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Manure manager

I saw the future in manure!
Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business
Profit Magazine
December 2004 

This past summer, I was invited to speak at a western agricultural company’s annual golf day. In attendance were several hundred farmers, their families and various folks from the local area, in a small town about 100 miles from the nearest city. It was about as rural as you could get.

I was asked to address “what comes next” in the world of agriculture, so I looked into the unique challenges facing agriculture today, as well as the trends that will impact the industry over the next five to twenty years.

While doing my research, I came across the phrase “manure management.” That was a new one! And the deeper I dug — so to speak — the more I came to realize that, believe it or not, we can learn a great deal about the future by looking at what is going on with manure. These are the lessons I learned from manure:

1. Accept that times are changing: We live in a time when change is taking place faster than ever, and is speeding up. The mere fact that there’s a profession of people known as “manure managers” shows we’re entering a world that will be far more complex. Recognizing that fact is step one to succeeding in the future.

2. Science is making waves : Manure managers exist because there’s a lot of innovation and R&D occurring with manure. For example, one of the biggest manure management problems involves what’s known as “pit crust.” As the name suggests, it’s the top layer of the manure in the pit, and it gets rather hard and crusty, leading to flies and rodents, not to mention enhanced smell problems.

Rapid evolution in biogenetics is helping to deal with the problem. Scientists determined that most of the pit crust comes from the outer shell of the corn that is fed to the animals, so they developed a specialized bio-enzyme that breaks down the shell during digestion, leading to a thinner crust. The result: fewer rodents and flies, less potential for disease and a big, positive environmental impact.

That’s but one example of how rapid scientific advance is causing change. Look into any industry, and you can see the emergence of all kinds of rapid innovation and new developments. Expect that trend to become more pronounced and even faster over time.

3. Hyper specialization will soon be standard : Given that there is so much new stuff going on, the typical farmer might not learn of the latest advances in manure management. That’s where the manure manager comes in — individuals who possess the specialized knowledge of what’s out there and what can be done with it. They are partners in the process, helping the farmers cope with the rapid change swirling around them.

A typical farmer can no longer be expected to know everything there is to know about farming today. They must call in outside expertise to help them deal with every type of complex issue, of which manure management is only one. And this is a trend true across the economy.

There is now so much new knowledge emerging that every profession and career is fragmenting into dozens of sub-specialties. No one person can be expected to master everything anymore.

4. A specialized partner can save you money : Manure managers are experts in providing farmers with the opportunity for revenue enhancement through the more intelligent application of manure on the fields. In one area in the U.S. Midwest, experts have been working with local farmers to undertake detailed soil and yield analysis to determine the best application rates for future plantings. The returns have been significant — one family farm saw a $19 increase in revenue yield per acre through such efforts. That might seem like a small number until you multiply it by 2,000 acres, for a net result of $38,000 — a big revenue improvement for a family farm operation.

That’s but one small example of how a specialized partner, dealing with specialized knowledge, can help you with your business. As the body of knowledge that surrounds us grows, there are all kinds of innovative, new and challenging ways to run the business better .

5. The future will be increasingly complex : Manure provides a useful signupst to a world that is going to involve a lot more change, specialization and complexity. Everything we know – the jobs in which we work, the professions in which we’ve been trained, the skills we possess, the marketplace in which we sell our products, the industry in which we work and the knowledge that we’re expected to master—will be extremely different tomorrow.

The fact that there exists in the world a group of people who are proud to be recognized as manure managers tells us a lot about the complexity of our future. Figuring out how to deal with such complexities will become the essence for innovative thinking, and from that, our future success.

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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.

Osk Reddy's curator insight, August 24, 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  :


GUESS - Henna Bio Fence - Telugu  :


Thanking You



Best Regards




Ph. No. 919494947894 / 919848028410 /

Web Site:



Scooped by Giri Kumar! - Nitrogen Fixing Trees-Multipurpose Pioneers • NFTs • Air to the Plants • Planting • Establishment • Legumes • Seed Inoculation • Scarification • Species Selection - Nitrogen Fixing Trees-Multipurpose Pioneers • NFTs • Air to the Plants • Planting • Establishment • Legumes • Seed Inoculation • Scarification • Species Selection | Organic Farming |
Nitrogen Fixing Trees for Agroforestry

Nitrogen fixation is a pattern of nutrient cycling which has successfully been used in perennial agriculture for millennia. This article focuses on legumes, which are nitrogen fixers of particular importance in agriculture. Specifically, tree legumes (nitrogen fixing trees, hereafter called NFTs) are especially valuable in subtropical and tropical agroforestry. They can be integrated into an agroforestery system to restore nutrient cycling and fertility self-reliance.

On unvegetated sites, "pioneer" plants (plants which grow and thrive in harsh, low-fertility conditions) begin the cycling of nutrients by mining and accumulating available nutrients. As more nutrients enter the biological system and vegetative cover is established, conditions for other non-pioneering species become favorable. Pioneers like nitrogen fixing trees tend to benefit other forms of life by boosting fertility and moderating harsh conditions.

NFTs are often deep rooted, which allows them to gain access to nutrients in subsoil layers. Their constant leaf drop nourishes soil life, which in turn can support more plant life. The extensive root system stabilizes soil, while constantly growing and atrophying, adding organic matter to the soil while creating channels for aeration. There are many species of NFTs that can also provide numerous useful products and functions, including food, wind protection, shade, animal fodder, fuel wood, living fence, and timber, (see chart for specific species yields) in addition to providing nitrogen to the system.
Nitrogen: From the Air to the Plants

Nitrogen is often referred to as a primary limiting nutrient in plant growth. Simply put, when nitrogen is not available plants stop growing. Although lack of nitrogen is often viewed as a problem, nature has an immense reserve of nitrogen everywhere plants grow--in the air. Air consists of approximately 80% nitrogen gas (N2), representing about 6400 kg of N above every hectare of land. However, N2 is a stable gas, normally unavailable to plants. Nitrogen fixation, a process by which certain plants "fix" or gather atmospheric N2 and make it biologically available, is an underlying pattern in nature. (See box below for details on how nitrogen fixation works).
How to Use NFTs in a System

In the tropics, most of the available nutrients (over 75%) are not in the soil but in the organic matter. In subtropical and tropical forests, nutrients are constantly cycling through the ecosystem. Aside from enhancing overall fertility by accumulating nitrogen and other nutrients, NFTs establish readily, grow rapidly, and regrow easily from pruning. They are perfectly suited to jump-start organic matter production on a site, creating an abundant source of nutrient-rich mulch for other plants. Many fast-growing NFTs can be cut back regularly over several years for mulch production.

The NFTs may be integrated into a system in many different ways including clump plantings, alley cropping, contour hedgerows, shelter belts, or single distribution plantings. (See figure below). As part of a productive system, they can serve many functions: microclimate for shade-loving crops like coffee or citrus (cut back seasonally to encourage fruiting); trellis for vine crops like vanilla, pepper, and yam; mulch banks for home gardens; and living fence and fodder sources around animal fields.
NFT illus feian01Ways to integrate nitrogen fixing trees in your plantings

Planting Nitrogen Fixing Trees

Species Selection

A survey of your area will be helpful in determining the habit and vigor of local NFTs. Some are small and produce edible shoots and pods, ideal for home garden use; others are large and fast growing for fuel wood or poles. Decide on what yields you want from your NFTs, and choose a diversity of species. For some characteristics of many nitrogen fixing trees, this chart may be of use.

Seed Pregermination Treatment (Scarification)

In many NFTs, the hard seed coat must be scarified in order to allow absorption of water, hence germination. There are several methods: hot water is the most common. Water temperature should be approximately 70-90 C° (160°F). The volume ratio should be 5-10 parts water to one part seeds. Seeds are placed in hot water for 1-3 minutes, then rinsed. Seeds may be soaked overnight at room temperature. A useful chart is given on the FACT Net website.

Seed Inoculation

After scarification, a sticking agent such as vegetable oil or plain water is applied sparingly to seeds, and inoculum dusted into the mix. Seeds should be sown immediately. Do not expose inoculated seed to extremes in temperature or direct sunlight.


Plant material in the form of bare root seedlings, stump cuttings and branch cuttings should be kept moist and protected until planting. Punch a small hole in the ground with the same diameter as the plant material. Seedlings should be placed in the hole with the root/shoot collar of the tree at soil level. Stump cuttings are handled likewise. Branch cuttings should be scarified in several places with a sharp knife to promote rooting and put in the ground about one third of their length.


Initially NFTs require moisture and adequate nutrients, as well as protection from weed competition. The best way to achieve these conditions is to amend the soil and sheet mulch at the time of planting.

A Caution

As the goal in agroforestry is to foster a productive and stable ecosystem, rather than simply to add nitrogen to the system, NFTs should be used with due care and oversight. Too many nitrogen fixing plants can overnitrify the soil and pollute ground and surface waters. NFTs are not a panacea. Most will not thrive in shade or fertile conditions. Because of their ability to thrive under poor conditions, they can easily become weedy. Therefore, if possible, use only NFTs which are already established in your area, or that have a history of not becoming weeds. NFTs can also become competitive for available soil nutrients, especially in arid areas-careful and informed management practices are advised.

Also, be aware that there are many other significant avenues for nitrogen fixation in nature, such as free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria, which should also be incorporated into a design.
How Biological Nitrogen Fixation Works in Legumes

Working with a group of bacteria called rhizobia, legumes are able to pull nitrogen out of the air and accumulate it biologically. The bacteria, which are normally free-living in the soil in the native range of a particular legume, infect (inoculate) the root hairs of the plant and are housed in small root structures called nodules. Energy is provided by the plant to feed the bacteria and fuel the nitrogen fixation process. In return, the plant receives nitrogen for growth.

There are thousands of strains of rhizobia. Certain of these will infect many hosts, certain hosts will accept many different strains of rhizobia. Certain hosts may be nodulated by several strains of rhizobia, but growth may be enhanced only by particular strains. Therefore, when introducing hosts to a new area it is extremely important to also introduce a known effective symbiotic rhizobia strain. Such effective strains have been identified for thousands of the important nitrogen fixing legumes, and can be purchased at low cost for the value returned. The best method for ensuring effective nitrogen fixation is introduce a known effective strain of Rhizobium to the potting medium at the time of sowing. Large, healthy nodules may also be used to inoculate seeds. To determine if the nodule is effective, it may be cut open. Effective nodules will have a pink to dark red pigment inside.

In conventional cropping systems it is estimated that 50-800 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year are accumulated by nitrogen fixing plants, depending on species, soil and climate, Rhizobium efficiency, and management. Equivalent quantities of manufactured nitrogen is produced using an energy intensive process, and the end product is high-priced nitrogen in a form which can be detrimental to soil ecology.

NFT illus feian02
References and further reading:

FAO, 1984. Legume Inoculants and Their Use, FAO of the United Nations, Rome. Excellent practical handbook for inoculation.

MacDicken, Kenneth G. 1994. Selection and Management of Nitrogen-Fixing Trees. Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.

National Academy of Sciences. 1979. Tropical Legumes: Resources for the Future, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C..

Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association (Currently the FACT Net). 1989-1994. NFT Highlights. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.

Author Contact:

Craig Elevitch and Kim Wilkinson
P.O. Box 428, Holualoa, HI 96725 USA
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Regenerative Agriculture Is the Answer to Save Your Health

Regenerative Agriculture Is the Answer to  Save Your Health | Organic Farming |
Regenerative agriculture is one of the best ways to help prevent global disaster, save our health, and build a sustainable economy.




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Reviving Nepal with hybrid tomatoes

Reviving Nepal with hybrid tomatoes | Organic Farming |
This audio slideshow shows how the creation of a hybrid species revived traditional farming in the country.


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Solar ammonia process may spur fertiliser revolution

Solar ammonia process may spur fertiliser revolution | Organic Farming |
Developing nations could use the process to make their own fertiliser, avoiding the huge expense of imports.


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Vandana Shiva’s Crusade Against Genetically Modified Crops

Michael Specter on Vandana Shiva, an activist who accuses biotechnology companies such as Monsanto of imposing “food totalitarianism.” Others believe that G.M.O.s are the key to solving world hunger.


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New technology helps farmers conserve fertilizer and protect their crops - The Guardian

New technology helps farmers conserve fertilizer and protect their crops - The Guardian | Organic Farming |
The Guardian
New technology helps farmers conserve fertilizer and protect their crops
The Guardian
It is the broad swath at the bottom of our own human food pyramid and it is applied by farmers to agriculture fields all over the world.
Sylvain Rotillon's curator insight, August 22, 7:08 AM

This is also a way to minimize pollution

Susan Sharma's curator insight, August 23, 1:12 AM
Technology can help in regulating fertilizer inputs. This is an innovation which was long overdue!
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Burundi farmers teach each other how to farm more efficiently

Burundi farmers teach each other how to farm more efficiently | Organic Farming |
In July, an open day was held in the village communities of Makebuko and Bukirasazi in Burundi. The aim was to demonstrate the success of SCAD, a collaborative project set up by Alterra, Achmea and HealthNetTPO, which employs an integrated approach to improve both the food production and the social security of the local population.


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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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NSW farmer believes increasing soil humus can prompt rain

NSW farmer believes increasing soil humus can prompt rain | Organic Farming |
Can farmers make it rain?

It's a tantalising question that one farmer has been researching and scientists have been exploring.

Glenn Morris is passionate about humus and believes what you do to the soil on your farm, can affect the rain.

"The humus is the home for the biology, and recent scientific reports coming out of the United States are saying that the biology actually increases up to 160 per cent in the first five minutes following rain, so it's actually an ice-nucleating agent for forming rain," he said.

"We're basically talking about biological cloud seeding."

Mr Morris, an organic beef producer in northern NSW, won a Landcare award last year.

He did his Masters thesis on the link between humus in the soil, the release of rain-forming plant pathogens and how both those things can help to rehydrate the landscape.

A decade ago he was managing a property that was unusually dry.

"The water cycle was breaking down, not so much due to a lack of weather systems coming through, but the fact there was no moisture being held in the system," he said.

"The soil had lost its ability to hold the water and that was due to a lack of organic matter and humus.

"I did a Masters on that subject and tried to quantify how much water we could hold in the landscape by increasing humus."

It took Mr Morris two years to get a number.

"The figures were basically a 1:4 relationship, which equated to every one per cent humus we could increase in the landscape, we could hold an extra 160,000 litres of water."

Mr Morris says grazing management is the way to increase humus in the soil.

"Manage your pasture so that it has the optimum chance to rest, just before the late maturity phase and just before seeding.

"They've got their energy requirement [by then], so they really start dumping sugars into the root zone [and] that's when you start to get really good humus gains."

Grazing cattle is also important, because it allows the organic matter to be broken down into a density that makes a difference.

Mr Morris believes that if farmers band together to increase soil humus, they could effectively seed the clouds and make it rain.

"It's a big call to say that you can make a difference just over your property, but at a regional level, if a few farmers come on board, you are actually cloud seeding."

So is it true? Can farmers band together and attract rain to their farms?

Dr Lachlan Ingram from the University of Sydney is based in Cooma in southern NSW and has also been researching soil organic matter and water holding capacity.

He confirms there is definitely a relationship between humus and the water that soil can hold and also that plants release spores which become nuclei for rain.

But can farmers make it rain by increasing the humus in their soils? Dr Ingram says probably not.

"It's part of a larger process," he said,

"We know that clouds and raindrops form as a result of these small aerosols or nuclei which water binds to, and we know that spores are a really critical part of that.

But, he says, high winds at high altitudes will blow it away.

"The reality is that they're probably going to be hit by winds and perhaps taken downstream a hundred or a thousand kilometres."
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Agri-Youth: Does organic farming foster biodiversity?


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Small-Scale Traditional Farming Is the Only Way to Avoid Food Crisis, UN Researcher Says

Small-Scale Traditional Farming Is the Only Way to Avoid Food Crisis, UN Researcher Says | Organic Farming |
New scientific research increasingly shows how “agroecology” offers environmentally sustainable methods that can meet the rapidly growing demand for food.




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Cultural change in Kenyan banana farming

Cultural change in Kenyan banana farming | Organic Farming |
This audio slideshow shows how innovative tissue cultures are boosting production and family incomes.


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Insect Agriculture Is Growing - MIT Technology Review

Insect Agriculture Is Growing - MIT Technology Review | Organic Farming |
Insect Agriculture Is Growing
MIT Technology Review
Most farmers go to great lengths to keep insects at bay. For a growing cadre of livestock and fish producers ...
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Drones Take Flight Over Farms - KELOLAND TV

Drones Take Flight Over Farms - KELOLAND TV | Organic Farming |
Drones Take Flight Over Farms
With today's modern technology farmers can better manage their crops and livestock. The latest piece of equipment looks more like a toy than a piece of machinery.
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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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