean fresh root weight for each of the treatment groups.

Figure 4 shows that the highest mean fresh shoot weight was found in N2 with 6.7g, and the lowest in the control group with 5.1g. The result of a one-way ANOVA showed no significant difference between groups. Figure 5 shows that the highest mean fresh root weight was round in R2 with 4.6g and the lowest in N1 with 2.2g. The result of a one-way ANOVA showed significant differences between treatment groups.
The post-hoc Tukey test revealed several significant differences between groups. The root weights of R1 and R2 were significantly different from N1 and N2 but not from the control. N1 was significantly different from the control, R1 and R2, however N2 was not significantly different from the control (See Appendix 2).
Figure 6. Mean nodule count for each of the treatment groups.
Nodulation was found only in the rhizobia treated plants. There were no significant differences between R1 and R2 for nodule count.

Figure 7. Mean leaf area for each of the treatment groups.

N2 showed the highest mean leaf area with 246cm2 and the lowest was shown by the control treatment group with 172cm2 as shown in Figure 7. A one-way ANOVA showed significant differences between groups.
The results of the post-hoc Tukey test revealed that the only significant difference was between the control and N2 treatment groups. There were no other statistically significant differences in leaf area between treatment groups (See Appendix 3).

Figure 8. Mean chlorophyll concentration for each of the treatment groups.

The highest mean chlorophyll concentration was exhibited by N1 with 34 and the lowest was R1 with 20. The one-way ANOVA showed significant differences between groups. The post-hoc Tukey test revealed that N1 had significantly different levels of chlorophyll to every other treatment group, including N2. However, there were no other significant differences between groups (See Appendix 4).

5.       Discussion (951 words)
When looking at plant growth indicators such as fresh shoot weight and leaf area, there were no significant differences between the rhizobia treatment groups and the nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups. The one significant difference found was between the control and N2 treatment. This result would suggest that rhizobia bacteria are an effective replacement for nitrogen fertiliser, as there were no observable benefits of using nitrogen fertiliser over rhizobia. However, the fact that there were no significant differences between N1, R1, R2 and the control for both plant growth parameters would suggest that no treatment would also be an effective replacement. This indicates that time was a major constraint in this experiment. Had the plants had more time to grow, it is likely that there would be more significant quantitative differences between groups, and would give a clearer result.

Despite no significant difference between the rhizobia treatment and the nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups, the results of the experiment indicate that N2 treatment group was the most effective treatment, as it was the only treatment group to exhibit significant difference from the control group in leaf area. Although this suggests that a double dose of nitrogen is the most effective for plant growth, in practice, this application would be both economically and environmentally unsustainable. Resource use efficiency states that resource application and plant growth exhibit a curvilinear relationship, whereby plant yield increases with resource availability. However, when the nutrient availability reaches a certain optimal point, any further application of nutrient leads to a reduction in efficiency (de Wit, 1992). This means that it takes more resources to promote further increases in yield and these increases will be smaller than for plants in a nutrient lacking environment. This is economically wasteful for farmers as input costs begin to catch up with output revenue, and the profit margin becomes smaller. It is also environmentally unsustainable due to high levels of nitrogen run off leading to degradation and pollution of the surrounding area, in combination with the intensive energy cost for the production of ammonia.

The fresh root weight differences between the nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups and the rhizobia treatment groups, could at face value, be assumed due to nodulation on the rhizobia treated plants. However, there were no significant differences between the control group and the rhizobia groups, which did not have nodulation on the roots. The significant difference was found between nitrogen fertiliser treated plants and the rhizobia treated plants. This result fits with the resource optimization hypothesis/paradigm. This hypothesis states that as nutrient availability increases, plants allocate less resources to their root growth as less effort is required to acquire nutrients from the soil (Agren and Franklin, 2003). The hypothesis also states that this resource allocation follows a curvilinear behaviour, as this decrease in root growth is not found in extreme conditions of high nutrient availability (Agren and Franklin, 2003). This is reflected in the results, as the N1 treatment group showed the lowest root weight as opposed to the N2 treatment group.

Although the plant growth results of the experiment indicate no significant difference between rhizobia treatment groups and nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups, other parameters such as chlorophyll concentration and stomatal conductance showed that there were significant differences between nitrogen treatments and rhizobia treatments. The N1 treatment group had significantly higher levels of chlorophyll than every other treatment group, including N2. This was also the case in terms of stomatal conductance.

There is a relationship between chlorophyll concentration and the rate of photosynthesis (Fleischer, 1935). This relationship appears to be proportional, however it appears that the relationship is highly dependent on other variables such as iron content (Fleischer, 1935). Stomatal conductance shows a strong relationship with rate of photosynthesis. There is a linear correlation between stomatal conductance and CO2 assimilation (Ball, Woodrow and Berry, 1987). Similarly to chlorophyll concentration, this relationship with rate of photosynthesis is dependent on external environmental factors (Ball, Woodrow and Berry, 1987). Given that external factors such as soil, temperature, light and water were controlled for and given the time constraints of the experiment, it may be hypothesised that with more time, the plants with the nitrogen fertiliser treatments would exhibit an increased yield, due to the link between photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and chlorophyll concentration. Interestingly, the N2 group did not exhibit significant differences in these parameters whereas the N1 treatment group did. Whilst this is difficult to explain, it suggests that a reduction in input of fertiliser may not have dire negative effects on plant growth and yield. The chlorophyll concentration and stomatal conductance results from the N1 treatment group indicate high plant health and optimal growth conditions.

Overall, the results of the experiment show that due to the lack of significant difference between treatments of nitrogen and rhizobia, rhizobia at this stage is a suitable replacement. However, it seems likely that had the plants been given more time to grow, the nitrogen fertiliser treatment groups would have exhibited significantly higher rates of growth than the rhizobia treatment groups.

            Despite this, the benefits of rhizobia should also be acknowledged. Research suggests that although rhizobia may not provide an equivalent effective replacement in terms of yield, there is evidence to suggest that the increase in rhizobia in nutrient poor soil increases the amount of nitrogen found within the plants themselves. Although this may not translate initially to increased yield, in proceeding years, after plant decomposition, these nutrients may become available for succeeding crops and therefore increases nutrient availability in certain areas without applying inorganic synthetic fertiliser (Seneviratne, Van Holm and Ekanayake, 2000). This is therefore beneficial both environmentally and economically as farmers will not have to continually buy and apply high volumes of nitrogen fertiliser to their crops.

6.       Acknowledgements
Plant Impact Ltd is thanked for kindly donating the rhizobium inoculant: Bradyrhizobium japonicum used in this experiment. Also, a big thank you to the LEC demonstrators for looking after our soybean plants during the three week growing period and for their help and guidance during the practical.

7.       References
·         Agren, G. and Franklin, O. (2003). Root : Shoot Ratios, Optimization and Nitrogen Productivity. Annals of Botany, 92(6), pp.795-800.
·         Ball, J.T., Woodrow, I.E. and Berry, J.A., 1987. A model predicting stomatal conductance and its contribution to the control of photosynthesis under different environmental conditions. In Progress in photosynthesis research (pp. 221-224). Springer Netherlands.
·         Bohlool, B.B., Ladha, J.K., Garrity, D.P. and George, T., (1992). Biological nitrogen fixation for sustainable agriculture: A perspective. In Biological nitrogen fixation for sustainable agriculture, pp. 1-11. Springer Netherlands.
·         de Wit, C. (1992). Resource use efficiency in agriculture. Agricultural Systems, 40(1-3), pp.125-151.
·         Fleischer, W. (1935). The Relation Between Chlorophyll Content and Rate of Photosynthesis. The Journal of General Physiology, 18(4), pp.573-597.
·         Mpepereki, S., Javaheri, F., Davis, P. and Giller, K. (2000). Soyabeans and sustainable agriculture, Promiscuous soyabeans in southern Africa. Field Crops Research, 65(2-3), pp.137-149.
·         Paris, Q. (1992). The von Liebig Hypothesis. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 74(4), p.1019.
·         Patel, R. (2013). The Long Green Revolution. Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(1), pp.1-63.
·         Seneviratne, G., Van Holm, L. and Ekanayake, E. (2000). Agronomic benefits of rhizobial inoculant use over nitrogen fertilizer application in tropical soybean. Field Crops Research, 68(3), pp.199-203.
·         Tilman, D., Cassman, K., Matson, P., N=aylor, R. and Polasky, S. (2002). Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices. Nature, 418(6898), pp.671-677.
·         Zahran, H.H., 1999. Rhizobium-legume symbiosis and nitrogen fixation under severe conditions and in an arid climate. Microbiology and molecular biology reviews, 63(4), pp.968-989.

8.       Appendices

8.1. Appendix 1

8.2 Appendix 2
 8.3. Appendix 3
8.4. Appendix 4

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