Thursday, 20 July 2017

Vegetables and health special issue (journal)

Special Issue: Vegetables and Health July 2017

Adult cooking classes, school gardens, university dining halls, farmers' markets, women's health, cooking in schools, gardening enjoyment and supermarkets in low income neighbourhoods all feature in this special collection of articles in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour. And all the articles are open access.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Urban green infrastructure briefing (online)

Urban Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services

This brief provides an overview of the ecosystem service contributions of urban biodiversity and green infrastructure and the challenges for improving their provision. Strategic improvement of urban geen infrastructure has been proposed as a cost effective public health measure. Urban green infrastructure is not just open spaces such as parks and private gardens, but also green roofs and walls, street trees, ponds, rivers and canals. However, existing urban green infrastructure in the UK has not been strategically planned to deliver ecosystem services. This brief provides an overview of the ecosystem service contributions of urban green infrastructure and the challenges for improving the provision of these services.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Intro to sustainable agriculture (report)

Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture

Agricultural practices can reduce water quality, degrade soils and cause biodiversity loss. This in turn can disrupt natural processes that support food production.

Environmentally sustainable agriculture seeks to reduce environmental damage and restore such processes. This POSTnote summarises associated land management options, agricultural policies and the constraints imposed by a new trading environment.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

PhD studentships in energy and people (opportunity)

Interdisciplinary PhD Studentships in Energy, People and Sustainable Living
Institution: University of Southampton, UK
Closing Date:   Friday 15 September 2017
Project Themes: Energy and Climate Change

Applications are invited for three fully-funded PhD studentships to be based in the Energy & Climate Change Division (ECCD) of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. The research students will be based in ECCD’s Sustainable Energy Research Group but we have additional funding to support one or two of the PhD candidates for a research visit of up to 12 months at the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability. Applicants will need to review the research programmes of the two groups and propose a research topic which either:

·  Intersects with the on-going interdisciplinary research activities of both groups or

· Develops new areas of joint interest to both groups in ways that integrate the engineering and social sciences.

Post-Brexit Agriculture Policy in the UK (report)

Landworkers' Alliance: Recommendations for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy in the UK

2017-05-08 LWA report.jpgUK currently produces less than 60% of the food it consumes. It relies on the EU for nearly 30% of its food imports and hold only 3-5 days of food supplies in reserve. Simultaneously, UK is also moving towards highly mechanized corporate farms as family farms are abandoned. It has lost 33,500 commercial holdings between 2005 and 2015, more than 9 farms a day.
Post-Brexit increases in the price of imports, shortages of farm labour and market volatility are likely to further undermine the national food security. Yet, successive governments have pursued policies that have led to farm consolidation, a reduction in agricultural jobs, and increased rural-urban migration.
It is in this context that the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) - a union of small scale ecological producers and traditional family farmers - have put forth a set of recommendations for a Post-Brexit agricultural policy. 

Scaling up peasant agroecology in India (#journal)

Taking agroecology to scale: the Zero Budget Natural Farming peasant movement in Karnataka, India

This paper analyzes how peasant movements scale up agroecology. It specifically examines Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a grassroots peasant agroecology movement in Karnataka, India. ZBNF ends reliance on purchased inputs and loans for farming, positioning itself as a solution to extreme indebtedness and suicides among Indian farmers. The ZBNF movement has achieved massive scale not only because of effective farming practices, but because of a social movement dynamic – motivating members through discourse, mobilizing resources from allies, self-organized pedagogical activities, charismatic and local leadership, and generating a spirit of volunteerism among its members. This paper was produced as part of a self-study process in La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement.

The CAP and soil carbon sequestration (journal)

The Impact of Soil Carbon Sequestration on Adaptation in Europe's Agricultural Sector and the Potential Role of Regulatory Instruments

This paper assesses current and proposed EU climate law and the legal instruments associated to the common agricultural policy to see how far soil carbon sequestration and associated adaptation can be promoted through the use of these current or proposed instruments. The assessment shows that current and proposed policies and instruments are completely inadequate to stimulate large scale adoption of soil carbon projects across Europe. An alternative approach needs to be developed. The first element of this new approach is focused on EU climate policy: the inclusion of agriculture in the EU ETS through allowing regulated industries to buy offsets from the agricultural sector, following the examples set by Australia and others. The second element of a new approach is aimed at the CAP, which needs to be much more focused on the specific requirements of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Such stronger focus does not take away the need to open up a new income stream for farmers from offsets under the ETS, as the CAP will never have sufficient funds for the deep and full transition of Europe’s agriculture sector.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Permaculture, interactive systems, and user experience (online)

Sustainable HCI: Blending Permaculture and User-experience.

For 10 years the Sustainable Human Computer Interaction (sHCI) and Sustainable Interaction Design (SID) communities have debated the contribution that HCI can make to sustainability. However, there has been little real progress in the field with few, if any, methods arising that take the discipline further. In this paper we present an approach that involves doing. We propose to blend aspects of permaculture and user experience (UX) development to produce gardens that demonstrate sustainable practice and deliver a good UX. By blending the constructs from UX with those from permaculture and expressing the blends through the "material anchor" of gardens we create novel design interventions. These lead to user experiences that invite people to reflect on what sustainability really means and how people can make a difference.

Permaculture and ecosophy (#journal)

Permaculture and the social design of nature

Core to permaculture is designing based on, and in harmony with, patterns identified in nature. Yet, as is often highlighted, identifying, using, and thinking through ‘natural’ patterns are problematic. This article takes canonical geographical work on the social reception and (re)production of nature as its starting point. It then outlines permaculture as an ecosophical movement–an attempt to reorientate collective subjectivities as ecological entities. While discussion of Transition (with or without their permaculture heritage) abounds in Geography, paying attention to the ecosophical, and ethical, character of such movements is crucial to grasp their full significance.

Permaculture air conditioning! (#journal)

A Feasibility Study of an Integrated Air Conditioning , Desalination and Marine Permaculture System in Oman 

Deep Seawater AC (SWAC) is an emerging technology that uses deep water for district air conditioning purposes and can also support desalination plants and marine permaculture. Oman is uniquely positioned to utilize commercially-proven SWAC and also has demand for desalination and restored fisheries that would benefit from Marine Permaculture Arrays (MPAs). Three air conditioning systems of each 35 MW will serve district cooling using cold input water at 4 °C, available at a depth of 1800 m. Such a SWAC system can be four to ten times more efficient electrically than traditional air conditioning systems. The return seawater will be warmed to above 20 °C and will irrigate kelp forests and other seaweed growing on submerged MPAs, providing habitat and food for forage fisheries such as sardines, for example. Using SWAC systems in conjunction with MPAs and desalination plants can mitigate climate change and create new industries.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Perennial crops and fungi on the Great Plains (online)

A research collaboration in Kansas aims to restore fungi historically tied with native tall grass prairie, in hopes of making farming viable for the long-term. Rather than planting annual crops that require chemicals and intensive working, the Land Institute aims to develop perennial cousins of staple crops that will regrow year after year from more extensive root systems associated with soil fungi. These fungi form a mutually beneficial system with plants and act as an extension of the plants’ own root systems. Such perennial crops could lead to economic benefits for agricultural producers in the Great Plains region. These perennial crops, like Kernza used to make bread, ice cream and beer, should be more productive in soil infused with fungi native to tallgrass prairie.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Why soil matters (video)

Stop Treating Our Soil Like Dirt!

This TED talk explains the global importance of soil and soil care.

The secrets of healthy soil (video)

Dirty Secrets of Healthy Soil

Want to now what lives in your soil? Then watch this great TED talk.

Microbes create soil organic matter (#journal)

Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls  

Soil organic matter (SOM) and the carbon and nutrients therein drive fundamental submicron- to global-scale biogeochemical processes and influence carbon-climate feedbacks. Consensus is emerging that microbial materials are an important constituent of stable SOM, and new conceptual and quantitative SOM models are rapidly incorporating this view. However, direct evidence demonstrating that microbial residues account for the chemistry, stability and abundance of SOM is still lacking. Further, emerging models emphasize the stabilization of microbial-derived SOM by abiotic mechanisms, while the effects of microbial physiology on microbial residue production remain unclear. Here we provide the first direct evidence that soil microbes produce chemically diverse, stable SOM. We show that SOM accumulation is driven by distinct microbial communities more so than clay mineralogy, where microbial-derived SOM accumulation is greatest in soils with higher fungal abundances and more efficient microbial biomass production.

Cover crops should be polycultures (online)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Livelihoods on US permaculture farms (#journal)

Livelihoods and production diversity on U.S. permaculture farms

We visited 36 permaculture farms in the United States and gathered multidimensional data on the distribution of labor and income, along with sociodemographic information and farm characteristics. Using developed a preliminary typology of U.S. permaculture farms. Farms were predominantly small in scale, with a high proportion of young farmers, new farmers, and new farms, when compared with national figures. Diversity of farm-based income was high for enterprises and across seasons. Cluster analysis based on sources of income produced a preliminary typology with five categories: small mixed annual and perennial cropping, integrated production, a mix of production and services, animal base , and service base. Our research suggests that permaculture farms are using a familiar set of strategies, including non-production enterprises, in order to develop and maintain diversified agroecosystems.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Fractal planting for optimal harvests (online)

Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests, without central control

Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning. The Balinese rice fields could serve as an example that under certain conditions it is possible to reach sustainable situations that lead to maximum payoff for all parties, wherein every individual makes free and independent decisions.

Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.

Read more at:
Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.

Read more at:

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Permaculture makes women's live abundant (#journal)

Permaculture: Tools for Making Women’s Lives More Abundant

Permaculture is primarily a thinking tool for designing low carbon, highly productive systems. It was conceived as a response to the devastating effects of a temperate European agriculture on the fragile soils of Australia. Like the dust bowls of the USA, an alien agriculture has the capacity to turn a delicately balanced ecology into desert. Their initial response was to design a permanent agriculture with tree crops and other perennials inhabiting all the niches from the canopy to the ground cover and below. From perennial tree crops, permaculture has developed into an integrated system of design that encompasses everything from agriculture, horticulture, architecture, and ecology, as well as economy and legal systems for businesses and communities.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Social movements in agroecology (video)

Agroecology: Voices From Social Movements 

 This video explores the different perspectives of food providers on agroecology and the calls from social movements to embed agroecoogy in the struggle for food sovereignty. It focuses on the International Declaration for Food Sovereignty which has been advanced by social movements to claim agroecology as a bottom up practice, science and movement and the most important pathway towards a most just, sustainable and viable food and agriculture system. Visit: to read the declaration and for more information on this project.

TED talk - agroecology (video)

Pablo Tittonell - Feeding the world with Agroecology - TEDxEde 2014 

 Pablo Tittonell is professor of 'Farming Systems Ecology' at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most famous experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. He advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds growing demand for food.


Reforming Europe's CAP (video)

Agroecology: how to make the very best of Europe's CAP

The Common Agricultural Policy shapes how Europe produces food, but in many ways its no longer fit for purpose. In this video, Arc2020 and Friends of the Earth Europe spotlight the options and opportunities in the CAP for choosing farming methods which are good for people and the planet - the living world. Practical examples ar ealso highlighted, as are emergent communities of practice around agroecology.

Agroecology in China (journal)

Advancing agroecology in China

Editorial on the role of agroecology in developing sustainable food systems in China. Provides outline of reccommendations from the International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in China.

The case for regenerative agriculture (#journal)

 The imperative for regenerative agriculture

A review is made of the current state of agriculture, emphasising soil erosion and dependence on fossil fuels. Soil has been described as "the fragile, living skin of the Earth", and yet both its aliveness and fragility have too often been ignored. Regenerative agriculture has at its core the intention to improve the health of soil or to restore highly degraded soil, which symbiotically enhances the quality of water, vegetation and land-productivity. By using methods of regenerative agriculture, it is possible not only to increase the amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) in existing soils, but to build new soil. This has the effect of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, while simultaneously improving soil structure and soil health, soil fertility and crop yields, water retention and aquifer recharge.

Climate justice and climate solutions (podcasts)

Tipping Point - a podcast on climate justice in the Anthropocene

In this series of podcasts, we explore pathways for climate justice in the Anthropocene - a geological epoch shaped by humans. Should we become stewards of our planet or live in harmony with nature to achieve a good life for all? We take our listeners on a journey to find out how we can reach the Paris goals. Through the lens of activists, experts, and scientists around the world, we reflect on this exciting challenge and explore paths that might lead us into a better future.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Mycorrhiza for plant health and soil fertility (book)

Mycorrhizal Planet. How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility
Mycorrhizal fungi partner with the root systems of approximately 95 percent of the plants on Earth, and they sequester carbon in much more meaningful ways than human “carbon offsets” will ever achieve. Pick up a handful of old-growth forest soil and you are holding 26 miles of threadlike fungal mycelia. Most of these soil fungi are mycorrhizal, supporting plant health in elegant and sophisticated ways. A profound intelligence exists in the underground nutrient exchange between fungi and plant roots, which in turn determines the nutrient density of the foods we grow and eat. The real impetus behind no-till farming, mulch, cover cropping, digging with broadforks, shallow cultivation, forest-edge orcharding, and everything related to permaculture is to help the plants and fungi to prosper . . . which means we prosper as well. Mycorrhizal Planet abounds with insights into “fungal consciousness” and offers practical, regenerative techniques that are pertinent to gardeners, landscapers, orchardists, foresters, and farmers.


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Grow better tomatoes (online)

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes


Here's something different from what I usually feature; a guide to growing your own tomatoes! Right now is the prefect time for planting your tomato seeds, so I thought this might inspire some of you to give this delicious vegetable a go...or maybe improve your yield if you are already growing them. (P.S. For anyone who thinks a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable, it is in fact both a vegetable (in culinary terminology) AND a fruit (in botanical terminology)).

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Graham Bell's research - amazing! (online)

Garden Cottage Research

After twenty eight years managing our own site in the Scottish Borders, we have acquired considerable knowledge. The topics are:

The garden yields a massive amount of produce. We have kept detailed records of yield since 2011 and these are shared here.
As much as possible the forest garden at Garden Cottage is a closed system. Here you can see to what extent we are self reliant. This section is still a work in progress.
Garden Cottage is our home as well as Scotland’s leading Forest Garden and the longest established intentional food forest garden in the UK, and we are delighted to welcome visitors to share it with us.
We have been running a Visitors’ Book for a number of years now. Five themes from the New Economics Foundation are used to interpret what Visitors say.


Resilience and community action (book)

Resilience, Community Action and Societal Transformation 

A unique collection bridging research, theory and practical action to create more resilient societies. It includes accounts from people and organisations at the front line of efforts to build community resilience, cutting edge theory and analysis from engaged scholar-activists, and commentary from sympathetic researchers. Its content ranges from first hand accounts of the Transition Movement in the UK, Canada and Spain, theoretical reflections on resilience theory from Transition Network, challenges to accepted ideas of resilience in politics and sustainability, the shifts in mindsets and perspectives required for transition, and post-colonial perspectives on Transition. The book is the second in the Community-Led Transformations  series (following Permaculture and Climate Change Adaptation in late 2015), an ongoing partnership between ECOLISE and Permanent Publications.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Fellowship in urban adaptation to climate change (opportunity)

Call for Fellows in Urban Adaption to Climate Change (Princeton University)

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, together with the Climate Futures Initiative at Princeton University, are seeking fellowship applications in urban adaptation to climate change for the 2017-18 academic year. We seek to attract a Fellow engaged in bridging the environmental sciences, social sciences, planning and architecture and/or the humanities. Fields of specialization might include planning and architecture, cultural studies, geography, history, philosophy, politics, or public policy.

Lesson plans for climate change teaching (online)

Climate Ready Places Lesson Plans

These resources allow students to think about their place and different environments and how a changing climate might impact their place. They can be used for general education purposes to raise awareness about place-making and climate change adaptation, or more specifically to help young people express their views about changes in their environment, or to contribute effectively to any climate adaptation strategy, plan or action process. The activities in the lesson plans could be run individually over the course of several weeks, or run consecutively as a one-off lesson.

Ecosystem measures for Europe (journal)

Towards the co-ordination of terrestrial ecosystem protocols across European research infrastructures

The study of ecosystem processes over multiple scales of space and time is often best achieved using comparable data from multiple sites. Yet, long-term ecological observatories have often developed their own data collection protocols. Here, we address this problem by proposing a set of ecological protocols suitable for widespread adoption. Protocols were developed by domain experts, and refined through a process of field testing and training. They address above-ground plant biomass; decomposition; land use and management; leaf area index; soil mesofaunal diversity; soil C and N stocks, and greenhouse gas emissions from soils. These complement existing methods to provide a complete assessment of ecological integrity.

10 great permaculture websites (online)

10 Great Permaculture Websites

Does just what it says; a list giving a brief introduction to ten great permaculture websites for exploration, discussion, learning, and research into the current state of global permaculture.

A review of citizen science projects (journal)

The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science

 Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation—simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. The authors conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects.

IPC India; be there!

International Permaculture Convergence, India 2017 - TOWARDS HEALTHY SOCIETIES

CONFERENCE :November 25 - 26, 2017 @ Hyderabad, Telangana
CONVERGENCE :November 27 - December 2, 2017 @ Medak district, Telangana

Happening every two years, the International Permaculture Convergence is a very special occasion offered to practitioners from around the world to share their experiences, learn from each other and strategize about the future of the permaculture movement! Change is already happening! Will you be a part of it?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Free course - discover your soil (opportunity)

Citizen Science: From Soil to Sky - Free Online Course

Where can you find all sorts of useful and important information about your environment? You might be surprised to know it’s beneath your feet, in the soil. On this course you will discover interesting things about your own soil and become part of the new GROW Citizen Observatory European-wide community. You will collaborate with other growers and scientists to discover the impact global soil practices have on major issues like the environment and food growing. Now is the time to make a difference, join us, improve your soil and become a citizen scientist. This course is part taught by Dr. Naomi van der Velden, Senior Researcher in Agroecology at the Permaculture Association Britain.

Cutting pesticide use won't cause losses (online)

Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on three-quarters of farms. The scientists said that many farmers wanted to reduce pesticide use, but do not have good access to information on alternatives, because much of their advice comes from representatives of companies that sell both seeds and pesticides. The work presents a serious challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry, which has long argued its products are vital to food production. 
(This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)

Training in agro-ecology (opportunity)

Post Graduate and Professional Training in Agroecology

The Agroecology Knowledge Hub identifies post-graduate and professional training opportunities in Agroecology across the world. Since November 2016, FAO has been engaging with many universities to share their programmes including short courses, post-graduate courses, and online courses. They stretch across learning styles, from hands-on field experience, to having a scientific focus, and/or strong social justice aspects.  Programmes are available for people of all backgrounds: farmers, peasants and practitioners, academics, policymakers, and more. These courses are included in the Agroecology Knowledge Hub Database and could be displayed by selecting “Learning” in the “More search option” field “Type”.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The benefits of farm biodiversity (online)

 Mapping the Benefits of Farm Biodiversity
 While the ecological literature has firmly established that crop diversity is good, few studies help farmers home in on exactly which crops to rotate. Academics at the University of California are developing a new method, merging participatory research, GIS mapping, and a measure of evolutionary relatedness called “phylogenetics.” Imagine a tree of life, with different plant families branching off from common ancestors. Theoretically, more distant plant cousins are less likely to host the same pests and diseases. But just how distant do these plant cousins need to be? Farmers participating in the study can use maps of their farms’ evolutionary diversity to compare the environmental performance of different crop combinations. The maps have also facilitated a dialogue between farmers and researchers about crops that fill both ecological and economic niches. A wide array of ornamental flowers, for example, adds both biodiversity and a new high-value crop.

 (This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)

Earthworms are more important than pandas! (online)

Earthworms are more important than pandas (if you want to save the planet)

Not all wildlife is created equal in our eyes. Take the earthworm, which doesn’t have the widespread appeal of larger, more charismatic animals such as gorillas, tigers or pandas. Worms are never going to get a strong “cute response”, and they won’t ever be the face of a conservation campaign. But – panda fans avert your eyes – worm conservation is much more important once we factor in their provision of what we now call “ecosystem services”, which are crucial to human survival. In fact, earthworms have been ranked the number one most influential species in the history of the planet – above dinosaurs and humans. 

 (This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)

New app records your planting and harvesting (online)

the FarmFollow App 

This app is for small farmers and home-gardeners, wanna-be home-gardeners and farmers, school gardeners, community gardeners, gardening services, and anyone who grows food or seeks to grow food in a sustainable way. I made this app for people like me who may not consistently remember every thing we did in a garden season and could benefit from an in-hand reference showing what or when we have planted/mulched/harvested. ALSO this app can help simplify record-keeping processes for Organic Certified growers who are required to track all their garden and farm activities. The FarmFollow eliminates messy paperwork and pulls together your garden story for you, allowing you to learn from your garden’s own history and from the garden history of other growers near and far.

Monitoring corporate progress on the SDGs (online)

Is this the start of an SDG reporting boom?

From tallying carbon footprints to wrangling waste in global supply chains, rising demand for corporate transparency from investors, consumers and customers has translated to an ever-widening array of reporting related to corporate responsibility. Now, add to that list newer metrics emerging to emphasize the United Nations' 17 global development goals. The U.N. goals include sweeping objectives such as ending poverty and hunger, and are an area where companies increasingly look to demonstrate commitment. Although environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting long has pushed companies to voluntarily disclose impacts, the Sustainable Development Goals further enmesh economics, social issues and environmental imperatives.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Amazing new book on forest gardening! (book)

Forest Gardening in Practice

A forest garden is a place where nature and people meet halfway, between the canopy of trees and the soil underfoot. It doesn’t have to look like a forest – what’s important is that natural processes are allowed to unfold. The result is an edible ecosystem. Forest Gardening In Practice is the first indepth review of forest gardening with living, best practice examples. It highlights the four core skills of forest gardeners: ecology, horticulture, design, cooperation. It is for hobby gardeners, smallholders, community gardeners and landscape professionals.
Forest Gardening In Practice features:
* A history of forest gardening
* Step-by-step guide to creating your own edible ecosystem
* 14 in-depth case studies of established forest gardens and edible landscapes in Europe and the USA.
* Chapters on integrating animals, learning, enterprises, working in community and public settings.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Organic farming in China (online)

Meet the woman leading China's new organic farming army

Shi Yan's approach to organic farming is helping to break the country's "addiction to pesticides" about her here, and learn about the organic revolution which is just beginning in China.

Supermarkets struggling to source salads in winter (online)

The supermarket food gamble may be up

In the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all. But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit.

Climate resilient communities (report)

Last week the University of Dundee published a new report on Community Resilience to Climate Change, following action research in the Scottish Borders. The team worked with three flood-prone communities in the Scottish Borders – Hawick, Peebles and Newcastleton – to improve understanding and approaches to building climate resilience.  By bringing members of the community together with local authorities, policy makers and other stakeholders, they brought about changes to a major flood scheme, increased understanding of the social impacts of climate change and facilitated new flood risk and renewable energy groups. The research also highlighted the important impacts climate change may have on the costs of living which may exacerbate issues for disadvantaged communities.

30 agroecology profiles (online)

Agroecology is the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to manage interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment for food security and nutrition. All over the world farmers already apply this approach, which has a fundamental pillar in traditional and local knowledge. FAO recognizes the importance of farmers managing human and natural capital to improve food security, nutrition, and rural development. Here are some examples of how farmers are acting as the custodians of complex and innovative techniques that, through agroecology, combine local knowledge, traditional products and innovation. Each profile provides a description of the agroecological approach applied in that farm, the challenges faced and impacts of the agroecological solutions.

Intro to agriculture and soil biodiversity (online)

This document introduces the connections between agriculture and soil biodiversity. Our agricultural activities exert an important influence on the soil biota, their activities and diversity. Clearing forested or grassland for cultivation drastically affects the soil environment and hence reduces the number and species of soil organisms. The reduction of quantity and quality of plant residues and the number of higher plants species leads to a reduction in the range of habitats and foods for soil organisms. Different types of agricultural practices and systems affect the soil biota in different ways and the response may be either positive or negative depending on which part of the soil is affected.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

New website supports permaculture entrepreneurs (online)

A new website has been launched to support anyone interested in starting or expanding their own permaculture-inspired  business. The website includes analysis of the current state of permaculture-inspired enterprise in the UK, case studies of successful businesses, simple toolkits to help new enterprises, and hints and tips from 20 leading permaculture entrepreneurs. The website is the result of the Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship in Permaculture research project, conducted jointly by Kingston University and the Permaculture Association Britain, and funded by the Institute for Small Business and Enterprise.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

UK river catchment GIS maps (online)

Online CaBA GIS Data Package

A selection of national datasets for supporting catchment management planning, which can be filtered by CaBA catchment. ArcGIS Online users can join the CaBA group and easily find the layers to your own maps.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Better greenhouse growing (book)

The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower's Handbook: Organic Vegetable Production Using Protected Culture

A few dozen large-scale producers dominate the greenhouse produce market. Why? Because they know and employ best practices for the most profitable crops: tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens, lettuce, herbs, and microgreens. The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook levels the playing field by revealing these practices so that all growers—large and small—can maximize the potential of their protected growing space. Whether growing in a heated greenhouse or unheated hoophouse, this book offers a decision-making framework for how to best manage crops that goes beyond a list of simple do’s and don’ts.

Futures for environmental education (book)

Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education
invited educational practitioners and theorists to speculate on – and craft visions for – the future of environmental and sustainability education. This volume explores educational methods and practices that might exist on the horizon, waiting for discovery and implementation. Throughout this project, the authors were concerned with how the collective project of imagining alternative futures might help us rethink environmental and sustainability education institutionally, intellectually, and pedagogically. Contributors used emerging modes of critical speculation as a means to map and (re)design the future of environmental and sustainability education today.

Sustaining sustainability education in schools (#journal)

Sustaining education for sustainability in turbulent times 

 A study of two schools in northern Australia demonstrated the impact on Education for Sustainability (EfS) initiatives of a disruptive policy environment set in motion by neoliberal reforms focused on standards, accountability, and international competitiveness. In one of the schools, a culture characterized by trust and an emphasis on cultivating teacher and student strengths and interests contributed to the resilience of these initiatives in the face of outside pressures. In the other, administrators preoccupied with the need to implement state mandates with fidelity failed to nurture and develop a collection of remarkable EfS projects and activities.

Museums as environmental educators (#journal)

Role of museums and botanical gardens in ecosystem services in developing countries: case study and outlook

Unprecedented environmental challenges require new tools. Well-structured museums and botanical gardens in developing countries can play significant roles in research, education, and conservation even when governmental institutions are weak and underfunded. The paper offers a case study of the nascent Palestine Institute of Sustainability and Palestine Museum of Natural History with a botanical garden. The analysis concludes that, despite some limitations and challenges, this is a successful model that should be replicated in other impoverished communities.

Religion and food ethics (book)

Religion and Sustainable Agriculture: World Spiritual Traditions and Food Ethics

Distinct practices of eating are at the heart of many of the world’s faiths —from the Christian Eucharist to Muslim fasting during Ramadan to the vegetarianism of Hinduism and Buddhism. In this wide-ranging collection, eminent scholars, theologians, activists, and farmers illuminate how religious beliefs influence and are influenced by the values and practices of sustainable agriculture. They analyze a multitude of agricultural practices for their contributions to healthy, ethical living and environmental justice. Throughout, the contributors address current critical issues, including global trade agreements, indigenous rights to land and seed, and the effects of postcolonialism on farming and industry. Covering indigenous, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives, this groundbreaking volume makes a significant contribution to the study of ethics and agriculture.

Open source guilds for small enterprises (#journal)

The open source guild: creating more sustainable enterprise?

The authors developed the open source guild business model, which has the elements of: building a focal micro-business with resources secured through the guild, promoting learning and development through apprenticeship, promoting shared values through a commons of experience and capturing value by protecting key intellectual property. This research was undertaken with two emergent micro-businesses in the North West of England. The open source guild model can be a mechanism for an emergent micro-business to create a community around their values and grow their business without conventional external investment of resources. Further research will be needed to establish the wider applicability of the open source guild model.

Permaculture and Climate Change; book review

In case you missed the book Tom Henfrey and Gil Penha Lopes published on permaculture and climate change adaptation last year, here is a review from a peer reviewed academic journal that tells you how great the book is, and why you should consider adding it to your bookshelf.

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 (online)

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 is now available online

The ORFC team are pleased to announce that all PowerPoints, audio recordings and films from the 2017 conference are available online and can be found within the ORFC 2017 Archive. Please note: not all speakers created PowerPoints and not all sessions were recorded and so apologies in advance if we do not have the session you are after.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Your cat: another reason to garden organically (online)

Are Your Lawn Care Products Harming Your Cat?

If there is one thing that cats are known for, it is their tendency to prowl around the neighborhood. Unfortunately for our feline friends, an unseen predator lurks in the grass, bushes, and shoes of neighborhoods all across the country: the toxic chemicals that many people spray on their grass. Pesticides, lawn fertilizers, and all of the many chemical products that get soaked into every blade of grass are a major risk factor to cats everywhere, with side effects that have been demonstrated to gravely impact their health.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Permaculture research in Kenya (online)

Permaculture Research Institute Kenya - New Research Programme

PRI Kenya's new Research Programme links closely with their Permaculture and Regenerative Enterprise Programme and aims to map social, environmental and economic impact. They want to understand not only how the permaculture approach is beneficial for the environment and climate change resilience, but also its benefits for farmers in terms of wellbeing, gender dynamics and social empowerment. Their research model focuses on involving farmers as ‘citizen scientists’.  Layering their research just like an agroforestry system, they will also conduct more complex scientific soil tests as well as measuring carbon capture of trees etc.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The real revolution in America (book)

The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America

America faces huge challenges—climate change, social injustice, racist violence, economic insecurity. Journalist Sarah van Gelder suspected that there were solutions, and she went looking for them, off the beaten track, in rural communities, small towns, and neglected urban neighborhoods. She set off on a 12,000-mile journey through eighteen states, dozens of cities and towns, and five Indian reservations. van Gelder discovered people and communities who are remaking America. Join her as she meets the quirky and the committed, the local heroes and the healers who, under the mass media’s radar, are getting stuff done.

The benefits of a primary school garden in Kenya (#journal)

Enhanced community capital from primary school feeding and agroforestry program in Kenya

This case study examines the impact of the Bwaliro Primary School feeding and agroforestry program on the human, financial, natural, and social capitals of the surrounding Bwaliro community in western Kenya. Additional to the targeted improvements in attendance and educational performance, program spillover effects likely included enhanced child health, community agroforestry knowledge, increased tree planting and diversity of crops and trees, saved household income, and improved relations within the family unit and among community members. Participants suggested that increasing the community's capacity to contribute to and collaborate with the school is necessary for program sustenance and for further community development.

Permaculture-based wetland water treatment (journal)

The Brookside Farm Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) System: A Low-Energy Methodology for Sewage Purification, Biomass Production (Yield), Flood Resilience and Biodiversity Enhancement

When permaculture principles are used in the creation of water purification and harvesting systems, there can be multiple environmental and economic benefits. The constructed wetland design presented here is a low-entropy system in which wastewater is harvested and transformed into lush and productive wetland, eliminating the requirement for non-renewable energy in water purification, and also maximising benefits: biodiversity, flood resilience and yield. In permaculture design, the high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds in sewage are viewed as valuable nutrients, resources to be harvested. Similarly, rainwater runoff is not viewed as a problem which can cause flooding, but as a potential resource to be harvested to provide a yield.

The permaculture movement in El Salvador (#journal)

“The right to food is nature too”: food justice and everyday environmental expertise in the Salvadoran permaculture movement

In El Salvador a growing permaculture movement attunes small-scale farming activities to principles of ecological observation. The premise is twofold: close-grained appreciation of already-interacting biophysical processes allows for the design of complementary social and agricultural systems requiring minimum energy inputs. Secondly, the insistence on campesino smallholders as actors in the design of sustainable food systems directly addresses decades of “top-down” developmental interventions. Permaculture connects food insecurity to the delegitimisation of smallholder innovation and insists that, through sharing simple techniques, campesino farmers can contribute towards environmental sustainability. This repositioning is brought about through the mobilisation of pedagogical techniques that legitimise the experiences and expertise of small-scale farmers, while standardising experimental methods for testing, evaluating and sharing agroecological practices.

Permaculture in business management (journal)

Sustainable management models: innovating through permaculture

Exploring the ways in which innovation can serve to create better and more integrated social, environmental, and economic enterprises is a key challenge.

How firms innovate and change depends strongly on their management models. permaculture concepts and principles could help the transition toward more sustainability.

This paper seeks to understand how management models could rely on permaculture principles to facilitate innovations and changes toward sustainability. Innovative management models built on the permaculture concepts, are a potential alternative to western “traditional” management models. They would give preference to long-term objectives, intrinsic motivation, emergent coordination, and collective wisdom in decision making.

The French Agroecolgy Action Plan (report)

Presentation on the French Agroecology Action Plan

On 11th May 2016 the All-Parliamentray Agroecology Group of the UK Parliament heard two interesting presentations on agro-ecology in north west Europe. Eric Giry, Agricultural Counsellor to the United Kingdom and Ireland from the French Embassy outlined how the French Agroecology Action Plan and 2015 Act came into being. Nic Lampkin, Executive Director, of the Organic Research Centre presented a review of agroecology in the UK and policy opportunities.

The benefits of agro-forestry in Europe (journal)

Do European agroforestry systems enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services? A meta-analysis

The available evidence for the societal benefits of agroforestry is fragmented. The authors extracted a total of 365 comparisons. Results revealed an overall positive effect of agroforestry over conventional agriculture and forestry. However there were differences among the types of agroforestry practices and ecosystems. Erosion control, biodiversity, and soil fertility are enhanced by agroforestry while there is no clear effect on provisioning services. The effect of agroforestry on biomass production is negative. Both silvopastoral and silvoarable systems increase ecosystem service provision and biodiversity. Mediterranean tree plantation systems should be targeted as soil erosion could be reduced while soil fertility increased. In conclusion, agroforestry can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service provision relative to conventional agriculture and forestry in Europe.

Environmental change practice notes (online)

 Living With Environmental Change policy and practice notes

Lots of interdisciplinarity is written up in Newcastle University's Living With Environmental Change policy and practice note series - now complete.  There are 36 notes in total, and the topics covered are wide ranging, from building coastal resilience to sea level rise and storm surges, to the heritage value of public parks and gardens, and there is a whole sub series on pollinators drawing on evidence from the Insect Pollinators Initiative. 

A diverse future for world farming (report)

From Uniformity to Diversity

Input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing, according to the world’s foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition. The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argue. The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), led by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, released its findings in a new report.

UK Parliament briefing on rewilding (online)

 Rewilding and Ecosystem Services

This POSTnote explores the consequences of increasing the role of natural processes within landscapes. Evidence from the UK and abroad suggests that rewilding can benefit both wildlife and local people, but animal reintroductions could adversely affect some land-users.

Carbon farming (video)

Carbon Farming (Video) 

A new twist on an age-old practice. Some people farm corn. Some farm wheat. Some, like Connor Stedman, farm carbon. “There’s a really significant potential for carbon farming worldwide to play a role in reversing the climate crisis,” said Stedman, an agricultural consultant at AppleSeed Permaculture.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The problems of modern agriculture (online)

Modern agriculture cultivates climate change – we must nurture biodiversity 

A great article from Olivier De Schutter, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and co-chair of iPES-Food and Emile Frison,  the former director general of Bioversity International. 'Crop-breeding innovations are merely a short-term solution for falling yields. Only agricultural diversity can ensure food security and resilience'. Read more