Found this book on soil biology which highlights the importance of this soil food web. Excellent microscopy photos here, well worth checking over if you’ve never seen them before or if your thinking about looking at soil under a microscope. It also covers several other things like Seasonal Microbial Activity, Typical Numbers of Soil Organisms in Healthy Ecosystems, Methods for Measuring the Food Web etc. I loved reading this, I’m sure anyone who’s interesting in anything plant/soil related would too.
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.
Species across land, rivers and seas decimated as humans kill for food in unsustainable numbers and destroy habitats
The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.
I’ve just bought and watched this very informative documentary film about setting up and maintaining a “permaculture commercial orchard”, excellent for people wondering what permaculture looks like in a commerical sense then this is it. I really enjoyed the aspects on biodiversity, tree pruning, shrub and herbaceous planting, attracting beneficials etc. You might want to consider buying this one, I’m glad I did.
“The Permaculture Orchard : Beyond Organic is a feature-length educational film that will teach you how to set up your own permaculture orchard at any scale. We recognize the limitations of the organic model as a substitute to conventional fruit growing, and want to propose a more holistic, regenerative approach based on permaculture principles. Based on 20 years of applied theory and trial and error, biologist and educator Stefan Sobkowiak shares his experience transforming a conventional apple orchard into an abundance of biodiversity that virtually takes care of itself. The concepts, techniques and tips presented in this film will help you with your own project, whether it is just a few fruit trees in your urban backyard, or a full-scale multi-acre commercial orchard.”
New research has identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.
Consumers are increasingly demanding higher standards for how their meat is sourced, with animal welfare and the impact on the environment factoring in many purchases. Unfortunately, many widely-used livestock production methods are currently unsustainable. However, new research out today from the University of Cambridge has identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.
Professor Donald Broom, from the University of Cambridge, who led the research said: “Consumers are now demanding more sustainable and ethically sourced food, including production without negative impacts on animal welfare, the environment and the livelihood of poor producers. Silvopastoral systems address all of these concerns with the added benefit of increased production in the long term.”
Continue reading “Sustainable Livestock Production Is Possible”
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.
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.”