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New Agriculturist: Developments - Farmer innovation - developing on-farm water supplies

New Agriculturist: Developments - Farmer innovation - developing on-farm water supplies | Organic Farming |
An astonishing trend of on-farm innovation, that is revolutionising agricultural water use in Africa and Asia, has been documented for the first time in five African countries and two Indian states.


In Keta, Ghana, Mr Ahiabor farms a few hectares alongside the local beach. He has improved the sandy soil using organic fertilisers, including local bat dung. But what has really transformed this unpromising piece of land has been the introduction of petrol driven pumps. "We brought in the tube-well systems to take away the tedium associated with baling out water from open wells," he recalls. "Plus the maximum you can irrigate in a day from a well is an acre." Now he farms several times that by pumping water from the tube-well. "All my fields are now irrigated," he says. "We sunk our tube-wells down to just nine metres to avoid salt water intrusion." He uses overhead irrigation from sprinklers because the salty spray from the sea would damage his crops if not regularly washed off. Ahiabor's farm has been a huge success. He now employs two people and supplies vegetables, maize and cassava to local market traders.

Ahiabor's story is part of an astonishing trend of on-farm innovation that is revolutionising agricultural water use in Africa and Asia. The scale of this new trend has now been documented for the first time by researchers based at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and their partners in five African countries and two Indian states. The three year 'AgWater Solutions' project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has revealed that smallholder agricultural water management is now supporting more households than large public irrigation schemes.





Creating employment and income


"We were amazed at the scale of what is going on," says IWMI's Meredith Giordano, who co-ordinated the research. "In Ghana, for instance, we found that small private irrigation schemes employ 45 times more individuals and cover 25 times more land than public irrigation schemes." The implications for donors and private investors seeking to improve agricultural water supply and enhance livelihood opportunities are profound. Rather than investing in traditional, large scale irrigation systems, they will get more return on their investments if they find ways to support and expand the grassroots, bottom-up approaches that farmers in some of the world's poorest countries are already successfully using.

"We estimate that over 120 million people in Sub Saharan Africa could benefit from improved on-farm water supply," says Giordano. "That could generate annual revenues of up to US$7.5 million, making a massive contribution to household incomes." Pershottham Patel, a farmer in Gujarat India, is a perfect example. He uses the dung from his eight cows to generate biogas. This is then fed to a pump that runs partly on diesel and partly on biogas. Using this innovative arrangement has saved him US$400 a year in fuel costs. At the same time, improved water supply has enabled him to double his crop production.

Challenges remaining

"The technologies for smallholder water management are already with us," says Giordano. "Cheap pumps and new ways of powering them are transforming farming and boosting incomes all over Africa and Asia. Simple tools for drilling wells and capturing rainwater have enabled many farmers to produce crops in the dry season for the first time, hugely boosting their incomes." The researchers accept, however, there are some risks to unchecked expansion of smallholder water management. A water free-for-all on too many farms, for instance, may deplete water tables and raise serious issues of environmental sustainability in some areas. Equity is a further issue that may need to be addressed. The poorest farmers still struggle to find the resources needed to access new technologies.

IWMI estimate that over 120 million people in Sub Saharan Africa could benefit from improved on-farm water supply

New institutional arrangements will be needed if these issues are to be overcome. This may mean finding ways to stimulate market access, and giving pump dealers and farmers more information on products and how to maintain them. Innovative business models to reach out to remote farms, such as 'pump-on-a-bike' hire schemes, where cycling entrepreneurs tour rural areas renting out pumps strapped to their bicycles, may also help address problems of access. "There are huge investment opportunities for further unlocking the potential of this approach," says Giordano. "Our research has shown in which areas and on what technologies money can be targeted for maximum impact. We are looking forward to working with donors and the private sector to capitalise on this up-swell of farmer led innovation."


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New Agriculturist: Focus on... Growing more maize - with a mobile phone

New Agriculturist: Focus on... Growing more maize - with a mobile phone | Organic Farming |
Six months ago Eric Owandu, from western Kenya, signed up to a regional trial of the new E-Farming text message service that provides him with advice on crop management, fertiliser use and which maize varieties to plant.

The numbers on the keypad of Eric Owandu's mobile phone have been completely worn away, but that hasn't stopped it from being one of the most important tools on his farm. Six months ago Eric, from Gem District, western Kenya, signed up to a regional trial of the new E-Farming text message service that provides him with advice on crop management, fertiliser use and which maize varieties to plant. "My mobile phone is now like a piece of farm equipment," he says. "It's key in determining my productivity in the field."

Established in 2011, E-Farming is run by the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS), a CIAT-led initiative, which has spent the last four years collecting and analysing thousands of soil samples in an effort to create a comprehensive soil map of sub-Saharan Africa. In its pilot phase, the text messaging service - run in conjunction with the Africa Soil Health Consortium led by CABI-Africa and Fibre Link Communications Ltd - is being assessed to see whether agronomic advice can be effectively disseminated to farmers via mobile phone.

Agronomic advice

When registering for the service through SMS, farmers are able to indicate their crop of interest and whether they want information on soils, fertiliser application, agronomy, markets or pesticide use. Farmers also have the option to send a separate SMS requesting specific information, to which AfSIS and Fibre Link Communications respond on an individual basis. Eric is one of currently around 1,600 farmers to have subscribed to the trial, which aims to reach 50,000 farmers across Kenya by the end of 2012, in association with Kenya's national farmers' organisation. If successful, the service could be extended to include very precise, site-specific advice for boosting food production, based on the new AfSIS soil maps.


Each text message Eric receives costs 10 Kenyan Shillings (US$0.12), and he receives, on average, three messages per month. While the cost is roughly double that of a standard text message in Kenya, Eric is very happy with the service, describing it as 'affordable'. He is also in no doubt that it is effective: "I would urge other farmers to join," he continues, with this season's maize crop towering several feet above him. "Now, you can see what my shamba [field] looks like; this service has helped me a lot to improve my production." He even has some suggestions for additional services: "I would request the AfSIS project to go further and tell us when the rainfall is due, where we can access farm inputs and where to sell our harvests."

Dr Peter Okoth, senior scientist at CIAT and AfSIS, explains why the scheme has become possible: "Three or four years ago, farmers in Kenya didn't have mobile phones. Now almost every farmer or household in the country has one. You can buy a phone for as little as 800 KSH (US$10), thanks to low-cost handsets from China. It's an unprecedented opportunity to reach farmers with important crop management information. Of course, the smart farmers will subscribe to the service, and then organise group meetings with their neighbours to share the information by word-of-mouth!"

Boosting yields

So far, farmers have reported that E-Farming enabled them to purchase the correct seed and fertilisers, on time. Many are expecting to double their maize yields. An extra advantage of the service is that the information reaches farmers much more quickly than if an extension adviser had to visit each farm in person. This is particularly important when heavy rains make road travel in rural areas difficult.

Ambrose Ogwayo, an extension officer at the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, was approached by AfSIS in 2011 to help recruit farmers in Gem District into the scheme. He has personally helped the service reach an additional 250 maize producers. "The farmers used to plant late, but now they plant on-time with the onset of the rains," he explains. "From my observations, many more farmers would like to join the service."

But Ogwayo also believes the service has some limitations. "In many places farmers are illiterate and they would not be in a position to read most of the messages. Also, when there is no face-to-face contact, it becomes difficult for farmers to raise questions." To address this, AfSIS is investigating the possibility of sending text messages in local languages, and is also looking at establishing a voice-activated advice hotline for farmers to call with specific questions.

* CAN is a specific type of fertiliser containing nitrogen in the form of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN). Urea is a synthetic nitrogen rich fertiliser, created from ammonia and carbon dioxide.





Here are two examples of what the messages - limited to 159 characters - say:

If your maize crop is about 3 weeks from planting time it is time to weed your field. Weeds compete with plants for water and nutrients, affecting their growth.

Weeding of maize should be completed by now. After this, top-dress with CAN or UREA fertilizers*. Use one 50k bag/acre of UREA or two 50Kg bags of CAN/acre.





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Organic Food vs. Conventional: What the Stanford Study Missed

Organic Food vs. Conventional: What the Stanford Study Missed | Organic Farming |
Stanford's report that organic foods may not be much healthier or more nutritious than their conventional counterparts has caused quite a stir. Food, clean from antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticide residue, should be a basic human right.



Yesterday's report out of Stanford that organic foods may not be much healthier or more nutritious than their conventional counterparts has caused quite a stir.

A deeper investigation into the study reveals a few things that the researchers failed to report.

While the scientists analyzed vitamins and minerals, food isn't simply a delivery device for these things alone. We are quickly learning in this industrialized food era that our food can be full of a lot of other things. It has become a delivery device for artificial colors, additives, preservatives, added growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and so much more.

The term "organic" actually refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed and legally details the permitted use (or not) of certain ingredients in these foods.

The details are that the U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill which was then followed with the National Organic Program final rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The standards include a national list of approved synthetic and prohibited non-synthetic substances for organic production, which means that organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of:


2)artificial growth hormones

3)high fructose corn syrup

4)artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)

5)artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals

6)synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers

7)genetically engineered proteins and ingredients

8)sewage sludge



According to the United States Department of Agriculture, these added ingredients are actually what differentiate organic foods from their conventional counterparts. Yet nowhere in that Stanford study, comparing organic food to conventional, are these things measured. There is no measure of the insecticidal toxins produced by a genetically engineered corn plant, no measure of the added growth hormones used in conventional dairy, no measure of the fact that 80 percent of the antibiotics used today are used on the chicken, pork, beef and animals that we eat.

Food is not just a delivery device for vitamins and minerals, as measured in the study, but it is also used as a delivery device for these substances that drive profitability for the food industry. To fail to measure these added ingredients, while suggesting that there is essentially no difference, is incomplete at best. Some might even go so far as to suggest that it is irresponsible in light of the fact that we are seeing such a dramatic increase in diet-related disease.

Additionally, anyone who knowingly sells or mislabels as organic a product that was not produced and handled in accordance with the regulations can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. In other words, if an organic producer were to add any one of the ingredients listed above, they would be fined.


Admittedly, the high price of organic food can irritate anyone. But the scrutiny that these foods undergo is enormous and expensive, driving prices at the cash register and for those producing them on the farm. Why the costs? Because the cost structure on our food supply offers taxpayer-funded resources called subsidies to the farmers using genetically engineered seeds and saturating crops in insecticides and weed killers, while charging the organic farmers fees to prove that their crops are safe.

That's like getting fined to wear your seat belt.

So while conventional food production allows for the addition of cheap, synthetic and often controversial ingredients that have been disallowed, banned or never permitted for use in developed countries around the world, organic food carries the burden of having to prove that its products are safe -- products produced without the use of added non-food ingredients that other countries have found controversial or removed from their food supply.

In other words, it's an un-level playing field right now. And if we were all sitting down as a national family at our national dinner table, I don't think that any of us would want to be using our resources this way. Wouldn't we rather have the organic food be the one that we fund, making it cheaper, more affordable and more accessible to all Americans?

Or if given the choice, would we rather eat food hopped up on growth hormones, antibiotics and chemical pesticides? You can answer that.

And while correlation is not causation, in light of the growing rates of cancer, diabetes and other conditions affecting our families, the answer would appear to be "eat less chemicals."

But right now, the majority of the population does not have that choice. Food, clean from antibiotics, added growth hormones and excessive pesticide residue, should be a basic human right, afforded to all Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status.


But since the high price of organic produce and a flawed food system that continues to charge organic farmers more to prove that their products, produced without ingredients that mounting scientific evidence has shown to cause harm, is still an insurmountable hurdle to the majority of the population, especially the growing number of unemployed, where can an American who wants to avoid these ingredients start?

Start with baby steps. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. And thankfully, foods without these controversial additives and ingredients are increasingly sold in grocery stores like Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger and Safeway, which represent the largest single distribution channel, accounting for 38 percent of organic food sales in 2006. Look for milk labeled "RbGH-free" or look for products without high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors. A growing number of companies, from Kraft to Nestle, are producing them, because their employees have kids battling conditions like asthma, allergies, diabetes and cancer, too.

So maybe you rolled your eyes at this whole thing a few years ago, dismissing it as an expensive food fad. The Stanford study goes a long way towards reinforcing that. But read between the lines. You are smarter than you realize and braver than you think. And the love that you have for your family and your country can propel you to do things you could never imagine. So navigate the grocery store a bit differently, get involved with a food kitchen, a community garden, a child's school. And reach out to your legislators. They have families, too.

Because as the science continues to mount, from the Presidents Cancer Panel to the American Academy of Pediatrics, we are learning just how much the food we eat-- and the artificial ingredients being added to it -- can affect the health of our loved ones.

Hannah Dineley's comment, May 1, 2013 10:20 AM
When asked organic vs. conventional I always choose organic and now have began to grow my own food. Because of the pesticides and herbacides used to spray the fields we are witnessing CCD. Small insect and birds, including the honey bee are dying because of the neurotoxins affecting their small bodies. If we don't take a stand soon and raise awareness about how important this small creature is it will be lost, along with us. Bees are our busy workers that pollinate our food. If we don't have bees we don't have real food.
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India Parliament Recommends a Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops

India Parliament Recommends a Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops | Organic Farming |
India Parliament Recommends a Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops Contents: THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE...

Item 1
GM crops are no way forward
Satyarat Chaturvedi
The Hindu, August 24 2012


Food security is not about production alone; it is also about bio-safety, and access to food for the poorest We are predominantly an agricultural economy, with the agricultural sector providing employment and subsistence to almost 70 per cent of the workforce. There have been some remarkable contributions from the agriculture sector to food grain production in the last six decades, when from a meagre 50 million tonnes in the 1950s, the country has been able to produce a record 241 million tonnes in 2010-2011. Despite these achievements, the condition of the farming community is pitiable considering that 70 per cent of our farmers are small and marginal, and there is a complete absence of pro-farmer/pro-agriculture policies which has led us to an environment of very severe agrarian distress.

Pros and cons

In this situation, food security has been one of the main agendas of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and also one that the government has been struggling with. There is a strong opinion among policymakers that biotechnology holds a lot of promise in achieving food security and that transgenic crops, especially, are a sustainable way forward. But given the opposition and controversies surrounding Genetically Modified (GM) crops and the differences of opinion among stakeholders, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture decided to take on the mammoth task of an objective assessment of the pros and cons of introducing GM crops.

We expect the observations in our report to answer the big question on the role of GM crops in achieving food security. We hope the recommendations will be acted upon at the earliest. The committee felt this was all the more necessary in the light of the Prime Minister's exhortation at the Indian Science Congress about the full utilisation of modern biotechnology for ensuring food security but without compromising on safety and regulatory aspects.

The lessons

In India, the only commercialised GM crop is Bt cotton. Industry and the Central government have painted a picture of success about it - saying it has led to an increase in production and that the costs of cultivation have gone down. But the ground reality is starkly different. This was evident during the extensive interactions of the committee with farmers in different cotton growing regions around the country during study visits in March 2012.

Besides analysing the facts and figures provided by government agencies and listening to eminent cotton scientists, the committee's consultation with farmers in Vidharbha helped us conclude that the Bt cotton saga is not as rosy as made out to be. In Vidharbha, the per-acre investment in cultivating traditional varieties, or even pre-Bt hybrids, could be less than Rs. 10,000. That was certainly the case until the first half of the previous decade. But for Bt cotton, even the un-irrigated farmer is spending upwards of Rs. 15,000-18,000 or even more per acre. And irrigated farmers complain of input costs exceeding Rs. 45,000 per acre. While the investment and acreage rose dramatically, the per acre yield and income did not increase in equal measure and actually fell after initial years. Indeed, the Union Agriculture Minister spoke of Vidharbha's dismal yields on December 19, 2011 in the Rajya Sabha.

It was clear that at least for the rain-fed cotton farmers of our country, the introduction of Bt cotton offered no socio-economic benefits. On the contrary, it being a capital intensive practice, the investment of farmers increased manifold thus exposing them to greater risks due to massive indebtedness. It needs to be remembered that rain-fed farmers constitute 85 per cent of all cotton growing farmers.

Added to this, there is desperation among farmers as the introduction of Bt cotton has slowly led to the non-availability of traditional varieties of cotton. The cultivation of GM crops also leads to monoculture and the committee has witnessed its clear disadvantages. The decade of experience has shown that Bt cotton has benefited the seed industry hands down and not benefited the poorest of farmers. It has actually aggravated the agrarian distress and farmer suicides. This should be a clear message to policymakers on the impact of GM crops on farming and livelihoods associated with it.

The risks

From the various deliberations to which the committee was privy, it is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment, that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this. While there are many in this community who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks, others point to the irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem. Hence, they advocate a precautionary approach towards any open release of GMOs.

One of the concerns raised strongly by those opposing GM crops in India is that many important crops like rice, brinjal, and mustard, among others, originated here, and introducing genetically modified versions of these crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops. In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.

The committee's findings on the GEAC-led regulatory system for GM crops show that it has a pro-Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and pro-industry tilt. It has also come under the scanner due to its inefficiency at the time of Bt Brinjal approval and for behaving like a promoter of GM crops rather than a regulatory body mandated to protect human health and environment from the risks of biotechnology. The DBT, whose mandate is to promote GM crops and fund various transgenics research, has a nominee as the co-chair of the GEAC, who gives the final approval for environmental and commercial release of GM crops.

The current regulatory system is shameful and calls for a complete makeover. While the government has been toying recently with the idea of a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority, the committee dismisses this and instead recommends an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority. While the committee has also evaluated international regulatory systems on GM crops, it recommends the Norwegian Gene Technology Act whose primary focus is bio-safety and sustainable development without adverse effects on health and environment, as a piece of legislation in the right direction for regulating GM crops in India.

The committee strongly believes that the problem today is in no measure comparable to the ship-to-mouth situation of the early 1960s. Policy and decision-makers must note that the total food grain production rose from 197 million tonnes in 2000-2001 to 241 million tonnes in 2010-11. A major argument by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation before the committee in favour of GM crops was their potential to ensure the country's food security. But the issue of food security is not about production alone; it also means access to food for the poorest. Moreover, there is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields.

The committee, therefore, recommended the government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in the coming years without jeopardising the vast biodiversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human and livestock health.

The committee unanimously feels that the government should take decisive action on the recommendations of this report and rethink its decision of introducing transgenics in agriculture as a sustainable way forward. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Item 2
Bar GM Food Crops, Says Parliamentary Panel
By Gargi Parsai, The Hindu, India
10 August 2012

In a major setback to the proponents of genetically modified technology in farm crops, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture on Thursday asked the government to stop all field trials and sought a bar on GM food crops (such as Bt. brinjal).

The committee report, tabled in the Lok Sabha, demanded a "thorough probe" into how permission was given to commercialise Bt. brinjal seed when all evaluation tests were not carried out.

It said there were indications of a "collusion of the worst kind from the beginning till the imposition of a moratorium on its commercialisation in February, 2010, by the then Minister for Environment and Forests."

The report came a day after Maharashtra cancelled Mahyco's licence to sell its Bt. cotton seeds.

It flayed the government for not discussing the issue in Parliament and observed that the Ministry failed in its responsibility by introducing such a policy, ignoring the interests of the 70 per cent small and marginal farmers.

The report criticised the composition and regulatory role of the Genetic Engineering Approval (Appraisal) Committee and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM).

According to Committee chairman Basudeb Acharia, there is not a single note of dissent in the report of the 31-member panel, including nine from the Congress and six from the BJP. Observing that GM crops (such as Bt. cotton) benefited the (seed) industry without a "trickle-down" gain to farmers, it recommended that till all concerns were addressed, further research and development should be done only in contained conditions.

Citing instances of conflict of interest of various stakeholders, the panel said the government must put in place all regulatory, monitoring, oversight and surveillance systems.

Raising the "ethical dimensions" of transgenics in agricultural crops, as well as studies of a long-term environmental and chronic toxicology impact, the panel noted that there were no significant socio-economic benefits to farmers. On the contrary, farmers have incurred huge debts because of this capital-intensive practice. "Today, 93 per cent of the area is under Bt. cotton because no alternative seeds are available," Mr. Acharia said.


Item 3
GM Panel Recommends Halting All Field Trials
By Jacob P. Koshy, Livemint, India
9 September 2012

A parliamentary committee has recommended halting all field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds and sought an independent probe into how the government had accorded approval to Bt brinjal, a seed that was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd (Mahyco).

Though it's not mandatory for the government to accept the parliamentary standing committee's recommendations, the suggestions of several such panels have significantly influenced government policy. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010 imposed a moratorium on the sale of Bt brinjal seeds in India.

The recommendations of the panel comes a day after the Maharashtra government cancelled Mahyco's licence to sell Bt cotton seed in the state. This was after allegations that the company had misinformed state agricultural officials on the availability of Bt cotton seeds for farmers.

Mahyco said in a statement that it will wait to hear from the government before addressing issues around the ban.

"In India, where 82% of the agriculture industry is of small farmers and where there is huge biodiversity, we should not go for GM foods. Even if we take the argument that we have to increase our food production according to the demands, we should look into indigenous ways to enhance it," said Basudeb Acharya, chairman of the standing committee on agriculture and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Pointing out that the introduction of Bt cotton was not discussed in Parliament before it was introduced in the country, Acharya said there was neither a study on its impact on cattlefeed made out of the cotton seeds, nor was any specific regulatory body to ensure food safety and standards.

The parliamentary panel, which met around 1,500 farmers in Goregaon in Maharashtra, also found they were left with no other alternatives to Bt cotton seeds in the market.

"The production cost, which was reduced due to less usage of pesticides, has been increasing," Acharya said. "And we found largest number of suicides were reported from the areas where Bt Cotton is grown."

The committee also pointed out that Ayurvedic medical practitioners have complained it had an adverse impact on the medicinal plants grown in the area.

The panel's study on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops - Prospects and Effects is among the most extensive studies conducted by a parliamentary standing committee. The panel received 467 memorandums, 14,862 documents and reviewed evidences given by 50 organizations during its 27 sittings on the subject.

While Bt cotton is the only GM plant that,s allowed to be cultivated, several private companies have been looking at introducing different kinds of GM seeds, including rice, tomato and wheat.

Following protests from civil society groups and farmers, several state government,s have banned trials of GM crops.

To bring greater transparency in the way crops are tested, the government has proposed an independent regulator, called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India. Legislation to set up the authority has been pending for two years.

Earlier this year, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution ruled that all packaged food that was sourced from GM ingredients had to be labelled so.

The "report vindicates the concerns and positions taken by many state governments in India, such as Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc., which have disallowed GM crops, including field trials. It also vindicates the larger public demand not to allow GM crops into our food and farming systems," Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group that is opposed to the introduction of GM crops, said in a statement.


Item 4
Proper Tests Not Done Before Giving Nod To Bt Brinjal: Parliamentary Panel
The Economic Times, India
10 August 2012

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has recommended a thorough probe into the controversy surrounding Bt Brinjal and indicated the approval committee was under tremendous pressure from the "industry and a minister" and did not conduct requisite tests properly before granting approval for introduction.

The 31-member parliamentary standing committee on agriculture tabled its report in Parliament on "Cultivation of genetically modified food crops - prospects and effects", on Thursday. The 492-page exhaustive report on the issue has rejected the idea of genetically modified food crops for India, punching holes in the theory of an urgent need to increase food production through bio-technology. The committee had taken up the issue suo moto in 2010, when a debate over Bt Brinjal and Bt Cotton was raging. It has now observed it was convinced that the government did not carry out significant tests properly before giving a go-ahead for commercial production of Bt Brinjal.

The committee said it was indicative of "collusion of a worst kind". Standing committee chairman Basudeb Acharia said the observation was made after testimony of Dr PM Bhargava, the Supreme Court nominee on Genetic Engineering Appraisal committee (GEAC), before the parliamentary panel. Bhargava said co-chairman of GEAC Prof Arjula Reddy confessed that the tests asked by Bhargava for assessing Bt Brinjal had not been carried out and even the tests undertaken were performed badly as Reddy was under pressure with calls from industry, GEAC and the minister to approve Bt Brinjal. Speaking to reporters Acharia refused to divulge the name of the minister. When asked whether the committee was told the name, Acharia replied in the negative. The committee found that GM crops have an impact on health and the environment and these aspects were overlooked while approving Bt Brinjal trials in India.

After examining the issue for two-and-a-half years, the committee felt there was no need to introduce genetically modified food crops in India. Acharia said, "in a country like India, where 82% of farmers are small and marginal we should not go for genetically modified food crops. But if at all the government decides to - because of the argument that the demand for food will increase abnormally by 2020 and existing technology would not be sufficient - then there should be enough safeguards in place. Even then we feel that the government should go for indigenous alternatives. If you see in the past we have been able to increase our food production from 56 million tonnes to 254 million tones, then why do we think in future we won,t be able to achieve such growth in food production?"

The committee has strongly criticised the present regulatory system for genetically modified crops, calling it antiquated and inadequate. It has pointed out serious conflict of interest of various stakeholders involved in the regulatory mechanism as well. Making sharp observations on the issue, the committee has recommended that the government bring an all-encompassing umbrella legislation on bio-safety, which is focused on ensuring the bio-safety, biodiversity, human and livestock health, environmental protection and which specifically describes the extent to which bio-technology, including modern bio-technology, fits in the scheme of things. Acharia said the committee as recommended that the government bring such a legislation "after due consultation with all stakeholders and bring it before Parliament without any further delay."

The panel has also recommended proper labelling of genetically modified food. Acharia said the consumer had the right to know and make an informed choice. He pointed out that other countries which allow GM food, such labeling laws are in place.

"The committee recommends that the government should immediately issue regulation for making labeling of all GM products, including food, feed and food products, so as to ensure the consumer is able to make an informed choice in the matter of what he/she wants to consume," the report says.

The report is significant as it comes at a time when the Centre, especially the Ministry of Science and Technology, is trying hard to introduce a new regulatory system for GM crops by the name Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India.

The committee is dominated by UPA with 11 Congress MPs, two from DMK and one Trinamool Congress member. With one member from Samajwadi Party and two from BSP, the total strength of UPA and supporting parties is 17 on the panel. Left Front has two members, including Acharia and one Forward Bloc MP and NDA has 12 MPs.

Ironically, the stand taken by Acharia-led committee is divergent from the view of CPM, Acharia's party. CPM polit bureau member S Ramachandran Pillai had kicked up a storm in Kerala last year when he had nuanced his party,s view by saying complete opposition to genetically modified crops was superstitious. Pillai also appeared before the standing committee as the president of the All India Kisan Sabha and said: "I am for making use of the achievements of science and technology in agriculture as in the case of other areas... There are possibilities for increasing productivity and production in agriculture by making use of genetically modified crops... Very rigorous bio-diversity tests should be conducted to ensure that the genetically modified crops should not cause any ill effects on human life, other plant and animal life and also on the overall environment."

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Keeping soil covered increases profits for farmers

Keeping soil covered increases profits for farmers | Organic Farming |

Keeping the soil permanently covered is the best way to increase profits in farming no matter where a producer lives or what kind of soil his fields have, says Juca Sa from Ponta Grossa, Brazil.

Juca is a professor who works with farmers in Brazil, but has spoken to farmers all over the world about no-till farming. Ponta Grossa University was the first school in the world to offer a major in no-till agronomy 22 years ago. The university runs both a research and a commercial operation farm.



Juca spoke to producers at the recent Diversity, Direction & Dollars agricultural forum in Dickinson.

His main points were:

- Soil tillage has a major impact on organic matter.

- It is essential to maintain permanent cover on agricultural soils.

- Organic matter and biomass are the most important components of the agricultural system and they come from growing crops with healthy roots and keeping residue on the soil at all times.

The main lesson nature teaches is that it is vital to manage for soil organic matter in order to build up the soil structure and give the soil the ability to sustain plant growth, Juca said.

“We need to rebuild the ability of soil functionality,” he said.

In undisturbed soils, the increase of carbon is a natural process, he said. Simply put, plants use the sun to convert inorganic compounds into organic compounds, turning carbon dioxide and minerals into plant material by photosynthesis.

“The litter on the soil surface helps maintain organic matter which sends carbon back into soil,” he said.

Juca explained that inputs occur when carbon comes from photosynthesis and outputs come from plant respiration. Cultivating the soil exposes the root material to oxygen which increases respiration. “Covering the soil can increase our inputs,” he said. Without the soil covered, there is significant organic matter loss.

He said tillage done in a field that otherwise has been no-tilled for 20 years would result in the loss of 1 ton of carbon per acre and a reduction in organic matter. Losses can increase as the soil remains uncovered and erosion occurs, he added. In native soils or natural vegetation, there is litter plus roots, he said. However, in conventional tillage, there is very low aggregate stability and a mix of old residue with fresh residue.

In a no-till system there is high aggregate stability, Juca said.

Soil aggregates are the basic structural unit of soil, he explained. They stabilize the soil and maintain productivity while preventing erosion and deterioration.

Juca said soil that is pristine, such as in a forest, has larger aggregates which results in soil that has increased infiltration, better oxygenation of the soil, greater carrying capacity and more water storage. “When we change from conventional tillage to no-till, we are rebuilding and recovering the aggregates,” Juca said. “When we do this, we have more profitability on the farm.”

He gave an example of farming continuous wheat in three areas over 50 years, Missouri in the U.S., Saskatoon in Canada and Argentina.

After 50 years, 48 percent of the original carbon in Canada was gone and 58 percent of the original carbon was gone in Missouri. For Argentina, the data covered only 20 years, but in that time, 24 percent of the carbon was gone, so it was essentially the same.

In tropical regions where the temperatures are higher, there was 60 percent loss of carbon in 20 years and in Ponta Grossa, 35 percent.

Juca said conventional tillage in tropical areas leaves the soil bare and unprotected in times of heavy rainfall and heat. That leads to a greater loss of carbon, and that is why many Brazilian farmers have been going no-till and covering the soil at all times for many years.

He also spoke about the importance of crop rotation even in a continuous soybean, corn area such as Brazil has been. Included in that crop rotation should be cover crops, he added.


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ECO-Farming: It goes back to the root of it all, but could be the future of farming

ECO-Farming: It goes back to the root of it all, but could be the future of farming | Organic Farming |

SALEM, Ohio — The next time planting season rolls around, consider not using any type of tillage on those fields. That’s what a group of experts says could mean the difference between soil quality and soil health in the future.

“Soil quality” refers only to individual segments and property of the soil type, while “soil health” refers to the whole entity. Proponents of a new trend of farming called “ECO farming,” say attention to soil health will mean more benefits to farmers in the future.

ECO farmers try not to use any tillage tool, manage so a continuous live cover is left on the fields at all times, and use other best management practices.

That’s what Ray Archuleta, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s East National Technology Service Center, says when he explains the meaning of “ECO Farming.”

The term ECO farming was defined by a team including Jim Hoorman, assistant professor with OSU Extension; Archuleta; Ohio No-till Council President Dave Brandt; and Mark Scarpiti, Ohio NRCS agronomist.

ECO Farming definition

ECO farming stands for eternal no-till, continuous live cover and other best management practices. Proponents hope to eliminate tillage as much as possible.

Other best management practices include the concept of controlled traffic, water table management, manure management and integrated pest management.

The idea is to leave a continuous living cover on the soil 100 percent of the time. The living cover can include grain crops followed by cover crops, pasture or hay systems or perennial plants.


In addition, the benefits include lower input costs and fuel costs. For example, by utilizing manure only and no nitrogen, it means lower fertilizer costs. By not tilling the ground, less fuel is used to put crops in the ground.

“The goal is to protect the soil from soil erosion, increase water infiltration and decrease nutrient runoff,” said Jim Hoorman, assistant professor with Ohio State University Extension.

Cover crops

“The tool is no-till and cover crops, which is mimicking nature,” said Archuleta.

By utilizing cover crops and by not using tillage, the nutrients are trapped in the soil, helping the plants to grow.

“Nature has provided the template. All we have to do is follow it,” said Archuleta. “For 100 to 200 years, farmers have been tilling the soil and basically mining it of the nutrients, destroying soil structure and losing 60 to 80 percent of soil organic matter. Now we can use advanced knowledge of soils, soil health and soil ecology to work with Mother Nature, rather than against her.”

Plants supply 25 to 40 percent of their carbohydrate reserves to feeding the microbes, which, in turn, recycle nitrogen, phosphorus and water back to the plant roots. This nature process improves soil structure and increases water infiltration and water storage.

Ohio No-till president Dave Brandt has been practicing the concept for more than 15 years on his farm and has reduced fertilizer inputs by as much as 70 percent, herbicide costs by 50 percent and reduced fuel consumption.

He hosted a field day at his farm last month to showcase his system. A second field day was held at the Jess Rasawehr farm near Celina.

“When you hear a farm say they haven’t used nitrogen, just cover crops and manure. It gets your head to turn,” said Archuleta.

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INESAD News: Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques | Development Roast

INESAD News: Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques | Development Roast | Organic Farming |

INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton has spent the summer researching food and agriculture issues with Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet (NtP) project. Here is her latest article featured today by NtP:Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques.

According to a recent report by the Pesticide Action Network, the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture is costly to human health and biodiversity: the effects of excessive exposure range from skin and eye irritation to disruptions of the immune system and death by poisoning. It is also increasingly expensive for farmers who have to keep up with pests’ natural ability to adapt to chemical formulas and resilience. But many farmers are abandoning chemicals for more natural methods that are not only chemical-free, but are also fascinating and fun.

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five natural pest management innovations from around the world that use novel insect control techniques:

1. Ducks in South Africa. No one likes to chew on a grape the way a snail does. Vineyards are prone to snail infestations

Jonty’s Duck Army (Photo Credit: Avondale Wines )

that can threaten entire harvests, leading ordinary wine producers to rely on pesticides for protection. South Africa’s Avondale Wines, however, uses an entirely different method to control the slimy pest.

Every season, one hundred adult ducks wobble their way through 247 acres of Avondale vineyard rows, happily eating snails. “It is a natural alternative to your usual toxic, chemical-based snail control…and it works much more effectively,” says Avondale’s Johnathan (Jonty) Grieve in a YouTube video. The ducks are not only more efficient at getting rid of snails, but also do not leave behind the chemical residues unavoidable with traditional methods. Moreover, the duck’s precision—they only eat the snails, leaving the vineyard otherwise intact—helps preserve the harvest and maintain the natural harmony of the plants, animals, and organisms in the immediate environment.

2. Arachnophilia in China’s cotton growing by the Yangtse. Protecting the health of farmers while helping them protect their crops is the mission of Dr. Zhao Jingzhao, President of China’s Hubei University. Building on ancient Chinese biological pest control methods and through nationwide research, he set out to find natural predators to the boll weevil, the major insect plaguing cotton farms near Wuhan on the Yangtze River, 1,000 kilometers south of Beijing. Dr. Zao found that the 600 natural enemies of the boll weevil that his team identified included over 100 varieties of spiders. Upon the discovery, the team immediately began to show farmers of the Hubei Province how to attract the eight-legged arachnids to their cotton fields—digging small holes in fields before planting the rice and providing plenty of grass cover for the spiders to hide in. As a result, the farmers have been able to cut down on chemical use by 80 percent, while their yields have increased. Read more in this article byHorizon Solutions.

3. The Bug Wars in Thailand. According to the Thai Tapioca Starch Association, cassava—a woody, shrubby plant, widely cultivated in the Tropics for its starchy root—is worth around US$1.5 billion a year to Thailand’s farmers. But people are not the only ones who find this rich vegetable delicious—it is also eagerly devoured by an unruly pest called the mealy bug. According to the New York Times, in 2010, the infestation was so serious that it become nothing short of a plague. To fight this onslaught, the Thai government released a quarter of a million tiny parasitic wasps—the mealy bug’s natural predator—in the cassava fields of the Nakhon Ratchasima district to successfully control the problem.

4. Spicing things up in Guatemala. To save money and help heal the land, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Guatemala is helping farmers discover ways to make pest-control preparations using free or cheap locally available ingredients. In workshops that engage community leaders, local representatives of FAO hold practical demonstrations that combine water with large amounts of crushed garlic and chiltepes—pinky-fingernail-sized highly spicy local chili peppers. The end result is an all-natural pesticide that can be sprayed regularly on plants to deter unwanted insects, birds, and animal gorgers naturally with its pungent odor and painful spice.

5. Natural methods to minimize rice storage losses in India. It is not just on the farm that insects and other creatures can claim a share of a harvest. Storage of perishable goods such as rice, produced in India and other countries, is also prone to pest and fungi attacks. According to the German Transport Information Service, flour, drugstore, and spider beetles, as well as moths, rats, and mice, are all attracted to rice. The damage they cause leads to increased grain respiration—a chemical reaction that releases water vapor and warmth in the process of breaking down glucose into energy for the plant’s cells—which increases moisture and heat levels that facilitate bacteria growth and mold. Large losses of stored crops can occur if these are left unchecked. Meanwhile, fungicide and pesticide-treated grain—rice is often fumigated with an insecticide called methyl bromide—leaves chemical residues that could harm human health.

A global consortium of rice farmers and scientists recently found a mixed technology solution to this problem. The team came together under the EURIKA project, a multi-governmental European research initiative. According to the project, their novel combination of insect traps, better refrigeration, and use of natural gases to slow down pest development has been so successful—it saw a 95 percent decline in rice lost to pests during storage and transportation—that four companies are already using it to great effect. The method is also undergoing research into the solution’s applicability to reduce storage and transportation losses of many other grains besides rice.

Of course, using a single method to control one pest is not a panacea. In fact, even the most seemingly natural alternatives come with their own tradeoffs and possible negative side effects. According to National Geographic, for example, the introduction of the cane toad to control pests in Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries led to tragic consequences for many native species. Most of the methods above, however, are compatible with the wider principles of Integrated Pest Management that views the farm as an integrated, whole ecosystem and therefore uses natural methods of pest control that do not upset its overall balance.

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Sreelatha Menon: 85 days of a cabbage's life

Sreelatha Menon: 85 days of a cabbage's life | Organic Farming |
Here is a scary story about pesticides from an enterprising farmer. Subramaniam Kannaiyan — from Thalavady village in Erode, Tamil Nadu — blogs about his experiences with pesticides with respect to a single vegetable, cabbage.



Here is a scary story about pesticides from an enterprising farmer. Subramaniam Kannaiyan — from Thalavady village in Erode, Tamil Nadu — blogs about his experiences with pesticides with respect to a single vegetable, cabbage.Small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land are cultivating cabbages on about 3,000 acres here. According to the blogger, no technical support is provided to farmers. Who, in that case, advises them? Seeds and pesticides dealers, he says.

Now, the pesticide part of the story. On the 10th day of sowing, the first pesticides make their entry. About 200 ml of insecticide Hostathian from Bayer, along with 250 gm of Acephate, are sprayed per acre. Hostathian is a highly toxic insecticide, while Acephate is an insecticide of moderate persistence with residual systemic activity of about 10-15 days.

On the 20th day, 150 ml of insecticide Success 480 from Dow Agro Sciences is sprayed per acre. According to Dow, Success 480 sc (Sinosad) is a kind of natural pesticide and does not contain high toxicity, but it is still harmful to the environment. There is no independent study available to establish this pesticide is safe, writes Kannaiyan.

Next, on the 35th day enters the third pesticide, Fame 480 sc from Bayer. About 45 ml of this pesticide is sprayed per acre. This one contains Flubendiamide. No study is available on this either, he says.

On the 50th day, 50 gm of insecticide Proclaim and 1,750 gm of Pegaus 50 WP, both from Syngenta, are sprayed.

The blogger notes that according to a study by Syngenta, certain crops should not be harvested for eight weeks after application of this chemical and livestock should not be allowed to graze for 21 days. If this pesticide is sprayed on the 50th day or later, the cabbages could be harvested on the 85th day or within a week after. So, consumers can consume the active residue of Proclaim from Syngenta.

Pegaus 50 WP contains the hazardous components of diafenthiuron, poly (oxy-1,2-ethanediyl), alpha-isotridecyl-omega-hydroxy-, formaldehyde. This, like Proclaim, is very toxic for aquatic organisms. It is also toxic when exposed to skin, swallowed or inhaled.

On the 70th day comes Endosulfan 35 EC 500 ml[vi], a celebrity pesticide now after the recent global media glare, following the special treatment at the Stockholm convention. It is to be phased out in the coming 11 years. Endosulfan arrives accompanied by Profenophos 50 EC 500 ml. The cabbage is harvested on the 85th day.

Kannaiyan laments the absence of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Thalavady and in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. India has an IPM policy since 1985. IPM includes multiple controls such as bio pesticides (which could be as simple as crushed leaves), identification of pests and collective action by farmers in an area, breeding new varieties with built-in resistance.

But, bio pesticides form just two per cent of the pesticides used and sold and are not subsidised.

The training of farmers and extension services to form farmer groups for collective IPM action are also missing. Just 0.2 per cent farmers have been reached for IPM training.

The United States, which is often flogged by activists for all the ills of the chemical-heavy agriculture in India, formulated IPM into a national policy in February 1972. So, US companies may sell pesticides but unlike Indians, US farmers are not necessarily using these indiscriminately.

Kannaiyan blows hot and cold at the money made by the multinational companies, but finally admits that rhetoric without action at the farm level is of no use.

Kannaiyan concludes that agro ecology as a farming strategy at the level of each farm will be the only solution. And, until that happens, he says, “I have stopped eating cabbage because it is nothing but pesticide.”

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Plant-Based Manure for 'Greener Crops'

Plant-Based Manure for 'Greener Crops' | Organic Farming |
DENMARK - The manure of the future does not originate from animals but from plants, according to new research. Green manure is the way ahead at a time when the use of non-organic animal manure in organic farming is going to be phased out.



Plant-Based Manure for 'Greener Crops'


DENMARK - The manure of the future does not originate from animals but from plants, according to new research. Green manure is the way ahead at a time when the use of non-organic animal manure in organic farming is going to be phased out.

Research states the use of non-organic animal manure in organic farming will soon be a thing of the past. In the near future this will be replaced by green manure – in other words, a plant-based manure. In a new project at Aarhus University scientists will therefore look at how to get the maximum benefit of nitrogen in green manure while optimising the quality of the fertiliser.

"The objective is to optimise the yield of the nitrogen in plant-based fertiliser that is stable and readily available when needed," says senior scientist Jørn Nygaard Sørensen, who is behind the project.

The background for the project is that the current use of non-organic animal manure in organic farming will gradually be phased out from 2015. Organic farms therefore need alternative sources of fertiliser. There is also an ambition to increase the use of green manure to avoid contamination with animal manure, which represents a potential health risk.

Green manure quality

Previous studies of green manure have shown that it is not just a question of producing a high nitrogen yield per hectare, but that the quality of the green manure is also very important. The quality depends on the carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio of the manure.

"If the C/N ratio is too high, the nutrients will be released too slowly for the cash crop to get full benefit of them," explains Jørn Nygaard Sørensen.

To achieve the highest yield when used on cash crops it is therefore important that the C/N ratio in the green manure crops is low. A low ratio is achieved by harvesting the green manure crops at an early growth stage, because the later the plants are harvested, the higher the C/N ratio.

A balancing act

The challenge for the scientists is to find not only suitable plants with a potentially high nitrogen content but also the optimum harvesting time for the green manures when the nitrogen content is high and the C/N ratio low.

"When producing mobile green manures the optimum harvesting time will be a balance between the amount of nitrogen produced per hectare and the C/N ratio of the biomass. The nitrogen yield per hectare is also a balance between the quantity of biomass produced and the nitrogen content. In this way the nitrogen yield can be maximised and the quality optimised," concludes Jørn Nygaard Sørensen.

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Interview: Costa Rica Agroecological Farm | Ecoteer

Interview: Costa Rica Agroecological Farm | Ecoteer | Organic Farming |
Costa Rica Agroecological farm provides a volunteering opportunity to learn the sustainable way of farming and to be self sufficient...



This interview was conducted with Mr Donald who manages the Agroecological Farm in Costa Rica.


What is the agroecological farm is about and how did it start?

With stunning views of El Valle de General and Costa Rica’s tallest mountains, including Mount Chirripo, La Gran Vista Agricultural Ecological Farm is well named. It is situated in the county of Perez Zeledon, three hours south of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Protected forests, sublime beaches and fabulous waterfalls can all be found nearby. Finca La Gran Vista was established on January 16, 2001, as a non-profit project with the aim of spreading awareness of environmentally sustainable agricultural methods to other farmers in the region


How do you feel your agroecological farm can benefit the community?

We are a School Farm so in that way not only the community can be benefit, the neighborhood, the local students and farmers can benefit from learning the sustainable methods to manage a farm.

What are the most interesting aspects of your agroecological farm?

Working in Conservation aspects and be self sufficient.


What do volunteers learn while volunteering in the farm?

1.Soil conservation measures (construction of terraces, planting of soil-binding grasses);

2, Pasture rehabilitation and fence construction;

3.Vegetable cultivation in raised beds;

4. Treatment of structural wood in the farm buildings to protect from termites;

5. Construction and subsequent maintenance of greenhouses;

6. Planting of fruit-bearing trees;

7. Reforestation of trees native to the area;

8. Sharing of ideas with visiting local farmers;

9, Sharing of ideas with visiting local children and foreign students on ecological school tours;
10. Managing free-range poultry;
11. Cultivation of the Californian Red Worm for the enrichment of organic fertilizers;
12. Showing visitors the multiple uses that certain plants have, as treatment for both human health and plant welfare;
13. Fabrication of composts using materials grown on the farm;
14. Involving the volunteers in activities that allow for a greater appreciation of Costa Rican culture.


Are there any fascinating stories you would like to share with us?

Changing mints from visitors, when they get here I tell them we compare the planet with a sinking boat. Some people who are in the sinking boat are drinking in the bar, some are swimming in the pool, some are sleeping and a couple them are getting water out from the boat…. So the question is are you doing something important in the sinking boat ? At the end, all of them are talking about this….


What type of volunteers are suitable for your project?

Bring a positive, hard-working attitude. Volunteers must have their own comprehensive medical insurance, plus some sort of travel insurance, including a cancellation policy. No alcohol is allowed on the farm; if you go out into the community to have a beer, please respect the wishes of your project host family. Smoking is allowed only in designated areas outdoors. The community has only a limited amount of water, so please use it sparingly (i.e. one shower per day, one laundry wash per week)


Any last words you would like to share with the volunteers to volunteer for your organization?

How to be a good Volunteer? Here’s some advice on how to make the most of your volunteer work:

Be selfless. Selfless is the opposite of selfish. Don’t think about what you can do to help yourself. Think about what you can do to help others.

Be open-minded. One of the really great things about being a volunteer is the chance to learn and experience new things. Keep your mind open to new possibilities, and you’ll probably grow as a person.

Be respectful. Always remember to show respect for other people and other cultures. Keep in mind that your way of thinking or living is not the only way there is.

Be understanding. Try to see things through other people’s eyes. Try your best to understand what other people are going through; even if it’s something you’ve never dealt with yourself.

Be humble. Humble people don’t brag or go around telling everyone about all the good things they’ve done just to get some attention or feel superior. They’re happy knowing that they’re making a difference, and don’t need to shout about it.

Be friendly. Treat others like friends, and they’ll do the same for you. Many people who volunteer meet new people with whom they want to stay friends. You might just meet someone who becomes a buddy for the rest of your life!


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The Tuding nuns and their own way of farming

The Tuding nuns and their own way of farming | Organic Farming |
The online version of the Philippines' leading business newspaper features virtually all the stories and statistical data available in the print edition.



THE order of sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary first based their home in Tuding, Itogon and were thereafter called the Tuding Sisters.

They were the first order of nuns who raised an organic garden and set up an organic market inviting farmers to bring their produce to the grounds of their convent.

It was Ed Guevara of the eco-village of Geo-Farms who helped the Tuding nuns set up their bio-digester tanks which filtered their waste water that they used to spray their soil for nourishment and also as a source of methane for their cooking needs.

The system no longer works but the interest in protecting the environment and planting organic vegetables the earlier nuns impressed on their congregation has evolved into simpler methods, and it works.

One rainy day, Sister Julie showed this writer her backyard garden in their Tuding convent. Dressed in red jogging pants and sneakers, she nimbly walked down the slippery stone steps down to the lower slopes of the hill within their grounds.

Despite the steady heavy downpour of several days, she had rows of robust green mustard and Chinese pechay among other leafy greens inside an improvised greenhouse made of bamboo slats and thick clear agricultural plastic sheets. Along the walk, she picked a few leaves from aragula plants lining the pathway. Here and there she would bend to gather some fallen passion fruits on the ground or pluck the ripe ones from the trellis. They were all the produce of her own labor.

“What we cannot consume here I bring to the organic store our nuns run at the Cathedral,” she said.

The interest of the Tuding nuns for organically grown products have led them to many a seminar and workshops to learn the secrets of healthy happy agriculture and such knowledge derived from these they gladly share in training other women.

Stacked on Sister Julie’s table are her training materials from lectures given by organic farmer masters or awardees of  Gawad Magsasaka.

She tells of the first exposure she had with  Magsasakang Siyentista for Natural Farming Eric Tinoyan of Tuba, an engineer who wrote on producing indigenous microorganism. The process involves the storing of a kilo of cooked rice in a bamboo hollow, cooled before covering. The container is placed in a forest area where there is white hyphae, a cotton-like white fungal growth.

Made simpler, one can just place the container in a clean area, such as by a bamboo grove. After three or five days, white mold can be seen on the rice. The rice with the microbes can be transferred into a clay jar and mixed with one kilo of crude sugar. The mixture is then let to stand for seven days, covered with paper, in a cool place. The juice taken from here if mixed with one liter of water can be sprayed on plants or mixed with biodegradables to hasten composting, which can be ready in as short as two weeks.  Sister Julie also learned about fermented plant juice microorganisms from Tinoyan. Interestingly, the oriental herbal nutrient uses ginger, beer, gin and crude sugar, and some laughingly joke that this must produce tipsy crops unless the farmer gets to the ingredients first.

Tinoyan encourages the use of indigenous or easily available material and cites quite a number. One of the easiest to obtain is the rice bran to produce lactic acid bacterial serum. The formula requires 1.5 liter first rice wash which carries a lot of good microorganism. This is let to stand for seven days by which time the bran floats. The rice bran is strained and only the Lacto Seed (LAS) water is used. Added to the jar are 10 liters of fresh milk, then it is covered with manila paper tied with string. After seven days the fat (white solids) floats to the top and a yellowish substance stays in the bottom which is the Lacto Seed without fat. A total of 10 kilos of crude sugar must be added so it does not spoil and after seven days of storage, the formula can be used much the same way for hastening composting.

Sister Julie had tried several of the procedures, displaying some of them stored in jars. But one of her constant formulas is the one she learned from another Gawad Magsasaka awardee for organic farming, Pat Acosta. After years of experimentation, Acosta discovered that all it takes is understanding how nature works and adding a bit of technology to speed up the natural process.

Acosta’s simple formula takes just one tablespoon of clean soil, one tablespoon of sugar or molasses and the mixture is cultured for seven days. Twenty-five milliliters of the culture is mixed to a liter of water and sprayed for composting plant cuttings. The mixture can rot one ton of biodegradables like garden debris in about two weeks. Acosta cautions that the compost heap must be covered as rain washes away the nutrients.

Molasses, or crude sugar, contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphate and sodium and thus increases the population of good microorganisms in the soil mixture.

Almost shyly, Sister Julie adds her own concocted formula to the line of jars on the table and says this is liquid taken from sunflower extract. Following the formula of Tinoyan and Acosta, Sister Julie heaps up cuttings of sunflower bushes, leaves, stem and all, and puts them in a container. She collects the juice from the rotting heap and applies the same formula she learned from Acosta.

For the Tuding nuns, what can be more indigenous and available than sunflowers From November to February, the hills of this region are swathed with a golden carpet of sunflower blooms. For the rest of the year, they are considered as nuisance bushes by city dwellers.

But farmers know better. According to anthropologist and former director of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture Joachim Voss, sunflowers were used by the Mayans and were first introduced here as ornamentals. Mountain farmers in this region put cut sunflowers in irrigation canals so that the nutrients flow directly to the fields. Sunflowers are one of the richest sources of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium among the plants found in the region.

The Tuding nuns also run a farm in Tublay managed only by two nuns and in Tuba by one nun. Their produce is brought to their Mt. Grown Natural Foods store situated at the exit point of the Baguio Cathedral. Organic farmers who used to bring their goods to the Tuding convent now sell their produce here.

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So you want to do your bit for the planet? Here is some food for thought… | Development Roast

So you want to do your bit for the planet? Here is some food for thought… | Development Roast | Organic Farming |

Climate change, water shortages, rising global pollution levels and food insecurity have made environmental sustainability the most pressing concern of our time. Improvements in production systems and agriculture, and advances in clean technology will certainly help, but as the global population becomes more conscious of the issues facing us as a human race, we begin to ask ourselves what it is that we can do to help preserve our planet for centuries to come. More than in anything else, the answer to that lies in the diet choices we make.

I, for one, am an occasional “Pescatarian”. This may sound strange, but what that means is that I do not eat any meat, but I do on special occasions eat fish. I mainly survive on fruits, vegetables, soya protein products and non-meat animal products such as dairy and eggs. On top of the usual Omnivores, Vegetarians, Vegans (and of course the Near-Carnivores) among the human race I have recently learned of some other “arianisms” that help to categorise our eating habits. One of my friends described herself as a Flexitarian, meaning she is flexible with her vegetarianism and occasionally chooses meat or fish and another as a Locatarian who chooses only locally produced meat, fish or vegetable products. While a third could be described as a Poultretarian in that she eats no meat or fish except for chicken (but still indulges in other animal products such as cheese and eggs). I would categorise some as Travelatarians as they choose a vegetarian diet whilst travelling to avoid bad meats and resulting stomach bugs. There are also Micro- and Macro-biotarians, Fruitarians, Rawtarians, Lactotarians, Ovolactotarians, semi-Vegetarians and weird and wonderful combinations thereof.

Having said that, overall the world per capita consumption of animal and fish products is rising at unprecedented rates (especially in the last decade or so) as countries reach higher levels of affluence (1). As I shall demonstrate, meat has by far the worst environmental effects, so assuming that majority of readers will be keen meat-eaters who are not worried about the origin or organic status of their food, I will demonstrate what beneficial effects we could bring to the environment by making small changes in different ways.

A UK average citizen consumed 218 g of meat per day in 2002, whilst a typical American citizen ate around 430g of meat and fish per day (2). While meat consumption in advanced countries has stabilised, in all developing countries it is rapidly on the rise. Meat production is incredibly energy intensive and it is estimated that if the whole world reached US consumption levels (where food production uses 50% of all land area, 80% of fresh water and 17% of all fossil fuels) (3), then proven worldwide mineral oil reserves would last about 12 years in supplying food production and consumption alone (4). The emissions attributed to livestock production come not only from the growing of animal feed, but also methane from the animals´ digestive systems and production and transportation of feed and meat. In addition, there are adverse effects for humans as the use of (often preventative) antibiotics in animals promotes antibiotic resistance in humans (5). Non-meat animal products such as eggs and cheese have a lower impact, but are still much more destructive than fruits and vegetables.

With some of the facts and figures laid out, let us now move on to the fun and interesting bit of showing what effect it would have if you were to turn to one of the other “anianisms” I described at the beginning, making comparisons with plant-based diets whilst highlighting some things to consider and dispelling some popular myths.

Option 1: Turn a Complete Pescatarian (replace all your meat calories with fish ones)

Since terrestrial products make up 99% of human food, turning pescatarian may seem like a good option as it takes pressure off land and water resources. However, there are some things in need of consideration when making your fish choices. In Western Europe trawler fishing is the most widespread method and global captured fisheries produced 96 million tonnes of wild fish in 2000 (6). To catch 1kg of fish requires 34 litres of fossil fuels and conserving it adds an extra 0.5-1.5 litres, so to produce 1 g of fish protein requires 14 times the fossil fuel input than to produce 1g of vegetable protein (7). Other methods are more sustainable (for example gillnet fishing needs only 0.65 times energy than veg protein), but nevertheless from a resource depletion perspective our oceans are in crises.

As a result, global aquaculture production (fish farms) has nearly doubled in the 1990s to 45mn tonnes produced in 2000 (8). A popular myth is that by choosing Scottish farmed salmon over wild Alaskan varieties you are helping to alleviate the pressure off wild stocks of fish. In reality, fish farms of carnivorous fish such as salmon and trout do more harm than good since 70% of all fish caught in the wild are now consumed by aquaculture and 4 kg of wild caught fish is required to produce just 1 kg of farmed salmon (9). Intensive fish farming is not the solution to stock depletion, rather better farming practices are. Do not despair however, as a fish lover there are several things you can do to help. You can pay more for sustainably caught wild fish such as line caught tuna and diver caught scallops, alternatively join the fight for more sustainable fish practices – believe it or not one of the best solutions brought forward by a recent WWF report to improve fish farms is indeed to make our salmon and trout vegetarian and feed them plant instead of fish oils (10).

Option 2: Save food miles and go Locatarian

The concept of Food-Miles has been somewhat of a buzz phrase with media and policy makers alike. Reducing how far a food product travels from its production to its consumption can help reduce the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from it. A study in the US (11) indeed confirmed this and the researchers estimated that by going completely local would make energy saving equivalent to driving 1,000 miles (approximately the length of New Zealand). It is worth bearing in mind that this is not always strictly the case. A study in the UK showed that an energy saving would only be made between driving to a local farm to pick up organic vegetables and having them delivered by UK´s largest organic veg-box distributor Riverford if the round trip to the shop and back was made in less than 6.7km (12).

Option 3: Go Organic

There are several advantages to organic farming. Livestock production in the US alone is responsible for 37% pesticide use, 50% antibiotic use and 33% of nitrogen and phosphorus release into freshwater sources (13). Antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed and other crops make farming and agriculture the largest sectoral source of water pollution in the world contributing to eutrophication, “dead zones” in coastal areas, human health problems and so on (14). Elimination of all these substances would have a hugely beneficial effect for human and natural health and help reverse soil degradation.

One study (15) calculated an aggregated Eco-points score taking into account various environmental and human health effects when looking at organic versus integrated (half organic half normal) production methods. They found that organic fruit and vegetables had the best Eco-scores, followed by organic meat which outperformed integrated methods fruits and vegetables, with integrated method meat production having the worst effects. However, unless you are willing to also reduce your meat consumption, land availability issues would not be solved since organic farming is much less intensive with lower yields. Organic diets are more expensive, but if more people turned to organic simple laws of supply and demand dictate that with time as production increases prices will fall, thus benefitting everyone.

Option 4: Flexing your meat intake

Forgoing meat for just one day a week can have the same effect as going completely locatarian (16).

Option 5: Switch to Chicken

Although other meat than beef and non-meat animal products still have a larger environmental effect than vegetables (for water requirements of different products see graph 1), giving up meat for one day per weak to other animal products would save 760miles (more than driving the entire length of Great Britain, which is only 710 miles). Switching from meat to other animal products altogether and becoming a poultretarian would save around 5,340 driven miles (17), equivalent to driving across the whole of Russia from East to West.


Option 6: Giving it all up

Giving up meat, fish and animal products altogether is the most drastic lifestyle change you could make with the biggest effects. In comparison to an entirely plant-based diet, a meat diet requires up to 17 times more land, 26 times more water, 20 times more fossil fuels, emits 7 times more acidifying compounds (sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and ammonia), emits 6 times the amounts of biocides (pesticides and disinfectants applied to crops that lead to eutrophication), and emits 100 times more copper (from feed and fertilizer) (18). For vegan diets, the externalities associated with farming (such as cost and treatment of pesticides, soil erosion, pathogens and human health problems) are estimated to be a third that of meat eaters (19). Moving from a meat-eating diet where you consume meat everyday to a totally vegan diet could save 8332 driving miles per year (20). This is equivalent to driving the length of South America and back from Punta Gallinas in Colombia in the North to Cape Horn of Chile in the South, so put down your hamburger and start dreaming about the road.

Why should we care?

Agriculture is one of the biggest causes of deforestation and, thus, loss of biodiversity and increased threat of species extinction (currently at 50-500 times faster than background fossil record rates) (21). If we continue at current rates, another 10bn ha of natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050 (22). This type of land use change is the single most largest contributor to emissions in developing countries, making agriculture responsible for 18% of all GHG emissions in the world (74% of which are in Developing Countries) – which is larger than the whole of the transport sector (23). Intensive farming practices have added to soil degradation so much so that 17% of Earth´s vegetated land in now classified as degraded (24). In addition, agriculture consumed 90% of global freshwater during the last century (25) and because renewable freshwater stocks are very low, demand from the projected additional 2.3bn people by 2050 (26) will need to be met from existing irrigated land. This is particularly a problem since 64% of the world´s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025 (27). While additional pressures on agriculture are coming from new projects such as carbon sequestration and the rising global demand for biofuel crops.

Meat consumption is projected to increase by around 70% between 2005 and 2050 (or an additional 200 mn tonnes), Since already over a third of all world´s cereal stocks are used as animal feed (soya and others) and feed crop takes up 70% of the world´s agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet (28), agriculture and meat consumption are inextricably linked and guaranteeing our future depends on the choices we make.

So why change now?

Governments of various countries have in the past restricted freedoms for the greater good, like Singapore restricting fertility in the 1960s and 1970s due to overpopulation and reversing policy from anti-natalist to selective-pro-natalist (to encourage the better educated segments of the population to have three or more children) due to threat of a population crisis from the mid 1980´s onwards (29). Similarly, China today operates a strict one child only policy to control population. So too are some researchers predicting that “under the current pressures imposed by overpopulation, resource scarcity and overconsumption, absolute dietary freedom could soon … become a luxury” (30), whilst others are already making estimations for a global target to restrict production and consumption globally to 90g of animal protein per person per day with no more than 50g of that coming from red meats or from ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, and other digastric grazers) (31) in order to achieve sustainability. This will represent a drastic change from the current consumptions in the west (from 430g per day for the average American and 218g for an average British person). As you can see, increasingly researchers and policy makers are calling for food consumption to be at the top of our environmental agenda, so with even Mike Tyson (a fighter famous for biting off another boxer´s ear during a fight) turning vegan earlier this year (32), it is time for us to all do our bit for nature and for global health while we still have the power to choose.

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View your posts on India Water Portal | India Water Portal | Organic Farming |




Visit this link for a wealth of information

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New Agriculturist: Focus on... The key to bagging bigger markets

New Agriculturist: Focus on... The key to bagging bigger markets | Organic Farming |
In Zambia, Connect Africa has established a permaculture demonstration plot which illustrates how information and communication technologies can develop agricultural potential.


Sitting on a small stool in the shade of her home, Mary Mumba rests after giving a tour of her six-hectare plot of land. It used to be just two hectares when she started, she explains. "Then I used a community pay phone put here by Connect Africa to find markets for my maize and soya in town." Since then, this enterprising smallscale farmer near Mumbwa, a town 140 kilometres west of Zambia's capital Lusaka, has steadily grown her business and now supplies to regular, if limited, markets in town -using a newly purchased mobile phone.

Connect Africa's core business is training rural communities to maximise their income by selling communication services such as airtime, community pay phone (CPP) services or mobile phone money transfers alongside their usual business. Connect Africa also acts as an umbrella organisation: small scale agents without the necessary capital to register themselves with national mobile networks can register and transfer or collect money for clients anywhere in the country, while accruing an administration fee.

Because the majority of Connect Africa's clients are farmers, the organisation has established Kutenda Farm*, a permaculture demonstration plot which illustrates how information and communication technologies (ICT), already on offer at the organisation's service hub in Mumbwa, can develop agricultural potential. Volunteers are trained in growing high-value crops such as lettuce and spices like peppers, while applying sustainable and cost-effective farming practices and employing ICTs on a regular basis to ensure appropriate markets for their improved produce.

Information highway at Kutenda Farm

Relying on rain-fed agriculture and farming only common staple crops such as maize, smallscale farmers around Mumbwa battle with narrow market potential and supply gluts at harvest time, which drive down prices. Connect Africa's Director, Dion Jerling, observes: "Key to addressing these challenges is supplying farmers with options - both alternative sources of income, the ability to transfer money into and out of rural areas, and information about the diversity of crops farmers can grow to boost their revenue. We are taking our usual work to train people in rural areas how to use ICTs a step further, expanding on knowledge about agriculture, a vital lifeline for rural communities," he says.


Kutenda Farm is located in a rural community on a rolling strip of land on the outskirts of Mumbwa town. Stepping enthusiastically between neat rows of green lettuce and beans, permaculture supervisor Victor Chinda explains how he uses the internet to download information about cultivating non-traditional crops like peppers, chillies, herbs and spices, which will fetch a higher price on local markets with minimal money required for fertilisers.

He is careful to emphasise that internet research should be combined with local expert advice; hence the demonstration plot to teach volunteers how to apply sustainable techniques back on their home plots. "We emphasise that communities can use the internet at our office hub as a tool to research high-quality crops or agricultural techniques," he beams.

"For example, we have researched and implemented pools for harvesting water, so the farm does not rely on increasingly unpredictable rainfall, and mulch is made from grass piled onto crop ridges to retain moisture, replace soil nutrients and suppress weeds." Insect repelling crops like chilli are planted to cut down on chemical pesticides, he continues, and old tyres are used as miniature nurseries, filled with elephant dung or nitrogen-rich compost from intercropped Moringa oleifera trees.


Connect Africa's Regional Coordinator, Lloyd Kabulwebulwe, explains that good communication is vital to improving the entire agricultural value chain - from what to grow to where to sell. "This is demonstrated throughout by regularly using the phone to communicate with markets and order farm products such as fertiliser using mobile money transfers," he says.


Connect Africa now supports more than 500 smallscale farmers with training in ICT services, which can link them with bigger markets and bring in alternative income. Of course there have been challenges. Working with small scale mobile money agents incurs an element of risk. Money changes hands on a regular basis, and although agents must contribute a float, a trusting relationship between all stakeholders is imperative. In addition, farmers who have never switched on a computer before and are often convinced that traditional methods of farming are 'better' can be sceptical of change.

But effective ICT use has already started changing lives, as Mumba can attest. And recent interest by the luxurious Mukambi Lodge in nearby Kafue National Park to source Kutanda Farm's fresh produce, following conversations via mobile phone, just goes to show that connecting the right people - and being in the know - pays. "Our next aim is to roll out mobile phone network coverage country-wide, allowing smallscale farmers to readily communicate their needs to suppliers or buyers by mobile phone across the country, putting the power in their hands to boost their own incomes," says Jerling.

* Kutenda Farm is funded by Connect Africa with contributions from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

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Bottled Water: Do We Really Need It?

Bottled Water: Do We Really Need It? | Organic Farming |
Do you know all the facts about bottled water?
Ditching bottled water keeps Mother Earth and your Wallet Green.
Is there an alternative?



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Whole world can get food if fertilizers and water used more wisely: Study

Whole world can get food if fertilizers and water used more wisely: Study | Organic Farming |
10+ GB of storage, less spam, and mobile access. Gmail is email that's intuitive, efficient, and useful. And maybe even fun.


India’s wheat and rice production can be increased by over 60 percent, sugarcane production by 41 per cent and cotton production by 73 per cent by 2050 – without cutting down forests or increasing farmed area in any other way. Sounds like a dream? A study, published in the scientific journal Nature last week, shows that this is indeed possible.

In fact it is possible to feed the whole world by 2050, the study says, even as population will jump by 2 billion to reach 9 billion and food demand will double from the present because of better living standards.

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and the University of Minnesota, US, gathered data from 157 countries and found that most of them – including India – suffered from a serious ‘yield gap’. That is the gap between what a best-practice farm in that area can produce and what is the prevailing average production per unit land area.

Thus, in India, the study found that in wheat, the current yield was 2.49 tonnes per hectare (tph) while it could go up to 3.98 tph if proper fertilizer and water is provided. Similarly, rice yield could increase from 2.88 tph to 4.61 tph, and sugarcane yields could be increased from 63.62 tph to 88.97 tph.

How is this increase taking place? Doesn’t it mean a higher pressure on the environment, by cutting down of forests? Usually increase in agricultural production is associated with negative environmental impact, including heavy use of fertilizer most of which washes away into the water system causing huge damage.

“We have often seen these two goals as a trade-off: We could either have more food, or a cleaner environment, not both,” said lead author Nathaniel Mueller, a researcher with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “This study shows that doesn’t have to be the case.”

What this study did was look at the global picture. They found out how much fertilizers and water are needed in different countries or areas, and compared it to how much is actually being used. Many countries and regions – including China, the US, Western Europe and even some parts of India – were using excessive fertilizer and water while the rest of the world was using much less than needed. If the fertilizer and water use were rationalized and spreadequitably, yields would go up in the deficient regions substantially, but without causing declines in the extra-using regions.

Worldwide, nitrogen use could be cut by 28 percent and phosphorus use by 38 percent without adversely affecting yields for corn, wheat and rice, the study found. With strategic redistribution of nutrient inputs, underperforming lands worldwide could be brought up to 75 percent of their production potential while only increasing global nitrogen use 9 percent and potassium use 34 percent-and reducing phosphorus use 2 percent, the study said.

The researchers caution that their analysis is at a coarse scale and that many other factors, including land characteristics, use of organic fertilizers, economics, geopolitics, water availability and climate change will influence actual gains in crop production and reductions in adverse environmental impacts, according to a University of Minnesota statement.

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The Amazing Health Benefits of Organic Broccoli Sprouts

The Amazing Health Benefits of Organic Broccoli Sprouts | Organic Farming |
In this post, I talk about the health benefits of broccoli sprouts. The health benefits of broccoli sprouts are tremendous, primarily due to its sulforaphane.




Organic Broccoli Sprouts Provide Amazing Health Benefits…..and Sulforaphane


If you ever go to a talk by Dr. Brian Clement, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute and the person in this video discussing the merits of Green Juice vs. Green Smoothies, you can be guaranteed to hear this: eat and juice sprouts.

The reason that he is saying this is because sprouts have incredibly important health properties. They have very high levels of nutrients and enzymes, which provide the body valuable energy to detox and strengthen the immune system.

The other key benefits of sprouts include:

- Increased vitality, energy and vigor from the large amount of enzymes.

- 10 to 100 times more enzymes than fruits and vegetables when eaten within the first seven days of being sprouted.

- Powerful antioxidants which help fight free radicals and aging.

- The minerals and nutrients are easily absorbed into the body.

While there are many excellent sprouts, there is a specific reason why I buy organic broccoli sprouts.

What broccoli sprouts offer is sulforaphane, a powerful anti-cancer compound that helps fight and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Dr. Paul Talalay, Professor of Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University, found that 3-day old broccoli sprouts consistently contained 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds than those found in mature broccoli heads. And sulphoraphane is the reason why.


The President’s Cancel Panel report estimates that 41% (PDF File) of Americans will get cancer, and a large majority of those cases are environmental-related.

Even though I eat pretty much 100% organic, I am still exposed to many, many toxins by living in New York City and my mother passed away from cancer. Therefore, eating foods that have serious anti-cancer properties is a priority for me.

So, if I can get 20-50x times the cancer protection from eating broccoli sprouts rather than broccoli as a vegetable, I’ll take that any day of the week.

The next time you’re in the produce section of your market, take a look at organic broccoli sprouts.

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What is Sustainable Agriculture?

What is Sustainable Agriculture? | Organic Farming |

Agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II. Food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production. These changes allowed fewer farmers with reduced labor demands to produce the majority of the food and fiber in the U.S.

Although these changes have had many positive effects and reduced many risks in farming, there have also been significant costs.Prominent among these are topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, increasing costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities.

A growing movement has emerged during the past two decades to question the role of the agricultural establishment in promoting practices that contribute to these social problems. Today this movement for sustainable agriculture is garnering increasing support and acceptance within mainstream agriculture. Not only does sustainable agriculture address many environmental and social concerns, but it offers innovative and economically viable opportunities for growers, laborers, consumers, policymakers and many others in the entire food system.

Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Soil management. A common philosophy among sustainable agriculture practitioners is that a “healthy” soil is a key component of sustainability; that is, a healthy soil will produce healthy crop plants that have optimum vigor and are less susceptible to pests. While many crops have key pests that attack even the healthiest of plants, proper soil, water and nutrient management can help prevent some pest problems brought on by crop stress or nutrient imbalance. Furthermore, crop management systems that impair soil quality often result in greater inputs of water, nutrients, pesticides, and/or energy for tillage to maintain yields.

In sustainable systems, the soil is viewed as a fragile and living medium that must be protected and nurtured to ensure its long-term productivity and stability. Methods to protect and enhance the productivity of the soil include using cover crops, compost and/or manures, reducing tillage, No -Till farming is key.

Efficient use of inputs. Many inputs and practices used by conventional farmers are also used in sustainable agriculture. Sustainable farmers, however, maximize reliance on natural, renewable, and on-farm inputs. Equally important are the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a particular strategy. Converting to sustainable practices does not mean simple input substitution. Frequently, it substitutes enhanced management and scientific knowledge for conventional inputs, especially chemical inputs that harm the environment on farms and in rural communities. The goal is to develop efficient, biological systems which do not need high levels of material inputs.

Water. When the production of food and fiber degrades the natural resource base, the ability of future generations to produce and flourish decreases. The decline of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean region, Pre-Columbian southwest U.S. and Central America is believed to have been strongly influenced by natural resource degradation from non-sustainable farming and forestry practices. Water is the principal resource that has helped agriculture and society to prosper, and it has been a major limiting factor when mismanaged.

Air. Many agricultural activities affect air quality. These include smoke from agricultural burning; dust from tillage, traffic and harvest; pesticide drift from spraying; and nitrous oxide emissions from the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Options to improve air quality include incorporating crop residue into the soil, using NO tillage systems, and planting wind breaks, cover crops or strips of native perennial grasses to reduce dust.

Soil. Soil erosion continues to be a serious threat to our continued ability to produce adequate food. Numerous practices have been developed to keep soil in place, which include reducing or eliminating tillage, managing irrigation to reduce runoff, and keeping the soil covered with plants or mulch. Enhancement of soil quality is discussed in the next section.

Ibisime Etela's curator insight, July 31, 2013 8:46 PM

This piece is enlightening.

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10 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Food | Development Roast

10 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Food | Development Roast | Organic Farming |

Food is a key part of everyone’s lives. It is also, however, at the core of many of the world’s problems and disagreements. Today, Development Roast brings you ten roasting facts that we bet you didn’t know about food.

1. 15 species of cultivated plants “literally stand between man and starvation” because they make up 80-90% of all globally consumed calories.

2. Sugar was unheard of in England in 1000AD, yet by 1900s it made up 20% of all caloric intake. Whilst Soy, domesticated as far back as 3000BC, is now a vital component of 75% of all products on supermarket shelves, including chocolate and is in most products sold by fast food industry.

An Artistic Assortment of Innocent Vegetables at a Show in Bangkok. But did you know that food can also be used as a weapon? (Photo Credit: Ioulia Fenton)

3. 70 percent of Mexican tomatoes are rejected for export when they reach the ports because they are not pretty enough, have blemishes, odd shapes or any sign of ripeness. They have to be perfectly round and light green to enter the Western market.

4. We have enough food globally for every single person, man, woman and child to eat 4.3lb of food every day. Not just any food, but a nutritious, delicious, balanced diet of 2.5lb of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of meat, milk and eggs and another of fruits and vegetables. The real causes of global hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access.

5. Changes in diet and health can be incredibly rapid. Meat and fat consumption in Saudi Arabia rose a whopping 300% between the 1970s and 1990s.

6. Food can and has been used as a weapon. Earl Butz, the Secretary of State for Agriculture under Ford and Nixon, for example, was quoted saying:

“Hungry men listen only to those who have a piece of bread. Food is a tool. It is a weapon in the US negotiating kit.”

7. 31 serious famines occurred in India under 120 years of British rule and the capitalist system against just 17 recorded for the previous 2,000 years of feudalism.

Many GM Foods Remain Unlabelled, Especially in the United States (Photo Credit: Grant Cochrane)

8. Food markets are highly concentrated with top 10 global agrochemical companies controlling 85% of the market; 10 largest veterinary medicine companies own 60% of animal health markets, and top 10 seed companies control 32% of the commercial seed market. Just four companies in US provide 69% of North American seed corn market as of 2000.

9. When Genetically Modified foods were first developed, companies producing them expected this to be a great unique selling point and in the US actually had an eye-catching label saying ‘Genetically Modified’. They soon withdrew this tactic as worries about GM representing ‘Frankenfoods’ meant no-one bought it. Today in the US, GM is not labeled and many products contain GM or other biotechnology ingredients without customers’ knowledge. At the beginning of the century 90% of surveyed US consumers want GM labeled, but learning their lesson from the first disaster, the companies producing it have thus far managed to successfully lobby against any such law in the US. Luckily, UK and some parts of Europe have thus far taken a hard line against GM.

10. Food is at the core of many fights. Majority of the world’s rural social resistance movements, for example, are somehow linked to food and agriculture. In Brazil between 1987 and 2007 according to official statistics only (meaning huge under-estimates), at least 1,425 rural workers, leaders and activists have been assassinated to keep the food system exactly as it is.

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Vertical Garden Installations - 4/5 - Living walls and Vertical Gardens

Vertical Garden Installations - 4/5 - Living walls and Vertical Gardens | Organic Farming |




 LINK  to know more on wallart gardening.

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26 Things We Can All Agree On

26 Things We Can All Agree On | Organic Farming |
If we can take a moment to put politics aside, there are some basic ideas we can all agree on. Here are a few.

See this interesting Link

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Delaying Permanent Water on Drill Sown Rice - Crop Articles from The Crop Site

Delaying Permanent Water on Drill Sown Rice - Crop Articles from The Crop Site | Organic Farming |
Four years of research on two soil types have proven delayed permanent water to be a viable management option for drill sown rice.


Delaying Permanent Water on Drill Sown Rice


Four years of research on two soil types have proven delayed permanent water to be a viable management option for drill sown rice. 17% (2.5 ML/ha) average saving in water use compared to conventional drill sown rice and 15% average increase in water productivity.

Rice handles moisture stress very well and recovers quickly with little grain yield reduction.

Moisture stress increases the rice crop’s growth duration. Sowing should therefore occur 10 to 14 days earlier than for a conventional drill sown crop, allowing microspore to fit into the target window.

Aquatic weed problems are eliminated due to soil drying between flush irrigations. Therefore spray drift onto sensitive crops such as cotton, soybeans or grapes is not an issue.

Irrigation frequency

To ensure good establishment do not severely moisture stress rice before the two leaf stage.

Once the rice plants are established, increase the time period between flush irrigations.

The longer the period between flush irrigations the greater the water savings, but also the longer the delay in crop development.

Use cumulative evapotranspiration (ETo) levels of 100 to 120 mm with crop coefficients of 0.6 and 0.8 for early and late November and 1.0 for December to schedule irrigations. Using ETo allows a good level of planning for future irrigations.

Alternatively, flush irrigate the crop once it starts to show visible signs of moisture stress (Figure 1). If you use this method you must be able to access irrigation water quickly.

When to apply permanent water


The later permanent water is applied the greater the water savings. Permanent water must be applied no later than 10 to 14 days before panicle initiation (PI) so moisture stress does not occur during the reproductive period.

NSW DPI recommends permanent water is applied prior to Christmas, before any potential water supply difficulties caused by high irrigation water demand may occur.

If weeds or other problems develop you can apply permanent water earlier if required. Figure 1. Moisture stressed rice prior to the application of nitrogen and permanent water.

Irrigation layout and sowing

Delayed permanent water (DPW) is only recommended for rice grown in fields with good level layouts. There must also be good irrigation supply and no low lying areas in bays with poor drainage.

A good management option for drill sowing is to prepare the field and grade it in the autumn, then control weeds by spray over winter and sow the rice into a firm uncultivated seed bed.

Sow the seed 3 to 5 cm deep, below the crusting layer, so the soil near the seed does not dry quickly between flush irrigations.

Only apply fertiliser with the seed at sowing if soil phosphorus levels are low. If Colwell P is less than 30 mg/kg, NSW DPI recommends sowing phosphorus with the seed. MAP is often the cheapest form of phosphorus and is used in this case.

Nitrogen Management


The best nitrogen option is to apply 100 to 125 kg N/ha (approx. 2 bags urea/acre) onto dry soil within 24 hours of permanent water being applied (Figure 2). Research experiments have shown this strategy to provide the highest yield and best nitrogen efficiency.

Large nitrogen losses occur when nitrogen is applied at sowing or between flush irrigations.

When delayed permanent water has been practiced, sampling at panicle initiation (PI) for the PI Tissue Test results won’t provide accurate results. But, PI nitrogen should not be needed if 100 to 125 kg N/ha is applied to dry soil before permanent water.

Weed Control

Effective grass weed management is critical to profitable DPW practice. Often the window for effective chemical application is small so weed presence and growth must be monitored regularly.

NSW DPI recommend spraying with a paraquat (Gramoxone®), pendimethalin (Stomp®), clomazone (Magister®) mix after the first flush and before any rice emerges. This provides a knockdown for already established weeds and some residual grass weed control.

See the Rice Crop Protection Guide for details on this and other chemical control options. Chemical options to consider

Cyhalofop (Barnstorm®). Weeds must not be moisture stressed at time of application. Spray soon after a flush irrigation or rain and early in the morning. It is important not to overuse Group A herbicides as it will lead to resistance.

Propanil can be used when weeds are moisture stressed. Best results are achieved if sprayed when temperature is above 25°C.

Dicamba and MCPA can be used to control clover and other weeds, but these generally die anyway once permanent flood is applied.

Rates will be determined by weed size, please read the labels.


DPW provides good water savings, minimal yield reduction, high nitrogen use efficiency and aquatic weed control, making it a viable management option for drill sown rice.

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Turning Flood Waters Into Liquid Assets

As Isaac continues to pour down rain on the Gulf Coast and test New Orleans’s new flood-prevention system, there are lessons we can learn from other cities about how to design a city to make the most of too much water.


You would think we humans would have an innate alliance with water. After all, the ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. Our own body mass is more than 50% water. And each of us needs some 50 liters of water a day (for drinking, sanitation, hygiene) to maintain our water balance, although Americans use notably more than that. Water is life and death; it’s our primal paradox.

And yet, that colorless, transparent liquid that demands our attention when it falls furiously from the sky (or conspicuously doesn’t) continues to bewilder us, threatening individuals, society and the environment, more so than ever before--a change in status that was noted by the World Economic Forum this past year. It moved “water supply crises” in all its myriad forms to its list of Top 5 Global Risks. Climate uncertainty, predicted rise in sea level and rapid urbanization are likely conspiring to create the perfect ugly storm, which we’re seeing with ubiquity lately. This year alone, floods have devastated China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, the UK, Florida, Minnesota, Haiti, the list goes on and now includes the aftermath of a hurricane called Isaac, all while America’s heartland languishes in drought.


With sudden deluges, our immediate response is to get rid of the offending water fast. Storm water is the enemy. It can cause damage and kill in its ferocity.

But what if people and governments took another view of storm waters that might cause floods and adopted a broader vision of water as life? What if we forged an alliance with storm water, slowed it down, and turned it into a temporary amenity and even a long-term economic benefit and lifeblood for our cities and communities?

Soccer fields might turn into temporary ponds with out even flipping a switch, giving the surging water a place to go. Streets would be designed to become canals (with appropriate warning signage when they do), putting the homes along them above most storm water levels. Heck, gulley washers (as I refer to furious rains) might even be construed as something good for the rose bushes or, more generally, the landscape, which in turn, keeps our cities cool and sequesters the carbon dioxide that’s likely causing the problem in the first place.

We’re doing some of this and more in Houston, where we face a never-ending Gulf stream of bad storms with nice kids’ names along with the consequences of our historic lack of urban planning (which we are now trying to correct)--not to mention a clay soil that doesn’t drink water very efficiently.


Although Houston has a different story than Manila, Beijing, or Bogota, many of the lessons learned down here in the Texas Gulf for managing storm water could be tweaked and implemented in other cities.
In fact, I did some “exporting” earlier this summer. As an architect whose passion is making the built environment more flexible and resilient to disaster, I was invited to speak in Bogota, Colombia, at a symposium titled “Infrastructure for Climate Change.” It was sponsored by the CAF Development Bank of Latin America, and the bankers, policy makers, and engineers in attendance came looking for ideas on how to make South American cities more resilient to their own water supply crises.

The bottom line, whether we’re talking Houston or Bogota or Manila: Figuring out how to tame the surge is first order. But the ultimate goal is to transcend the crisis and turn those flood waters into an asset. Lemonade out of lemons. That kind of thinking--part of larger disaster planning--saves lives and economies and that’s big stuff.

Floods now affect an estimated 520 million people annually, causing global economic losses between $50 and $60 billion, according to data from the 5th International Conference on Flood Management held in Tokyo last year (and organized by the International Centre for Water Hazard Risk Management under the auspices of UNESCO and the Public Works Research Institute). The flooding in Beijing alone this summer forced 70,000 people to temporarily relocate and caused $1.6 billion in economic losses, according to The Wall Street Journal. More than 75 people died.

What we created here in Houston over the course of many decades and lots of trial-and-error and what is fodder for other cities and communities is our approach to infrastructure. We like to turn this hardened “element” into something mutable. We’ve made key roads, parks and parking lots able to transform into giant water containers that leap into action when a gulley washer strikes.

Some of this goes way back. In the late '30s and '40s (following massive flooding), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created several earthen dam reservoirs (a.k.a. flood control lakes) in an area just outside Houston that was not prime real estate. Only when storm waters surge do these dry reservoirs (which were excavated just a few feet lower than the surrounding land) turn into “natural” lakes.


Over the years, several parks (with fully flood-able, naturally draining soccer fields, softball fields, tennis courts, walking trails) were scattered throughout those large earthen reservoirs. So essentially, and to this day,, our giant storm water basin to the west looks and acts like a large-scale recreation area--an amenity for the city--most days of the years. Lemonade out of lemons.

Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which was not particularly fierce but one of those hangers-on, taught us lessons (also applicable to other cities) about thinking “small” too.

With most of Rice University, the Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston under water, we learned the importance of micro water collection elements—a series of parks, water gardens and other low-impact catchment strategies as well as roads-as-canals scattered throughout the city to manage an extended deluge.

High flood risk streets were identified throughout the city and rebuilt. They now dip down several feet so water moves from the property level. These designated streets become canals in a big storm, while maintaining others high and dry for emergency access. Houses escape the surge. We likewise “sunk” soccer and rugby fields throughout the Rice campus. Fields become temporary water features that generally drain very quickly. Parking lots in Houston have alter egos, too. We dug many of them up and inserted sub-surface water tanks and then repaved the surface with permeable materials.


While we “dug deep,” we also “raised up”—vital electrical facilities, on dikes/berms and gave them and other critical facilities such as hospitals protection by hydrostatic or submarine-like doors at ground level and below. These doors are pseudo flood gates that establish a controlled flow of water into a building to prevent structural damage from water pressure.

Costly? You bet. But it’s cheaper than flood damage--and you can’t put a price tag on human life.

The soccer field/pond idea is one that works for many South American cities (given the strong soccer culture and, hence, presence of fields) and one I highlighted in Bogota. I took the concept a step further, though, and proposed that the water collected in those game fields somehow be channeled to the rose farms in the plateau surrounding the city where water is needed for irrigation. Flowers are one of Colombia’s main exports. In figuring out how to move it, flood water would then become an economic advantage for the city. Again, lemonade out of lemons.

Water is boon and bust. It’s floods and drought and power outages too, as we learned this summer from the massive one in India and the lack of a sufficient water supply in the power plants there. We need to wrap our minds--and our infrastructure--around this important resource in new, creative ways.


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Relevance of Ancient Technologies to Today’s Global Problems | Development Roast

Relevance of Ancient Technologies to Today’s Global Problems | Development Roast | Organic Farming |

“More and more and higher-level technology” is heralded as the way that the human population will eventually get itself out of the global troubles it has wreaked. Under-researched genetically modified seeds to be sold to poor rural farmers in India; financially, socially and environmentally expensive Three Dams Project in China; and ethically dubious biofuel alternatives made in order to stem the toxic air pollution of the global transport industry. Each high-tech solution has its merits and its downfalls, of course, but do we always need to be looking forward or could we learn something from our ancestors?Take water, for example. Technically, it makes up 65 -75% of our bodies (depending on who you ask) and 70% of the planet’s surface is water. Much of it is not useful to us as it is found in its saline form in oceans and, in the end, only about 2% of our total water supply is fresh and thus drinkable (with much of that being locked up in glaciers and polar ice-caps, although that source is being unlocked pretty fast through climate change). It does not sound much, but it is still trillions of gallons that should be enough to sustain human and other life for eternity.

In Western countries, we are fortunate enough to have drinking water available literally at our finger tips wherever we go. All we have to do is turn on the tap. Meanwhile, less fortunate nations face severe shortages of fresh, unpolluted, drinkable water. This threat to water security is predicted to be the next big trigger of global discontent leading to what some have called the impending Water Wars.So what are some of the solutions? Since developing country governments are not currently in the financial or political position to be able to purchase and install expensive high-tech water supply systems, we need some inexpensive, locally-appropriate alternatives. Anthropologists and archaeologists point to one such alternative from their study of the ancient Maya.

The Northern Guatemalan Province of Petén, for example, is home to some of the most remarkable ancient Maya sites, including the beautiful Tikal, one of the sets of the 1977 Star Wars Episode IV film. These sites signify a one-time dense population of millions of ancient Maya, who managed to survive and thrive despite the area’s characteristically thin soils, low availability of surface water, a difficult and pronounced dry/wet climatic regime, and periodic droughts. To this day, the area has never been occupied to the same density, partly because modern technology has not been able to provide solutions to these problems.




In a recent article, published by the Global Water Forum, Dr. Ezgi Akpinar Ferrand of Southern Connecticut State University and Prof. Vernon L. Scarborough of the University of Cincinnati summarise decades of research on the ancient Maya’s land-use, food production and water management systems in a changing environment. Through it, they demonstrate how using a relatively simple system of building and maintaining ponds called aguadas the Maya were able to meet their water and food security needs.

The aguadas were dug out and lined with locally sourced natural materials, such as impermeable clay, stone or plaster lining. To make it safe for consumption, the water was filtered with connecting silting tanks and capacity was increased through dredging and by building berms. In the end, given what the researchers know about the size of the aguadas found in ancient Maya sites and the climatic conditions the people were living in, they are able to conclude that this simple technology provided ample fresh, clean water for drinking and for agricultural production needs of the hundreds of thousands of Maya that once inhabited these spaces.

The authors nicely hypothesise:

“that the application of ancient Maya water management systems may present sustainable low technology solutions to increase water and food security among present-day populations living in the same ancient landscape as well as in those nations in comparable geographic areas”.

The bottom line is, at one time, human beings were able to live in harmony with the planet. As Daniel Quinn’s poignant and profound book Ishmael teaches us, somewhere along the path we lost our way. Many modern technologies that are put in place in order to solve one problem have a tendency of creating myriad others. Reaching back instead of constantly looking forward could sometimes prove be more revealing and borrowing from our ancestors could hold the key to setting us back on track.

claudia patino's curator insight, February 13, 2014 1:50 AM

Interesting how our ancestors were able to survive in locations like these without having quick acces to clean water.  Governments of third world country's should probably start investing on clean water methods if they want there nation to survive from the so called water wars.

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INESAD News: Ducks in Rice Paddies, Bees in Bushes and Chicken Sanitation Crews | Development Roast

INESAD News: Ducks in Rice Paddies, Bees in Bushes and Chicken Sanitation Crews | Development Roast | Organic Farming |

INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton is currently researching food and agriculture topics at Worldwatch Institutes‘ Nourishing the Planet project (NtP). Check out her latest article that was featured on the NtP website:Five Holistic Alternative Farming Methods: Agroecology at its Best

In March 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Olivier De Schutter, presented a report highlighting how agroecology holds promise for alleviating hunger, reducing poverty, preserving the environment, and fighting climate change.

“The core principles of agroecology include recycling nutrients and energy on the farm, rather than introducing external inputs; integrating crops and livestock; diversifying species and genetic resources in agroecosystems over time and space; and focusing on interactions and productivity across the agricultural system, rather than focusing on individual species,” says the report.

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways in which different agroecological methods are being practiced to varying degrees around the world:

1. Duck attack on the rice paddies of Asia. Asian farmers cultivating organic rice have adapted an ingenious way to cut out pesticide and herbicide use—ducks. Two or three weeks after rice seedlings have been planted, ducks patrol paddy waters and happily feed on unwanted pests, such as the golden snail and a host of insect species that feed on the rice plants. The ducks’ feces enhance the soil, which they stir up with their beaks and feet, a process that also helps enrich the paddies with the oxygen that plants need to thrive (soil oxygenation). The feathered army also feeds on weeds, which eliminates the need for pesticides and for the manual labor associated with manual weeding. The ducks also provide an additional means of income, for farmers can sell them at harvest time. According to an article by the Japan Information Network, the method, which originated in Japan, has now spread to South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and even as far as Iran.

2. It is all about the bushes and the bees in Canada. Bees are vital to agriculture and natural biodiversity—according to the Royal Society, 76 percent of the world’s most widely used food crops require pollination to be productive. A new Canadian initiative is looking to put bees to work to help conserve a fragile area.

Trees are needed to protect watersheds—delicate areas of land that form the drainage systems for streams and rivers in which many plant and animal species thrive. Trees and shrubs help filter pollutants from storm water runoff and anchor the soil with their roots, which reduces erosion. With a grant from the British Columbia Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative, the Murray family aims to use their small woodland plot located in the West Kootenay region near Slocan Lake to blend apiculture (bee keeping) with integrated agroforestry (agriculture that incorporates the cultivation and conservation of trees). In this system, the bees will pollinate the shrubs and the shrubs and the plethora of small private woodlands and streams found in the area will, in turn, provide the surface water and natural windbreak protection required by the bees.

3. Ancient and modern aquaponics around the world. According to the Centre for Sustainable Aquaponics, part of the solution to the global search for greener fish and crop production that does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides can be found in aquaponics—a combination of aquaculture (the cultivation of aquatic animals and plants for food) and soilless plant agriculture known as hydroponics. The combined technique, where crops are grown in a body of water that contains fish, has been used by ancient Aztecs and the ancestors of Far East countries like China. It is increasingly being used all over the world today. The process renders needless the use of chemicals since, in a seamless aquatic dance, the fish-waste fertilizes the plants, which, in turn, cleanse the water of toxins that would be dangerous for the fish.

4. “Do nothing but microorganisms” farming in Thailand. According to a report by Horizon Solutions, in Thailand, over 20,000 farmers have now adopted an integrated farming system known as “do nothing farming”—they cultivate crops with minimal interference in nature: “namely no ploughing, no weeding, no chemical pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, and no pruning.” They do, however, use effective microorganisms (EMs) that were developed by Dr. Teruo Higa from the agricultural department at the University of Ryukyu, Japan. EMs are a combination of microorganisms that readily exist in nature and have not been interfered with in any way, merely added to the fields. By enriching the soil and stimulating plant growth, EMs increase crop yields whilst allowing the farmer to maintain the balance of the ecosystem—a complex set of relationships among plants, animals, and non-living materials of an area.

Polyface Farms uses an agricultural system that tries to imitate the diversity of a natural ecosystem by using multiple crop and animal species in the same space (Photo Credit: Glory Bea)

5. Grass framing in the United States. Joel Salatin calls himself a grass farmer. His Polyface Farms, in Swoope, Virginia, were made famous by appearances in Michael Pollan’s book An Omnivore’s Dilemmaand the documentaries Food Inc. and Fresh. The hilly homestead is set on 100 acres of grass, surrounded by 400 acres of woodland. It is a polyculture—an agricultural system that tries to imitate the diversity of a natural ecosystem by using multiple crop and animal species in the same space. It includes chickens, cows, turkeys, rabbits, and pigs.

Salatin carefully orchestrates all the elements in an intricate symbiosis—every being follows its natural instincts to contribute an ecosystem service (benefit) that maintains the overall health of the pasture. For example, his large herd of cows feeds on a different quarter acre of grass every day and contributes manure. Three days later, three hundred laying hens—Polyface Farms’ “sanitation crew”—are let loose to gorge on the fat fly larvae that have grown in the cowpats. This gives the chickens an important source of rich protein, while helping to spread manure and further fertilize the paddock with their own very rich nitrogen-laden excrement.

The farm’s closed loop, natural system is highly successful, producing 40,000 pounds of beef, 30,000 pounds of pork, 10,000 broilers, 1,200 turkeys, 1,000 rabbits, and 35,000 dozen eggs on just 100 acres. And, as Pollan writes, “at the end of the year, there is more biodiversity not less, more fertility not less, and more soil, not less.”

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