Neem Cake Pest And Disease Resistance


Interesting little study concerning the positive effects this product can have on pests and diseases. Neem cake is a by-product from cold pressing of neem tree fruits and kernels and the solvent extraction process for neem oil. It’s often used as a natural source of macro (NPK) nutrients and other essential micro nutrients, it also acts as a “nitrification inhibitor” which prolongs the availability of nitrogen in the soil. I always add this to my potting mix in very small amounts, it goes a lot way, I think it’s great stuff. I’ve also started using it as a soil dressing on my allotment too. Nice permaculture product too, multifunctional uses, “recycled/reused” and organic.

“The effects of neem cake, a nutrient-rich organic material derived from neem seed, on plant-parasitic nematodes, Verticillium dahliae, and seedling damping-off diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium aphanidermatum were investigated. In greenhouse trials, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) caused a 67%–90% reduction in the number of lesion (Pratylenchus penetrans) and root-knot (Meloidogyne hapla) nematodes in tomato roots grown in three different soils. In the field, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) reduced the number of lesion nematodes by 23% in corn roots and 70% in soil around roots. Population densities of free-living nematodes were either enhanced or not affected by neem cake treatment. In laboratory tests, addition of 3% neem cake (mass/mass soil) to soil killed V. dahliae microsclerotia and increased soil pH from 5.2 to 8.7. Killing of microsclerotia appeared to be caused by generation of ammonia during decomposition of neem cake. In growth room assays, addition of 2% neem cake (mass/mass peat-based mix) to R. solani -infested peat-based mix 28 days before planting radishes reduced damping-off severity. In a sandy loam soil artificially infested with R. solani and a muck soil naturally infested with damping-off pathogens, addition of 0.5% neem cake (mass/mass soil) had no immediate effect on damping-off, whereas incubation of the amended soil for 7 days before planting radish or cucumber reduced damping-off severity. This suggested that neem cake was not directly toxic to the damping-off pathogens but that during incubation neem cake may have created a biological climate that was suppressive to disease.”

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Organic Yields Higher Than Previous Estimates Claims New Study


A major review comparing organic and conventional farming has found organic crop yields are much higher than previously thought.

The analysis of 115 studies showed that organic crop yields were only 19.2% lower on average than conventional crops, a smaller difference than previous estimates.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic and conventional farming.

Senior study author Prof Claire Kremen said: “With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it’s critical to look more closely at organic farming, because aside from the environmental effects of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilisers to increase crop yields has been declining.”

The researchers pointed out that the available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favour of conventional agriculture, so the estimate of the yield gap is likely overestimated.

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Good Old Organic Gardening Advice

This is a fabulous short video I’ve just come across from a 90’s TV series called “Garden Naturally” by Barbra Damrosch and Eliot Coleman.

This is all really sound advice and its as relevant and accurate today as it was back then. To me it seems a little ahead of it’s time in a sense but then I guess these “gardening” techniques tend not to change a great deal and nor should they really. Excellent clip showing what organic gardening growing is all about, keeping it simple and always remembering to “feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants”.

Subjects covered: Soil Fungi, Rock Soil Amendments, Soil Aeration, Organic Matter, Nitrogen Fixation, Compost Making, Scything Weeds, Planting Soft Fruit, Pruning, Mulching Weeds, Soil Fertility & PH, Planting Techniques etc

More to come from Eliot Coleman, in the next few posts to the blog…

Organic Agriculture Boosts Biodiversity On Farmlands


Does organic farming foster biodiversity? The answer is yes, however, the number of habitats on the land plays an important role alongside the type and intensity of farming practices. These are the findings of an international study that looked at ten regions in Europe and two in Africa. The results has been published in Nature Communications. The study shows that even organic farms have to actively support biodiversity by, for example, conserving different habitats on their holdings.

An international team, including scientists from Technische Universität München (TUM), investigated the contribution of organic farming to supporting farmland biodiversity between 2010 and 2013. Researchers wanted to explore whether organic farms are home to more species than their conventional neighbors. The team used uniform methods across Europe to capture data and analyze it to establish the impact of farming methods and intensity and of landscape features on biodiversity.

“Organic farming is beneficial to the richness of plant and bee species. However, observed benefits concentrate on arable fields,” says TUM’s Prof. Kurt-Jürgen Hülsbergen. His Chair for Organic Agriculture and Agronomy analyzed 16 Bavarian dairy farms.

The study investigated farms in twelve regions with different production systems. In each region, farms were selected randomly, half of them certified organic for at least five years. In Switzerland, grassland-based cattle farms were studied and in Austria the study looked at arable farms. In Italy and Spain, researchers focused on farms with permanent crops such as wine and olives, and on small-scale subsistence farms in Uganda.

More species because of field boundaries

More species were found in organic arable fields than in non-organic fields. In contrast, there was little difference in grasslands or vineyards. Organic farming benefited the four taxonomic groups of plants, earthworms, spiders and bees — which were sampled as surrogates for the multitude of creatures living on farmland — in different ways. In general, more species of plants and bees were found on organic than on non-organic fields, but not more species of spiders and earthworms.

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Plants Share Organic Nitrogen Which Aids Biodiversity


Organic nitrogen gives new clue to biodiversity
Dated: 12 April 2006

Scientists have found that organic nitrogen is more important for plant growth than previously thought and could contribute to maintaining diversity in grasslands.

Until recently it was generally believed that the most important source of nitrogen for plants was inorganic nitrogen. However, researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) from the University of Lancaster and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) have found that not only can organic nitrogen be directly taken up by plants it is also used differently by different species, enabling nitrogen sharing and biodiversity.

By tagging organic nitrogen with stable isotopes researchers have challenged the long held idea that organic nitrogen has to be first converted into an inorganic form before the plants can use it. Their findings have significant implications in unfertilised, low-productivity grasslands where organic nitrogen often appears in greater concentrations than inorganic forms.

Professor Richard Bardgett, lead researcher at the University of Lancaster explained: “This research provides important new information about what happens to organic nitrogen in real ecosystems in real time. Tagging amino acids also revealed that different plant species prefer different sources of organic nitrogen. These preferences may be a way for plants and microbes to avoid competition with their neighbours for nitrogen when it is in very short supply, effectively enabling them to share nitrogen and maintain biodiversity.”

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The Farming Lobby Has Wrecked Efforts To Defend Our Soil

Fields of Oil Seed Rape, from the air, Lincolnshire, April 2011.
Fields of Oil Seed Rape, from the air, Lincolnshire, April 2011. Photograph: Paul White /Alamy

In an extraordinary coup, farmers’ unions and the UK government have torpedoed the European soil framework directive.

“British soils are reaching crisis point.” Don’t take my word for it – this is a quote from a loyal friend of the farming industry, Farmers’ Weekly.

You would expect farmers to try to protect their soils, which are the foundations of their livelihood, and many do. There are some excellent farmers in Britain, careful, well-informed and always thinking of the future.

But across large areas of land, short-termism now triumphs over common sense. Farmers are often in debt to the banks, and seek to clear that debt as quickly as they can. Many are growing crops that are simply incompatible with protecting the soil. Some don’t seem to know very much about soil erosion and why it happens. Others – especially contract farmers working on other people’s land – don’t seem to care.

Sensible land use is giving way to smash-and grab-exploitation.

I always flinch at the name given to soil in the US: dirt. Here there’s a similar conflation: something dirty is said to have been soiled.

But soil is a remarkable substance, a delicately-structured cushion between rock and air, formed from thousands of years of physical and biological processes. It supports an ecosystem that turns unusable materials into plant food, it stores carbon, filters water and protects us from floods. Oh, and there’s the small consideration that without it we would starve. It is, as it takes so long to re-form once it is lost, effectively non-renewable.

Yet this great gift of nature is being squandered at a horrifying rate. One study suggests that soil in Devon is being lost at the rate of five tonnes per hectare per year. There are several reasons for this, mostly to do with bad practice, but the problem has been exacerbated by an increase in the cultivation of maize.

Like the growing of potatoes, maize cultivation with conventional methods in this country is a perfect formula for ripping the soil off the land, as the ground is ploughed deeply then left almost bare for several months. A study in south-west England suggests that the soil structure has broken down in 75% of the maize fields there.

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Soil Association In New Partnership To Certify Organic Exports To China


Soil Association Certification and China’s organic certification body, Organic Food Development Centre (OFDC), have entered into a unique partnership that makes it cheaper and simpler for the UK’s organic businesses to export to China.

Demand for organic products in China is growing rapidly, with the market estimated to be worth USD 7.8 billion by 2015 [1], indicating that China’s consumers are increasingly looking for food and products they can trust. The partnership will allow Chinese organic consumers to access more high quality UK organic produce, as well as enabling UK Soil Association certified organic businesses, who saw strong growth of 6% in 2013 [2], to export to this major market.

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