Monday, 30 October 2017

Organic agriculture in America (video series)

The lexicon collaborates with NRCS to shares stories of organic agriculture in America

“Certified organic” is one of the fastest growing segments in agriculture, yet the United States is still a net-importer of certified organic food. To help shift the conversation and find new ways to explain the economic, environmental, and social benefits of organic food, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) embarked on a two-year journey with THE LEXICON to tell the story of organic agriculture in this country. We began by crossing the country to conduct hundreds of interviews with inspiring organic and transitioning farmers, NRCS soil scientists and district conservationists to learn more about their principles and practices, then translated their insights into a series of short films and information artworks.

Designing bioregions (online)

 Back To The Land 2.0
 – A Design Agenda For Bioregions

What’s needed is a new story in which care for the places where we live is a practical focus for solidarity. In that spirit, a series of xskool workshops called Back To The Land 2.0 brought local actors together, in diverse locations, to flesh out this new story of place with live examples. The text in this article (it’s about 4,000 words, a 20 minute read) is about the lessons we have learned so far.

UN report: 'soil in crisis' (online)

Third of Earth's soil is acutely degraded due to agriculture

A third of the planet’s land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year, according to a new United Nations-backed study that calls for a shift away from destructively intensive agriculture. The alarming decline, which is forecast to continue as demand for food and productive land increases, will add to the risks of conflicts such as those seen in Sudan and Chad unless remedial actions are implemented, warns the institution behind the report.

UK Environment Secretary: 'soil in crisis' (online)

UK is 30-40 years away from 'eradication of soil fertility', warns Gove

The UK is 30 to 40 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country, the environment secretary Michael Gove has warned. “We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth,” Gove told the parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA). “Countries can withstand coups d’état, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility. If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”

Certificate in holistic agroecology (course)

Crossfields Institute: Researching Holistic Approaches to Agroecology

Postgraduate Certificate (Hochschulzertifikat) leading to Masters

With this blended learning postgraduate course you study from home and in community with others.This course enables you to:
  • Develop an understanding of holistic approaches to the study of science, agriculture and agroecology
  • Broaden your understanding of theory and practical application of agroecological initiatives
  • Deepen your work in an area of your choice (such as biodynamics, permaculture, organics, urban agriculture etc.)
  • Network and learn with others who share an interest in the future of our planet
  • Carry out research in your own locale
  • Communicate your findings widely
  • Achieve a Postgraduate Degree

Transition research blog (online)

Transition Research Blog

The Transition Research Network have launched a new blog. Here you will find blog posts from active Transition researchers, telling you about their research. The first blogs are: 1) Researching the Geography of Transition, Dr. Giuseppe Feola, Reading University 2) Comparing the Resilience Alliance and Transition movement approaches to resilience My Sellberg, Stockholm Resilience Centre 3) Resilience, Community Action and Societal Transformation contributor interviews. A series of interviews with contributors to the first TRN book on the Transition Network website.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Free e-book every month

New free e-book every month from The Univeristy of Chicago Press
Go to the offer page. Enter your e-mail address and click "Get E-book." You will receive an e-mail confirmation with a link to download your free e-book. Check back next month for another free e-book!

This month's book: Vegetables: A Biography, by Evelyne Bloch-Dano

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Agroecology as the future of global farming (online)

Perspectives: Agroecology as an alternative vision to Climate-smart Agriculture

Taken together, agroecology and food sovereignty represent an alternative paradigm to Climate-smart Agriculture and conventional development. This article focuses on the more transformative elements of agroecology and food sovereignty to clearly identify overlaps and divergences with Climate-smart Agriculture and highlight its incompatibilities with conventional development. It provides a fantastic introduction to one of the most important debates in contemporary agriculture.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Industrial food systems make us sick (report pdf)

Unravelling the Food-Health Nexus

NEW REPORT: 'An overwhelming case for action' - expert panel identifies unacceptable toll of food and farming systems on human health. Industrial food and farming systems are making people sick in a variety of ways, and are generating staggering human and economic costs - according to a major new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food). Decisive action can be taken on the basis of what we know, the Panel found, but is held back by the unequal power of food system actors to set the terms of debate and to influence policy.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Agroecology in Europe and Asia (report)

FAO organized the regional Symposium on Agroecology for Europe and Central Asia in Budapest from 23 to 25 November 2016, attended by over 180 participants from 41 countries. The Symposium participants formulated 37 recommendations to develop agroecology for sustainable food and agricultural systems in Europe and Central Asia (see Annex 1 of this report). This summary reflects the discussions among participants on the following five topics:
Agroecological concepts, systems and practices,
Research, innovation, knowledge sharing and agroecological movements,
Agroecology and natural resources in a changing climate: water, land, biodiversity and territories,
Agroecology and sustainable food systems,
Public policies to develop agroecology and promote transition.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The future potential of permaculture growing (report pdf)

THE POTENTIAL OF PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES IN THE AGRIFOOD TRANSITION

The main question for this research was : How can a production system based on permaculture principles contribute to the agrifood transition? This study answered this question by comparing a permaculture system with a conventional potato system. The Unique Selling Points of permaculture were identified, which determine the future potential of permaculture. Due to its diversity and inherent social and ecological values, permaculture is expected to be able to respond well to future bioclimatic conditions and consumer demands, which conventional systems are less likely to excel in. The underlying ethics and principles foster resilience and flexibility and can be applied in any system, permaculture or not.

Cover crops reduce weed seeds (online)

Cover Crops Increase Destruction of Weed Seed in Fields, Says Study 

Cover crops have been promoted for their abilities to reduce erosion and retain soil nutrients. Now there is evidence that they can significantly reduce weed seeds. Crops such as red clover, planted after a main crop’s harvest, provide cover for insects such as ground beetles that feed on weed seed. Rodents are also important consumers of weed seeds and tend to prefer foraging under the shelter provided by cover. As a result, in fields planted with cover crops, three to four times more weed seed is eliminated.

Forest for Kids (book)

Forests for kids: Learning guide

This beautifully illustrated learning guide aims to introduce students aged 8–13 to the many aspects and roles of forests. It accompanies and complements the Forests for Kids teaching guide, tying in with curricula in the fields of science, geography and citizenship. Drawing inspiration from the internationally recognized enquiry method, the modules promote “learning by doing”, in classrooms or under the trees, although reading and writing exercises are also included. 

Agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty (journal)

Agricultural biodiversity is sustained in the framework of food sovereignty

There are between 30,000 and 50,000 edible plant species of which about 7000 have been cultivated. 7600 distinct breeds of livestock have been developed. Fishers harvest an estimated 1938 aquatic species. Forest dwellers have selected or developed thousands of tree and other species. Many species of edible fungi, insects, and other invertebrates are harvested. This Agricultural biodiversity is the product of the dynamic management of species and ecosystems, especially by smaller-scale food providers, their families and communities. Working with nature in the framework of food sovereignty, the intertwined actions by smaller-scale food providers in their dynamic management, production, innovation, resistance and protest, continue to give life to agricultural biodiversity.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Agroecology in the Gobi Desert (online)

Agroecology in Extensive Rangeland Pastoralism in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia

Only 1% of the arable land in Mongolia is cultivated with crops. The agriculture sector remains heavily focused on nomadic animal husbandry with 75% of the land allocated to pasture. Dundgobi province is located in the middle part of the Gobi Desert and is a vast dryland steppe with sparsely grown but highly nutritious grass such as wild leek and saxaul. The local community is actively involved in projects for planting trees such as elm and seabuckthorn, bushes and vegetables. The community is a good example of surviving under challenging climate conditions. Their initiatives involve building relationships between herding livestock in a traditional way and planting trees to cope with sand movement and land degradation and putting efforts into spring water conservation.

The Land/water/energy nexus (report)

The Land-Water-Energy Nexus

This report contributes to the discussion of interconnections between scarce resources by highlighting the nexus between land, water and energy. It focuses on a dynamic, integrated, and disaggregated analysis of how land, water and energy interact in the biophysical and economic systems. The report provides projections for the biophysical and economic consequences of nexus bottlenecks until 2060. The analysis is based on coupling a gridded biophysical systems model with a multi-regional, multi-sectoral dynamic general equilibrium modelling assessment. Numerical insights are provided by investigating a carefully selected set of scenarios that are designed to illustrate the key bottlenecks.

Earth, A Tenant's Manual (book)

Earth: a Tenant's Manual

Frank H. T. Rhodes, President Emeritus of Cornell University, provides a sweeping, accessible, and deeply informed guide to the home we all share. Rhodes begins by setting the scene for our active planet and explaining how its location and composition determine how the Earth works and why it teems with life. He emphasizes the changes that are of concern to us today, from earthquakes to climate change and the clashes over the energy resources needed for the Earth’s exploding population. He concludes with an extended exploration of humanity’s prospects on a complex, protean, and ultimately finite world. Only new resources, new priorities, new policies and, most of all, new knowledge, can reverse the damage that humanity is doing to our home—and ourselves. A sustainable human future, Rhodes concludes in this eloquent, sobering, but ultimately optimistic book, will require a sense of responsible stewardship, for we are not owners of this planet; we are tenants.

New Scientist article on sustainable diets (#journal)

The real clean food: How to eat well for yourself and the planet

 It's possible to have a diet that's both healthy and eco-friendly, but would you really want to eat it? Forget the fads, the answer is more straightforward than you think.

Agrobiodiversity essential to sustainable food (book)

Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems

A new book which summarizes the most recent evidence on how to use agrobiodiversity to provide nutritious foods through harnessing natural processes. “With a host of case studies, facts and figures about this growing area of research, this is a must-read for anyone interested in how we can use all our biodiversity resources for more nutritious food while reducing damage to the planet.”
HE Prof. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius

Dietary diversity, health, and agrodiversity (#journal)

Critical review of the emerging research evidence on agricultural biodiversity, diet diversity, and nutritional status in low- and middle-income countries

The declining diversity of agricultural production and food supplies worldwide may have important implications for global diets. The primary objective of this review is to assess the nature and magnitude of the associations of agricultural biodiversity with diet quality and anthropometric outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. Agricultural biodiversity has a small but consistent association with more diverse household- and individual-level diets, although the magnitude of this association varies with the extent of existing diversification of farms. Greater on-farm crop species richness is also associated with small, positive increments in young child linear stature. Agricultural diversification may contribute to diversified diets through both subsistence- and income-generating pathways and may be an important strategy for improving diets and nutrition outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

FAO forestry twitter feed (online)

FAO Forestry twitter feed

The Forestry Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization helps nations manage forests in a sustainable way. There's an impressive list of links to reports, videos, events and information on their twitter feed.

Soil solutions (online)

Soil Solutions
If you’re like most people, you take soil completely for granted. We know that too much carbon in the atmosphere is warming the planet and increasing the severity of extreme weather events. Yet how many of us know that too little carbon in the ground is causing desertification, hunger, and climate instability? But there is hope: using the power of photosynthesis, we can take excess carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground, where it contributes to soil and climate health. We can feed our soils the carbon they need by adopting regenerative agriculture. Rebuilding soil carbon will make us more resilient in the face of a changing climate, and will help solve our fresh water problems, while helping to ensure enough nutritious food for a growing population. Now that we know there’s a solution to so many of our pressing problems there’s no time to lose.

Assessing sustainability of permaculture farms (online)

The 'SMART' way of assessing the sustainability of English and Welsh farms


Immo and Alfréd blogged during their field work and you can find out what they got up to!
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four 
Part Five

We assessed 21 different farming systems, mostly productive enterprises. The assessments entailed an in-depth interview with the farm manager and a farm walk. Farm performance was assessed holistically taking into account indicators related to ecologic, economic and social sustainability. Data analysis is still ongoing but from a first look we find that small-scale alternative (organic or permaculture) farms tend to score better within many dimensions of sustainability as opposed to conventional producers; farms committed to Permaculture principles tend to attain the highest scores. The entire project seems to us like a long-awaited pioneering start on putting figures to Permaculture's potential benefits and achievements using an integrated peer-reviewed assessment tool.


Agricology knowledge base and blog (online)

AGRICOLOGY


AGRICOLOGY IS A COLLABORATIVE VENTURE BETWEEN LEADING ORGANISATIONS WORKING TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE FARMING IN THE UK. IT PROVIDES UNRIVALLED ACCESS TO WORLD-CLASS INFORMATION RESOURCES AND CHAMPION GOOD FARMING PRACTICE BASED ON AGROECOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES. PRACTICAL, SUSTAINABLE FARMING REGARDLESS OF LABELS.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Holmgren discusses collapse vs self reliance (video)

David Holmgren talks collapse at the SLF Great Debate

 "To Collapse Or Not To Collapse: Pushing for economic ruin or building a great transition" was the topic for this unconventional 'debate' for the Sustainable Living Festival held at Federation Square in Melbourne February 2015. David Holmgren was the first of six speakers.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Principles for converting to agroecology (#journal)

Agroecology: Principles for the Conversion and Redesign of Farming Systems

New farming systems will not emerge from simply implementing a set of practices (rotations, composting, cover cropping, etc.) but rather from the application of already well defined agroecological principles. By breaking the monoculture nature of farming systems, agroecological diversification aims at mimicking ecological processes leading to optimal nutrient cycling and organic matter turnover, soil biological activation, closed energy flows, water and soil conservation and balanced pest-natural enemy populations. All these processes are key to maintaining the agroecosystem’s health, productivity and its self-sustaining capacity. By enhancing functional biodiversity, a major goal of the conversion process is achieved: strengthening the weak ecological functions in the agroecosystem, allowing farmers to gradually eliminate inputs altogether.

Sustainable diets transform the food system (book)

Sustainable Diets. How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform Consumption and the Food System

This book explores what is meant by sustainable diets and why this has to be the goal for the Anthropocene, the current era in which human activities are driving the mismatch of humans and the planet. Food production and consumption are key drivers of transitions already underway, yet policy makers hesitate to reshape public eating habits and tackle the unsustainability of the global food system. The authors propose a multi-criteria approach to sustainable diets, giving equal weight to nutrition and public health, the environment, socio-cultural issues, food quality, economics and governance. This six-pronged approach to sustainable diets brings order and rationality to what either is seen as too complex to handle or is addressed simplistically and ineffectually.

World Nutrition journal, free online (journal)

Relaunched journal: World Nutrition


World Nutrition is the quarterly journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA) but its articles reflect the opinions of its authors, not of the association. It aims to provide content of value to nutritionists, dieticians, health workers, agricultural specialists, social scientists, students, policy makers, and others interested in public health nutrition or community nutrition. It is global in scope, presenting content of general interest as well as content specific to low-income or high-income settings. The journal has not been published since early 2016, but is now relaunched.

Transition to agroecology (book)

Transition to Agro-Ecology: For a Food Secure World

Our global agricultural and food system is broken and needs to transition to one that is more sustainable and beneficial to the world’s population. This seems hard in the face of the linked challenges of climate change, natural resource depletion, and worldwide economic and social upheaval. At the same time, farmer-led social movements are growing, and there is increasing recognition that agroecology and food sovereignty are key solutions for both nutritious food security and climate change adaptation. This book takes you along in the transition to agroecology, which is already happening, worldwide!

A road map to a sustainable food future (book)

Sustainable Food Futures

Foodgovernance.com hve just pubished their new book, Sustainable Food Futures: Multidisciplinary Solutions. The book includes proposals for solutions to move toward more sustainable food futures.  The solutions, which are based on concrete cases, are organised around 4 themes:
  1. Recognizing place
  2. Enhancing participation
  3. Challenging markets
  4. Designing sustainable food futures
The solutions proposed in this book can be read as an atlas of possibilities. There are multiple roads we can, and must, travel to bring us towards our destination: just and sustainable food futures. And yet, instead of moving towards a brighter future, we continue with a status quo that is not good enough. To reach sustainable food futures, we require diligent and creative route planning.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A story of future London, climate changed (online)

Canary Island Commons: 2122-2175 AD

This website tells the history of the Canary Island Commons, a community of climate refugees who found shelter in the former Canary Wharf shopping complex, which rising water eventually turned into an island. The Canaries, as they jokingly referred to themselves, turned the abandoned buildings into a self-sufficient community, complete with a garden and solar-powered electricity. Most of what we know about the Commons comes from The 22nd Century Guide to Commoning, a pamphlet the Canaries wrote to instruct other climate refugees in setting up their own sustainable communities in abandoned locations along the new Thames waterfront, and journals of Sabina Masud. Sabina was eight when she arrived at the Canary Island Commons with her family and wrote consistently until her death at 50.

Organic onions healthier than conventional (online)

Organic onions have more antioxidants than conventional ones

A recent study in Ireland found more antioxidant activity and higher flavonol content in organic onions compared to conventionally grown ones. While it’s a relatively narrow finding, it’s significant because the study lasted six years, which is reported as the longest-running study of its kind. The differences in antioxidant activity and flavonol content were found to be due to different soil managemnet practices used in organic farming, such as organic fertilizer, crop rotation, and cover crop, rather than a lack of pesticide/herbicide use.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Free online book; Transition to Agroecology

 Transition to Agroecology for a Food Secure World

Get access to a free online copy of this book. An eye-opener, taking us along in the worldwide movements to a healthier, more social and ecological way of food producing. Offering you insights, keys for change and how to support this transition yourself.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Permaculture and peace in the Middle East (#journal)

Exploring The Impact of Climate Change on the Outbreak of Early 21st Century Violence in the Middle East and North Africa and the Potential of Permaculture as an Effective Adaptation 

Considering the ongoing violence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, especially within Syria and Iraq, it is essential to provide an accurate explanation of causes. In addition to discussing the climate-related concerns associated with the emergence of violence, this paper considers how tackling the environmental crisis in MENA will improve living standards and lead towards sustainable development. As a supplement to a range of secondary data, a small selection of individuals who have escaped the recent conflicts have been interviewed. Because this sample pool is small, and the ongoing violence precludes fieldwork, this study provides only a preliminary exploration of the topic. As a potential adaptation to climate change in the region, permaculture is presented through illustrations of its capabilities for redressing some of the underlying causes of violence in the region.

Introducing 'design thinking' in heath care (report)

The Use of Design Thinking in MNCH Programs: A Case Study of the Care Community Hub (CCH) Pilot, Ghana

Responding to growing interest among designers, global health practitioners, and funders in understanding the potential benefits of applying design thinking methods and tools to solving complex social problems, the Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Initiative piloted innovative interventions to address common barriers to improving the effectiveness of basic health services in low-resource settings. Central to the initiative’s overall strategy was experimentation and learning related to the application of “design thinking,” a form of inquiry that is applied in the conceptual stages of a planning process and subsequent stages of program or product development. In spite of increased reports of the use of design thinking in developing-country settings, there is little systematically documented evidence of the value of these approaches in the form of in-depth documentation or formal evaluations that link design thinking to health program performance or health outcomes. Moreover, there are few validated metrics to assess the effect of design thinking.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Soil health and human health (journal)


The idea that human health is tied to the soil is not a new one. As far back as 1400 BC the Bible depicts Moses as understanding that fertile soil was essential to the well-being of his people. In 400 BC Hippocrates provided a list of things that should be considered in a proper medical evaluation, including the properties of the local ground. By the late 1700s, American farmers recognized that soil properties had some connection to human health. In the modern world, we recognize that soils have a distinct influence on human health. We recognize that soils influence (1) food availability and quality (food security), (2) human contact with various chemicals, and (3) human contact with various pathogens. Soils and human health studies include investigations into nutrient supply through the food chain and routes of exposure to chemicals and pathogens. However, making strong, scientific connections between soils and human health can be difficult. There are multiple variables to consider in the soil environment, meaning traditional scientific studies that seek to isolate and manipulate a single variable often do not provide meaningful data. The complete study of soils and human health also involves many different specialties such as soil scientists, toxicologists, medical professionals, anthropologists, etc. These groups do not traditionally work together on research projects. Climate change and how it will affect the soil environment/ecosystem going into the future is another variable.

Agroecolgy better than input substitution - a 1996 classic (journal)

Agroecology versus input substitution: A fundamental contradiction of sustainable agriculture

 The central question posed by this essay is whether sustainable agriculture will be able to rescue modern industrial agriculture from its present state of crisis. To answer this question this article begins by outlining the economic, social, and ecological dimensions of the crisis, each of which must be addressed by an alternative paradigm in order to pull agriculture out of crisis. It then examines a persistent contradiction in the alternative agriculture movement: that of input substitution versus agroecologi‐calty informed transformation of farming systems. It is argued that the prevalence of input substitution, which emphasizes alternatives to agrochemical inputs without challenging the monoculture structure of agricultural systems, greatly diminishes the potential of sustainable agriculture. By only addressing environmental concerns, this dominant approach offers little hope of either reversing the rapid degradation of the resource base for future production or of resolving the current profit squeeze and debt trap in which the world's farmers are caught.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Combining organic and mineral P fertilisers (online)

Does combined use of organic and mineral phosphorus fertilisers support mycorrhizal colonisation

Phosphorus (P) fertilisers come from phosphate rock, a finite resource . Therefore, alternative sources need to be used to ensure the sustainability of food production systems. Organic amendments (OA), such as manures and composts, can be used, but vary in the amount and forms of P they contain.  Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) — symbioses between plant roots and fungi — can enhance plant P uptake. They also provide other benefits to soil and plant health. In this project, four OA were investigated for their potential to be used as P fertilisers. The relationship between the chemical properties of the OA and plant (wheat) P uptake from the OA was determined. A second experiment was conducted to determine whether chicken litter with straw bedding can be effectively used in combination with mineral P fertilisers, supplying crops with P while having minimal effect on AM colonisation.

Take home messages

  • Incorporation of organic amendments (OA) into phosphorus (P) management plans can have beneficial effects on arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM). 
  • OA alone may not be able to meet crop P demands.
  • Combined use of OA and mineral P fertilisers successfully met crop P demands.
  • Bicarbonate-extractable P gives a good indication of the P fertiliser potential of OA.

Is farmer-generated data accurate? (journal)

The accuracy of farmer-generated data in an agricultural citizen science methodology

Participatory approaches involving on-farm experimentation have become more prevalent in agricultural research. Nevertheless, these approaches remain difficult to scale because they usually require close attention from well-trained professionals. Novel large-N participatory trials, building on recent advances in citizen science and crowdsourcing methodologies, involve large numbers of participants and little researcher supervision. This study experimentally assess the accuracy of farmer observations in trials. At five sites in Honduras, 35 farmers participated in tricot experiments. They ranked three varieties of common bean for Plant vigor, Plant architecture, Pest resistance, and Disease resistance. Reliability of farmers’ experimental observations was generally low, but aggregated observations contained information and had sufficient validity to identify the correct ranking orders of varieties. Our sample size simulation shows that low reliability can be compensated by engaging higher numbers of observers, realistic numbers of less than 200 participants can produce meaningful results for agricultural research by tricot-style trials.

Organic better than conventional? (Journal)

Organic agriculture key to feeding the world sustainably

Study analyzes 40 years of science against 4 areas of sustainability. Researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.

Vegan better than organic? (journal)


Understanding how alternative agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice drive environmental degradation is necessary for reducing agriculture's environmental impacts. A meta-analysis of life cycle assessments that includes 742 agricultural systems and over 90 unique foods shows that, per unit of food, organic systems require more land, cause more eutrophication, use less energy, but emit similar greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as conventional systems; that grass-fed beef requires more land and emits similar GHG emissions as grain-feed beef; and that low-input aquaculture and non-trawling fisheries have much lower GHG emissions than trawling fisheries. For all environmental indicators and nutritional units examined, plant-based foods have the lowest environmental impacts; eggs, dairy, pork, poultry, non-trawling fisheries, and non-recirculating aquaculture have intermediate impacts; and ruminant meat has impacts ~100 times those of plant-based foods. Our analyses show that dietary shifts towards low-impact foods and increases in agricultural input use efficiency would offer larger environmental benefits than would switches from conventional agricultural systems to organic.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Map of countries at climate change risk (online)

This Map Shows The Countries That’ll Survive Global Warming

 An interesting map from The Eco Experts shows the countries most at risk from climate change.

Diversifying food systems (journal)

Diversifying Food Systems in the Pursuit of Sustainable Food Production and Healthy Diets

 Increasing demand for nutritious, safe, and healthy food because of a growing population, and the pledge to maintain biodiversity and other resources, pose a major challenge to agriculture that is already threatened by a changing climate. Diverse and healthy diets, largely based on plant-derived food, may reduce diet-related illnesses. Investments in plant sciences will be necessary to design diverse cropping systems balancing productivity, sustainability, and nutritional quality. Cultivar diversity and nutritional quality are crucial. We call for better cooperation between food and medical scientists, food sector industries, breeders, and farmers to develop diversified and nutritious cultivars that reduce soil degradation and dependence on external inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, and to increase adaptation to climate change and resistance to emerging pests.

Via Campesina declaration (online)

VIIth International Conference, La Via Campesina: Euskal Herria Declaration

Click the link above to read the new Via Campesina Declaration.

Microbes produce 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. However, direct evidence demonstrating that microbial residues account for the chemistry, stability and abundance of SOM is still lacking. Here the authors 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.

Micro-gardens for low income families (online)

With micro-gardens, urban poor"grow their own"

To boost the overall supply of horticultural produce to the world’s developing cities, FAO promotes the sustainable intensification of commercial market gardening on urban peripheries. In densely populated areas, it has a complementary strategy: to help low-income households improve their food and nutrition security by growing their own vegetables in micro-gardens. 

Sustainable food system transitions (journal special issue)

Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance

A new special issue of Sociologia Ruralis is now online. The special issue provides theoretical insights and advancements into sustainability transitions through empirically grounded and informed investigations of food system practices. The papers confirm, following Hinrichs (2014, p. 143), that ‘numerous opportunities exist to forge more productive links between work on food systems change and the broad and growing sustainability transitions field’.

The Special Issue brings together 8 articles grouped together around two themes:
  1.  Examining relations between AFN practices and transition;
  2. Opening up measures and assessment practices for sustainability transitions.

 

TED talk on food movements (video)

Food movements, climate resilience, social change (TEDx Berkeley)

 Eric Holt-Gimenez advocates for food security and food justice for all farm workers. We all, as a society, will benefit from addressing these global issues.

Forests for nutrition (report)

Sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition

The High Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the science-policy interface of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). In October 2014, the CFS requested the HLPE to prepare a study on Sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition. The present document is the response to that request. The report identifies four main channels through which forests and trees contribute to food security and nutrition: direct provision of food; provision of energy, especially for cooking; income generation and employment; and provision of ecosystem services essential for food production in the long term such as water regulation, soil protection, biodiversity conservation and climate change and mitigation.

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: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-fractal-patterns-yeild-optimal-harvests.html#jCp
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: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-fractal-patterns-yeild-optimal-harvests.html#jCp

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: http://www.foodsovereignty.org/forum-... to read the declaration and www.agroecologynow.com 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.