The Environmental Defense Funds genuinely believes that conservation practices are good for farmers and landowners’ bottom lines. But faith isn’t a strong selling point. They need help putting together the data and the evidence. This is a call to farmers to share their data on conservation practices and how they affect the bottom line.
The possibility of a win-win for farmers and the environment is a driving force for the soil health movement. It is a management philosophy centered around four simple principles: reduce or eliminate tillage, keep plant residues on the soil surface, keep living roots in the ground, and maximize diversity of plants and animals.
In the last decade or so, vast amounts of money have been invested in the development of algae for biofuel production. This made sense because, ten years ago, there was a need to find alternatives to fossil fuels due to the high oil price and the increasing recognition that carbon emissions were causing climate change. Algal biofuels were touted as the answer to these twin problems, and huge investment followed.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite to plan.
Colin K. Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture looks at claims that 75% of crop diversity has been lost in the modern era. Instead, he finds that though there have been winners and losers among crops as agriculture has intensified, over the past 50 years, almost all countries’ diets actually became more diverse, not less, for the crops that FAO statistics do report.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has frozen Goodhope Asia Holdings palm oil operations on seven concessions in Indonesia. The company had been linked to various cases of environmental and human rights abuses in the archipelago country, including allegations of grabbing land from an indigenous community in Papua province, on the heavily forested island of New Guinea, where the industry is quickly expanding.
Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation Commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts.
The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil.
While crop probiotics offer an ecologically friendly option for farmers looking to improve and protect their harvests, the Australian market is far from reliable.
Our research group was asked to evaluate commercial crop probiotics. Over a year of experimentation on a sugarcane farm, we tracked the supposedly beneficial bacteria and fungi of two Australian probiotics products from soil to crop.
DNA analysis didn’t detect changes in root-associated bacteria, but the composition of root-associated fungi changed.
Farmers around the world have come to depend on manufactured inorganic fertilizers containing key plant nutrients phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium to enhance soil fertility, especially in the otherwise poor soils of most tropical settings. But while all three are relatively abundant in nature, commercially viable sources of phosphorus to make these fertilizers could be exhausted just a few decades from now. That prospect, which remains a source of heated debate, has spurred a drive to recover the significant quantities of this element that disappear in the waste streams of cities and farms.
Graham Strouts deconstructs the meaning and definition of permaculture and exposes the lack of data, rigor, and evidence to support any claims for superior productivity or environmental impact to the modes of production it is meant to serve as an alternative to.
When all is said and done, any contribution permaculture has to make will be practices that work will work independent of the whole edifice. Just as “alternative medicine” that works is just called “medicine” so anything that could be shown to work in what is called “permaculture” is simply “good farming”, “good design” or “good engineering”.
Wild coffee exhibits much greater genetic diversity than commercial varieties, which increases its chances of adapting to new challenges and reduces the possibility of extinction. It represents an insurance policy for plantation coffee, in case commercial strains are ever badly damaged.
In honor of Earth Day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to gather together some of our most salient pieces on the environment and the food system. The pieces are grouped into three main sections: agriculture, food waste, and oceans. – MB
With shifting political winds and poor commodity prices, farmers may now be willing to consider new ways of generating income by adopting environmentally friendly practices, such as planting cover crops, extending crop rotations or eliminating tillage. Many farmers are already using these practices on a small scale. To combat climate change and stabilize incomes, farmers should look to policy to tackle both in tandem.
Some 705,000 tons of fishing gear are lost or discarded in the ocean every year, and each year this gear captures and kills, among other things, an estimated 136,000 seals, sea lions and whales. A few companies and harbor masters are taking steps to address that.
Suzy Friedman, Senior Director of Agricultural Sustainability for the Environmental Defense Fund lays some basic principles for bring farmers and environmentalists into partnership.
Environmental Defense Fund’s David Festa lays out why a steady, consistent approach to environmental regulation is better for the economy and an expression of democratic values.
Stuart Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Westminster lays four key challenges to global food security: drought, emerging diseases, salty soils, and fertilizer dependence.
There are tremendous opportunities to increase yields throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing yields through new farming practices could triple maize production in sub-Saharan Africa and increase wheat and rice production in South Asia by about 50 percent. Gains on this scale could dramatically reduce hunger and food insecurity in some of the most vulnerable nations in the world.
It’s been a good winter for drought-stricken California. Record-breaking precipitation in January has raised reservoir levels and added to the essential Sierra Nevada snowpack. It will take many years of consistent, above-average rainfall to fully recover from the drought, and that seems unlikely given the variable nature of the state’s climate. California’s water problems are not only the result of historically scant rainfall. Convoluted water policies, patchwork regulations and burdensome water politics perpetuate the problems, causing imbalances in the way water is managed.
If nature has not been optimized by any process that we know of, and therefore consists of mostly random mixes of species dictated primarily by natural disturbances, then there is no reason to “follow nature’s lead.” But if we don’t, what are we left with?
We are left with an agriculture based on human ingenuity.
SANQUIANGA NATIONAL PARK, Colombia – Along the northern edge of Colombia’s Pacific coast region, thousands of people rely on an unassuming shellfish called a “piangua” for daily survival. The small, black clam lives tucked deep in the stinky mud of mangrove trees.
But the global decline of mangrove forests at about 1 percent annually, years-long decline of the piangua, encroaching drug traffickers, and the stigma surrounding piangua pickers are endangering the traditional practice of piangua picking