Earthworms Increase Plant Production

To meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population with minimal environmental impact, we need comprehensive and quantitative knowledge of ecological factors affecting crop production. Earthworms are among the most important soil dwelling invertebrates. Their activity affects both biotic and abiotic soil properties, in turn affecting plant growth. Yet, studies on the effect of earthworm presence on crop yields have not been quantitatively synthesized. Here we show, using meta-analysis, that on average earthworm presence in agroecosystems leads to a 25% increase in crop yield and a 23% increase in aboveground biomass. The magnitude of these effects depends on presence of crop residue, earthworm density and type and rate of fertilization. The positive effects of earthworms become larger when more residue is returned to the soil, but disappear when soil nitrogen availability is high. This suggests that earthworms stimulate plant growth predominantly through releasing nitrogen locked away in residue and soil organic matter. Our results therefore imply that earthworms are of crucial importance to decrease the yield gap of farmers who can’t -or won’t- use nitrogen fertilizer.

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Neem Cake Reduces Alkalinity In Soil (PH Down)

Neem-Cake

“Neem seed cake also reduce alkalinity in soil, as it produces organic acids on decomposition. Being totally natural, it is compatible with soil microbes, improves and rhizosphere microflora and hence ensures fertility of the soil. Neem Cake improves the organic matter content of the soil, helping improve soil texture, water holding capacity, and soil aeration for better root development.”Wikipedia

There it is, another added benefit of the Neem Cake is its ability to create a favourable growing environment on the more alkaline soils. So not only are you getting an excellent source of organic nutrients and the “pest and disease resistance” it’s also working as a soil conditioner too.

The below shows how soil PH affects the availability of nutrients to the plants, it’s useful as a general guide.

Biochar Helps Combat Nematodes And Increases Yields

Carbongoldtom

A biochar-based soil improver, enriched with species of mycorrhizal fungi, actinomyces bacteria and trace elements is helping to combat the root-knot nematode – significantly increasing yields for organic tomato growers in Portugal.
Biochar is a highly porous, high carbon form of charcoal used to improve soil nutrition, growing conditions and soil structure. It is made from any waste woody biomass that has been charred at a low temperature with a restricted supply of oxygen, a process called pyrolysis. This process results in a stable form of carbon that is removed from the atmospheric carbon cycle when added as a soil amendment.

“Where we have incorporated Carbon Gold Soil Improver in the very sandy soil at our Portuguese nursery we have seen a 7% yield increase and a lower level of nematode infestation than areas that were not treated.” – Paul Howlett, Head of Agronomy at Vitacress Tomatoes

Vitacress Tomatoes (formerly Wight Salads) trialled Soil Association and SKAL approved enriched biochar from UK biochar company, Carbon Gold, from June 2013 to April 2014 in order to improve the sandy soils at their Portuguese nursery. They applied 2kg per square meter to a 5 hectare trial plot taken to a depth of 30cm, analysing the outcomes against a 5 hectare control area with the same crop.

The increase in crop yield was significant. By week 24 they realised a 7% higher yield, (an additional 0.9kg per m2) compared to the 5ha control plot. This equated to an additional 2,600kg Piccolo Cherry on the Vine tomatoes.

In the Vitacress trial plots it became evident that the colonies of mycorrhizal fungi, using biochar as a refuge in the soil, were able strike out at parasitic Meloidogyne nematodes, enticing and devouring the microscopic pests and protecting the plant roots from attack.
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Guide To Sustainable Soil Management

BuildingSoilsOriginal A thorough, free, easy-to-read guide for ecological soil management which includes nutrient management, nutrient cycles, cover crops and other soil-improving practices. “Building Soils for Better Crops is a one-of-a-kind, practical guide to ecological soil management, now expanded and in full color. It provides step-by-step information on soil-improving practices as well as in-depth background—from what soil is to the importance of organic matter. Case studies of farmers from across the country provide inspiring examples of how soil—and whole farms—have been renewed through these techniques. A must-read for farmers, educators and students alike.” LINK: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-Soils-for-Better-Crops-3rd-Edition DIRECT DOWNLOAD: https://planetpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/buildingsoilsforbettercrops.pdf

Health Costs Of Hormone Disrupting Chemicals Over €150bn A Year In Europe

plastic-health-risk

Lower IQ, adult obesity and 5% of autism cases are all linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics, says new expert study

Scientists recommend against pregnant women and children using plastic containers for food, especially in the microwave due to endocrine disruptors.

Europe is experiencing an explosion in health costs caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that is comparable to the cost of lead and mercury poisoning, according to the most comprehensive study of the subject yet published.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the human hormone system, and can be found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics.

The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP.

“The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” one of the report’s authors, Professor Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University, told the Guardian.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally – the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure.”

After IQ loss, adult obesity linked to exposure to phthalates, a group of chemicals used in plastics, was the second largest part of the overall cost, with an estimated price tag of €15.6bn a year, according to the paper, which was published on Thursday in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study attributes at least 5% of European autism cases to EDC exposure, but Grandjean said the figure likely under-estimated the linkage, because of difficulties in measuring foetal exposure to chemicals after a child had been born.

“I would recommend that pregnant women and children eat organic fruits and vegetables and avoid using plastic containers and canned food, especially in the microwave, because containers are usually treated on the inside with substances and compounds that can leak into the tomato soup and may act as endocrine disruptors,” he said.

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Soil Alive: Understanding And Managing Soil Biology

SoilLife

I came across a fantastic free ebook today, found on a website called Farming Secrets. It originally appears to be from the Sustainable Land Use department within the State of Tasmania. The full title is “Soil Alive: Understanding And Managing Soil Biology on Tasmanian Farms”. It looks extremely useful, I’m going to be printing it out to digest over the coming days, it’s a short one at 76 pages but looks jam packed with knowledge.

Soil health requires a balance between the physical, chemical and biological components of the soil.
This book aims to support soil health by promoting improved understanding of soil biological characteristics. It describes soil as an ecosystem, helps identify the beneficial organisms in your
soil and provides guidance on how farmers can adapt their management practices to extract maximum benefits from a thriving soil biological community. With clear photographs and illustrations, this book will be of value to anyone with an interest in growing healthy and vigorous plants on healthy and fertile soils.

You can also find other free things on the link below.

LINK: http://farmingsecrets.com/store-2/free-gifts/
EBOOK: http://farmingsecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Soils-Alive-.pdf
DIRECT DOWNLOAD: Soils Alive eBook

Toxin Produced By Oyster Mushroom Effective Against Nematodes

Pleurotus_ostreatus_1

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