Life In The Soil: A Perspective To Healthy Farming

“Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, and what lies between—a healthy ecosystem underfoot is key to the vigor of life above ground. A leader in soil microbiology and author of the USDA’s Soil Biology Primer, Dr. Elaine Ingham will detail the complex interactions within the soil that make clean water, clean air, and life for higher creatures possible. Learn to foster and sustain the proper balance of soil organisms, and hear how compost tea can stimulate plant productivity and stave off disease. Dr. Ingham is also the founder of Soil Foodweb, Inc. and the former chief scientist for the Rodale Institute.”

I found this to be an excellent and completely fascinating introduction to the soil food web, I’d highly recomend it. This comes in 5 parts and is around 3 hours long in total, I know I’ll be listening to this one more than once thats for sure, check it out and be prepared to learn a lot from this fasinating woman.

PART 2: https://vimeo.com/90902847
PART 3: https://vimeo.com/90908150
PART 4: https://vimeo.com/90913699
PART 5: https://vimeo.com/90913700

Teaching Manual On Organic Farming And Gardening

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I found this “resource for instructors” when browsing the net and thought it would be useful for all, teacher or not. The document is 700 pages long so I’ve not had a chance to review it all yet but it’s an outstanding free resource, it also proives a good structure for those to test their knowledge on organic growing. They are also pointpoint presentations and videos on the link below so be sure to check those free resources out too.

“This manual is revolutionary, because of how dominant the chemical- and resource-intensive paradigmfor growing plants has become. As the world population grows and our climate changes, agricultural and food systems are ever more stressed and will be so for years to come. Diversified farming systems employing the techniques described in this manual absolutely can feed the world, as many studies continue to prove. If the future of food and agriculture is at all sustainable and just, it is far more likely to employ the methods in this manual than so-called conventional agricultural techniques. But perhaps most important for you, our readers, this manual is useful because it works. The practices described here can be employed in a variety of climates, soils, and educational settings. The information on soil science provides a solid grounding for the practices described, and the units on social and environmental issues offer a broader context for those interested in sustainable agriculture.”

LINK: http://casfs.ucsc.edu/about/publications/Teaching-Organic-Farming/index.html
EBOOK: http://casfs.ucsc.edu/about/publications/Teaching-Organic-Farming/PDF-downloads/TOFG-all.pdf
DIRECT DOWNLOAD: https://planetpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/teaching_organic_farming_pdf.pdf

An Illustrated Guide To Common Plant Diseases

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I’ve just found an excellent website for the most common plant diseases, it’s an amazingly well illustrated document that everyone into Horticulture/Agriculture should check out and bookmark. One of the best resources I’ve come across to date for photographs and illustrations, well worth a look not only when you’re having problems but also to help familiarise yourself with them so you know what to look out for.

It covers the symptoms and signs, pathogen biology, disease cycle, epidemiology, disease management, and scientific, economic and social significance of major plant diseases.

LINK: https://www.apsnet.org/EDCENTER/INTROPP/LESSONS/Pages/default.aspx
FURTHER READING: https://www.apsnet.org/EDCENTER/INTROPP/Pages/default.aspx

New E.U. Law Lets Nations Ban Gene-Modified Crops

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After nearly five years of debate the European parliament has finally approved a new law that will allow EU nations to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM crops within their borders. While supporters of the new opt out law applauded it as the best possible compromise solution on GM for Europe, the staunchest proponents and opponents of GM cultivation are both sharply critical of the legislation.

‘This is a bad move for Europe,’ the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto said in a statement. ‘It undermines science, it undermines European farmers and it raises prices for European consumers.’

Bert Staes, the Greens’ parliamentary food safety spokesman, said: ‘Despite a majority of EU member states and citizens being consistently opposed to GMOs, the real purpose of this new scheme is to make it easier to wave through EU authorisations of GM crops.’ In the past, Staes has called the opt out law a ‘Trojan horse’ that will be used to open the door for GM cultivation in Europe.

Continue reading “New E.U. Law Lets Nations Ban Gene-Modified Crops”

Russian Government Seeks To Ban Production Of GMOs

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Russia’s government has submitted a bill to the country’s parliament, seeking to ban cultivation and breeding of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

The bill, submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament Tuesday, bans “the cultivation and breeding of genetically modified plants and animals on the territory of the Russian Federation, except for the use in expertise and scientific research.”

Importers of GMOs would be required to register and the government would be enabled to prohibit the import of such products to Russia after monitoring their effects on humans and the environment, according to the proposed legislation.

In addition, the bill envisions fines of up to 50,000 rubles (about $770) for officials and 500,000 rubles ($7680) for companies that fail to comply with existing GMO regulations.

Dozens of countries worldwide, including Russia, require food producers to label genetically modified foods, with opponents of GMOs, arguing that the health risks associated with such products have not been adequately studied.

In April 2014, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that Russia would not import GMO food products, having enough resources to produce non-modified foods.

LINK: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/179737/russian-government-seeks-to-ban-production-of-gmos.html

Toxin Produced By Oyster Mushroom Effective Against Nematodes

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The toxin produced by pleurotus ostreatus reduces the head size of nematodes.

“Many detrimental nematodes exist, including parasitic plant and animal nematodes. The Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is a famous mushroom that preys upon live nematodes. However, there have been no details reported on the mechanism of this predatory activity. Therefore, we investigated the predatory relationship between the nematode and P. ostreatus as a potential way of exterminating other various detrimental nematodes. Upon invasion by the nematode, the mushroom defends itself by causing the nematode’s head to shrink in size (anti-nematode activity). Our data suggest that this anti-nematode mechanism is associated with the peroxide of linoleic acid.”

Maybe this could be useful for things such as root-knot nematodes. Growing Oyster Mushrooms on your patch could turn out to not only tasty but also act as a natural “pesticide” as well. I’ll certainly be inoculating a few logs for the allotment this summer, maybe even some burlap sacks like Paul Statmets mentions in the last video, I believe he said the weaving is conductive to the fungi developing quickly.

SOURCE: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18379043

Organic Yields Higher Than Previous Estimates Claims New Study

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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.

Continue reading “Organic Yields Higher Than Previous Estimates Claims New Study”

Britain Must Grow More Sustainable Food

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Proposals for national food strategy calls for UK farming ‘revolution’ in response to climate change and food security (2010)

Britain must grow more food, while using less water and reducing emission of greenhouse gases, to respond to the challenge of climate change and growing world populations, the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, said yesterday.

“Food security is as important to this country’s future wellbeing, and the world’s, as energy security. We need to produce more food. We need to do it sustainably. And we need to make sure what we eat safeguards our health,” he said.

Launching the government’s food strategy for the next 20 years with a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, he proposed a consumer-led, technological revolution to transform UK farming.

“We know that the consequences of the way we produce and consume our food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves,” he said. “We know we are at one of those moments in our history where the future of our economy, our environment, and our society will be shaped by the choices we make now.”

He said consumers, rather than retailers, should lead by buying “greener” food, wasting less and growing more of their own: “People power can help bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold.”

Food businesses, supermarkets and manufacturers would follow consumer demand for food that was local, healthy and had a smaller environmental footprint – just as consumers had pushed the rapid expansion of Fairtrade products and free range eggs in the last decade, Benn said.
Continue reading “Britain Must Grow More Sustainable Food”

Preserving Peru’s Potato Heritage

Knobby, round, smooth, oblong, purple-mottled – Peru is home to thousands of potato varieties. Researchers are teaming up with local farmers to exchange know-how to protect the country’s diversity of spuds.

Project goal: preserving the diversity of potatoes and securing food supply

Implementation: The International Potato Center collects, analyzes and conserves seeds and plants of all potato varieties in the world by relying on farmers’ knowledge. The documented genetic diversity of the potato is meant to help identify robust varieties that can withstand different weather conditions

Biological diversity: Peru has more than 4,000 potato varieties. In addition, there are a further 1,000 varieties from other countries

Brownish grey, knobby and no-frills – that’s usually what potatoes are like, right? Not in Peru where the tuber comes in all colors and sizes and, at times, in curious shapes. The country is home to more than 4,000 potato varieties. Potatoes are one of the most important foods worldwide. The tuber was first imported to Europe by Europeans traveling from Peru – though only a few varieties grow here. The International Potato Center (CIP) wants to save this diversity of tubers as climate change increasingly demands more resilient varieties. The potatoes of the future are currently stored in the cool storage rooms and gene banks of the CIP while their counterparts are flourishing in the high mountains of Peru. Researchers are working closely with the local population by providing them with purified seeds for better harvests. In return, the scientists are drawing on local knowledge about potatoes and which varieties are best suited to changing soil and weather conditions.

Continue reading “Preserving Peru’s Potato Heritage”

Organic Agriculture Boosts Biodiversity On Farmlands

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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.

Continue reading “Organic Agriculture Boosts Biodiversity On Farmlands”