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Farming & Agriculture: Pit planting can help in higher sugarcane yield

Farming & Agriculture: Pit planting can help in higher sugarcane yield | Organic Farming |

New cultivation method catching on; 10 ratoon harvest possible

A new method of sugarcane cultivation, called pit method or ring pit method, which is cost-effective and at the same time helps farmers get a higher yield is slowly catching on.

Several farm trials have proved that by adopting this method, the yield can be increased to two or three times compared to the normal row-to-row planting technique.

 Mr I. Varatharajan, a farmer in Somenahalli village of Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, has got a yield of over 300 tonnes in a hectare by following this method.

Mr Varatharajan was awarded the best farmer award by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore for getting the highest yield in sugarcane under pit method.

Under the conventional system, the setts are grown in rows of 90 cm spacing and are arranged in a series without adequate spacing. The germinated setts are very thin in appearance and ultimately affect the number of canes in each setts and its development.

In pit method, the crops are raised in pits at the spacing of 180 cm between rows and 150 cm between individual pits in a row.

According to Mr. Varatharajan,the pits are dug using specially designed tractor drawn power tillers. The pits are then filled with top soil, 5 kg of farmyard manure (FYM), 100 gms gypsum and 125 gms super phosphate and watered well before planting.


About 16 double budded or 32 single budded setts were used for planting. The setts were collected from the eight-month-old plants and were treated with 0.1 per cent carbendazim for 10 minutes before planting. About 60,000 double budded setts were required for planting in one hectare.The pits were irrigated daily for an hour through drip fertigation.

"About 80 gms of urea and 30 gms of potash were applied once in five days starting from the 15th day after planting. Detrashing was done on fifth month after planting and the plants were tied without lodging by dried leaves, said Mr Varatharajan.

Vigorous growth

The growth of the crop was vigorous and they matured at the eighth month after planting.

Due to the equal spacing maintained on all the sides the plants grew steadily and the nutrition supplied through drip fertigation reduced the crop duration.

The continuous supply of nutrition and spacing induces the early physiological maturity that was the major benefit the farmer.

All the shoots are of the same age, so there is uniform growth and sugar accumulation in the canes.

Sufficient space between the clumps and row to row allows sufficient light and air circulation, which is important for good growth of the crop.

The most important factor was that the sugarcane setts were placed at a depth, which were always moist, hence, in case of drought, or non-availability of water the yield was not affected.


IMr Varatharajan has spent about Rs 1,30,000 per hectare and has earned about Rs 2 lakh as net income in his first harvest.

"Under the conventional system, farmers in Tamil Nadu are at present harvesting about 130 tonnes a hectare which yields a net income of about Rs 1,43,000. In ratoon harvests, they may get a yield of 320 to 350 tonnes.

"But under pit method one can expect to harvest nearly 10 ratoon crops with a yield of about 60-70 tonnes during every ratoon harvest compared to the conventional method where only one or two ratoon harvest is possible," said Mr Varatharajan.


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Sanatana Pages: Organic farming and the centrality of the cow

Sanatana Pages: Organic farming and the centrality of the cow | Organic Farming |

Subhash Palekar Raises Agriculture to Spiritual Levels

For over sixty years, Indian agriculture was in a slumber. Our lands were scandalized by an unknown thing called as synthetic fertlizer. This was done to help the farmer get a 'better' harvest.

As the farmer started using it, he immediately noticed that, his soil had become infertile and could no longer bear crops for the next season. He was advised to add more and more fertilizer to the soil to compensate for the nutrient loss. Soon he was faced with another threat. The plants that grew with fertilizer needed pesticides. Soon, he started using these pesticides, which are deadly poisons. He noticed that the pests had become resistant to these chemicals as time went by. He was puzzled.

Our farmer forgot the ancient lesson that the soil HAD LIFE. He forgot that there were natural laws that governed the soil which his ancestors had obeyed from time immemorial. By thus obeying the laws , they had taken bumper harvests and had kept the land well cared for and transferred the land intact for posterity.

Subhash Palekar

It was at this time that a great mind set out to work in this field. He himself was a graduate of Agricultural science from a 'modern university'. He set out to work in his field using the British devised ways of Fertlisers and Pesticides and became an utter failure. He also ruined his land.

Then he set out to research on how our ancestors did so well in Agriculture without any of these chemicals. He consulted the Vedas, and the ancient wisdom literature. The result is a revolutionary, path breaking method, which Sri Subhash calls as 'Zero Budget Natural Farming'. Sri Subhash tried his method in his own soil and replicated it in various other fields tasting success every time.

An inspired Sri Subhash set out to teach this method to his countrymen. He has so far conducted not less than 1000 workshops, all heavily attended, to spread this new way of life for farmers.

The fundamental concept in Sri Subhash's work is that
1. Soil does not need nutrients to be added.
2. The soil has micro organisms which GENERATE NUTRIENTS for the soil.
3. It is possible to revive a fertliser damaged soil back to the natural ways.
4. That the new method require no money to do Agriculture.

Fascinating, is it not ? Read on for some more.

Sri Subhash says the pivot of 'Zero Budget Natural Farming' is the desi cow. He says that the desi cow's Urine, Cow dung and Milk have all the qualities required to rejuvenate the soil. Just ONE desi cow, says Sri Subhash, is all that is required to maintain a 30 acre Farm. He laments that the Desi- Jersi hybrid cows are of no use in his scheme of things.

What a sad thing ? The desi (country) cow is now has such a dwindling population that we need to revive them on a war footing. I wondered why the hybrid Jersi cow is unfit. A publication of 'Govardan', a voluntary organisation for Cow protection, says that the high yield Jersi was produced by crossing a wild pig and an Australian cow breed !

Sri Subhash has some formulas to revive the soil. One is 'Jeevamrutam'. This is not a replacement for Fertlizer , he says. Jeevamrutam is only a catalyst for the soil to generate its nutrients. He says that the 'organic manure','earthworm manure' are fads and are another recipe for disaster.

Sri Subhash condemns the university taught concept of burning the leftover plants after harvest. He says that these are to be left over in the soil itself by turning them over into the soil. This process of 'Mulching' helps the soil prepare its own manure.

And what about pests ? Subhash maintains that a naturally grown plant fights pests. But the plants in transit in chemical ravaged field can be protected by simply prepared 'natural pesticides' which arwe usually buttermilk, pepper and such simple combinations.

The Government Sponsored Chemical Mafia

A govermental survey states that the fertliser subsidy alone was abot Rs 13,000.00 crores in the year 2000. Add to this the pesticide subsidy and the farmer's burden. A report says that the pesticide business in India is the fourth largest in the world! Imagine what would have happened if the money is spent on raising desi cows, strengthening ponds and lakes, and protecting the village fiorests !

There are some criminal agricultural scientists who sit and lord over every governmental commission on Agriculture. These are the very people who are in hand in glove with the synthetic mafia and have been the cause of so much decline in production. Sri Subhash has alleged that our country imports foodgrains of about 5 million tonnes every year. This fact is not known to many Indians. The governments cheats here also.

Recently, a central minister went on record stating that poor Indians are eating more and this is causing problems. It is no wonder with such people at the helm, our Agriculture remains without policy.

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Bees can spot which flowers offer best rewards before landing | Farming Futures

Bees can spot which flowers offer best rewards before landing | Farming Futures | Organic Farming |

Bumblebees are able to connect differences in pollen quality with floral features like petal colour, and so land only on the flowers that offer the best rewards, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Exeter.

Unlike nectar, bees do not ingest pollen whilst foraging on flowers, and so until now it has been unclear whether they are able to form associative relationships between what a flower looks like and the quality of its pollen. The study used bumblebee foragers, housed under controlled conditions to test whether they do learn about flowers during pollen collection.

The findings indicate that pollen foraging behaviour involves learning and individual decision-making, which may allow bees to quickly learn which flowers provide the most nutritious pollen rewards for rearing their young.

The experiments involved manipulating the quality of pollen offered to the bees by diluting the samples. The researchers examined what they preferred to collect, if they could differentiate quality before landing by only letting the bees smell and see the pollen rather than probing it; and presenting the bees with four different coloured discs containing stronger and less diluted pollen to record preferences and change of preferences over time.

'Bees associate colour cues with differences in pollen rewards' by Elizabeth Nicholls and Natalie Hempel de Ibarra is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


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Commercial drone dealers take farming to new heights - My Eastern Shore

Commercial drone dealers take farming to new heights - My Eastern Shore | Organic Farming |
Commercial drone dealers take farming to new heights
My Eastern Shore
North Dakota State University Professor John Nowatzki addresses local farmers about the use of drone technology in precision agriculture.
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Beginner's Guide to Home Seed Production

Beginner's Guide to Home Seed Production | Organic Farming |
Beginner's guide to seed production, including pollination, collection of seeds, and planting seeds of beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons, lettuce, onions, peas, pumpkins, squash, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and turnips.


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Small business, big award

Small business, big award | Organic Farming |




Steve and Landis Spickerman, co-owners of Hermit Creek Farm, were recently awarded with the Annual Environmental Stewardship Award 2014 by the Lake Superior Binational Forum for being business leaders in environmental stewardship practices in the Lake Superior basin.

Hermit Creek Farm is the first farm in the United States to be awarded with the Environmental Stewardship Award.

“We were really surprised to get this award,” Steve Spickerman said. “We have been doing this for 23 years and it’s not like we are suddenly doing something differently. (Receiving the award) just shows the maturation of our farm, what we are doing and our place in the community.”

According to Lissa Radke, U.S. coordinator for the Lake Superior Binational Forum headquartered at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, the annual Environmental Stewardship Award program began in 2010 as a way to recognize exceptional individuals, businesses, tribes and organizations in the Lake Superior basin who are making a concerted effort to protect and restore the natural environment.

Applicants for the award are judged by the Lake Superior Binational Forum panel and chosen based upon their current practices in stewardship and future goals as a company.

Radke did not have any input on the judge’s decision for the award, but is thrilled that the Spickermans are being recognized for their hard work in land stewardship.

“Hermit Creek Farm is so attractive to the judges because it truly exemplifies what two people can do to develop a business that at its core is striving to make positive change,” Radke said. “Landis and Steve Spickerman have taken every step they can to minimize environmental impacts… they are mindfully and strategically finding the ways that they can provide safe, clean food that is an economic value.”

According to Radke, the Spickermans set a positive example for other businesses through their use of alternative energy sources, water conservation practices and by producing only organic products.

Hermit Creek Farm is located on 140 acres near Highbridge. The Spickermans began operations 23 years ago and have been certified organic for the past 14 years. Hermit Creek currently produces free-range pork, hay, maple syrup and produce. They currently distribute their food through local farmers markets, grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and to the Northland College on-campus cafeteria.

Many people in the region, including Radke, are happy to have access to the quality food provided by Hermit Creek Farm.

“I think it’s fantastic that as a Northland College employee, I can go to the cafeteria and eat food that is grown 20 miles from here at an award-winning farm,” Radke said.

The Spickermans were inspired to start their small-scale organic farm as a result of their educational background in environmental sciences and belief that their business should positively impact the community and environment in as many ways as possible.

“Our mission as a farm is creating positive change,” Spickerman said. “What we mean by that is that every facet is creating positive changes. So it might mean improving soil health, water quality, creating a healthy working environment for our employees, increasing farm biodiversity and providing healthy food for our community.”

Hermit Creek Farm is not only a leader in stewardship initiatives, but also challenges the age-old stereotype of what it means to be a farmer. Steve Spickerman is proud to say that his wife is the “farmer,” which is one of the many things that makes Hermit Creek Farm unique.

“When most people think of farmers they have a stereotype of a guy in bib overalls, but at our farm, my wife Landis is the farmer. She is the one who makes the decisions day in and day out,” Spickerman said. “It’s important to know that this progressive, certified organic farm is run by a woman.”

According to Spickerman, operations on Hermit Creek Farm are dictated in a way that will sustain the land and produce a nutritious product. For example, during years of drought, the Spcikermans grew their own mulch, created irrigation systems and installed a pond on the property. Each of their efforts conserved water, while providing other benefits such as attracting more wildlife to the farm.

“We also try to use the smallest equipment to get the job done,” Spickerman said. “It’s more efficient and uses less energy. Certain jobs just get done by hand because it’s more efficient.”

Hermit Creek Farm’s connections to the community are endless, but no connection is as strong as its ties to Northland College. Hermit Creek Farm has been providing the Northland College cafeteria with food consistently for the past three years.

“It’s a really great opportunity for us, not only to sell product, but also to be able to do it to an institution that shares the same ideals as we do,” Spickerman said.

In addition to providing the cafeteria with organic produce, the farm employs and inspires Northland College students and alumni year-round.

“Almost 100 percent of our employees are current or former Northland students,” Spickerman said. “We rely heavily on Northland and we hope that they do the same with us.”

Every year, Hermit Creek Farm hosts as many as three interns and employs five more for various labor positions.

According to Spickerman, a number of former Hermit Creek Farm employees have been inspired to pursue higher education in organic agriculture or start their own small-scale organic farms in the Lake Superior basin including Brain Clements of Northcroft Farm, Sean Godfrey of Deep Roots Farm and Sarah Tarkington.

Tarkington has worked for Hermit Creek Farm for the past five years. Tarkington currently manages harvest and tapping responsibilities and delivers CSA shares to Duluth and Superior.

Tarkington said she feels honored to work for the Spickermans for a number of reasons including their commitment to environmental stewardship, the respect she receives as an employee and their humble nature.

“I was actually unaware that they won an award. They are very humble people and just focus on working hard,” Tarkington said. “I think they see growing and farming for their community as a role of service. They get pleasure out of their friends and family members eating healthy food, that is the biggest award for them.”

Tarkington and her partner recently purchased 20 acres and are in the planning stages of developing their own organic farm. She said the Spickermans have provided irreplaceable guidance and support during her time as an employee.

Steve Spickerman said he was honored to receive the award and plans to stay true to their commitment as pioneers and leaders in organic agriculture in the Lake Superior basin.

“We are just doing what we do and it’s really nice that someone recognized that.” Spickerman said.

Some future plans for Hermit Creek Farm include: increasing the overall size, providing more employment opportunities, installing a certified kitchen in order to store food through canning and flash freezing and providing customers with a whole diet including grass-fed lamb and beef products. Spickerman said the goals are in motion, but it is a “slow growth process.”

Radke hopes that Hermit Creek Farm will continue to serve as a leader and educator in land stewardship for community members, Northland College students and regional farms.

“I’m delighted to see a local farm win an award like this because I think it serves as a catalyst for other farmers to talk about what they are doing and what they might do.” Radke said. “I think that there are so many great things that can happen when small, local businesses are recognized for their voluntary actions.”

For more information about Hermit Creek Farm’s products, sustainability initiatives and CSA visit

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Organic farming boosts environment and nutrition

Organic farming boosts environment and nutrition | Organic Farming |
How we farm matters, writes Pat Thomas - not just for water, insects, birds and the wider environment, which benefit from organic farming, but also the nutritional value of our food. It's time to value the quality of what we eat, instead of prizing quantity above all.

The organic world has been celebrating a rare 'win'.

A new analysis has found that, compared to conventionally grown crops, organic crops contain higher levels of certain antioxidants, lower levels of pesticides and lower levels of the heavy metal cadmium.

According to the scientists, eating organic food could boost a person's antioxidant intake by up to 40% - the equivalent of two portions of fruits or vegetables a day and therefore makes a "meaningful" contribution to human nutrition.

This study focused mainly on fruits, vegetable and grains (as well as baby foods, wine and seed oils). Had the authors also included dairy products in their study we would be celebrating the fact, as an earlier study found, that organic milk has a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids - as well as higher levels of other health-promoting fatty acids, protein and antioxidants compared to conventionally produced milk.

Different farming methods are not 'equivalent'

The media coverage has been remarkably positive and we should celebrate results like this, though not all the findings of the current study were so unequivocal. Like all the best studies this one opens up many more questions than it answers (why, for instance, were levels of other nutrients not higher as well?).

But the really crucial questions the study provokes are about farming and food production - and these have been largely lost in the glare of the media spotlight.

We have long allowed ourselves to be deluded by the notion - promoted mainly by proponents of high tech, intensive monoculture farming - that all methods of farming are pretty much equivalent in terms of the crop you get at the end.

What makes one farming method superior over another, we are told is yield. In other words we have for many years focused on quantity over quality.

The agro-chemical treadmill and declining nutrition

The problem is that farming doesn't happen in a laboratory or vacuum where yield is the sole measure of success. Intensive monoculture farming can produce big yields, but the costs, which fall outside of the realm of how many and how big your oats or your apples or your tomatoes are, are big as well.

Conventional farmers are caught on a vicious treadmill. They add chemical fertilisers to the soil in the hope of increasing crop yields. But doing so ultimately increases many plants' susceptibility to pests. So more pesticides are used. But pesticides can also affect the soil's capacity to sustain and generate fertility.

Pesticides such as benzene hexachloride (BHC), DDT, DDD, aldrin, lindane and heptachlor, for example, all prevent nitrogen-fixing bacteria from forming the necessary root nodules on leguminous plants (such as beans, peas, clover and alfalfa). This means less nitrogen is available for the soil so farmers use more fertilisers.

Using synthetic fertilisers to make plants grow in otherwise depleted soils has other disturbing consequences.

For instance, while the fertiliser will stimulate the plant to grow in the absence of any of the usual protective nutrients they should contain, the plants will also take up more of the heavy metals in the soil such as aluminium, mercury and lead, and these, in turn, are passed on up through the food chain.

All the while, the nutritional value of our food is plummeting and people continue to go hungry in spite of the fact that globally, we currently produce enough calories to feed 14 billion people.

Organic versus GMO - guess who wins?

The yield-above-all argument is used to justify all kinds of new farming technologies, chief amongst them GM crops. And yet even here the argument falls short as there is no evidence that GM crops consistently increase yields. Indeed a recent US government report found yields from GMOs are in some cases lower.

What you may not know is that GM also interferes with the nutritional quality of food. Studies have shown, for example, that GM soya has 12-14% lower levels of cancer-fighting isoflavones than non-GM soya.

When GM soya was compared to organic soya - it was the organic soya that had the showed the healthiest nutritional profile, with more sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, and significantly more protein and zinc and less fibre than conventional and GM soya. Organic soybeans also contained less total saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids than conventional and GM soya.

Canola (oilseed rape) genetically engineered to contain vitamin A in its oil has been shown to have much reduced vitamin E and an altered fatty acid  composition, compared with the non-GM variety.

GM rice varieties have shown major nutritional disturbances in protein, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and trace elements compared with non-GM counterparts, although they were grown side-by-side in the same conditions.

GM maize has been found to  lack some of the fatty acids and amino acids found in non-GM maize.

How we farm, the techniques and technologies that we use to produce the food that we eat, matters. The nutritional quality of our food matters.

My money happily goes to organic because I want to encourage farming that protects the ecosystem 'out there' as well as my own internal 'ecosystem'.

The simple truth is: More isn't better. Better is better.



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Organic bazaars carry on tradition of city district bazaars

Organic bazaars carry on tradition of city district bazaars | Organic Farming |

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Insecticides put world food supplies at risk - HortiBiz

Insecticides put world food supplies at risk - HortiBiz | Organic Farming |

The world’s most widely used insecticides have contaminated the environment across the planet so pervasively that global food production is at risk, according to a comprehensive scientific assessment of the chemicals’ impacts.

The researchers compare their impact with that reported in Silent Spring, the landmark 1962 book by Rachel Carson that revealed the decimation of birds and insects by the blanket use of DDT and other pesticides and led to the modern environmental movement.

Billions of dollars’ worth of the potent and long-lasting neurotoxins are sold every year but regulations have failed to prevent the poisoning of almost all habitats, the international team of scientists concluded in the most detailed study yet. As a result, they say, creatures essential to global food production – from bees to earthworms – are likely to be suffering grave harm and the chemicals must be phased out.

The new assessment analysed the risks associated with neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides on which farmers spend $2.6bn (£1.53bn) a year. Neonicotinoids are applied routinely rather than in response to pest attacks but the scientists highlight the “striking” lack of evidence that this leads to increased crop yields.

“The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin, of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, one of the 29 international researchers who conducted the four-year assessment. “Far from protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it.” He said the chemicals imperilled food supplies by harming bees and other pollinators, which fertilise about three-quarters of the world’s crops, and the organisms that create the healthy soils which the world’s food requires in order to grow.

Professor Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, another member of the team, said: “It is astonishing we have learned so little. After Silent Spring revealed the unfortunate side-effects of those chemicals, there was a big backlash. But we seem to have gone back to exactly what we were doing in the 1950s. It is just history repeating itself. The pervasive nature of these chemicals mean they are found everywhere now.

“If all our soils are toxic, that should really worry us, as soil is crucial to food production."

The assessment, published on Tuesday, cites the chemicals as a key factor in the decline of bees, alongside the loss of flower-rich habitats meadows and disease. The insecticides harm bees’ ability to navigate and learn, damage their immune systems and cut colony growth. In worms, which provide a critical role in aerating soil, exposure to the chemicals affects their ability to tunnel.

Dragonflies, which eat mosquitoes, and other creatures that live in water are also suffering, with some studies showing that ditchwater has become so contaminated it could be used directly as a lice-control pesticide.

The report warned that loss of insects may be linked to major declines in the birds that feed on them, though it also notes that eating just a few insecticide-treated seeds would kill birds directly.

“Overall, a compelling body of evidence has accumulated that clearly demonstrates that the wide-scale use of these persistent, water-soluble chemicals is having widespread, chronic impacts upon global biodiversity and is likely to be having major negative effects on ecosystem services such as pollination that are vital to food security,” the study concluded.

The report is being published as a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research and was funded by a charitable foundation run by the ethical bank Triodos.

The EU, opposed by the British government and the National Farmers Union, has already imposed a temporary three-year moratorium on the use of some neonicotinoids on some crops. This month US president Barack Obama ordered an urgent assessment of the impact of neonicotinoids on bees. But the insecticides are used all over the world on crops, as well as flea treatments in cats and dogs and to protect timber from termites.

However, the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers, criticised the report. Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the CPA, said: “It is a selective review of existing studies which highlighted worst-case scenarios, largely produced under laboratory conditions. As such, the publication does not represent a robust assessment of the safety of systemic pesticides under realistic conditions of use.”

Von Westenholz added: “Importantly, they have failed or neglected to look at the broad benefits provided by this technology and the fact that by maximising yields from land already under cultivation, more wild spaces are preserved for biodiversity. The crop protection industry takes its responsibility towards pollinators seriously. We recognise the vital role pollinators play in global food production.”

The new report, called the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides, analysed every peer-reviewed scientific paper on neonicotinoids and another insecticide called fipronil since they were first used in the mid-1990s. These chemicals are different from other pesticides because, instead of being sprayed over crops, they are usually used to treat seeds. This means they are taken up by every part of the growing plant, including roots, leaves, pollen and nectar, providing multiple ways for other creatures to be exposed.

The scientists found that the use of the insecticides shows a “rapid increase” over the past decade and that the slow breakdown of the compounds and their ability to be washed off fields in water has led to “large-scale contamination”. The team states that current rules on use have failed to prevent dangerous levels building up in the environment.

Almost as concerning as what is known about neonicotinoids is what is not known, the researchers said. Most countries have no public data on the quantities or locations of the systemic pesticides being applied. The testing demanded by regulators to date has not determined the long-term effect of sub-lethal doses, nor has it assessed the impact of the combined impact of the cocktail of many pesticides encountered in most fields. The toxicity of neonicotinoids has only been established for very few of the species known to be exposed. For example, just four of the 25,000 known species of bee have been assessed. There is virtually no data on effects on reptiles or mammals.

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Organic Agriculture Boosts Biodiversity On Farmlands - Science News - redOrbit

Organic Agriculture Boosts Biodiversity On Farmlands - Science News - redOrbit | Organic Farming |

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.

If types of field boundaries such as grass verges or hedges were included in the comparison, the difference between organic and non-organic decreases. “Obviously, most species found in fields on organic farms tend to be concentrated in boundary areas on non-organic farms. There was little difference in the total number of species on the farms,” explains Max Kainz, who headed the sub-project at TUM. The occurrence of rare or threatened species did not increase on organic farms, according to Kainz.

Even organic farms need to increase habitats

To sustain farmland biodiversity, which is currently under grave threat, researchers have identified complement organic farming methods with dedicated efforts to conserve habitats. To increase the number of habitats, the authors of the study recommend adding structural elements, such as woods, grass verges and fallow land, to farms. “Surprisingly, viewed across all regions, we did not find a higher number of natural habitats on organic farms than non-organic farms,” reports Kainz.

“However, it was clear that habitat diversity is the key to species diversity,” adds Prof. Hülsbergen. He continues: “The results of the study underline the importance of maintaining and expanding natural landscape features – something that the EU’s Greening Program has been trying to accomplish.” If these additional habitats are different to the rest of the farm, for example hedges in grassland farms or herbaceous strips in arable farms, they have a huge impact on the biodiversity of a farm.






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Hog Heaven

Hog Heaven | Organic Farming |
Volume One Magazine | Years of big-budget marketing have convinced Americans that pork is “the other white meat" ...



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Top 5 Agricultural Technologies 2014-2020 - Robotics Business Review

Top 5 Agricultural Technologies 2014-2020 - Robotics Business Review | Organic Farming |
“Scientifically viable in 2015; mainstream in 2018; and financially viable in 2019.”


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World Food Prize Winner Outlines Shift in Strategy – Focus on Consumers, Not Just Growers

World Food Prize Winner Outlines Shift in Strategy – Focus on Consumers, Not Just Growers | Organic Farming |
by Devon G. Peña – Environmental and Food Justice, 2 May 2014 Source: Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer and this year’s winner of the dubious World Food Prize, recently admitted that Monsanto made a huge strategic error by focusing educational outreach on growers and ignoring consumers. An interesting analysis of this admission is presented in …Read More »


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"Auction Day"

Do you know the art of auctioneering? “Auction Day” captures a precious national custom that may soon disappear. Filmed in Wales in the UK, the film shows a community





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No tillage case study | Farming Futures

No tillage case study | Farming Futures | Organic Farming |

I met agronomist John Vickery of Agrii, at a farm he looks after in Gloucestershire,to discuss the benefits of implementing a non-tillage system. The farm is mixed, and as such stubble turnips for the sheep are included in the rotation, which also consists of spring peas, winter oilseed rape, winter wheat, and winter barley, which goes for seed.

The first significant variation in the rotation is the use of a double break crop. Once the sheep are off the stubble turnips, 25t/ha of compost is put on the ground, giving a great seedbed for the following crop. This is effectively like the garden compost you can buy in the shops, and the results in a significant increase in the soil organic matter. A late application of glyphosate is made after the stubble turnips , to tidy up any of the late-germinating spring weeds, and any blackgrass that is still coming through. Then, the peas are drilled in.

Following the peas is oilseed rape, shown in the photo above, which benefits greatly from the increase in nitrogen as a result of the previous nitrogen fixing leguminous crop. Not only does this method put the converted nitrogen to good use, it also is a great way of getting a head start on any grassweed burden, by having two consecutive years out of cereals to try to hit the population. This is implemented with the spring glyphosate application before the peas, and then a well-timed application of Kerb Flo 500, or in John’s case last year, ASTROKerb. The non-tillage system means achieving the ideal timings for Kerb Flo 500/ASTROKerb may be made slightly easier, with the soil easily walkable, even following the heavy rains the west of the UK can experience.

One problem that can be encountered with non-tillage systems is an increase in slug pressure, due to a lot of trash being left on the ground. By using stubble rakes, John has been able to keep on top of this so far, and has experienced little trouble with slug damage. If managed properly, the trash can provide an extra feeding stuff for the worms, benefiting the soil when the straw is dragged underground and broken down- a great source of nitrogen for the crop, something particularly beneficial with the oilseed rape. In order to avoid a problem with the slug population, the combine is set to cut the stubble high, as the drill they use can cope with drilling into the stubble without blocking up. With greater stubble height, and as a result less straw on the ground, the opportunity for slugs is limited.

The following two years of cereals greatly benefit from the reduction in grassweed pressure, resulting in less dependence on chemical methods of blackgrass control. John made reference to the work taking place in France, looking at the benefits of a double break crop for grassweed control; a factor that influenced him in the decision to follow the peas with oilseed rape.


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Herbal Leys - a farmers experience | Farming Futures

Herbal Leys - a farmers experience | Farming Futures | Organic Farming |

Clyde Jones, who manages 500 crossbred cows near Ringwood in Hampshire, explains why herbal leys play an important part in his forage management.

“This is a really dry farm, and we do suffer with the conditions,” says Clyde. “Our rotationally grazing system does ‘buy’ us extra growth over the summer but, even so, grass did burn up in August.

“Last year, we put in 16 hectares of a mixed herbal ley (see below for seed mix), as a kind of trial. It was direct drilled into stubble in late March, and was up and was first grazed at the beginning of July. It performed well in our dry conditions, providing 30kg of DM/ha/day growth across the dry July/August period.

“We know the soil here is depleted, with low organic matter in the top four inches of soil. However, analysis of forage from the herbal ley showed the plants, with their long roots, had been able to tap into the nutrients below that level.

“This year we put a further 45 hectares into herbal ley for grazing, by directly drilling into existing leys of perennial ryegrass in the autumn, as well as two further off-lying areas, for conservation and youngstock. This means 85 hectares of the 260 we have are down to herbal leys. An indication of how impressed we’ve been.

“Herbal leys provide a lower feed cost for us, as you can pretty much leave it alone and it performs so well. With perennial ryegrass, we had the added expense of pre-mowing, topping, nitrogen, etc.

“This year, we have struggled to get a pure herbal ley as the perennial ryegrass is determined to come back. We’re looking to alter the seed mix in the ley, with the inclusion of more legumes, to aid production, but the deep roots mean the plant performance is very good in our dry conditions.”

Herbal ley seed mix 17 Hectares Special 'HERBAL' Dual Purpose Four Year Ley


3.75kg (63.75) certified Prairial cocksfoot2.00kg (34) certified Rossa meadow fescue1.25kg (21.25) certified Kora tall fescue1.88kg (31.875) certified Altaswede red clover1.25kg (21.25) certified Dawn alsike clover0.25kg (4.25) certified Rocco birdsfoot trefoil2.50kg (42.5) commercial Sainfoin2.50kg (42.5) commercial sweet clover2.25kg (38.25) certified Puna II chicory3.13kg (53.125) Burnet forage herb0.63kg (10.625) Yarrow forage herb0.50kg (8.5) Sheeps Parsley forage herb0.50kg (8.5) Ribgrass forage herb0.25kg (4.25) certified Hobson forage rape

Total 22.64kg/ha

10-12kg/ha of a ryegrass/timothy/white clover mix was added to the above mix.

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 A well known figure in natural farming circleSri Krishnappa Dasappa Gowda has developed this model in 5 acres . He has divided that 5 acres into equal blocks of 36ft X 36ft . In this video , he explains...

Giri Kumar's insight:

A well known person practising natural farming and has met many overseas visitors. The best part in him is demonstrating what he intends to convey and also not very good with spoken English.

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Kumbartcho - a new farm journey

Kumbartcho - a new farm journey | Organic Farming |

The Soils for Life Program facilitates improved management of the natural environment in Australia by encouraging the adoption of regenerative landscape management in agriculture - focusing on soil health, water management and a biodiversity of vegetation.

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How to Store Seeds

How to Store Seeds | Organic Farming |
Good storage conditions for your garden seeds are essential. These tips will help you learn how to store seeds.

What’s the best way to store my garden seeds?

Seeds are living organisms, so don’t simply toss them into a shed or shoe box. To keep seeds you buy viable as long as possible, you should always keep them as cool and dry as you can. Usually, your best option is to keep them in the refrigerator, sealed in a glass jar.

If you live in a humid region, you can add silica gel to absorb additional moisture. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells silica gel beads for drying seeds, or you can find them at craft supply stores, where they’re sold for drying flowers. You can also use powdered milk as a desiccant: Measure 1 to 2 tablespoons from a freshly opened package onto a piece of fabric or a paper towel, fold it up, and then place it in the container with the seed packets. Powdered milk will absorb excess moisture for about six months.

If you’re saving seeds from your garden, dry them well before you store them in the refrigerator. Spread the mature seeds in a shallow layer over a fine mesh screen or ceramic plate, and dry the seeds in a warm, dark and airy location for several weeks, until the seeds are hard and no longer pliable. A fan may help speed up the process. If possible, gently stir the seeds every now and then to expose them evenly to the air. Package the dry seeds in envelopes labeled with the variety and date, and then store them in glass jars in the refrigerator.

If treated well, your garden seeds will stay viable for one to five years, depending on the plant type. To learn how to test your seeds’ viability, read Testing Seed Viability.

To learn more about how to store seeds, see Savvy Seed Care.

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Seeds last much longer without oxygen

Seeds last much longer without oxygen | Organic Farming |
If seed breeding companies, gene banks and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen should store plant seeds under oxygen-poor conditions, it would be possible to store them for much longer while still maintaining their germination capacity. This is indicated by research carried out by seed physiologists from Wageningen UR and seed experts from the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands, a Dutch gene bank which is part of Wageningen UR. They studied pregerminated celery seeds, which generally speaking lose their germination capacity after only three weeks. When the seeds were stored without oxygen, 98% of them germinated after three weeks.




f seed breeding companies, gene banks and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen should store plant seeds under oxygen-poor conditions, it would be possible to store them for much longer while still maintaining their germination capacity. This is indicated by research carried out by seed physiologists from Wageningen UR and seed experts from the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands, a Dutch gene bank which is part of Wageningen UR. They studied pregerminated celery seeds, which generally speaking lose their germination capacity after only three weeks. When the seeds were stored without oxygen, 98% of them germinated after three weeks.

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Many breeding companies and gene banks outside the Netherlands store seeds for modern varieties and wild species in regular air. The air contains 21% oxygen, which reacts with vital substances in the plant seeds. This reaction with oxygen reduces the quality and germination capacity of the seeds. A brief period under oxygenated conditions is not a problem, because the antioxidants in the seeds can capture the oxygen. But now it appears that the effects of oxygen under long-term storage conditions are so severe that oxygen is the limiting factor in the longevity of the seeds. If seeds were to be stored without oxygen, they would maintain their germination capacity for much longer.

Easier for gene banks

In their scientific article, the Wageningen researchers propose gene banks to package seeds under oxygen-poor conditions immediately after harvest and drying, because this will slow the loss of antioxidants. This means that the seeds can be stored for much longer periods of time, reducing the costs for regeneration.

Many gene banks outside the Netherlands use storage jars from which seeds are taken from time to time (the Dutch gene bank does not use this method). This creates a dilemma for the gene banks: On the one hand, they want to be able to supply seeds on demand, but on the other hand they want to open the storage jars as infrequently as possible, because the seed quality deteriorates once the package has been opened. If the oxygen could be removed from seed packages after opening, the seeds would not lose so much quality after the jars have been opened. This can be easily and inexpensively done by including a package of iron powder in the jar.


On the Norwegian island Svalbard, a seed vault has been built in the permafrost, where gene banks can store a back-up in case their collection is lost through war or other disasters. Jan Engels, a researcher with Biodiversity International, expects that the discovery made by the Wageningen researchers can also have a positive effect on the longevity of the seeds in the Seed Vault. Engels states, 'The findings confirm the impact of oxygen on seed longevity. It is still to early to precisely quantify the gains in seed longevity. But I am convinced that it is a good idea for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to see whether it can make use of the Wageningen discovery, because the effect on the longevity of the seeds has the potential to be very positive.'

Pregerminated seeds

Oxygen-poor seed storage can also benefit plant breeding companies, particularly in the case of seeds with a short shelf life, such as lettuce, onion and leek. Breeding companies often pregerminate their seeds, so that the seeds all germinate at approximately the same moment after sowing. This treatment often reduces seed longevity. By packaging the seeds in oxygen-poor conditions, the breeding companies can guarantee a higher quality of the seed for sowing for a longer period of time.

New research technique

It had been demonstrated before that seeds for crops can survive longer when stored under anoxia, but the anoxia storage effects were not always positive. Wageningen scientists were sure that oxygen-impact would be crucial for the viability of seeds. But seed industry was not so sure about that. To convince seed companies and gene banks about the deteriorating effect of oxygen upon seeds, the researchers developed a research technique that allows for studying the oxygen-impact in a fast test.

Even when using 100% oxygen, experiments to show effects on the rate of seed ageing would take too long. One of the involved researchers of Wageningen UR is also SCUBA diving instructor and therefore knew that the oxygen concentration can also be increased by increasing gas pressure. He put lettuce and cabbage seeds in his SCUBA tank with 200 bar air pressure. After only three weeks of storage under these conditions most of the seeds did not germinate properly any more. The seeds had aged very fast due to the high oxygen pressure.

Using this result the scientists developed an experimental setup to study the mechanisms seed have evolved in order to survive dry conditions for a long period of time.

The research was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

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Where the wild things are

Where the wild things are | Organic Farming |
The Vanvadi collective, a group of about 20 like-minded city folk, is helping nurture a large 65-acre tract by farming organically as well as regenerating the forest cover, which holds a sizeable number of uncultivated foods


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Deploying microbes as a seed treatment for protection against soil-borne plant pathogens | Organic Farming Research Foundation

Deploying microbes as a seed treatment for protection against soil-borne plant pathogens | Organic Farming Research Foundation | Organic Farming |
Deploying microbes as a seed treatment for protection against soil-borne plant pathogens Plant diseases, especially those caused by soil-borne seed infecting pathogens, pose a serious threat to the production of both greenhouse and field crops. Conventional farming operations often use fumigants and chemical seed treatments, which can be harmful to human health and the environment, for controlling seed and seedling pathogens. The use of many of these materials is strictly prohibited in organic agriculture, limiting the options for organic farmers for plant disease control. Organic amendments such as compost and vermicompost are used as alternatives to synthetic control methods due, in part, to their success in controlling plant pathogens. Previous studies have confirmed consistent disease suppression using solid and liquid forms of organic amendments and the working hypothesis is that microbes are closely associated with suppression. Furthermore, only a subset of microbes from the bulk material that colonize the seed coat are responsible for disease suppression. So if the specific subset of microbes associated with seed colonization and suppression can be deployed as a seed treatment, can we still achieve plant protection from soil-borne pathogens? In addition, can this seed treatment application be developed for organic production as an effective tool for disease management? The goal of this project is to establish a proof-of-concept that compost and vermicompost microbes can be applied to the surface of seeds before sowing to protect against soil-borne plant pathogens. Liquid extracts will be produced from solid materials, freeze-dried to a powder form, and applied to the seed coat. Treated seeds will first be evaluated for disease suppression under laboratory conditions, and then tested for use on certified organic land. The information generated from this project has the potential to introduce a novel seed-treatment application for controlling plant pathogens in organic production systems. 
Invisible Gardener's curator insight, July 12, 11:12 AM

Excellent.   Try compost tea

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9 Habits of a Great Farmer - Organic Farming - Sustainable Agriculture - Growers Trust - Growers Trust

9 Habits of a Great Farmer - Organic Farming - Sustainable Agriculture - Growers Trust - Growers Trust | Organic Farming |

Farming land is no easy task. For serious growers and farmers, doing so successfully requires time, money, and a ton of effort to ensure that the farm’s harvests and plentiful and growing. In reality, the majority of farmers depend on their crops to pay their bills and keep the farms sustainable and thriving. When one aspect of the harvest fails, it is up to the farmer to create a quick and effective solution to keep the farm operating the way it should be. Organic farming methods are calculated procedures that depend upon the natural biological processes to keep farms healthy. With a mix of modern technology, the right fertilizers, and traditional farming practices, maintaining a successful farm is a real possibility. It is important, however, to remember that farming practices quickly become habits.

The best farmers throughout the world make it a point to perfect their daily habits and turn them into a thriving agriculture business. The following are the top 9 habits of a great farmer:

Staying focused on revenues to ensure that cost management is stable. Stick to budgets and cover all costs of production.Remain disciplined and resolute in keeping the harvests thriving and asking for help when help is needed.Enjoy the work. A man who has fun while farming will never work a day in his life.Learn from your farming errors and make note to not make these mistakes again.Coordinate action plans for all types of “what-if” scenarios. This leaves little room for error when an unexpected storm approaches or a certain crop is producing at optimal rates.Look at your competition and compare how your harvests stack up. Using benchmarks is an excellent way to keep improving production.Be prideful and pay close attention to your reputation. People buy from the farms that they truly trust, keep that trust by building a solid foundation of good work.Sell locally. Not only does this reduce pollution, but it is an amazing way to get involved and enrich your community.Get on board with solar and wind energy now. Alternative energy is here to stay. Farms who utilize this now will be setting themselves up for big wins in the future.

Every farmer has their own unique style. Sustainable agriculture is founded by the habits that these farmers create for their farms. Make an honest effort to be the best farmer that you can be and always remember where you came from. The best farmers have the best habits. When it comes to life on the farm, make every day count.X

Eric Larson's curator insight, July 20, 8:20 AM

Good ideas.

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What! Organic Agriculture Isn't Sustainable? - Kansas City infoZine

What! Organic Agriculture Isn't Sustainable? - Kansas City infoZine | Organic Farming |
Dear EarthTalk: Do You Agree with the Recent Claim in the Wall Street Journal That Organic Agriculture Isn



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Robotic milking | Farming Futures

Robotic milking | Farming Futures | Organic Farming |


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Kot Addu: The organic dream – The Express Tribune

Kot Addu: The organic dream – The Express Tribune | Organic Farming |
The reside­nts of Kot Addu reap an organi­c harves­t that is akin to export-qualit­y produc­e.



Fame and misfortune have swept across Kot Addu in equal measure. The city that is home to one of Pakistan’s most iconic folk singers, Pathaney Khan, and a victim of the 2010 floods that occurred after a breach in the Abbaswala Bund, is currently trying to get back on its feet through organic farming.

Located in the south of Punjab, at a distance of 89kms from Multan and 16kms from the mangled steel structure Taunsa Barrage, the city boasts strawberries that are as plump as their British counterparts. The strawberries are grown in the year-round hot and humid climate by a handful of generational farmers in Basti Sheikhan Wali who refrain from using chemical pesticides and use less water and slurry to ensure a healthy yield. Although the strawberries from their field are tart and green and nowhere near the ripe ones pictured in cookbooks, they are large in size and enticing when presented in neat earthen bowls.

This effective resource management is part of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) project focused on improving the livelihoods of fishermen communities of Central Indus Wetlands complex, a 700-kilometre stretch of land along the mighty Indus River. The project stretches from the Taunsa Barrage in southern Punjab to Sukkur Barrage in Sindh, involving fishermen who have traditionally been ignored by the provincial government and have no stake in development plans.

The project not only educates farmers about sustainability and the environmental impact of farming, but also teaches them ways to minimise the impact by adopting environment-friendly methods without compromising on the yield. According to Umer Waqas, the site coordinator of the project in Kot Addu, the strawberries were just an experiment that succeeded and they be will trying their luck with grapes next. “The most famous grapes in the market are touted as being from Iran or Afghanistan. We’re trying to grow grapes here through sustainable methods to try and give the exports stiff competition,” he says.

A nursery at Taunsa Barrage.

A flood marker near Abbaswala Bund.

Sanawan, a tehsil of Kot Addu, is already famous for its vegetables in the surrounding areas. The vegetables available in the market are fresh and plentiful due to the right mix of climactic patterns and fertile land. Farmers in the area are always on the lookout for sustainable alternatives to grow traditional water-hungry crops such as sugarcane. Even the cucumbers grown using water-efficient techniques are crisp and fresh. The fresh water often used to grow these vegetables is wasted, points out Waqas. And in case of used water, it is almost always contaminated with household or solid waste. “There is no water treatment plant in this area so people make do. Being so close to the river makes them believe that they will never run out of fresh water,” he says wryly. “But that is obviously a false assumption. That’s the mindset we are trying to change by persuading farmers and fishermen to use water wisely, whether for farming or fishing.”

There is no dearth of inspirational stories in Kot Addu. Right next to the Taunsa Wildlife Sanctuary Information Center, replete with posters, charts, activity wheels and informational signs chronicling local biodiversity, is a small roadside café serving freshly caught and freshly prepared fish in a variety of ways. Fish with rice pilaf, fish kebabs, fish kofta and spicy fried fish are the mouthwatering dishes on offer by Liaqat Hussain, who belongs to a fisherman community and is now involved in sustainable fishing. Overfishing after the 2010 floods has left him seeking other ways to maintain a steady income.

Without proper governmental support and reforms and the age-old contract system of fishing still in place, Hussain sees little hope of sustaining a regular livelihood. Although he manages to earn Rs80,000 in the winter season, because of the influx of domestic tourists and city dwellers who enjoy the delicacies of the Indus in colder months, he cannot say the same when the days become warmer.

The Abbaswala Bund also acts as a makeshift road for locals.

His concerns are echoed by Haseena Bibi, a stout, bright-faced mother of five who started a kitchen garden on a 10-marla plot she inherited from her father. Her entrepreneurial spirit saved her family from many health complications caused by the consumption of contaminated vegetables. She shares her harvest with neighbours and anyone who comes looking for organic vegetables. “My children love salad vegetables, but so do pests,” she says. “I have made an organic concoction out of bitter gourds that repels them. No chemical goes into my plants.”

Haseena’s seasonal vegetables are the talk of the town as she grows a wide variety to suit a diverse palate. She is one of the many women who have partnered with Waqas’s organisation in Basti Sheikhan Wali and Basti Allah Wali to run their kitchen garden. While some keep the vegetables for themselves and others sell them for a small sum, the fact remains that each household with a kitchen garden saves Rs6,000 on average per month by not buying vegetables from the market.

The dream of sustainable agriculture resonates with many including Javed who has dedicated his life to bringing local communities together to fish sustainably and find alternative livelihood options in low-catch season. While translating Haseena’s lilting Seraiki, he informs that he started working to conserve local plant and fish species at a young age and relies on his own strength to do the conservation work since there has been little official support for the cause. He currently runs his own community-based organisation and heads a small network of community-based projects under Umer’s project. “There is no money in what I do. But my father told me he would support me to do good work that helps others,” he says. “When he sees our success, he smiles and says he is proud of us all. I want my fellow countrymen to be proud of us as well.” Such is the conviction of people in and around Kot Addu who have wholeheartedly embraced the organic life.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 4th, 2014.

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Time for Organic Activists to Stop Spreading Lies | Heartlander Magazine

Time for Organic Activists to Stop Spreading Lies | Heartlander Magazine | Organic Farming |

Wouldn’t making it in America be easy if you could just pass laws to put your competition out of business? That’s precisely what’s being attempted by anti-GMO organic activists across America today. Rather than win one consumer at a time in the market, attempts are being made to either label foods containing genetically-modified ingredients like a pack of cigarettes, or to simply ban them outright.

For the campaign to ban GMOs outright, we turn to Dr. Lanita Witt, an organic farmer in Oregon. And for the campaign to label GMOs – in spite of the complete lack of evidence that they cause any harm to humans, animals or the environment – we turn to Senator David Zuckerman, an organic farmer and state legislator from Vermont.

Activists like Wit and Zuckerman never tire of pretending that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to organic farms and the very health of the American public, citing “alarming impacts on industrial agriculture” along with concern “about the long-term health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.”

But, stop and think. If there was any chance whatsoever that GMO crops might put organic farmers like Wit and Zuckerman at risk, why didn’t organic stakeholders like Wit and Zuckerman say so in their standards for organic production? And why has there never been a single organic farmer who was de-certified, let alone faced disciplinary action, for alleged “contamination” of his crops by GMOs?

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) makes no mention whatsoever of GMOs contaminating or in any way undermining the organic integrity of organic crops. Full stop. Either people like Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman are ignorant of the actual rules of organic production in America, or they are willfully ignoring federal laws on organic production that were written, edited and finalized by American organic stakeholders during the Clinton Administration.

There is no basis to Wit’s claim that GMO crops “put our family farmers at risk,” or that they endanger, as Zuckerman claims, the “health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.” In fact, such statements could very well be interpreted as defamatory being that they are based neither upon science nor, as mentioned, the very laws for organic production that organic stakeholders like Witt and Zuckerman helped write! Such statements are, at the very least, a form of false advertising for the tax-subsidized American organic movement.

The organic industry has grown exponentially over the very same time as the use of GMO crops on American farms has grown. So why lie and pretend GMOs pose some sort of risk? Clearly if there was any threat posed by GMOs to organic farming in America, the American organic industry wouldn’t today be worth more than all of Major League Baseball combined. If anything, it would appear that the existence of GMOs is good for the organic industry.

As Zuckerman himself admits, campaigns to force the labelling of GMO foods, alongside attempts to ban them outright, are “all, for lack of a better word, organic.” Ha ha — how droll, Mr. Zuckerman. But in all seriousness, is this really what being organic in America has come to mean? Attacking technologies that you disagree with?

The organic industry is really just a federal marketing system, as Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman stressed: “Let me be clear about one thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”

On behalf of the hundreds-of-thousands of American farmers who choose to grow GMO crops, Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman should stop spreading fear over this perfectly-safe and highly-beneficial form of agricultural technology.

Instead of attacking their competition with misguided and decidedly unscientific political gambits, Witt and Zuckerman should quietly return to tending to their organic crops, and stand on their own merit. Who knows? They might even enjoy not being so darn negative all the time.

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