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Niagara vineyard in deep organic doo-doo

Niagara vineyard in deep organic doo-doo | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Southbrook, a certified biodynamic wine maker in Ontario, can’t find enough organic manure to continue its expansion. What’s a steadfastly green entrepreneur to do?

 

 

 

Giri Kumar's insight:

A step above organic, biodynamic farming is a holistic method of agriculture, codified by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, that seeks to create a self-sufficient system that “exists in harmony with the planet.”

This means adhering to a rigorous set of standards. As proprietor of Southbrook Vineyards, Mr. Redelmeier must ensure that everything from manure to grapes to the glass used to bottle his wine conforms to these standards.

Mr. Redelmeier’s gamble appears to be paying off: Southbrook now produces an award-winning product and has expanded its annual output to an expected 15,000 crates by the end of this year, up from 6,000 in 2008.

While those numbers demonstrate notable growth, Mr. Redelmeier says he can’t keep up with demand and has had to start turning down orders. The problem, he says, is that he can’t acquire enough “inputs” – an organic industry term for resources such as fertilizer, crops or animal feed used for farm production – to grow larger. There simply aren’t enough local organic suppliers to meet his needs.

Out in the field, Southbrook’s longtime vineyard manager, Scott Jones, confirms a lack of local certified organic manure as one of his key concerns. Southbrook buys such manure from brokers to supplement the compost it is able to cultivate from the hay it uses as winter bedding.

Many farmers use plant-based “cover crop” materials as fertilizer, but animal-based manure remains a more potent and direct source of nutrients.

To qualify as organic, the animals that provide the manure must be pharmaceutical- and steroid-free, consume an organic-based diet, and live in conditions that afford them a fuller range of motion.

But not all manure is created equal. Chicken manure is not suitable, for instance, because of its high nitrogen levels. “So you have this pecking order of preference that’s based on the macro-nutrient content, which is cow, then horse, then sheep, then chicken,” explains Mr. Jones. He must also ensure that the manure is of a high enough quality, comprised of the correct chemical composition and available at the right time of year for the vine.

As organic manure is still a niche market, and most livestock farmers keep the waste produced by the animals for their own use, Mr. Jones has had to settle for a limited supply of horse manure – his second choice – from a farm farther away, and he says it’s still not enough. Shipping the material increases the carbon footprint and “doesn’t make me feel so hot,” he adds.

There’s no guarantee the market will expand any time soon, and Southbrook may remain in a growth holding pattern until it does.

THE CHALLENGE: How can Southbrook continue expanding despite the lack of certified organic manure and other components?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Christine Brown, nutrient management, field crops, at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, food and rural affairs, Woodstock, Ont.

It’s going to be really hard for them to talk to a regular dairy farm and persuade them to go organic just for the manure. The cost would be too high. But if they went to a dairy or cattle farm and got them to compost their regular manure under the organic specifications, that might be the best alternative for them.

There’s also a list of people from across the province who have taken nutrient management training and are manure brokers already. It’s worth investigating. And there are several people who do compost of green bin-type material. Commissioning someone like them already involved in that industry is another alternative. They’re looking at doing alternative composting as well and they’ve got the land base.

Kerry Doyle, manure management specialist at KPD Consulting Inc., Abbotsford, B.C.

The only way to truly ensure that animal manures are biodynamic is to generate the manure on-site via your own animal husbandry using biodynamic principles. This is problematic and difficult at best. Materials and management can be expensive and overwhelming.

Organic dairies are a potential source for manure, but just because the dairy is organic it doesn’t necessarily make the manure organic. Chemicals used in foot baths and for cleaning of the milking parlour can end up in the manure system and can contaminate it. A more practical alternative to dairy manure could be beef cattle manure, where cleaning chemicals and other external inputs are less frequently used.

Steve Venables, proprietor, Forbidden Fruit Winery, a certified-organic vineyard in Cawston, B.C.

Conventional agriculture has a whole bunch of stuff they can go buy in a bag. With organic agriculture, ideally, you try to operate your farm as a closed system, recycling the nutrients that are available in the atmosphere and on your land. Our experience in 1974, when we bought the farm, was to bring in manure to spread on our most depleted and eroded hillsides to try and kickstart the soil.

Something that Southbrook may also consider is what we call “cocktail crop” green manures, as opposed to growing any single seed as a manure crop. It’s a seed mix with a variety of plants – buckwheat, peas, sunflowers, oats, barley – and can that way enrich the soil better than with any kind of single species of manure crop. [This cover crop] can then be mowed, raked and cut over the alleys between the garden after they’ve added the right nitrogen mix and whatever else they need to the fertilizer.

THREE THINGS THE COMPANY CAN DO NOW

Consider alternatives

Look for conventional farmers who would be willing to produce and set aside some cow manure or alternative compost that would meet the winery’s organic specifications.

Keep it (really) local

Southbrook should consider raising its own cattle, in addition to sheep, to provide a home-grown supply of manure.

Go greener

Explore more plant-based compost options. These can be grown on-site and eradicate the need to source livestock farms.

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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 | Scoop.it

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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Osk Reddy's curator insight, August 24, 2014 1:00 AM

We wish to bring to your notice that the "Green Universe Environmental Services Society (GUESS)" head-quartered at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India was established in 1998. Since then we have been promoting various eco friendly concepts, pro-environmental initiatives and sustainable development projects. With our vast field-level practical experiences we have observed and noticed that the farmers of our country are facing severe crop loss issues due to wild boar & wild animal attacks, frequent natural calamities, global warming effects, non availability of labour, cost escalation and climate change issues. It is known fact that many of the wild animals have shifted their habitations from the forests to farm fields due to man-made mistakes such as severe deforestation and high level destruction in the forest areas. 

 

Due to the above situations the farmers who make 70% of the Indian community are leaving agriculture and migrating to the urban habitations in search of livelihoods resulting in many of the villages are becoming deserts and the population pressure is at high level in urban areas which is causing various social & economic issues. It is fact that the most of the countries are shifting towards naturals in all walks of life and the demand for natural products is ever increasing and it is time to throw light on promotion of different eco-friendly sustainable farming measures & concepts to the struggling farmer community.

 

Keeping in view the alarming situation faced by the farming community due to wild boar & animal attacks which is great concern to the society today we have come up with an eco-friendly, cost-effective sustainable solution of "Henna Bio Fence." It is non-grazing & pest-free because it is astringent & pungent in nature which can be an effective NPM measure, sustains for longer period hence it is perennial, drought tolerant because it can pass through severe climatic situations, creates additional man days through raising & post harvest measures and also generates income because the demand for natural dyes is ever increasing. Hence "Henna Bio Fence" can be an eco-friendly cost-effective sustainable solution in place of highly expensive solar, chain linked mesh & barbed wire fences and can act as income & employment generating measure.

 

Natural dyes are pro-environment and obtained from renewable resources with no health hazards are traditionally used since ages to impart color. There is renewed interest in the application of natural dyes throughout the world today, as eco-friendly norms become stringent and the awareness about protection and preservation of environment grows day by day. The entire world is facing the side effects of synthetic products and there has been increasing interest in natural dyes, as the public become aware of health issues, ecological and environmental problems related to the use of synthetic dyes. Henna as natural dye is being used in Textiles, Handlooms, Leather, Beauty & Health Care, Cosmetics and Tattoo Industries etc. 

 

Considering the above facts, concerns and in light of the multi beneficial advantages, as responsible NGO we have initiated this "Henna Bio Fence" project to help the struggling farmers. We request for financial collaboration to impart trainings, to create awareness, to transform the concept and to provide input cost to encourage an eco-friendly, sustainable and cost effective "Henna Bio Fence" to the farmers to protect the crops from wild boar & animal attacks and to improve their income levels. In addition to the crop protection measure there is lot of scope for employment generation through value addition and marketing. 

 

Henna Bio Fence is also useful as NPM, NTFP, SMC & NRM measures. The Decoction of henna leaves because of its strong chemical composition can be used as Bio Pesticide for all the crops which reduces the pest management expenditure for a longer period. It also controls the cross pollination (Isolation) issues between different crops. Henna Bio Fence in one meter width all along the periphery of the crop fields in multiple (6-9) rows with close spacing will become as thick & strong fence which completely arrests the wild boar and animal attacks. Reducing crop loss itself is great benefit to the farmers and as well to the nation and also there are many social & economic advantages in addition to the crop protection measure. 

 

Keeping in view the above facts, we request the International Organizations who are very much concern about environment & global warming effects for financial contributions from Carbon Trade Funds, Environment Protection Funds, Ecological Balancing Funds, Global Warming Budgets, CSR & CER initiatives to provide them an eco-friendly, sustainable and cost effective "Henna Bio Fence" for their farm fields to protect the crops from animal attacks and to improve the income levels of the farming community. Hence, we request your kind attention towards a noble cause of "Vruksho Rakshathi Rakshithaha" by providing them the input cost from different possible funds & measures to help the struggling farmers who are feeding our Nation. The detailed project report will be submitted after hearing from you. We await quick response in this regard to make this pro-environmental project successful. We are hereby providing the YouTube link of promo film on Henna Bio Fence for information.

 

Henna Bio Fence Video Link:

 

GUESS - Henna Bio Fence - English  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvzdK4qQbQo

 

GUESS - Henna Bio Fence - Telugu  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQTs9khJmQg

 

Thanking You

 

 

Best Regards

 

 

OSK REDDY

Ph. No. 919494947894 / 919848028410

Mail:oskreddy@gmail.com / oskreddy@yahoo.com

Web Site: www.guessfoundation.org

 

 

Eric Larson's curator insight, March 27, 1:18 PM

Interesting questions!!!

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The Truth About How To Increase Your Yields and Shield Your Crops from Drought!

The Truth About How To Increase Your Yields and Shield Your Crops from Drought! | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Recently the United Nations warned that the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water by 2030 unless countries dramatically cut consumption. Since 70 percent of the world’s fresh water goes to agriculture, this means changing the way people […]
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Evolutionary psychology: why some people will be anti-GMO | Farming Futures

Evolutionary psychology: why some people will be anti-GMO | Farming Futures | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

Scientists may get frustrated at Dr. Oz and The Food Babe and other people who are against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while munching happily on organic strains created by mutagenesis, but if we care about cognitive science issues, the evidence-based world might want to be a little kinder to them in the future.

The reason some people don't trust science has evolutionary roots, a group of Belgian scholars believe - science is complex, they say, and when brains were more primitive, the world had to be made as simple as possible. So 'if I can't pronounce it, you should not eat it' may be a relic of our neuroscience past and some people will have that fear in greater amounts than others.

And environmental groups keep it simple. Science is bad, while science acknowledges its complexity, which makes the job of people who want to undermine science easier.

In a paper in Trends in Plant Science, a group argues that the human mind is highly susceptible to the negative and often emotional representations put out by certain environmental groups and other opponents of GMOs.

Examples of anti-GMO sentiment are present around the world, from the suspension of an approved genetically modified eggplant in India to the strict regulations on GM crops in Europe. Contributing to this public opposition, the researchers suspect, is a lack of scientific understanding of genetics (not even half of the respondents in a US survey rejected the claim that a fish gene introduced into a tomato would give it a fishy taste) as well as moral objections to scientists "playing God."

While spiritual beliefs, particularly those that hold a religious view of nature, have been accused of generating some of the negativity around GMOs, Blancke at al. argue that there's more to the story. Using ideas from the cognitive sciences, evolutionary psychology, and cultural attraction theory, they propose that it is more a matter of messages competing for attention - in which environmental groups are simply much better at influencing people's gut feelings about GMOs than the scientific community.

"The popularity and typical features of the opposition to GMOs can be explained in terms of underlying cognitive processes. Anti-GMO messages strongly appeal to particular intuitions and emotions," says lead author Stefaan Blancke, a philosopher with the Ghent University Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences. "Negative representations of GMOs - for instance, like claims that GMOs cause diseases and contaminate the environment - tap into our feelings of disgust and this sticks to the mind. These emotions are very difficult to counter, in particular because the science of GMOs is complex to communicate. Anti-GMO arguments tap into our intuitions that all organisms have an unobservable immutable core, an essence, and that things in the natural world exist or happen for a purpose. This reasoning of course conflicts with evolutionary theory; the idea that in evolution one species can change into another. It also makes us very susceptible to the idea that nature is a force that has a purpose or even intentions that we shouldn't' meddle with."

More outreach might solve some of that but it is difficult. Environmental groups hire lawyers and advocates specifically to raise money campaigning against science, while researchers already have jobs so tasking them with doing outreach also is probably unfair. Science media is considered too partisan on GMOs and vaccines just like they are on climate change.

"For a very long time people have only been hearing one side," Blancke says. "Scientists aren't generally involved with the public understanding of GMOs, not to mention the science of GMOs is highly counterintuitive and therefore difficult to convey to a lay audience--so they have been at a disadvantage form the start."

The researchers believe that understanding why people are against GMOs is the first step toward identifying ways to counteract negative messages. Blancke and co-author Geert De Jaeger, a plant biotechnologist, started in their community by developing a public lecture to dispel myths about GMOs. They urge others to build science education programs that can help balance out anti-GMO campaigns.

Citation: Blancke et al.: "Fatal attraction: the intuitive appeal of GMO opposition" Trends in Plant Science, DOI:10.1016/j.tplants.2015.03.011

From Science 2.0: http://www.science20.com/news_articles/the_evolutionary_psychology_reason_some_people_will_be_antigmo-155094#ixzz3YIBMiHCY

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20 Innovators Protecting the Planet #EarthDay2015

20 Innovators Protecting the Planet #EarthDay2015 | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
April 22nd is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and, this year, Food Tank is highlighting 20 of our favorite innovators.
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Weed-killing sprays may also be killing our ability to fight bacteria

Weed-killing sprays may also be killing our ability to fight bacteria | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Penicillin overkill has created life-threatening bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. But now some new research shows that common herbicides used in farming can also breed resistant bacteria, and no one's sure how that may affect humans.
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To Feed the World, We Don't Need to Grow More Food

To Feed the World, We Don't Need to Grow More Food | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
"We need to feed the world" is biotech's favorite marketing slogan. And it's so, so wrong.
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Plant roots may accelerate soil carbon loss | Farming Futures

Plant roots may accelerate soil carbon loss | Farming Futures | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/plant-roots-may-accelerate-soil-carbon-loss

 

 

 

http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/plant-roots-may-accelerate-soil-carbon-loss

 

Soil, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere faster than anyone thought, according to Oregon State University soil scientists.

The researchers showed that chemicals emitted by plant roots act on carbon that is bonded to minerals in the soil, breaking the bonds and exposing previously protected carbon to decomposition by microbes.

The carbon then passes into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2), said the study's coauthor, Markus Kleber. He said the study challenges the prevailing view that carbon bonded to minerals stays in the soil for thousands of years. "As these root compounds separate the carbon from its protective mineral phase," he said, "we may see a greater release of carbon from its storage sites in the soil."

As warmer weather and more carbon dioxide in the air stimulate plants to grow, they produce more root compounds. This will likely release more stored carbon, which will enter the atmosphere as CO2--which could in turn accelerate the rate of climate warming.

"Our main concern is that this is an important mechanism, and we are not presently considering it in global models of carbon cycling," Kleber said.

"So current climate-change models may be underestimating carbon loss from soil by as much as 1 percent per year. There is more carbon stored in the soil, on a global scale, than in vegetation or even in the atmosphere," said Kleber. "Since this reservoir is so large, even small changes will have serious effects on carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, and by extension on climate."

Between 60 and 80 percent of organic matter entering the soil gets broken down within the first year in a chain of decomposition that ends with CO2, Kleber said. Most of the remaining carbon gets bound to the soil's minerals through a variety of physical and chemical mechanisms. When this happens, the carbon is protected because the microbes can't get at it to break it down. For the past couple of decades, scientists have assumed that these carbon-mineral bonds amounted to a long-lasting "sink" for soil carbon--keeping it out of the atmosphere by storing it in a stable form over many centuries.

The researchers tested three model compounds for common "root exudates"--chemicals commonly excreted by plant roots--to see how strongly each one stimulated the microbes that drive organic-matter decomposition. In the laboratory, using a syringe and pump, they applied oxalic acid, acetic acid and glucose to soil taken from a dry-climate agricultural area and a wet-climate forest, both in Oregon. They conducted the experiment over 35 days to simulate a flush of root growth in the spring.

Prevailing theory, said Kleber, would predict that the hungry microbes would respond most strongly to the nutritious glucose, which would give them the energy to tackle the rest of the organic matter, including the carbon. "And this is likely happening to a certain extent," he said. "But our big surprise was that the energy-poor oxalic acid generated a much stronger response from the microbes than the energy-rich glucose." When they analyzed the water stored in the oxalic acid-treated soil, the researchers saw there was eight times more dissolved carbon in it than there had been before. Additional laboratory tests confirmed the finding that the acids were breaking the carbon-mineral bonds.

"The significance of this research," Kleber said, "is that we have documented for the first time a mechanism by which long-stored soil carbon is cycled back into the system." Oxalic acid is a good stand-in for a whole suite of root compounds that are excreted by plants in the root zone, Kleber said. "Roots excrete several compounds similar to oxalic acid. We can assume that many root exudates act in a similar way."

 

 

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Building Carbon in farm soils | Farming Futures

Building Carbon in farm soils | Farming Futures | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
"Feed the soil, not the plant" is an old mantra of organic farmers that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago"

Building soil carbon is relatively straightforward: minimise carbon losses to the atmosphere, and maximise additions of carbon to the soil. Preventing carbon losses is commonly overlooked but is of critical importance. Soil carbon is converted to carbon dioxide by oxidisation, the most common causes being deforestation, erosion and cultivation.

On my farm on the Isles of Scilly, I grow a range of organic fruit and vegetables using both mechanical and manual cultivation. My overall strategy is to minimise the depth and frequency of cultivation, and use cover crops and plastic mulches, reducing erosion and exposure of my soil to oxidation.

In Oxfordshire, Julian Gold grows arable crops on the 800 hectare estate he manages. But he is very serious about looking after his soils, and has been working hard to reduce chemical inputs and increase soil carbon whilst maintaining profitability. He uses satellite guided tractors that only drive over a fifth of any field, minimising tractor tyre pressure and soil compaction. No ploughs or rotavators are used, only shallow discs and harrows. This has led to a significant increase in earthworm populations and improved soil quality.

Soil carbon and climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to carbon emissions, but the impact of farming on climate change can be reduced. Farming and forestry are almost unique as industries that could absorb more carbon than they release. The atmospheric carbon that could be absorbed in well managed soils is extraordinary. Soil carbon expert Rattan Lal estimates the potential for soil carbon sequestration across the world as "equivalent to a draw - down of about 50 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2100". This amazing figure proves that fixing carbon in soils is one of the few practical means we currently have to actually reduce global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Building up soil organic matter is a win-win situation for the fight against climate change as well as soil health and crop yields, and must become the focus of farmers everywhere.

The next step maximises carbon inputs to your farming system. In temperate areas the main ways are adding compost, manure, biochar, green manure and cover crops.

Rob Richmond is a dairy farmer in Gloucestershire who has increased soil organic matter at an extraordinary rate whilst maintaining high milk yields. He studied how to increase soil carbon on a worldwide tour, and adapted practices he witnessed on his own farm. Rob talks about three types of organic matter, green, brown and black. Green carbon includes lush cover crops, which are good food for soil bacteria. Brown carbon includes crop residues, mature cover crops and animal manures that become stable organic matter. Black carbon is the most stable form, including mature compost and biochar, and has a very important role in soil stability.

My own farm is next to the sea. I apply large amounts of seaweed, an excellent source of organic matter for my dry sandy soils. Like many organic vegetable growers, green manures are also an important part of my crop rotation, with a quarter of my land at any one time being under leguminous (nitrogen fixing) plants like clover, or non-legumes such as mustard and phacelia.

A diverse crop rotation builds good soil structure as it allows variations in cultivation requirements, nutrient demands and plant rooting depths, as well as providing opportunities for introducing green manures, and breaking up pests and disease cycles. Vegetable grower Iain Tolhurst in the Thames Valley has an extremely diverse rotation and needs to buy no manure and fertilisers. At least a quarter of his farm is covered at any one time with a two year green manure such as alfafa, and large amounts of organic matter is added when it is ploughed in. It's worth noting that perennial crops, such as fruit and nut trees, are also inherently better for soils, requiring little or no cultivation and sequestering carbon through their root exudates.

Improving soil health

Soil ecosystems are extraordinarily diverse and resilient, yet poorly understood. There are thousands of species of bacteria, fungi and insects in healthy soils, some beneficial to plants, others harmful.

Martin Howard farms 160 hectares in the Tamar Valley, and has seen life breathed back into his soils by a combination of minimising soil compaction from overusing his farm machinery, increasing soil aeration, and introducing beneficial bacteria and fungi using root drenches. He sows a diverse range of forage species, and applies compost and manure, and has seen steady improvements in soil structure, pasture productivity, animal health and yield. A well-functioning soil ecosystem is better able to turn organic matter into stable soil carbon, so a healthy soil is one that is better able to sequester carbon.

Measuring organic matter

Treat each field separately.
Measure in spring or autumn, avoiding hot, cold, dry or wet extremes
Measure at least a month after any cultivations. Take a sample core 30cm deep using a soil auger or spade but removing the top 5cm that may contain undecomposed organic matter.
Walk a W shape across the field, taking up to 25 samples in each field, mixed thoroughly in a bucket.
Remove weeds, stones or lumps or organic matter, and put about 0.5kg of this well mixed soil in a plastic bag, labelling it clearly with date and field number / name.
Send your soil sample immediately to an agricultural laboratory for soil organic matter analysis, asking for measurements by 'loss on ignition' with results to two decimal places.
Repeat same time the following year.

We recommend doing this every spring or autumn. Different fields may show different trends, so the farm as a whole must be considered by adding up measurements from all fields. With this, you can see whether your farm management practices are losing, maintaining, or building soil organic matter, and you can target management changes to individual fields. With an organic matter increase of 0.1% (e.g. from 4.0 to 4.1%) an extra 8.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be sequestered per hectare per year. This shows the huge potential of changing farming practices to climate change mitigation, while also improving soil health, yields and profits.

Rob Richmond has seen a significant increase of organic matter and improved soil structure by applying compost, growing diverse and deep-rooting grass swards, and 'mob stocking'. This is where a large herd of livestock intensively graze a small area of tall grass right down in a few days before being moved onto the next patch. Rob describes how, under the right management, pastures can sequester carbon dioxide at a rate of 20 tonnes per hectare per year. He uses a complex mix of forage species including clover, vetch, and alfafa that grow robustly, are good companion plants, and allow him to graze and rest his land for optimum efficiency. Furthermore, his soils retain more water and his cows are healthier.
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Simple Vegetable Garden Tips for Every Size Garden

Simple Vegetable Garden Tips for Every Size Garden | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
You don't need acres of land to grow your own veggies. If you have a sunny spot in your home, you can have a vegetable garden! Learn simple vegetable garden tips for every size garden!
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The Spiral Pump: A High Lift, Slow Turning Pump

The Spiral Pump: A High Lift, Slow Turning Pump | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
The Spiral Pump by Peter Tailer: high lift, slow-turning stream-powered water pump
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Organic Farming is only 9950 years Older than Chemical Farming!

Organic Farming is only 9950 years Older than Chemical Farming! | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
It started about 10.000,- years ago, -8000 B.C., in present day Konya, Türkiye. About 200km north-west of my own farm, with birds flight. This place was included among World Heritage sites by UNESCO in July 1st, 2012. Its in Çumra area overlooking the vast Konya (old Iconia) farming valley of Türkiye, larger than many European countries.Farming had been about fully natural until 1950s, without chemicals. Fruits commanded prices like meats. Goods were scarcer, but had quality.Almost all heavy wei
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Eric Larson's curator insight, March 27, 1:17 PM

Just think about this!!!

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California is drilling for water that fell to Earth 20,000 years ago

California is drilling for water that fell to Earth 20,000 years ago | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
We're using so much groundwater that it's contributing to sea level rise.
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FarmBot Founder Rory Aronson explains Precision Agriculture

FarmBot Founder Rory Aronson explains Precision Agriculture | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
If you have not yet discovered project Farmbot, this interview will be a revelation to you. The project in question, has the ambition to bring digitalization into one of the oldest processes in society, that of agriculture. The vision behind "precision agriculture" is particularly interesting and so Open Electronics decided to interview Rory Aronson, the creator of the project. Rory gave us a few more details than available online up to now and helped further increase the interest that we have i
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Everything you need to know about nanopesticides | Farming Futures

Everything you need to know about nanopesticides | Farming Futures | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

Stacey Harper, a scientist at Oregon State University is researching tiny nanoparticles, with the goal of identifying which will be a boon and which a bane for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Nanoparticles, which are the size of molecules, are already used in everything from sunscreen to biomedical devices. Their minuscule size makes them efficient, but also unpredictable. That’s what worries Harper: The first nano-formulations of pesticides are quietly making their way onto agricultural fields, and she wants to know what happens next.

An engineer as well as a toxicologist, Harper holds a unique perspective. She believes nanotechnology could help revolutionize farming just as it has medicine. But she sees the potential as well as the risks of nanopesticides. “I think the vast majority of nanopesticides will not be toxic”–or, at least, no more toxic to non-target organisms than current pesticides, says Harper. “We just need a way to identify that handful that may be hazardous.”

By shrinking the size of individual nanopesticide droplets, there is broad consensus — from industry to academia to the Environmental Protection Agency — that the total amount of toxins sprayed on agricultural fields could be significantly reduced. Smaller droplets have a higher total surface area, which offers overall greater contact with crop pests. As well, these tiny particles can be engineered so that, for example, a physical shell called a capsule, can better withstand degradation in the environment, offering longer-lasting protection than conventional pesticides. But that shell can alter what had been predictable physical properties, such as how soluble the pesticide is in water.

And Harper is well aware that unique physical properties of the nano-scale call into question the particles’ environmental fate. Once they’re sprayed on fields, will they clump on crops or slide through the soil into water bodies? Most worrisome, Harper wonders whether they will be readily taken up by organisms that aren’t pests (such as bees or fish), and how long they will persist in the environment — properties that could radically change with size.  

“The potential for nano-enabled pesticides is unbelievable, but it’s still a dream at the moment,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. And the dream goes beyond pesticides. He describes plans for nano-sized sensors that can detect low nitrogen and send a message to a farmer’s cell phone or nanosensors in plastic food packaging that lights up when it comes into contact with listeria or salmonella.

“The concern is that there might be unintended consequences associated with nanoparticles — that’s the big question being looked at by federal agencies,” he adds.

Over the last 13 years, the U.S. government has funneled billions into the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a coordinated R&D program that spans 20 federal departments and agencies and aims to spur nanotechnology across sectors. In 2008, the NNI took an unprecedented step and also began funding environmental health and safety research. So far, however, the small fraction of this money available for risk testing has focused largely on workers who may inhale nanoparticles.

Scientists realized they needed faster, more efficient ways of assessing the risks of nanoparticles. Harper, for example, developed a test to assess the toxicity of nanomaterials on zebrafish, an aquatic version of a lab rat, one that can inform impacts to human health as well as the environment.  

“Of the hundreds of nanotech compounds we have tested, only a few are raising red flags,” Harper says. “It often boils down to whether the particle’s surface chemistry has an overall positive charge,” meaning, for example, that they could be attracted to negatively-charged cell membranes if they got into the human body.

To keep track of the trouble-making nano-features, she helped create an international database of the physical structures and their toxicity. The goal is to determine which nanoparticle designs should be avoided, then share that information with industry.

From the FERN website

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Revealed: a secret Monsanto document in the Maui GMO case

Revealed: a secret Monsanto document in the Maui GMO case | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
A NoMoreFakeNews.com exclusive---Revealed: a secret Monsanto document in the Maui GMO case Justice withheld: justice denied A scandal that needs to come to light now by Jon Rappoport April 10, 2015...
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John Herlihy's comment, April 24, 11:32 AM
It is a shame that Monsanto continues to shroud its research in secrecy and maintain that the public should not be involved. They have had an awful corporate record and apparently wish to continue some of these practices. But, I ask readers to not associate Monsanto's deplorable track record with GMOs in general. Monsanto is out to make money, but thousands of scientist are working to help farmers and consumers, here and in developing nations.
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Why You Can’t Have Organic Food Without Soil | Civil Eats

Why You Can’t Have Organic Food Without Soil | Civil Eats | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Hydroponic farming is missing one very important ingredient -- soil -- and a whole way of thinking that goes along with it.
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The Mystery Behind Organic Honey

The Mystery Behind Organic Honey | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
I see organic honey on the supermarket shelves yet is there such a thing as certified organic honey? It is a very legitimate question and one I answer here.
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Gourmet Living's curator insight, April 21, 3:26 PM

Organic honey.  Find out more

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Mycorrhizae For Sale - The Most Helpful Soil Inoculant

Mycorrhizae For Sale - The Most Helpful Soil Inoculant | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
I have mycorrhizae for sale, but really, ‘mycorrhizae’ refers to the relationship between the fungi and the root (‘myco’ is fungi and ‘rhiza’ is root).
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Building Carbon in farm soils | Farming Futures

Building Carbon in farm soils | Farming Futures | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/building-carbon-farm-soils

 

 

 

"Feed the soil, not the plant" is an old mantra of organic farmers that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago"

Building soil carbon is relatively straightforward: minimise carbon losses to the atmosphere, and maximise additions of carbon to the soil. Preventing carbon losses is commonly overlooked but is of critical importance. Soil carbon is converted to carbon dioxide by oxidisation, the most common causes being deforestation, erosion and cultivation.

On my farm on the Isles of Scilly, I grow a range of organic fruit and vegetables using both mechanical and manual cultivation. My overall strategy is to minimise the depth and frequency of cultivation, and use cover crops and plastic mulches, reducing erosion and exposure of my soil to oxidation.

In Oxfordshire, Julian Gold grows arable crops on the 800 hectare estate he manages. But he is very serious about looking after his soils, and has been working hard to reduce chemical inputs and increase soil carbon whilst maintaining profitability. He uses satellite guided tractors that only drive over a fifth of any field, minimising tractor tyre pressure and soil compaction. No ploughs or rotavators are used, only shallow discs and harrows. This has led to a significant increase in earthworm populations and improved soil quality.

Soil carbon and climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to carbon emissions, but the impact of farming on climate change can be reduced. Farming and forestry are almost unique as industries that could absorb more carbon than they release. The atmospheric carbon that could be absorbed in well managed soils is extraordinary. Soil carbon expert Rattan Lal estimates the potential for soil carbon sequestration across the world as "equivalent to a draw - down of about 50 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2100". This amazing figure proves that fixing carbon in soils is one of the few practical means we currently have to actually reduce global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Building up soil organic matter is a win-win situation for the fight against climate change as well as soil health and crop yields, and must become the focus of farmers everywhere.

The next step maximises carbon inputs to your farming system. In temperate areas the main ways are adding compost, manure, biochar, green manure and cover crops.

Rob Richmond is a dairy farmer in Gloucestershire who has increased soil organic matter at an extraordinary rate whilst maintaining high milk yields. He studied how to increase soil carbon on a worldwide tour, and adapted practices he witnessed on his own farm. Rob talks about three types of organic matter, green, brown and black. Green carbon includes lush cover crops, which are good food for soil bacteria. Brown carbon includes crop residues, mature cover crops and animal manures that become stable organic matter. Black carbon is the most stable form, including mature compost and biochar, and has a very important role in soil stability.

My own farm is next to the sea. I apply large amounts of seaweed, an excellent source of organic matter for my dry sandy soils. Like many organic vegetable growers, green manures are also an important part of my crop rotation, with a quarter of my land at any one time being under leguminous (nitrogen fixing) plants like clover, or non-legumes such as mustard and phacelia.

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How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of course

How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of course | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
I, for one, welcome our tree planting robot overlords.
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Ben Dida's curator insight, April 8, 6:42 AM

Grate article!

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The roots of life and health: Elaine Ingham's theory of the living soil

The roots of life and health: Elaine Ingham's theory of the living soil | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Modern agriculture - even among organic farmers - is often seen as a matter of soil chemistry, writes Lynda Brown. But an alternative view is gaining ground: that it's really about soil life. Nurture your soil-dwelling micro-organisms, and your crops look after themselves.
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Kaduru earns millions from passion fruits

Kaduru earns millions from passion fruits | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
He walks with confidence–after all he drives a Land Cruiser VX, certainly an above average car for a rural folk.
Giri Kumar's insight:

 Though we find this agriculturist using chemicals for spraying, this article was chosen to portray the prevailing farming trend in Uganda.

 

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The Barefoot Farmer grows more than food

The Barefoot Farmer grows more than food | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
At his Long Hungry Creek Farm in Tennessee, Jeff Poppen grows community too, championing the small family farm and the importance of bring young people back to the land.

 

 

http://www.mnn.com/leaderboard/stories/the-barefoot-farmer-grows-more-than-food?utm_source=2015+March+E-News&utm_campaign=Biodynamic+Association+E-News&utm_medium=email

 

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lavitabio's curator insight, March 27, 5:31 AM

Le complicate vicende di un contadino Usa "piedi scalzi". L'agricoltura, il biologico, il valore sociale e culturale.

Eric Larson's curator insight, March 27, 1:15 PM

Interesting ideas.

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Big Ag’s Fight for Twitter Credibility : Food First

Big Ag’s Fight for Twitter Credibility : Food First | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Many consumers and food activists use social media platforms to stay informed and engage in important debates about the future of our food system. But increasing corporate influence in these spaces requires us to differentiate fact from spin as we encounter hundreds of posts and tweets per day. Big Ag’s attempts to shape social media debates expose its fear of criticism from a growing food movement demanding corporate transparency, regulation, and sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture. With 284 million monthly active users, Twitter has become a battleground for Big Ag’s credibility.

 

http://foodfirst.org/big-ags-fight-for-twitter-credibility/

 

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Eric Larson's curator insight, March 27, 1:16 PM

Is Big Ag shaping social media?