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Radical Apiculturalist Michael Thiele - Root Simple

Radical Apiculturalist Michael Thiele - Root Simple | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Micheal Thiele approaches a hive. Could the huge loss of bees in recent years be because we...

 

 

Could the huge loss of bees in recent years be because we treat them, like so may other farm animals, as cogs in a big industrial ag machine?  This is just one of the questions posed by apiculturalist (he rejects the term “beekeeper” – more on that below) Michael Thiele at a workshop Kelly and I attended which was sponsored by Honey Love.

The language of bees
Thiele began his lecture with a critique of the language we use for bees–first off the term “beekeeper.” “Keeping” bees suggests the constant interference bees get in our industrial system: being dosed with insecticides to treat mites, moving them thousands of miles a year, feeding them high fructose corn syrup, artificially breeding queens, etc. Thiele proposed the term “apiculture” as a word that suggests living with bees rather than keeping them. Feral honeybees as well as the bees of natural apiculturalists, after all, keep themselves and seem to be doing better without all the intervention.

The same goes for the word “worker.” Thiele suggested that when we use this kind of 19th century industrial language we’re thinking more of our own desires than the true nature and health of the bees.

The bien
Thiele wants us to think of a hive holistically, as a superorganism he calls (as did Rudolf Steiner) the bien. As Thiele puts it, the bien is “one being . . . permeated with life based on love.” In Thiele’s inclusive view the bien is much more than just a few thousand individual bees. The bien also includes all the symbiotic and parasitic relationships bees have with microorganisms, flowers, honey, gravity–even wax moth larvae and mites. When we take a whole systems approach, Thiele suggests, we’re more likely to admit our ignorance and approach the hive with humility. Thiele’s description of the bien reminded me of Martin Buber’s  I-Thou as opposed to I-It relationship, i.e. subject to subject rather than subject to object. In fact, several hundreds of years of materialism in the west has, sadly, degenerated most of our relationships into I-it relationships (think separateness and detachment).

Intuition
Due to the sheer complexity of the a hive, Thiele suggests our relationship with the bien should rely, for the most part, on intuition. When we deal with other humans–or a dog or a horse–we have a face to look at. With bees there is no face. Bees also have an otherness about them that makes a connection with them a very different experience than dealing with our fellow mammals. Unfortunately, the intuitive senses we need to relate to a bien that lacks a recognizable face have atrophied in our culture, another victim of I-it.

At the end of the workshop, when we visited some hives in a backyard in Santa Monica, we had a chance to see Thiele demonstrate his intuitive approach to bees. He approached the bees, without a veil, with a quiet reverence. Kneeling, he placed a hand on top of one of the boxes. A guard bee came out to fly around his face. Thiele told us what to do when this happens: relax and try to connect with the bien. After buzzing around for a minute or so, the guard bee left.

I’ve had three encounters with guard bees since I’ve seen Thiele demonstrate this. Two times I followed Thiele’s advice and the guard bee flew off. Once I did the opposite, freaked out and promptly got stung. It’s yet another of the odd metaphysical experiences I’ve had with bees. To the skeptics I’d suggest that this non-verbal communication is no different than what you’d do with a frightened horse: relax, try to establish a contact with the horse brain and you’ll be fine. Freak out, and things could go badly for both you and the horse.

A machine for living
Along with the industrial language that we use to describe bees, Thiele suggests that it’s well past time to rethink the industrial hardware we use to “keep” bees. The 19th century Langstroth hive still dominates, and this form of hive could be likened to a 19th century factory design: a honey factory. Thiele thinks that Langstroth hives are for our convenience rather than the health of the bees. Thiele says we need to look at how bees live in nature to find clues for the types of housing we should provide. Thiele has been experimenting for years with various designs, some as simple as just a hollowed out log, others more elaborate such as the sun hive, a beautiful woven object:

The sun hive has movable frames, a feature that is mandated by law in the US. Provocatively, Thiele noted the difference between a legal obligation and a moral obligation. In our hive designs we may have to transcend the law. And we’re also going to need to get creative. Thiele’s sun hive, by his own admission, is by no means the last word on the subject. Thiele hopes that we can begin the process of experimentation, always asking the bien what it wants rather than being focused on our own interests. I’ll take a look at some alternate hive designs in-depth in future blog posts.

The alchemy of bee-ing
As the late apiculturalist Charles Martin Simon said, “it’s not about the honey. It’s not about the money.” Focus on those two things and we’ll destroy ourselves along with the bees. Apiculture, according to Thiele is “an art of the soul.” Bees, he says, are messengers for different levels of consciousness. They link the realms of heaven and earth in their daily journeys. They may also be the key to integrating our disjointed souls.

To see more of Thiele’s work including some videos visit Gaia Bees.

 
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Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology

Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
As food security becomes an increasingly important global issue, scientists are looking for the best way to maintain the organic matter in soils using different methods of fertilization and crop rotation.

 

He cites three common ways for producers to introduce nitrogen into soil: synthetic fertilizer; manure or other organic amendments; and through cultivation of nitrogen fixing pulse crops. For all these methods, the nitrogen comes in different forms. Synthetic fertiliz

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-soil-nitrogen-synchrotron-technology.html#jCp
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Osseo farm family grows a TV audience

OSSEO, Wis. —

Like the breeze-billowing curtains in an open window, Inga Witscher effortlessly coasts from the garden into the kitchen.

Wearing knee-high green boots, a large straw hat and a blue dress shielded by an apron, she harvests rich red rhubarb with a few slices from a scythe.

Singing an old folk tune and carrying a bundle of tart plant stalks into the house with her, she makes cocktails for guests waiting outside in lawn chairs at her rural Osseo farm.

That series of scenes in a short Internet video Witscher made with her husband and father depicts the philosophy of local foods and farming that caught the attention of television producers, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/1eAUn4c).

"We wanted to share what we're doing on our farm," Witscher said.

Already a collection of short videos on the Internet, "Around the Farm Table" is making the move in November to broadcast television in a four-episode season that will air in prime time on Wisconsin Public Television.

Like the videos already available online, the upcoming episodes filmed especially for TV will feature farms throughout Wisconsin and dishes that can be made from their foods.

"Basically, find good ingredients and you'll have good food," said Joe Maurer, Witscher's husband and one of the show's producers.

They'd been filming videos for their website for about a year when they decided this past winter to try to show "Around the Farm Table" to a wider audience.

After a few telephone calls, they got the attention of Kathy Bissen, WPT director of production. The show mixes WPT's interest in celebrating Wisconsin life with the rising popularity of cooking shows.

"We know that there is a great interest, almost a resurgence, in cooking and natural foods," Bissen said.

WPT already has a show called "Wisconsin Foodie," which focuses on restaurants and foods found in southern and eastern Wisconsin. The program, now between seasons, will return early next year. Adding "Around the Farm Table" to the channel's lineup covers food produced in northern and western parts of the state, Bissen said.

Witscher said she's not a gourmet cook and her recipes are simple adaptations of dishes she learned from her mother or obtained from other inspiration.

"I'm not some chef," she said. "I milk cows. That's what I do."

The show's focus is on fresh ingredients from Wisconsin farms.

Deutsch Family Farm near Osseo provided lard and organic, humanely raised pork for a meat pie made in one show. Honey and buckwheat flour made at Honey Hill Apiary in Maiden Rock became part of a couple of recipes - including gluten-free pancakes.

Bissen finds Witscher's warm, friendly personality helps her connect with audiences.

"She's very personable," Bissen said. "Not everybody can reach through a television screen and speak to a viewer."

Witscher's humility comes across in a web short of her visit to Rampfest, a festival near Viroqua that celebrates a root vegetable similar to leeks and garlic that grows in Wisconsin maple forests.

She starts the episode by professing she doesn't know much about the plant but eagerly learns about it from a festival organizer. She concludes the video by enthusiastically sampling a dish made from ramps.

Before agreeing to air any episodes, the TV broadcaster requested a pilot show that would establish a template and test of how "Around the Farm Table" would work in a half-hour time slot.

Witscher and company made the pilot during winter. Scenes include ice fishing on Half Moon Lake in Eau Claire and a visit to learn about cheese made at Castle Rock Organic Dairy near Foster.

Lonesome Stone Milling in the southwestern Wisconsin village of Lone Rock provides flour for Danish rye bread, which gets sliced and topped with homemade butter.

Producing the four episodes took about 1 1/2 months, while they also were farming.

"We're also milking cows and making cheese in between," Maurer said.

They got help from their farmhand, Craig Speerstra, a UW-Eau Claire student originally from the Whitehall area.

By mid-September, most of the editing had been finished and Maurer was adding a musical score made of their original music.

Music is one of the hallmarks of the show as Witscher occasionally sings a folk tune she learned on the farm when she grew up or recalls a classic John Denver song.

Her husband said the music continues offscreen too.

"We sing nonstop," Maurer said.

Rounding out the trio of musicians/farmers/show producers is Inga's dad, Rick Witscher, who formerly ran a dairy farm in Washington state before turning it into a golf course. Later he moved the family to Virginia where they operated a bakery, creamery and cheese shop.

Rick Witscher still makes cheese, with his current product an aged Cheddar made from raw milk of grass-fed cows. The cheese is wrapped in cloth and aged for one year in a cave before it's sold.

He'd bought the rural Trempealeau County farm to pass down to his children. Only Inga - who hadn't previously run a farm - showed interest and began milking cows there in 2006.

She and Maurer married in June 2012, and Rick sold the farm to them a year ago.

Inga Witscher and her husband tend a herd of 15 Jersey cows on their 30-acre organic micro dairy using techniques passed down through the Witscher family.

"My first memory was walking fields with my father and intensively grazing cows," she said.

She employs "rotational grazing" by moving the herd every 12 hours to a new part of their pasture to graze on naturally growing grass. Then they fertilize the recent feeding ground with composted cow manure and allow the grass to grow back before the cows feed on that section again.

Their decision to run an organic farm came from their beliefs, but also for practical reasons.

"It was also a way to cash flow a small farm," Inga Witscher said.

Organic milk fetches a consistently higher price at market, and grass-fed cows do the work that farmers typically need a tractor or combine to accomplish.

Witscher's brother gave them a tractor, but it doesn't operate and they don't have plans to get it running. Their farm has a practical mix of old and modern farming technology.

For example, Witscher uses a scythe for gardening but found the one modern machine the farm depends on is a skid steer.

"I think we embrace technology," Maurer said.

His father-in-law quickly added, "But cow technology too."

Both the show's producers and the network are excited to see viewer reaction to the show when it airs in November on Thursday nights and likely in reruns in WPT's schedule.

"We're really enthusiastic about 'Around the Farm Table,' " Bissen said.

___

Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/

 

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How EcoFarms changes lives of 15000 farmers

How EcoFarms changes lives of 15000 farmers | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Discover the story of Omprakash Mor and Anand Mor. Through EcoFarms and Organic Farming they were able to help 15000 of farmers to go out from poverty.

 

 

We have all witnessed an injustice, an issue, a problem or something that was not working as it was supposed to do. Not everybody will do something about it. But then again there is a certain breed of individuals, who look at these problems as opportunities create social impact and economic wealth. The world calls them social entrepreneurs. Omprakash Mor, a farmer, who couldn’t stand the injustice against other farmers in the agriculture sector decided to do something about it and started his own social enterprise in 1995. The possibility of getting fairly paid for the worth of their yields was extremely low, getting paid in time was very difficult leading to plenty of farmers living below the poverty line.

Omprakash stood up to this.

In early 90s, he realised that after years of using chemicals in his farm, productivity had become stagnant. He was trying to identify what was going wrong and in the process he got to know about Mr. Fukuoka’s farming (the father of organic agriculture) and he tried to know as much as possible about it. Unfortunately, there were not many means to get further information about organic farming, so he decided to go for a trial and error method. After working for two tiresome years, he started to see some amazing results and in that moment alongwith with 80 other farmers he decided to found EcoFarms, to share his knowledge and experience to help other farmers. The first buyer was a person from Germany who helped him to get organic certified and set up the company.

Organic farming was new to India and people did not have much knowledge about it which made the market for Ecofarms’ product very small. They did not just have to sell their products but had to educate people and create a whole new market. They explained to consumers how their crops were grown and what was the main difference from others; this brought incredible results increasing awareness of organic products in the market and consequently, increasing their sales.

Soon, his son Anand Mor, an engineer with an MBA in Finance, decided to join Ecofarms after being inspired by the impact achieved by his father. “That’s a decision that I don’t regret at all: have a job that give the feeling to help people is the best thing that can happen to you. Such small things can make the difference for them,” says Mor on his decision to quit a financial institution after nine years and joining Ecofarms as MD. That’s a very important decision, since working for your own father brings a lot of responsibility and pressure, but he didn’t feel so “I have always thought that I could have been an added value for the company. My father was a farmer, while I have a completely different background”.

One of the first decision that he took, was to make organic food, not an elite product, but something that everyone could afford. “We worked a lot in order to have the less expensive organic food in the market. Mainly we did it cutting as much as possible the production cost having as many activity as possible in the village. We cut also all the intermediate in order to have an efficient short distribution chain and we consider every farms as a micro enterprise, but we are still working to improve this aspect”.

Ecofarms has had a huge impact in the past 18 years: they helped 15000 families of farmer in 75 villages to get out from poverty, procure fair prices and securing their payment. “We want to increase the impact that we are having by expanding our reach in different regions. Most probably a big role in that will be played by companies that  are investing in the social sector through their CSR activities,” adds Mor.

Their remarkable activities changed the life of a lot of people and there is a secret behind this magic formula, “Impact based activities are long term activities, it’s impossible to see their result in the short term. Every social entrepreneur should have a lot of empathy and patience: if you are very clear with that, nothing will stop you”.

Visit EcoFarms Website

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Reilley Burrows's curator insight, April 1, 3:38 PM

I found this to be an inspiring article with great opportunity for those farmers wanting to take small steps in going organic. Not only better the environment and the community with providing organic products, but changing the lives of families living below the poverty line. Omprakash Mor, a farmer from India, saw opportunity to create economic wealth and a social impact on other villages and communities. Back in 1995, he heard about organic farming but couldn’t find the resources to help educate him on the matter. He proceeded with a trial and error method, hoping that what he knew about it could help and develop better lives to everyone. A couple years later, and now with 80 other farmers sharing the same knowledge, founded EcoFarms, encouraged to share his knowledge with more farmers. The first buyer was a person from Germany who helped him to get organic certified and set up the company.

 

Soon after, his son Anand Mor, decided to join his father in pursuing EcoFarms. He left his nine-year financial institution job and took the chance in having a job that helping people is the best and only thing they wanted. Not only would this educational service create a whole new market for those farmers choosing to go organic, but create demand that was affordable to the public. They worked hard to have less expensive organic food and cut back on the distribution chain only dealing with short deals.

 

Over the past 18 years, EcoFarms has helped over 15000 families of farmers in 75 villages. These families are now out of poverty, producing fair, affordable prices and securing their distributions. They now want to expand their knowledge to different regions and help with changing lives one step at a time. This is so important in CSR, and shows value throughout the communities in being sustainable and ethical. I do believe that if we keep talking about organic farming and CSR more and more individuals will see the difference it makes to our planet and our lives. 

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Detour Japan

Detour Japan | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Detour Japan is Focusing on selected local issues that can be shared globally.

 

 


akao Furuno, a spirited farmer who was influenced by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," wanted to make his Kyushu farm all-organic about 25 years ago and since then he has mainly produced quality organic rice. In 2001, he was chosen as one of the 40 outstanding social entrepreneurs in the world by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The Schwab Foundation holds the World Economic Forum, also called the Davos conference, which was founded in 1971 and is a global partnership of business, political, intellectual, and other civic leaders that defines and discusses key issues on the world's economic agenda. According to the foundation, social entrepreneurship is a term that captures a unique approach to social problems, an approach that cuts across sectors and disciplines.

Furuno's unique and award-wining approach to social problems is to simply release ducks into rice paddies. With this simple method, he has achieved a higher rice yield with much less labor and financial outlay, while at the same time maintaining environmentally sustainable agriculture. He has perfected and spread this technique since 1988, and today over 75,000 small rice farmers throughout Asia have taken up his method. Rice yields from farmers using Furuno's method are almost twice those of conventional plots in the same area.

Releasing ducks in rice paddies is not a new theory. A journal that was published one thousand years ago in China advocates the use of ducks in rice paddies. Many Japanese farmers released ducks into their paddies in the 1940s, since they had no agricultural machinery at the time. However, the ducks have gradually been phased out as agriculture became increasingly mechanized and reliant on the use of pesticides, thus isolating rice paddies from their natural surroundings. In fact, the "good old Asian environment" where people lived with nature, including trees, rivers, ponds, swamps, and rice paddies, disappeared in the process of Japan's radical industrialization in the 1950s and 1960s. The environment was also good for ducks.

Furuno turned to ducks simply because he decided he no longer wanted to weed his paddies. At the time, he had already been an organic farmer for 10 years. Organic farming is time-consuming work, and he had to work in the paddies from dawn to dusk every day. Weeding, in particular, required long hours. Wondering whether or not organic farming was worth the trouble, he was advised to try ducks.

In order to confirm the effectiveness of the duck method, he and some associates carried out a comparative study with two paddies--one with ducks and the other without ducks. The results of the study clearly indicated that the paddy with ducks provided several advantages in terms of rice production.

The first advantage is that the ducks eat weeds, which means weeds do not need to be removed by hand. The ducks also eat insects, and the ducks' droppings provide nourishment for the growing rice. The fourth advantage is that the ducks, while moving among the plants, are constantly paddling the water and thus prevent too much settling, such as sediments, at the bottom of the paddies. The ducks also eat golden snails, which are a serious threat to rice. And the final advantage is that ducks provide an acceptable level of stress so that the plants can grow stronger and healthier. For ducks, rice paddies are excellent environments because they provide both water and food as well as a hiding place from predators.

A report on Furuno's study was published in a well-known academic journal in Japan and helped promote his theory with an NGO called the Japan Aigamo Duck Association. Later, through experimentation, he discovered that the addition of certain fish (loaches) and a nitrogen-fixing weed (azolla) to paddies boosted rice and duck growth.

 

 

Read  More :  http://www.detourjapan.com/furuno.html

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Cilantro Hailed for its Water Purification Properties

Cilantro Hailed for its Water Purification Properties | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

 

 

So addicted to technology, we have forgotten that nature has an answer to just about everything – including water purification. Douglas Schauer, Ph.D has shown that cilantro – a leafy herb used in Middle East cooking – can clear toxins from contaminated water. 

 

Eschewing the current activated carbon method of water purification, Dr. Schauer from Ivy Tech Community College has been working with what he calls biosorbents to clean contaminated water.

 

Less costly than typical water purification methods, biosorbents are low-cost alternatives such as microbes and plants that are readily available in nature.

 

While presenting his findings at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that closed yesterday, Schauer said that cilantro, which is also known as coriander or Thai parsley, can remove toxic heavy metals with ease.

 

“Cilantro may seem too pricey for use in decontaminating large amounts of water for drinking and cooking,” Schauer said.

 

“However, cilantro grows wild in vast amounts in countries that have problems with heavy-metal water pollution. It is readily available, inexpensive and shows promise in removing certain metals, such as lead, copper and mercury, that can be harmful to human health.”

 

The structure of the other walls of Cilantro’s microscopic cells have the ideal architecture to absorb heavy metals, Physorg reports. Parsley and culantro have similar properties.

 

Schauer proposes to pack the cilantro into packets that are similar to tea-bags, or the herb can be packed into water filter cartridges.

 

With so many people without clean drinking water throughout the Middle East, a dedicated awareness campaign could go a long way to informing them of natural methods of purifying one of our planet’s most necessary and increasingly precious resources.

 

:: Physorg

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Innovation of the Month: Aeroponic Technology

Innovation of the Month: Aeroponic Technology | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

As the world’s urban population continues to grow, the demand for food in urban areas continues to expand. To meet this demand, urban agricultural innovations are sprouting up in countries and communities around the world. Aeroponic farming—the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil—is one such innovation.

Aeroponic farming—the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil—can help to meet rising demand for food in urban areas. (Photo Credit: The Young Agropreneur)

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA), aeroponic systems allow for clean, efficient, and rapid food production. In aeroponic systems, crops, which are isolated from seasonal change, can be planted and harvested year round without interruption and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residue. And because aeroponic growing environments are clean and sterile, the chances of spreading plant disease and infection are less common than in soil-based systems. As a result, aeroponic farming systems can yield high-value crops—such as leafy greens, herbs, and micro-greens—quickly and reliably.

According to AeroFarms, a producer of aeroponic systems in Ithaca, New York, aeroponic production is superior to conventional and greenhouse production for a variety of reasons: the produce does not require washing after harvest; can be delivered fresh to stores and restaurants on a daily basis; has a shelf life of 3 to 4 weeks; offers year round seasonality; has a faster growth cycle; and does not need to be treated with pesticides.

When asked about the benefits of aeroponics, AeroFarms’ Founder and CEO Ed Harwood said, “What I plant is what I harvest, so I can predict what I’m going to have two or three weeks from now, which is much more difficult when the circumstances aren’t controlled.” For farmers whose livelihoods depend on successful harvests, the control and predictability associated with aeroponic production can be a major boon. 

Aeroponic technology uses no pesticides and 90 percent less water than traditional farming—which is responsible for about 70 percent of global water use, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization—and can be adapted to most urban environments. It can also prevent harmful pesticide runoff associated with conventional production, and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing grocers and restaurants with a local alternative to imported produce.

The concept of aeroponic farming is spreading from urban warehouses to community centers to individual homes. Teachers have introduced aeroponic systems into classrooms, to teach children about plants, the environment, and the value of healthy eating, and the Chicago O’Hare International Airport has even set aside a portion of its G Terminal to grow greens for airport restaurants.

Is aeroponic farming impacting food security in your community? Let us know in the comments below.

Carolyn Smalkowski is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.

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Steve Kingsley's curator insight, September 18, 2013 9:27 PM

Wish AearoFarm showed on their website the smallest system you can buy/start with!

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Paradigm Shift Urgently Needed In Agriculture

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Paradigm_Shift_Urgently_Needed_in_Agriculture.php

 

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Agriculture | Jim Carroll- Futurist, Trends & Innovation Keynote Speaker

I appear online and in the April issue of Growing Produce magazine in Florida, talking about some trends impacting the future of agriculture.

The “robotic tractor of the future isn’t too far away!

The Future Is Now In Agricultural Technologies
March 14, 2013
By Frank Giles

If you could look into a crystal ball and see the future of agriculture over the next 25 years, you would be blown away and find some of it hard to imagine. And, you might be surprised that what seems futuristic is already happening on the farm.

When considering the pace of technological advancements, Moore’s Law is constructive. It generally states thatcomputing power doubles every two years (some say 18 months). While the computing power doubles, the price for the technology falls.

Think about Apple’s iPhone. Every year the company introduces two new-and-improved versions of the phone. Each one is a little faster and can do more stuff, while the earlier versions get cheaper in price.

While all these gee-whiz advancements seem to be happening most in consumer electronics, don’t be fooled. It is happening in agriculture, too. Jim Carroll and Jack Uldrich are two popular futurists on the speaking circuit across the U.S. Both say the wave of innovation impacting agriculture will be staggering in the coming years. “We live in tremendous times and tend to overlook the leaps we’ve made particularly in agriculture,” says Uldrich.

Sensors And Bots

The size of computer sensors are getting smaller, but more powerful over time, while the price drops. Imagine a watermelon field with tiny sensors spread thoughout connected to the vines to inform the grower exactly what plants need for water and other inputs. “These sensors are getting so affordable they already are being used in West Coast vineyards and on farms in Israel,” says Urldrich. “That may sound like science fiction, but who would have imagined 25 years ago that today we would have immediate access to the world’s encyclopedia in our pockets via the use of smartphones.”

Carroll says robotics will be having an impact on the farm quicker than people would believe. “The technology for autonomous vehicles is already pretty mature,” he says. “If you have a meeting with Google in San Jose, they’ll pick you up at the airport in an autonomous car. There’s a person inside ‘just in case.’ It will probably be easier to deploy on a farm than on a highway.

Given all the controversy around immigration reform, Uldrich says robots might fill in for harvest in the future.“There are people at MIT who have developed a robot so sophisticated that it can detect when a tomato is ripe and so sensitive it can pick it without damaging the fruit,” he says. “Robotic technology is getting better, faster, and more affordable. It will allow us to do much more in harvesting a wide variety of crops.”

A Whole New World

There is a viral YouTube clip of a 1-year-old girl trying to manipulate a print magazine like an iPad. She moves her fingers around the magazine to no avail — it does nothing. Give her an iPad and she’s delighted flicking through screens with her fingers.

Jack Uldrich marvels that technology is becoming so user-friendly and intuitive that a baby can figure it out. “What will that little girl expect for information as she gets older,” he asks. “She will want to interact with information. She will want to know who grew the oranges she buys. Social media already is providing this opportunity for interaction and the demand for it will only grow in the future.”

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10 Big Trends for Agriculture

10 Big Trends for Agriculture | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

I’ve got a number of keynotes coming up in the New Year focused on the agricultural sector, and have done quite a few in the past.

My insight resonates with the agricultural crowd, whether farmers, ranchers, or agricultural support and bio-science companies. I recently spoke to the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US at a private event in Sonoma County, California. The US Farm Credit Cooperative has brought me in twice. Want to think about opportunity? Read the post, Agriculture 2020! Innovation, Growth & Opportunity — and also read on below.

Massive growth in food demand: The UK Food and Agriculture Association estimates that the world population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion, by 2050. That’s a potentially huge food marketplace. That fact, more than anything, spells the reality that the agricultural industry is full of potential opportunity!A continuing rampup in efficiency: Simple fact: global agriculture must double in the next 30 years to sustain this type of population growth. Add this reality check: there is little new arable land in the world. The result is that existing producers will have to continue to focus on smarter, better, more efficient growing in order to meeting demand.Hyper-science: One of the realities of the infinite idea loop in which we now find ourselves is this: while there are 19 million known chemical substances today, the number is constantly doubling every 13 years… with some 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. Science is evolving at a furious pace, and with science at the root of agriculture, we will continue to see constant, relentless new methods of improving crop and livestock yield.Innovation defines success: Growers that focus on innovation as a core value will find success; their innovation will focus on the triple-feature need for growth, efficiency and ingestion of new science. It will be by adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas that they will learn to thrive.Retail and packaging innovation drive agricultural decisions: Do this: stare at a banana. Did you know that Chiquita banana has come up with a special membrane that doubles the shelf-life of the product, doing this regulating the flow of gases through the packaging? Take a look at Naturepops: each lollipop is wrapped in fully bio-degradable film made from plant matter, and the bags they come in are made from recycled paper, water-based ink and poly lactic acid made from cornstarch. There’s a huge amount of innovation happening with packaging companies and on the store shelf, and all of these trends have a big impact on agriculture.Intelligent packaging moves front and center: Innovation with packaging will take an even bigger leap in years to come, and will involve hyperconnectivity, a trend that will be driven by food safety, tracability, country of origin and nutrition labelling needs. Our lives are soon to be transformed by packaging that can “connect” to the global data grid that surrounds us; and its’ role will have been transformed from being that of a “container of product” to an intelligent technology that will help us with use of the product, or which will help us address safety and tracability issues.The energy opportunity: Agriculture is set to play a huge role as we wean ourselves away from our dependence on oil and natural gas. The US Department of Energy plans to see alternative fuels provide 5% of the nations energy by 2020, up from 1% today. And it is expected that there will be $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners by getting involved with new energy sources such as windpower. Europe plans to have a market that involves at least 20% usage of bio-fuels by 2020, and Feed & Grain estimates that liquid fuels from agricultural feed could replace 25% to 30% of US petroleum imports by that time.Convenience and health take center stage: We will continue to see rapid change in consumer taste and expectations as people comes to place more emphasis or doing their best with the little time that they have. For example, it is expected that fresh-cut snacks grew from an $8.8 billion market in 2003 to $10.5 billion by 2004, according to the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association, as part of a trend in which produce and fruit continue to compete with traditional snacks. Expect such unique trends to growth both in terms of number and rapidity.Direct consumer-producer relationships blossom: As this technology evolves and as people become more concerned about the safety of what they eat, a natural result is a frenetic rate of growth in direct relationships between growers and consumers. Check out SouthDakotaCertifiedBeef– that type of thing defines the future of this trend!Generational transformation: perhaps the biggest trend is that we are about to witness a sea-change in the rate by which new ideas in the world of agriculture are accepted, as a new generation of technology-weaned, innovative younger people take over the family farm.Partnership defines success: If there is one trend I emphasize in every industry I’m involved with, it is that no one individual or organization can know everything there is to know. As I indicated in my I found the future in manure article, this trend is also becoming prevalent in agriculture. We will continue to see an increasing number of partnerships between growers and advisers, suppliers, buyers, retailers and just about everyone else, so that they learn to deal with the massive complexities that emerge from rapid change and innovation.
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Loran Sneller's curator insight, September 29, 2013 3:41 PM

In the year 2050 the world population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion. Global agriculture must double in the next 30 years to sustain this type of population growth.The result is that existing producers will have to continue to focus on smarter, better, more efficient growing in order to meeting demand.One of the realities of the infinite idea loop in which we now find ourselves is this: while there are 19 million known chemical substances today, the number is constantly doubling every 13 years… with some 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. There’s a huge amount of innovation happening with packaging companies and on the store shelf, and all of these trends have a big impact on agriculture.

amagazinecalledbible's curator insight, October 1, 2013 7:25 AM

#windpower #sustainabledevelopment #renewable

Lydia Dingeman's curator insight, October 2, 2013 12:09 PM

This artical is about how the world population is going to increace by 43% by 2050. Agriculture needs to become more efficant in order to keep up with the poplaustion groth of the world.

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The Genetic Diversity of Watermelons - Root Simple

The Genetic Diversity of Watermelons - Root Simple | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

Damn those supermarket watermelons! Every one I’ve bought this summer has been mealy, old and tasteless. Why? Yet again, the folks who sell us our food have decided to grow only a handful of the over 1,200 known varieties of watermelons.

The one pictured above is a Navaho watermelon I picked up at the National Heirloom Exposition. Note the vibrant (and tasty) red seeds. Navaho watermelons are sometimes called “winter melons” since they can be stored for a few months.

Another watermelon I tasted at the Exposition was a yellow fleshed variety called Orangeglo. It was probably the sweetest and tastiest watermelon I’ve ever eaten.

The problem with supermarket watermelons is not due to the seedless vs. seeded issue. Seedless watermelons are created with a complex genetic process you can read about here. What’s more relevant to taste is how early watermelons are picked, how long they’ve been sitting around and the limited varieties commercial growers plant.

The Heirloom Exposition eloquently demonstrated the benefits of genetic diversity with its watermelon display and tasting. And that diversity is something we can all address in our gardens, if we have one, by planting unusual seeds. You can bet I’m going to try growing watermelons in next summer’s straw bale garden.

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Ursula Sola de Hinestrosa's curator insight, September 21, 2013 5:35 PM

y aquí quienes defiendes los organismos genéticamente modificados ... ¿las pepitas? eran semillas ...

#GMO #StopMonsanto

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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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Urine is fertilizing crops and saving money in India | Your Olive Branch News - yobo

Urine is fertilizing crops and saving money in India | Your Olive Branch News - yobo | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
Consider these facts about urine: Adults produce about four to eight cups (one to two liters) per day, it's a reservoir of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, the same elements that nourish crops; and it's cheap to make.

 

 

 

http://news.yourolivebranch.org/2011/06/01/urine-is-fertilizing-crops-and-saving-money-in-india/

 

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Sows and Soil: Building a Sustainable and Profitable Farm

Sows and Soil: Building a Sustainable and Profitable Farm | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
By Harry Stoddart, Stoddart Family Farm, Ontario, Canada The System of Rice Intensification drew last week to a close, but we continue discussing the challenges and means by which to increase produ...

 

 

http://blog.ecoagriculture.org/2013/09/30/stoddart_real-dirt/

 

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Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology

Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
As food security becomes an increasingly important global issue, scientists are looking for the best way to maintain the organic matter in soils using different methods of fertilization and crop rotation.

He cites three common ways for producers to introduce nitrogen into soil: synthetic fertilizer; manure or other organic amendments; and through cultivation of nitrogen fixing pulse crops. For all these methods, the nitrogen comes in different forms. Synthetic fertilizer is available as a variety of commercial products, with different nitrogen-release times, whereas manure and pulse crops need to be broken down by microbial decomposition before nitrogen becomes available.

Gillespie explained that fungi is great at breaking down lignin in plants and bacteria can help break down the rest, but adds, "nitrogen shifts the ability of bacteria to compete, so we are hoping to find out more about the role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in soil". Manure and pulse crops also add more organic matter to the soil, a benefit not realized using synthetic fertilizers.

The results of the experiment showed that organic matter in soil was heavily influenced by the type of supplemental nitrogen added.

"The overall trend showed that N additions allowed crop residues to decompose more completely. Specifically, we found less plant-type compounds in soils receiving nitrogen. In addition, we found that among the different nitrogen treatments, manure-enriched soil had the highest amounts of compounds related to microbial turnover," said Gillespie. The findings will prove important for farmers and scientists alike as they work to maximize the potential growth of food while maintaining healthy soils.

Ex



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-soil-nitrogen-synchrotron-technology.html#jCp

 

Increasing the organic matter in soils is key to growing crops for numerous reasons, including increased water-holding capacity and improved tilth. Scientists have recently used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) to evaluate the effects of various sources of supplemental nitrogen fertilizer on the chemical composition of soil organic matter. Results of their experiments to study this question were recently published in the journal Biogeochemistry.

"The big question I had when we started this research was how different nitrogen fertilizer supplements affected the overall soil organic matter composition," says Dr. Adam Gillespie, a post-doctoral fellow working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). "We also wanted to look at how we could optimize the use of nitrogen, since nitrogen fertilizers can be a solution, but also a problem."

Gillespie and his colleagues from AAFC, the University of Saskatchewan, St. Francis Xavier University, Lakehead University, and the CLS tested the hypothesis that the chemical composition of SOM would be different if the supplemental nitrogen originated from a synthetic fertilizer product, animal manure or a legume source.

The invention of synthetic fertilizer, where nitrogen is taken from an inert chemical form in the air and turned into ammonia, has had a profound effect on nitrogen cycling. In fact, astonishingly, humans have doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the biosphere.

According to Gillespie, 40 per cent of people alive today derive their nitrogen nutrition from synthetically-fixed fertilizer.

"Indeed, fertilization has had a profound effect on humanity as a whole. The downside of nitrogen fertilization is that run-off of nitrates to the surface waters or leaching of nitrates to groundwater cause problems with water quality and eutrophication in lakes. The recent algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg are a prime example of this nitrogen pollution. Secondly, nitrogen can be converted to nitrous oxide, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Before fertilizers, nitrogen was introduced into the soil through rainfall or native pulse crops, so when fertilizer was developed, it revolutionized farming."



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-soil-nitrogen-synchrotron-technology.html#jCp
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A thriving Queens County organic farm

People have to line up at farm markets early to get produce from Queens County farmers David Blanchard and Cindy Rubinfine.

David and Cindy are full-time organic farmers who sell a wide variety of vegetables at farm markets on the South Shore. Their produce is so good that people are waiting for them when their market stall opens.

They run Pleasant Hill Farm, located in North Queens, near Pleasant River. It is a certified organic farm.

For Queens County residents who do not get to shop at farm markets in Lunenburg and Hubbards, Cindy and David run a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program where people sign up to receive weekly bags of organic food, the variety in them depending on what is being harvested at the moment.

Our most recent bag contained baby spinach, Chinese celery-cabbage, golden rave tomatoes, kale, red and green sweet peppers and three kinds of onions. Each week, David and Cindy send out suggestions for use of the vegetables they are including that week.

Cindy and David moved to Pleasant River six years ago after deciding to sell their organic farm in Maine. They chose their farm here because it met several criteria they had in mind for a new farm, and they make no secret of the fact that they left the US because they were unhappy with the political situation there. Among the criteria was the fact that it had to have a good woodlot, as they would be heating greenhouses with wood from their farm.

Once here, they immediately went to work setting up their farm. David registered for a program in Honours Biology at Dalhousie University and they began erecting the first of many greenhouses on their property. Cindy joked that David wanted to take the degree because their children were such accomplished students, and he wanted to study as well.

Their 24-year-old son, Javin, stayed in the US when David and Cindy moved to Nova Scotia. Daughter Ariel works with her parents on the farm at the moment, and youngest daughter Hannah is a marine biology major at Dalhousie. Both are musical, Ariel playing the cello and Hannah the flute, and both were in youth orchestras.

David and Cindy began as dairy farmers in upstate New York in 1980. In the 1970s, David had gone to agricultural college and Cindy studied music (she played the pipe organ for churches and community groups, while David used to play the double bass), but both were anxious to become farmers. They farmed in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Maine before deciding to leave the US for Canada.

They were in Pennsylvania for fifteen years milking 65 cows and running a dairy. They raised their three children there and in the latter few years switched their farm operations from dairy production to organic vegetables. Unlike Canada, the US has no quota system for milk, which meant that the price was volatile and it was difficult to pay farming costs with dairy production. They are very pro-quota.

The switch to organic vegetable production began when Cindy took vegetables to the local health food store in Pennsylvania and sold four hundred dollars worth. David saw that and said, "Hmm, could you do any better?" Their switch to vegetables began in earnest.

In all of their farm moves they were upgrading their farms and looking for the place they most wanted to live, and they have found it here in Queens County.

They are hard workers and make their living completely from their Nova Scotia farm. They developed their CSA program because they felt badly that while they lived in Queens County, they were not selling at large farm markets here. People are still able to sign up for the CSA program, which will run in renewable six week sessions through the winter as well.

Because of the quality of their produce, and the fact that it is certified organic and is tended and picked by hand, it costs more than that brought in by the grocery store chains. It is also fresher and grown closer to home, and has amazing flavour.

They use their greenhouses to stay ahead of the seasons. They have, for example, the first tomatoes at the markets, and they sell out almost instantly. They grow unusual crops like ginger, too, a plant which normally grows in much warmer climates. Buyers are able to get bundles of ginger at the moment, which can be frozen for use during the winter.

They provide mixes of salad greens when they are not available elsewhere at markets, and concentrate on other vegetables when everyone has salad greens to sell.

David and Cindy are not very happy with large grocery chains and the way they treat both farmers and the food they sell. The big stores force farmers to sell produce at very low prices, and the food, since it is distributed from central points, is never as fresh as it should be. In the US, they sold their organic produce wholesale to stores and to restaurants, but they have discovered that their best markets are farmers' markets.

In fact, it was an agreement with the Hubbards farm market that brought them to the South Shore in the first place. Now they sell at the markets there and in Lunenburg, and they are especially happy with the Lunenburg market, as people there have gotten into the habit of doing much of their weekly shopping at the market, which is open year-round.

Being organic farmers is not simple, particularly when the farms are certified organic. In fact, Pleasant Hill Farm will be going through its annual organic farm certification inspection this week. The inspector is an accredited organic inspector who spends several hours at the farm. The inspections are careful; this year they will even be inspecting chicken houses, to make sure there are roosts inside and that the doors are big enough for more than one chicken at a time. Organic farmers work to the Canadian Organic Standards regulations, enacted by Agriculture Canada.

David and Cindy plan to expand their Pleasant Hill Farm, ordering another greenhouse in November, and hoping to hire a third farm worker. They also want to do more plant research and research into sustainable agriculture.

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Eight Things to Consider When Saving Vegetable Seeds - Root Simple

Eight Things to Consider When Saving Vegetable Seeds - Root Simple | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
The directions for seed saving in our last book, Making It, almost got cut. Perhaps we should...

 

The directions for seed saving in our last book, Making It, almost got cut. Perhaps we should have just changed those directions to “Why it’s OK to buy seeds.” The fact is that it’s not easy to save the seeds of many vegetables thanks to the hard work of our bee friends.

That being said, Shannon Carmody of Seed Saver’s Exchange gave a lecture at this year’s Heirloom Exposition with some tips for ambitious gardeners who want to take up seed saving. Here’s some of her suggestions:

1. Maintaining varietal purity
Is the vegetable open pollinated or hybrid? Hybrid seeds don’t produce true to type. You can’t save and regrow the seeds of hybrids, at least not without a lot of complicated multi-generational outcrossing in order to create a new variety that produces true to type. [I'll note that I'm not anti-hybrid. The increased vigor of hybrids can be advantageous if you're having trouble in your garden.]

2. Know how the vegetable is pollinated
It’s much easier to save the seeds of self-pollinating vegetables such as beans, peas and tomatoes. Remember that bees can fly for miles–anything pollinated by insects have to be isolated or caged to prevent cross-pollination. And many vegetables have weedy cousins. Try to save the seeds of carrots without caging and you may get a carrot/Queen Anne’s lace hybrid that won’t taste good. And some supposedly self-pollinating plants such as tomatoes have rogue varieties that can be cross pollinated by insects.

3. Consider your climate
Bienneals require two years of growth in order to set seeds. If you live in a cold climate that could be a problem.

4. Population size
Serious plant breeders often plant a minimum of sixty plants so that they can choose the most vigorous for seed saving. And they’ll often plant just one variety to reduce the risk of crossing. One way around the population size requirement is to crowd source the problem and get a bunch of friends to grow the same vegetable.

5. Space requirements
Some biennials get really big in the second year. You’ll need to make sure they have space and won’t shade out other plants.

6. When to harvest
Fruits harvested for seed may need to stay on the plant for a long time. For example, eggplants that you want to save seed from need to be harvested well past when they’re still edible.

7. Prepping seeds
In general, seeds harvested when dry, such as lettuce need to be air dried before storing. Seeds harvested wet, such as watermelons, need to be washed with water before drying and storing. Tomato seeds need to be fermented in water for a few days before drying.

8. Storage
Moisture is the enemy of seed storage. Those packs of desiccant that come with electronic gadgets can be recycled and used in your seed storage boxes.

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Jon Stewart VS. Monsanto: Hilarious Takedown

Jon Stewart VS. Monsanto: Hilarious Takedown | Organic Farming | Scoop.it
The Daily Show team learns that greedy farmers have threatened the livelihood of Monsanto’s "heroic" patent attorneys.

 

 

http://www.realfarmacy.com/jon-stewart-vs-monsanto-hilarious-takedown/#QsHLEBD2YGISjA0X.01

 

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Steve Kingsley's curator insight, September 20, 2013 11:41 AM

So... how will the heroic Monsanto patent lawyers handle the coming deluge of GMO seeds from China???

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Cities Can Work with Farmers to Meet Growing Need for Water

Cities Can Work with Farmers to Meet Growing Need for Water | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

As world population grows, meeting the demand for clean freshwater can be a serious challenge, especially for arid and semi-arid cities such as Los Angeles and Dubai. According to a report published in Water Policy earlier this year, cities around the world are struggling to access the water they need to support continued growth.

Half of all cities with populations greater than 100,000 are located in water-scarce basins. (Photo Credit: Business Insider)

According to UN Water, world population is projected to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 8.3 billion in 2030 and to 9.1 billion in 2050. At the same time, urban population will increase by 2.9 billion, to a total of 6.3 billion in 2050, as a result of urban population growth and movement into urban centers. Growth in cities has led to a dramatic increase in urban water use; since 1950, global water use in cities has increased five-fold as a result of increasing domestic and industrial demand.

To meet the growing demand for water, many cities—such as San Antonio, Adelaide, Phoenix, and San Diego—have had to supplement the use of local water resources with significant water imports from major rivers or aquifers. As a result, urban water use has contributed to the depletion of many important freshwater sources, such as the Colorado, Yellow, and Amu Darya rivers, and resulted in significant ecological damage.

In response to increasing water scarcity, some cities are promoting innovation, efficiency, and conservation in water use. For example, the city of San Diego—which is largely dependent on the depleted Colorado River—has taken steps to promote conservative use of local water resources and decrease reliance on imported water by diversifying local water supplies. In San Diego, these measures have included the development of a water recycling system, a desalinization system, urban conservation policy, and, most notably, an urban-rural water conservation partnership in which the city compensates farmers in surrounding areas for implementing agricultural water conservation measures.

According to Water Policy, San Diego’s agricultural conservation partnership is an innovative model worthy of consideration by other cities, for “half of all cities with populations greater than 100,000 are located in water-scarce basins, and in these basins agricultural water consumption accounts for more than 90 percent of all freshwater depletions.” San Diego’s model is innovative in that it frees up water for metropolitan consumption by addressing inefficiencies in the region’s most water-intensive sector. According to the San Diego County Water Authority, agricultural conservation measures are expected to provide 37 percent of city water supply by 2020.

Agriculture is also the most water-intensive sector at the global level. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), irrigation is responsible for about 70 percent of global water use, and a significant amount of water waste. According to the FAO, as much as 60 percent of water withdrawn for irrigation often does not reach the crop. A global reduction in agricultural water consumption of 15 to 20 percent would make more water available than all the water consumed in cities and industries today.

By helping nearby farmers consume less water more efficiently, cities could free up a new source of local water supply, improve the efficiency of water-use in agricultural production, and improve the overall efficiency of crop production. More efficient water use could, in turn, potentially improve the price and reliability of agricultural products, which could benefit farmers and consumers alike.

According to Water Policy, there is considerable opportunity and rationale for cities and farmers to form water partnerships. Cities depend on farmers for food, and farmers depend on cities for markets; some cities are struggling to access the water they need to sustain growing populations, and some farmers use a lot of water very inefficiently. Although there are legal, social, and technical hurdles associated with the development of urban-rural water conservation partnerships, the potential payoff is too big to ignore.

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Bees

Bees cram a lot of life into 40 days, more than many people do in 40 years.
The newborn have duties cleaning cells, including that from which each emerges, then stocking them some with honey and pollen (separately) capping the cells with propolis. Other cells contain eggs laid by the queen, which hatch as larvae which these junior bees feed.
The preparation of honey for the hive involves complexification and reducing of water content, a big part of this process achieved by deep kissing, so to speak, the transferance of honey from one bee's digestive tract to others in turn.
I expect that this process is fundamental both to the health benefits of honey and also to the risk of hive collapse if some aberrant organism or molecule gets into the collective guts.
The practice in large scale commercial honey production of heating pipes through which honey is asked to flow may kill off a lot of the health value. So local, unprocessed honey inherently is more likely to have health value. How thickly you have to dollop it on/in to matched the highly regarded Manuka honey is unknown. Note that Manuka honey is obtained by bees foraging this teatree's flowers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_scoparium
... so source of honey and pollen will affect honey's health value, surely.
I once kept a pollen trap on a suburban hive for a couple of days when the honey run was at its peak. This is essentially a boot scraper at the door, to take of the cluster of pollen, see yellow blobs here:
http://www.nichedevelopment.com/bees/images/bee_22.jpg
During that period the pollen was remarkably diverse in colour and taste: dull earthy flavours from clover and other legumes; pale lemony-white from citrus, delicious; wondrous dark red wine coloured pollen from roses, with deep rich flavour.
As bees grow up their duties go closer to the door, where they add dancing to kissing in their social repertoire, increasing the lacework of communication, learning to navigate. And they begin to use their wings, fanning the hive for humidity reduction and cooling, as well as strengthening for guard duties near the door. There are a lot of predators who would like to get into the hive, from other bees to ants to Pooh and other bears.
And so, in last days, eventually out on the range, they fly to scout for nectar and pollen further away rather then immediately around, to suck the nectar up while getting the pollen attached to socks, staying with one species one trip. Finding way home, deep kissing the load away while others massage their feet, then providing a report to others of where they have been.
An organic farm inspector once suggested to me that the risk of chemical pollution of hives was reduced by the fact that poisoned bees were unlikely to make it home. I wonder if research needs to concentrate on the less toxic, the more clever substances being used out there on plants or in plants, which have slower impacts and which may really only explode in the hive world of unsafe sucks.
Bees are pretty clever. But not all that clever. They perhaps did not realise that people could count until the research was shoved under their proboscises. See

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/intuitive-knowledge.shtml

Experiments with bees show the same sort of understanding of numbers and intentions. An experimenter set out dishes of honey in a sequence, doubling the distance each time. After the first three dishes had been found by scouts, the bees showed up at the fourth location before the honey arrived, extrapolating from the experimenter's previous behavior and inferring his intentions.
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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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Manure and you!

Manure and you! | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

“Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business.” That’s what I learned about the future from manure, and it’s covered this week in my column in Profit.

Here’s the article!

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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How are seedless watermelons produced

How are seedless watermelons produced | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

 

How do you grow seedless watermelons?Ask your own question!Seedless watermelons cannot reproduce on their own, so plant breeders use genetic tricks to produce them. The first seedless watermelon was invented over fifty years ago.

Normally, watermelons are "diploid." This means they have two sets of 11 chromosomes, the structures that contain an organism's genetic material. They get one set of chromosomes from each parent, for a total of 22.

Producing a seedless watermelon involves three steps. First, a plant is treated with colchicine, a substance that allows chromosomes to duplicate, but prevents the copies from being distributed properly to dividing cells. As a result, a plant with four sets of chromosomes is created, a "tetraploid."

In the second step, a tetraploid plant is crossed with a diploid to produce offspring that are�.? That's right, triploid, with three sets. They get half the number of chromosomes from each parent.

Finally, the triploid seeds are grown into plants. Although they must be germinated under very careful conditions, once the seeds grow into small plantlets, they grow just like normal watermelon plants. They can produce flowers and the female flowers can produce fruit, the watermelons.

However, triploids cannot reproduce sexually. The reason is that the cell divisions that produce pollen and egg cells are very particular; they require precise alignment of chromosome pairs in the middle of the cell, an impossible task with an odd number of copies. Since the triploids have three sets, this crucial process gets mixed up and the eggs inside the watermelon are never formed. Without eggs, the seeds do not grow.

So far so good, except that pollen is still needed to trigger the female flowers to make the watermelons. Since triploid plants cannot produce pollen, farmers grow diploid "pollenizer" plants near the triploids. The diploids produce the necessary pollen, bees carry it to the female triploid flowers, and the seedless watermelons grow. Actually, a few seeds develop partially, so you can find some white, empty seed coats in the red flesh.

When plant breeders developed seedless watermelons, they also selected them for other traits such as sweetness, disease resistance, longer shelf life, and nutritional value.

The people of Knox City, Texas proclaim their city the "Seedless Watermelon Capitol of the World." Perhaps on your next summer vacation you can venture to Knox City for the 17th annual Seedless Watermelon Festival, where you can eat all the free watermelon you please. But don't expect to take part in a seed spittin' contest!

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Making a wood chip mushroom garden

Making a wood chip mushroom garden | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

A mushroom garden is a low cost, DIY way to increase the diversity of your home-grown produce, as well as your overall resilience. It’s also surprisingly simple to do, once you understand the basics of how and why.

 

Folow the photo-link to find the tutorial.


Via Debra Anchors, Juan Wood
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Sara G Blow's curator insight, August 31, 2013 11:35 AM

Mushrooms are so interesting,might be a good one to try.

Thomas Paul Mulrooney's curator insight, September 3, 2013 7:47 AM

I've never tried growing mushrooms myself, so this is definitely something I'm going to give a shot!

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Think Twice Before Tossing Eggshells - Earth911.com

Think Twice Before Tossing Eggshells - Earth911.com | Organic Farming | Scoop.it

We have all heard plenty of hype about the health benefits of the “incredible, edible egg,” but the compact little cases they come in do more than just carry your chickens before they hatch. Although eggshells are beneficial for the soil, most of us don’t think twice about tossing our shells after they’ve been cracked open. In fact, the U.S. dumps about 150,000 tons of eggshells in the garbage every year.

Why not just throw them away? Because these super shells are pretty spectacular. For starters, they’re made up of 93 to 97 percent calcium carbonate, plus they contain nitrogen and phosphoric acid, so they’re beneficial for the soil. Here are just a few uses for them outside the kitchen:

1. Fertilizer for the garden. Rinse and dry eggshells, grind them up and mix them into the soil. They’ll give your plants a healthy boost of sulfur, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

2. Snail deterrent. Crushed eggshells are kryptonite to snails and slugs! Loosely crush eggshells (you want them to have rough, jagged edges) and scatter them in a circular pattern around your plants. The shells’ sharp edges will keep snails and slugs from crossing to get to your plants.

3. Better compost. It’s common for gardeners to add lime to their compost because it has calcium carbonate, which helps balance out acidity. As mentioned earlier, that’s the main ingredient in eggshells, so instead of purchasing lime, use eggshells instead. After drying the shells, crush them into small pieces and add them to your compost.

To dry the shells, set them outside and use the sun’s natural heat and warmth, or heat them in an oven in wet or cooler weather.

 

 

 

 

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Sandi Cornez's curator insight, September 4, 2013 3:19 PM

Nature has all the answers we will ever need. Let's practice being open to the abundant richness which nature gives freely to us.

 

Eggshells - another miracle - offering holistic uses (I'm using this word in place of the word 'natural' which has become overused).

Instead of throwing away your eggshells or even putting them in your compost bins use them in these holistic ways: (*Portland, OR city offers compost bins to home owners as part of their Recycling/Trash Removal- a very progressive, GREEN city which I call Home)

 

1. Fertilizer for our gardens; giving our plants a healthy boost of sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Rinse and dry eggshells, grind them up, and mix into soil.

 

2. Snail and slug deterrent. Snails and slugs do not like crushed eggshells. Loosely crush them - you want to have jagged, rough edges and scatter them in a circular pattern around your plants. The shell's jagged edges will keep snails and slugs from crossing to get to your plants.

 

3. Better compost - instead of adding lime to your compost, use eggshells instead.

 

This ScoopIt site Healing Our Planet is curated by Sandi Cornez. Follow Sandi for more healthy food tips and wisdom @www.facebook.com/wisdomfromthewell