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.
Continue reading “Earthworms Increase Plant Production”
Check out this incredible talk that took place in March at the ‘Permaculture Voices 2 (PV2)’ conference. This is a free talk shared by Diego, the creator and host of the event, he shared it to promote the talks done by the other speakers.
Paul’s central premise is that habitats have immune systems, just like people, and mushroom forming fungi are the foundation of the foodwebs of land based organisms.
Our close evolutionary relationship to fungi can be the basis for novel pairings that lead to greater sustainability and immune enhancement. As we are now fully engaged in the 6th Major Extinction (“6 X”) on planet Earth, our biospheres are quickly changing, eroding the life support systems that have allowed humans to ascend. Unless we put into action policies and technologies that can cause a course correction in the very near future, species diversity will continue to plummet, with humans not only being the primary cause, but one of the victims.
Fungi, particularly mushrooms, offer some powerful, practical solutions, which can be put into practice now. Paul will discuss his groundbreaking research utilizing their cellular networks to create molecular bridges governing the evolution of sustainable habitats. The implications of his research are far-reaching and could spark a paradigm shift to a better future.
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.”
DIRECT DOWNLOAD: https://planetpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/teaching_organic_farming_pdf.pdf
Check out my favorite episode of the “Grand Designs” program. This one covers a family building an earth ship inspired home in the south of France in a place called Brittany. It runs through all the stages of building the home and then goes back and revisits it a year later to see how everythings worked out for them.
A realistic example of what is achievable if you’ve got the money to build a home, meaning an “eco friendly carbon neutral home one is definitely a viable option. It also explores the limitations you might encounter if you try and build a home like this in England, it’s almost impossible for most due to planning regulations. Wales on the other hand are very open to the idea of sustainable homes. Hopefully things will change sooner rather than later.
Who doesn’t want a home that has no utility bills and even earns you a small profit everyday?
For more information: http://www.groundhouse.com/
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.”
Continue reading “The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic”
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”
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”
It’s not just the bees and their ilk. Neonicotinoid insecticides were known to harm important pollinators, and now a major report says they are killing insects, microbes, lizards, earthworms, birds and even coastal shellfish.
Neonicotinoids make up almost one-third of insecticides used. In 2011 the International Union for Conservation of Nature set up a task force to review the safety of systemic pesticides. After reviewing over 800 studies the group now says present use “is not sustainable”, and calls for a global phase-out.
The chemicals break down more slowly than early tests suggested, says author Jeroen van der Sluijs of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. These past studies, which informed the decision to allow the use of neonicotinoids, looked mostly at immediate effects. But long-term environmental build-up may be the real problem, so the task force says the previous regulatory studies “lack environmental relevance”.
The European Union has imposed a two-year moratorium on neonicotinoids, but their half-life in soil can be three years, so this may be too little to see what happens when they are gone.
The group found that levels of neonicotinoids in water often exceeded legal limits in both North America and Europe. Even in non-treated fields, the neonicotinoids and their breakdown products were harming many creatures. That includes bacteria, amoebae, worms and insects in soils; pollinators such as hoverflies and butterflies; and even lizards, because the termites they eat are dying. “What really surprised me is that these chemicals are even harming coastal organisms like crabs and shellfish,” says van der Sluijs.
The impacts on soil organisms could affect the whole nutrient recycling process, says van der Sluijs. Even when levels are too low to kill, the neural toxicity of neonicotinoids impairs earthworms’ ability to tunnel and feed. Continue reading “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Are Bad News For Everything”
This animated film tells the reality of soil resources around the world, covering the issues of degradation, urbanization, land grabbing and overexploitation; the film offers options to make the way we manage our soils more sustainable.
For more information visit http://www.globalsoilweek.org/