Thursday, 11 December 2014

Soil Association field labs (online)

Soil Association Field Labs

What are field labs?

We believe that agricultural research should tackle the real problems farmers face and help them make the best of the resources they have to hand. For this reason field labs put the farmer at the heart of the research. We bring farmers and growers together with a researcher and facilitator to focus on research questions. The aims are to work out effective practical approaches to tackling a problem in sustainable farming, learn how to do more effective DIY trials and identify real gaps where academic research could make a crucial difference. The major difference between a field lab and an advisory meeting or farm walk is that you will be directly testing solutions rather than just discussing the issues or relying on off-the-peg answers. Field labs are open to all farmers and growers.

Community engaged scientists (online)

Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research (GACER)

The Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research was created by representatives of universities, networks and civil society organizations in 2008. The network aims to advance the common global purpose of using knowledge and community-university partnership strategies for democratic social and environmental change and justice, particularly among the most vulnerable people and places of the world. An added purpose is to see how the voice of majority world researchers and activists can be prominent in the emerging global networks. All of this is with the aim of strengthening the capacity of grass roots organizations to make a difference in the pressing and complex issues of poverty, violence, climate change, injustice, and health throughout the world.

Global extent of urban agriculture (#journal)

Global assessment of urban and peri-urban agriculture: irrigated and rainfed croplands 

This study integrates global data on croplands and urban extents using spatial overlay analysis to estimate the global area of urban and peri-urban croplands. The global area of urban irrigated croplands was estimated at about 24 Mha (11.0 percent of all irrigated croplands). The global area of urban rainfed croplands found was approximately 44 Mha (4.7 percent of all rainfed croplands). This suggests urban agriculture is more important than previously estimated. Further analysis of croplands within 20 km of urban areas show that 60 and 35 percent of, respectively, all irrigated and rainfed croplands fall within this distance range. (I have no idea why this has all appeared in capital letters, sorry!)

Permaculture Voices Conference 2015

How can you change the world if you can’t make a living in the process? 

It’s too common for people within the permaculture movement to do work that they care about, but scrape by financially. And the reality is that type of lifestyle isn’t sustainable – the values are there, but the economics are not. Can you make a living from a career that aligns with your values? We believe you can. Our mission is to help people who embrace permaculture’s ethics to make a profitable and comfortable living doing work that aligns with who they are and what they stand for. And we believe that when more people start doing that type of work, then we change the world. The Permaculture Voices Conference 2015 is a catalyst for that change.

Getting people to face climate change (book)

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change 

Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change? And what does it need for us to become fully convinced? George Marshall argues that the answers to these questions do not lie in the things that make us different, but in what we all share: how our human brains are wired, our perceptions of threats, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe. Marshall shows how the scientific facts of climate change can become less important to us than the social facts – the views of the people who surround us.  Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. Rather, it is one we can halt if we can make it our common purpose and common ground.

Ethics, welfare and permaculture (journal)

Ethical Intuitions, Welfare, and Permaculture 
A recent editorial from Environmental Values discusses how permaculture ethics and practices naturally result in improved animal welfare. 'Rather than bend the other to our will to produce exactly the cut of meat or feed to weight ratio we desire... we look for intelligent synergies where lots of organisms get to flourish. We don’t need impaired plants or animals, like terminator genes bred in crop seeds and blind hens, because intelligent design of the whole system can use the land forms and weather patterns and the natural behaviours of animals and plants for both their and our benefit.'

Transitions to agricultural sustainability (book)

Transition Pathways towards Sustainability in Agriculture

 Based on the research of an interdisciplinary team of sociologists, geographers and economists, this book focuses on understanding farming transitions in Europe. The book discusses the importance of understanding transition pathways towards sustainability using case studies from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Assessing the utility of the multi-level perspective in transition theory for addressing contemporary issues, the book identifies future research needs and possible approaches, making this an essential read for researchers interested in issues of agricultural change.

Future Earth Research Agenda (online)

Future Earth Strategic Research Agenda 2014

Future Earth is a global research platform providing the knowledge and support to accelerate our transformations to a sustainable world. Bringing together existing programmes on global environmental change, Future Earth is an international hub to coordinate new, interdisciplinary approaches to research. Future Earth's Strategic Research Agenda 2014 is the outcome of a year-long global consultation. Launched ahead of key 2015 policy processes on climate change and new global Sustainable Development Goals, the document calls for a step-change in research to address serious environmental, social and economic threats. It urges the private sector, governments and civil society to work with researchers to co-design and co-produce a more agile global innovation system. The plan is the outcome of an unprecedented global consultation over the past year.

Sustainable land use evaluation tool (report)

EcoAgriculture Partners teamed up with TerrAfrica to develop this comprehensive M&E currriculum, which is designed to help project leaders in landscape initiatives throughout Africa build the knowledge and capacities of professionals to conduct appropriate, engaging, and cost-effective monitoring and evaluation of their sustainable land management projects. Loaded with links to sample presentations, case studies, training materials, and M&E tools, and including easy to print handouts and exercises, this curriculum is built to work for landscape leaders. The curriculum is relevant to anybody seeking a course plan or guidance in developing and carrying out a community-based, team-focused M&E protocol with high levels of engagement and feedback.

How community food projects succeed (report)

Measuring Your Social Impact: Community Food Projects in Action

This new short paper shares insights on what makes community food projects successful and outlines lessons that can be drawn for others. It suggests how community groups can demonstrate social impacts, in particular the connectedness of the social networks that groups nurture and sustain.The research found that the Incredible Edible project has engaged local communities in Yorkshire in a refreshing way, using growing to encourage people to play a more active role in shaping their place. It is the connectedness and commitment to taking action in a local community which is valuable – but it is also the hardest thing to measure. The report recommends how community-led groups can overcome two common challenges by using network analysis to measure social impact.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Perennial plants from around the world (book)

Around the World in 80 Plants – the inspiring edible adventure!

Around The World In 80 Plants takes us on an inspiring edible adventure across the continents, introducing us to the author’s top 80 perennial vegetables, with inspiration along the way from local foraging traditions and small scale domestication. Each plant has its own ethnobotanical story to tell; introducing Sherpa vegetables of the Himalayas; forest gardened and foraged vegetables of the S├ími people of Arctic Scandinavia; a super-vegetable of the Maori of New Zealand; the traditional veggie roof gardens of Norway; clifftop perennial vegetables of Dorset’s Jurassic coast;  Scandinavias best kept secret, a long-lived spinach that climbs; Prince Charles’ Forest Garden, and inspiring multi-species dishes of the Mediterranean. A thorough description is given of each vegetable, its propagation, cultivation and uses, and also how to source seed and plants. As many of the author’s selections are what he calls ‘edimentals’ – edible and ornamental – Around the World in 80 Plants will be of interest to traditional ornamental gardeners as well as anyone interested in permaculture, forest gardening, foraging, slow-food, gourmet cooking, traditional preservation techniques and ethnobotany.

Exclusive discount at

Vegan Permaculture (book)

The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Eating and Earthright Living by Graham Burnett

A vegan cookbook packed with wholesome recipes, veganic growing, forest gardening and eco-friendly living. The Vegan Book of Permaculture gives us the tools and confidence to take responsibility for our lives and actions. Creating a good meal, either for ourselves or to share, taking time to prepare fresh, wholesome home or locally grown ingredients with care and respect can be a deeply liberating experience. It is also a way of taking back some control from the advertising agencies and multinational corporations. In this groundbreaking and original book, Graham demonstrates how understanding universal patterns and principles, and applying these to our own gardens and lives, can make a very real difference to both our personal lives and the health of our planet. This also isn’t so very different from the compassionate concern for ‘Animals, People and Environment’ of the vegan way.

Permaculture tea in India (report)

Hope Brewing: Kotagiri to Kachibari, Case Studies on Ecological Tea Growing

On the occasion of World Food Day on October 16, Greenpeace India released its report "Hope Brewing - Kotagiri to Kachibari', showcasing successfully running tea plantations using ecological approaches across India. These are stories of success, restored biodiversity and prosperity from West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu, where pests and chemical usage have impoverished thousands of farmers. These case studies share a common narrative of hope and of how the pesticide treadmill can be tackled effectively. "All tea companies pursue the flavour in the balance sheet persistently, Makaibari tea and trading company pursues the flavour in the balance sheet of life passionately. The holistic agricultural aspect of Makaibari results in the credo that healthy soil is healthy mankind," said Rajah Banerjee of Makaibari, the world's first commercial permaculture tea plantation.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Overview of UK agroecology research (online)

UK Agroecology Research

This website comprises an overview of research on ecological agriculture in the UK. The information forms an overview of existing resources and ongoing research. The project was crowd funded. This review has revealed that while there is a vast volume of existing literature on the science and politics of making agriculture and forestry more sustainable, and considerable literature on organic systems, very little research has been undertaken on the environmental, social and economic benefits of diverse, labour intensive, smaller scale ecological farms. The site is split into sections to provide an easy to use information resource about agroecological research in the UK. You can find information about research institutions' projects and specialisms or search for specific research papers by topic. There's also a directory of UK research institutions who engage with agroecological issues. This site is composed of a network of live links, forming an interactive portal to information about agroecological research in the UK.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Graham Burnett interview, and much more (online)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A great agroecological magazine (#journal)

Farming Matters

The AgriCultures Network builds and shares knowledge on small scale family farming and agroecology. For 30 years they have been producing magazines on sustainable farming, documenting and sharing family farming experiences. Currently, these include Farming Matters global edition (English) and regional editions in Latin America (Spanish), Brazil (Portuguese), West Africa (French), India (English) and China (Chinese). There are four issues of each magazine every year, all following a common topical theme. They reach 1 million readers worldwide. In addition, they support the systematisation of practical experiences and advocacy to promote family farming and agroecology.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Permaculture people blog

Permaculture People UK

A blog documenting Lauren and Phil's research tour of over 40 permaculture projects across the UK including Permaculture Association LAND centres. After a two year self directed permaculture tour of the Americas Lauren and Phil are now looking to buy some land and begin their own project. Follow them as they continue their journey exploring permaculture in the UK.

Role of wild foods in African diet (journal)

Dietary contribution of Wild Edible Plants to women’s diets in the buffer zone around the Lama forest, Benin – an underutilized potential

Rural populations in developing countries face food insecurity and malnutrition despite being surrounded by extraordinary biodiversity. This study assessed the contribution of Wild Edible Plants (WEPs) to diets of women living in southern Benin. A survey was carried out on 120 women, covering their knowledge and consumption of WEPs. Contribution of WEPs to total dietary intake was low due to infrequent use and small portion sizes. The highest nutrient contributions of WEPs measured were for copper (13.9 %) and iron (4.6 %) but the women had intake values below the Estimated Average Requirements for these elements - copper 65% and iron 91%. Women’s dietary diversity was significantly higher among WEP consumers than non-consumers, mainly due to higher consumption of dark green leafy vegetables. WEPs were less consumed as a replacement for other foods but rather as a complement to the diet.

Agricultural biodiversity weblog (online)

Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog 

Separated by half a world but united by their passion for agricultural biodiversity and the internet, Luigi Guarino and Jeremy Cherfas decided to create a space that would allow them to indulge their passions and maybe do some good. Their aim is to collect in one place anything they find on the internet that relates to the notion of agricultural biodiversity (or agrobiodiversity, though we don’t particularly like the word), a big tent but one that the whole of humanity shelters beneath. If that helps others to find things of interest, so much the better. They welcome contributions. You don’t even need to register.

Permaculture for Iowa's changing climate (online)

Adapting Permaculture Food Systems Planning to Iowa's Changing Climate.

This poster was produced from a research project by Liza Minor. She projected daily temperatures across the continental U.S. under three emissions scenarios for 2046-2065. These projections were combined with USDA Plant Hardiness Zone classifications to map how changes in extreme temperatures may affect the range and yield of more than 100 tree species and specialty crops, and the composition of symbiotic plant communities. Liza concluded that most U.S. cities should focus on heat tolerance when choosing new street trees, urban food forests, and specialty crops, with an increase in options for new plantings.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Defending Beef (book)

Defending Beef: The Case forSustainable Meat Production

The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations. But Defending Beef argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants. Dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment. The author—a longtime vegetarian—goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.

Guerilla gardening in the UK (report)

Guerrilla Gardening in Manchester

Exploring Perceptions of Guerrilla Practices

Urban Agriculture (UA) is an emerging field in the academic world.
Yet the idea of illegal or ‘informal’ urban gardening is neglected. Guerrilla
gardening is "the illicit cultivation of someone else's land" and has a long tradition across the globe. It is not restricted to food production but also includes the beautification of space with flowers and other plants. In Greater Manchester, several forms of UA exist with guerrilla gardening being one of them. Although local people and organisations might not know the term guerrilla gardening, they practice it. This report gives a view on the (il)legal urban agriculture scene in Greater Manchester.

De Schutter on the future of food (#journal)


UN Special rappoteur on the Right to Food, Oliver De Schutter, discusses the future of food production and food policy, and encourages a move away from productivism (obsession with simple quantitative measures of food production) towards sustainability and food security, ensuring everyone has access to food and that environmental harms of food production systems are eliminated.

Intensive agriculture reduces soil biota (#journal)

Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity across Europe

Soil biodiversity plays a key role in regulating the processes that underpin the delivery of ecosystem goods and services in terrestrial ecosystems. Agricultural intensification is known to change the diversity of individual groups of soil biota. This study examined biodiversity in soil food webs from grasslands in Sweden, the UK, the Czech Republic and Greece. It found that land use intensification reduced the complexity in the soil food webs, as well as the community-weighted mean body mass of soil fauna. In all regions across Europe, species richness of earthworms, Collembolans and oribatid mites was negatively affected by increased land use intensity. Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity, making soil food webs less diverse and composed of smaller bodied organisms.

The Integral Permaculture Academy (online)

The Integral Permaculture Academy

Integral Permaculture is a design practice based on a holistic & ethical science that includes all levels of experience - internal & external, individual & collective, ancient & modern - united into a coherent & systemic whole, with the sole purpose of designing healthy & sustainable cultures & environments for all species. The Integral Permaculture Academy is a collective of experienced permaculture designers, social activists & change agents who are designing an international, multi-lingual community together with  students and others who are passionate about the need to co-create healthy & sustainable cultures & environments for all species.

Fantastic food systems website launched (online)

 Food systems academy an open education resource to transform our food system

Food systems around the world have been radically transformed in the past 200 years. Yet over 800 million people go hungry and 1.4bn are overweight. Food systems will be further transformed this century in the face of globalisation, climate change and a world population of 9-10 billion. The key questions are how, in whose interests and to what ends?
This site aims to help you increase your understanding of our food systems – where they came from, how they change, what the challenges are and how to meet them.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Exploring sustainability science journals (#journal)

Creating an academic landscape of sustainability science: an analysis of the citation network

 Sustainability is an important concept for society, economics, and the environment, with thousands of research papers published on the subject annually. This paper provides an academic landscape of sustainability science by analyzing the citation network of papers published in academic journals. Results show the existence of 15 main research clusters: Agriculture, Fisheries, Ecological Economics, Forestry (agroforestry), Forestry (tropical rain forest), Business, Tourism, Water, Forestry (biodiversity), Urban Planning, Rural Sociology, Energy, Health, Soil, and Wildlife. Agriculture, Fisheries, Ecological Economics, and Forestry (agroforestry) clusters are predominant.

UK mosquitoes breed in water butts (journal)

British Container Breeding Mosquitoes: The Impact of Urbanisation and Climate Change on Community Composition and Phenology 

In Britain, storage of water in garden water butts is increasing, potentially expanding mosquito larval habitats and influencing population dynamics and mosquito-human contact. The authors show that the community composition, abundance and phenology of mosquitoes breeding in experimental water butt containers were influenced by urbanisation. Mosquitoes in urban containers were present in significantly higher densities than those in rural containers. Urban containers were dominated by Culex pipiens (a potential vector of West Nile Virus [WNV]) and Anopheles plumbeus (a human-biting potential WNV and malaria vector). Among other factors, this was associated with an urban heat island effect which raised temperatures by around 1°C. Further increases in domestic water storage in combination with climate change will likely alter mosquito population dynamics in the UK.

Bioenergy could provide 62% of UK electricity (#journal)

The potential for bioenergy crops to contribute to meeting GB heat and electricity demands

The paper presents a model system to determine the optimal distributions of both Miscanthus and short rotation coppice willow (SRC) in Great Britain, as well as their potential contribution to meet heat and electricity demand in GB. Results show that Miscanthus and SRC could generate, in an economically competitive way compared with other energy generation costs, 224 800 GWh yr−1 heat and 112 500 GWh yr−1 electricity, with 8 Mha of available land under Miscanthus and SRC, accounting for 66% of total heat demand and 62% of total electricity demand . Miscanthus is favoured in the Midlands and areas in the South, while SRC is favoured in Scotland, the Midlands and areas in the South.

Mushroom growing indoors and out (book)

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage invasive species and thereby reduce herbicides? Is it possible to develop a mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation after a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success? For more than twenty years, mycologist Tradd Cotter has been pondering these questions and researching for answers. He offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices, and shares insight into his groundbreaking research on challenges such as cultivating morels, “training” mycelium to respond to contaminants, and perpetuating spawn on cardboard. Geared toward readers who want to grow mushrooms without the use of pesticides, Cotter looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Carbon footprint calculators for crops (#journal)

A Comparative Analysis of Relevant Crop Carbon Footprint Calculators, with Reference to Cotton Production in Australia

An increasing concern over the sustainability of food and fiber crops require that farmers have access to appropriate and tools to be able to measure and improve the outcomes. This article focuses on one of the sustainability indicators, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and nine internationally accredited carbon footprint calculators were compared on an outcomes basis against the same cropping data from a case study cotton farm. The purpose of this article is to identify the most “appropriate” methodology to be applied by cotton suppliers in this regard. The authors propose a new integrated model as the basis for an internationally accredited carbon footprint tool for cotton farming.

Integrating farmer knowledge with science (#journal)

Linking Farmers’ Knowledge, Farming Strategies, and Consequent Cultivation Patterns into the Identification of Healthy Agroecosystem Characteristics at Local Scales

In order to identify sustainable management solutions for small-scale farmer agroecosystems, a better understanding of these dynamic forest–farmland systems, existing farming and forestry strategies, and farmer perspectives is important. The authors' examined the relationship between agricultural land use patterns and farmers’ practices in the context of village communities in Zanzibar, Tanzania. By integrating local expert knowledge and realities with scientific knowledge, we identified sustainable agroecosystem characteristics and farming practices, which are knowledge-intensive, alternative and adaptable to local conditions. Some of these practices are already a part of the local farming strategies and some require training and higher level support to reach healthier agroecosystem and better food security.

Critiques of food sovereignty (#journal)

The debate on food sovereignty theory: agrarian capitalism, dispossession and agroecology

This article reviews recent critiques of the food sovereignty framework. It identifies tendencies in food sovereignty approaches to assume a food regime crisis, to emphasize accumulation by dispossession and to overlook expanded reproduction, and to espouse a romantic optimism about farmer-driven agroecological knowledge, devoid of modern science. Alternatives to current modernization trajectories cannot simply return to the peasant past. Instead, they need to recognize the desires of farmers to be incorporated into larger commodity networks, the importance of industrialization for feeding the world, and the support of state and science for realizing a food sovereign alternative.

Transforming the agro-food system (#journal)

Agroecological Research: Conforming—or Transforming the Dominant Agro-Food Regime?

Agroecology has three forms—a scientific discipline, an agricultural practice, and a social movement. Their integration has provided a collective-action mode for contesting the dominant agro-food regime and creating alternatives. But agroecology has been recently adopted by some actors who also promote conventional agriculture. Tensions between “conform versus transform” roles can be identified in European agroecological research. To play a transformative role, collaborative strategies need to go beyond the linear stereotype whereby scientists “transfer” technology to farmers. When farmer–scientist alliances co-create and exchange knowledge, such gains can transform the research system.

Polycultures drive plant diversity (#journal)

Selection for niche differentiation in plant communities increases biodiversity effects

In experimental plant communities, relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been found to strengthen over time. This paper shows that selection for niche differentiation between species can drive this increasing biodiversity effect. When grown in mixtures, relative differences in height and leaf area between plant species selected in mixtures (mixture types) were greater than between species selected in monocultures (monoculture types). Furthermore, net biodiversity and complementarity effects were greater in mixtures of mixture types than in mixtures of monoculture types. Our study demonstrates a novel mechanism for the increase in biodiversity effects: selection for increased niche differentiation through character displacement. Selection in diverse mixtures may therefore allow increased mixture yields in agriculture or forestry.

Tree Morphogensis (book)

Tree Morphogenesis Book 1, Reduction by Thinning Theory

Reduction Via Thinning is based on a conceptual model  which is in turn, based on new and innovative insights into how trees are designed. Originally a service offered exclusively by the authors tree surgery company the ideas and rationale behind the service are now being made available to people and tree contractors around the world.
The science and art of tree care are closely linked in ways that may surprise you and by reading the book now available you will understand the Tree Morphogenesis project and the tree management strategy "Reduction Via Thinning" and how it can be applied to your trees.

Perennials in agriculture (online)

The advantages of perennial agriculture

This short introductory essay argues that agriculture can be made far more sustainable by transitioning to perennials. Conversion of annual fields into perennial fields offers many biodiversity-friendly benefits; reduced soil erosion, reduced chemical run-off, reduced water use and reduced fossil fuel input.The Land Institute, a United States non-profit group devoted to sustainable agriculture, offers a 50 year farm plan that aims to convert U.S. farmlands to 70 percent perennial crops from their current state of 25 percent perennials within 50 years. The Land Institute’s plan can be adapted to any developed government with centralized research and agriculture support.

Conference call; literature, art and permaculture

Permacultural Practices, panel proposed for the ASLE Eleventh Biennial Conference, June 23-27, 2015, University of Idaho
Permaculture has become a truly global movement, inspiring home gardeners and farmers, intentional communities and design courses, and artists and activists, coming to refer more broadly to all aspects of culture, and referring as much to an ethics of life and the living as to principles of conscientious and efficient design. Inspired by this broadening of the concept, this panel queries the applicability of permacultural values to the study of art and literature. To what extent might permaculture offer a model for thinking about the slow violence and environmental injustice of contemporary (agri)culture? How might consideration of permaculture’s design principles inform our interdisciplinary aspirations? Could permaculture enhance our thinking of peak oil, global warming, deep time, and the anthropocene? And, to what extent can art or literature contribute to permaculture on the ground? Please submit a 300-word abstract and a brief bio by November 10, 2014, to both Molly Wallace ( and David Carruthers (

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Polycultures create win-wins (#journal)

Do polycultures promote win-wins or trade-offs in agricultural ecosystem services? A meta-analysis

This meta-analysis tested whether within-field crop diversification can lead to win-win relationships between  yield and biocontrol of crop pests. 26 studies were considered. Win-win relationships were found between per plant yield of the primary crop and biocontrol in polyculture systems that minimized intraspecific competition. Findings were consistent across geographical regions and by type of primary crop. Practitioners should therefore utilize polycultures that decrease plant–plant competition through a substitution of large quantities of the primary crop for compatibly harvestable secondary crops. Additionally, if planting at high cropping densities, it is important that legumes be the secondary crop.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The time has come for agro-ecology (online)

The Time has Come for Agro-ecology

This short article reviews the FAO's first Symposium on Agro-Ecology in Rome, and gives a good introduction to agro-ecology as a political movement.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Nature and social power (book)

Nature, Choice and Social Power

We are at an environmental impasse. Many blame our personal choices about the way we live. This is only part of the problem. Different forms of social power - political, economic and ideological - structure the choices we have available. This book analyses how we make social and environmental history and why we end up where we do. Case studies challenge conventional wisdoms about why gold is valuable, why the internal combustion engine triumphed, and when and why suburbs sprawled. The book shows how the power of individuals, the power of classes, the power of the market and the power of the state were critical to setting us on a path to environmental degradation. It also challenges conventional wisdom about what we need to do now. Rather than reducing consumption and shrinking from outcomes we don’t want, it proposes growing towards outcomes we do want. We invested massive resources in creating our problems; it will take equally large investments to fix them.

Difference and inequality in alternative food (book)

Savoring Alternative Food: School Gardens, Healthy Eating and Visceral Difference

Advocates of the alternative food movement often insist that food is our "common ground" – that through the very basic human need to eat, we all become entwined in a network of mutual solidarity. In this challenging book, the author explores the contradictions of alternative food activism by examining the movement through various lenses of social difference – including class, race, gender, and age. While the solidarity adage has inspired many, it has also had the unfortunate effect of promoting sameness over difference, eschewing inequities in an effort to focus on being "together at the table". The author explores questions of who belongs at the table of alternative food, and who gets to decide what is eaten there. Case studies are presented from school gardens and slow food movements in Berkeley, California and rural Nova Scotia.

Intro to the green economy (book)

An Introduction to the Green Economy: Science, Systems and Sustainability

This textbook provides a comprehensive introduction to the green economy, using a strongly interdisciplinary approach based on environmental science, rather than treating it as a sub-set of economics. The scientific principles of sustainability are presented, which provide the foundations of the green economy, with a particular focus on systems-based approaches. Examples of real-world case studies are used to illustrate how the green economy can be achieved in practice, drawing from a wide range of disciplines including ecology, geography, social science, psychology, sustainability science, environmental science, law and economics.

Half the world's animals lost since 1970 (report)

The Living Planet Report 2014

This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. The  Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. We are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal. By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity – our well-being, economy, food security and social stability – indeed, our very survival.

The 13 greatest weeds (book)

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is the only book on foraging and edible weeds to focus on the thirteen weeds found all over the world, each of which represents a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy. More than just a field guide to wild edibles, it is a global plan for human survival. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our noses, instead of trying to eradicate an "invasive," we will achieve true food security. If we can become familiar with these thirteen edible survival weeds, we will never go hungry, and we will become closer to our own wild human instincts—enjoying the freshest, wildest, and most nutritious food there is. For free!

Farming the woods (book)

Learn how to fill forests with food by viewing agriculture from a remarkably different perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and non-timber products. Many of things we take for granted, such as coffee, chocolate, and many tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, wild leeks, maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals, and more.

Europe's vegetation cover mapped (#journal)

Semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land: European map and links to ecosystem service supply

Semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land includes extensively managed grassland, agro-forestry and vegetated features not used for crop production, such as hedgerows and woodlots. Semi-natural vegetation plays a major role in the supply of ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, water quality control and erosion prevention. In spite of such a relevance, semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land has never been mapped at the European scale. This article presents the first 1- km resolution map of semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land in the EU. Results show that semi-natural vegetation is usually beneficial for regulating services, whereas the relation to provisioning services is context-dependent. The study supports greening measures in the Common Agricultural Policy. Results also will help to identify green infrastructure elements and priority areas for ecological restoration.


Reduced tillage in organic farming (#journal)

Long-term feasibility of reduced tillage in organic farming

Soil tillage emits greenhouse gases, so reducing tillage could both reduce greenhouse emissions and improve soil quality. In Europe about 25 % of arable land is managed under reduced tillage, but a major drawback for organic farmers is the increase in weed infestation. This study compared reduced tillage and conventional tillage in a 2002–2011 field experiment in Switzerland. Weed abundance was 2.3 times higher under reduced tillage, however yields were similar for reduced tillage and conventional tillage. This study represents the first long-term trial under organic management showing that reduced tillage improves environmental performance.

Weeds and climate change (journal)

Impact of climate change on weeds in agriculture: a review

Climate change has induced transformations in the weed flora of arable ecosystems in Europe. The authors review the mechanisms of responses of arable weeds to climate change. Climate change effects are categorized into three distinct types of shifts: (1) range shifts at the landscape scale, (2) niche shifts at the community scale, and (3) trait shifts of individual species at the population scale. The main conclusions are changes in the species composition and new species introductions are favored, with major ecological and agronomical implications. Current research mainly considers processes at the landscape scale, but processes at the population and community scales have prevalent importance to devise sustainable management strategies.

Coffee polycultures minimise carbon footprint (#journal)

Carbon footprints and carbon stocks reveal climate-friendly coffee production

Two aspects of the climate impact of coffee production were studied: the standing carbon stocks in the production systems and the product carbon footprint. We collected data from 116 coffee farms in five Latin American countries for four coffee production systems: (1) traditional polycultures, (2) commercial polycultures, (3) shaded monocultures, and (4) unshaded monocultures.  Polycultures were found to have a lower mean carbon footprint and much higher carbon stocks in the vegetation than monocultures. Several other strategies were identified to reduce climate impacts of coffee production, including diversification with trees, use of their wood to substitute for fossil fuel and building materials, targeted use of fertilizer, and use of ecological processing instead of the traditional fully washed process.

Manure for rice production (#journal)

Increase of available soil silicon by Si-rich manure for sustainable rice production

Depletion of bio-available silicon, Si, in paddy soils can decrease the yields of rice. A potential solution is to amend soil with Si-rich organic wastes such as manure from animals fed with rice crop residues. Here, we studied Si in soils from 2000 to 2010 field experiments in Eastern China. Results showed that available Si in soils doubled, either as a direct input of available Si or due to Si produced by mineralization of Si minerals. These results show that amending soil with Si-rich manure in the long term is a solution for sustainable rice production.

Organic control of strawberry diseases (#journal)

Soil biosolarization for sustainable strawberry production

Strawberry diseases are commonly controlled by soil fumigation with toxic chemicals. However, we have tested soil biosolarization, a new technique combining soil biofumigation and soil solarization, to cultivate the Camarosa strawberry in southwestern Spain. Soil was biofumigated by amendment of fresh chicken manure at 12,500 kg/ha; chicken manure at 25,000 kg/ha; Brassica juncea pellets at 2,000 kg/ha; sugar beet vinasse at 15,000 kg/ha; or dried olive pomace at 12,500 kg/ha. Soil was then solarized for 30 days by covering with a clear plastic mulch. The highest yield averaging 70,543 kg/ha and the lowest percentage of 12.6 % of second-class fruits were obtained by amendment of fresh chicken manure. Yields were similar to yields reported for chemical fumigation. In addition, biosolarization is about 20 % cheaper than chemical treatment.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sustainable food sytems in Queensland (#journal)

 Sustainable Food Systems in Northern Queensland

This paper explores the development of sustainable food systems in Northern Queensland and draws conclusions as to how they can grow and become more stable in the future. It shows how a community is actively and creatively deploying local networks and local resources in order to gain access to locally-grown, sustainable food. The development of this alternative agri-food network (AAFN) is driven by grassroots movements. The opportunities and challenges faced by actors in alternative food systems are discussed. At federal government level, the adoption of intensive, productivist-based agriculture runs counter to the philosophy of AAFNs, so how can local communities influence food and agricultural policy?

Emily Floyd's permaculutre art (#journal)

Emily Floyd: In the knowledge garden 

Art Monthly Australia April 2014

Gardening is perhaps the most cultured activity in which most people participate. It is constructed, dismantled, renewed constantly and often in front of our eyes. Through understanding gardening - and I use that term to encompass agriculture as well as the humble garden bed - we gain a greater understanding of our society and community.

Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems

The first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds, covering in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive colour photography and design illustrations. The guild concept is one of a “functional relationship” between plants. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem. A guild is also a metaphor for all walks of life, including a group of people working together to craft works of balance, beauty, and utility. This book will benefit readers from permaculture designers to backyard growers.


Permaculture is a movement that is coming into its own, and the concept of creating plant guilds is increasingly at the forefront of every farmer’s and gardener’s permaculture practice.
Authors Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock have created the first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds, covering in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive color photography and design illustrations. While other permaculture books address this topic of guilds, none provides enough depth to be replicable in a serious way.
Though detailed, Integrated Forest Gardening will benefit readers of any scale, from permaculture designers and professional growers to backyard growers new to the concept of permaculture.
One of the essential practices of permaculture is to develop perennial agricultural systems that thrive over several decades without expensive and harmful inputs. Those systems include perennial-plant guilds, food forests, agroforestry, and mixed animal-and woody-species polycultures.
The guild concept often used is one of a “functional relationship” between plants. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem. But it goes beyond integration. A guild is a metaphor for all walks of life, most importantly, a group of people working together to craft works of balance, beauty, and utility.
- See more at:
Permaculture is a movement that is coming into its own, and the concept of creating plant guilds is increasingly at the forefront of every farmer’s and gardener’s permaculture practice.
Authors Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock have created the first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds, covering in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive color photography and design illustrations. While other permaculture books address this topic of guilds, none provides enough depth to be replicable in a serious way.
Though detailed, Integrated Forest Gardening will benefit readers of any scale, from permaculture designers and professional growers to backyard growers new to the concept of permaculture.
One of the essential practices of permaculture is to develop perennial agricultural systems that thrive over several decades without expensive and harmful inputs. Those systems include perennial-plant guilds, food forests, agroforestry, and mixed animal-and woody-species polycultures.
The guild concept often used is one of a “functional relationship” between plants. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem. But it goes beyond integration. A guild is a metaphor for all walks of life, most importantly, a group of people working together to craft works of balance, beauty, and utility.
- See more at:
Permaculture is a movement that is coming into its own, and the concept of creating plant guilds is increasingly at the forefront of every farmer’s and gardener’s permaculture practice.
Authors Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock have created the first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds, covering in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive color photography and design illustrations. While other permaculture books address this topic of guilds, none provides enough depth to be replicable in a serious way.
Though detailed, Integrated Forest Gardening will benefit readers of any scale, from permaculture designers and professional growers to backyard growers new to the concept of permaculture.
One of the essential practices of permaculture is to develop perennial agricultural systems that thrive over several decades without expensive and harmful inputs. Those systems include perennial-plant guilds, food forests, agroforestry, and mixed animal-and woody-species polycultures.
The guild concept often used is one of a “functional relationship” between plants. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem. But it goes beyond integration. A guild is a metaphor for all walks of life, most importantly, a group of people working together to craft works of balance, beauty, and utility.
- See more at:

Agro-ecology and climate change (online)

Diversity in organic and agroecological farming systems for mitigation of climate change impact, with examples from Latin America.

Chapter five in this book (free to download) considers the three-fold role of agro-ecology in addressing climate change: reducing emissions, mitigating impacts, and providing food security. Case studies are provided from Latin America.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

FAO advocates perennial grains (report)

Perennial Crops for Food Security: Proceedings of the FAO expert workshop

 In the past few years the potential benefits of developing perennial grain-based cropping systems has become widely acknowledged. Much attention has been focused on the ecological benefits that communities of perennial plants can confer on a landscape: erosion prevention, efficient capture and use of water and nutrients, protection of water resources, carbon sequestration, and maintenance of thriving soil ecosystems. There is also growing recognition of the potential benefits for smallholder farmers: reduced expenditure for seed, fertilizer, and other inputs; more reliable stand establishment and early vigour; less effort expended on weed control; extended growing seasons; less transplanting; and protection of biodiversity. Perhaps the most important benefit of perennial agriculture will be the protection and development of healthy soil ecosystems that can ensure food security over the long term.

Intensification won't feed Africa (journal)

When yield gaps are poverty traps: The paradigm of ecological intensification in African smallholder agriculture

Yield gaps are pervasive in African smallholder agriculture, and are large for almost all crops in all regions. Poor soil fertility and nutrient availability are the major biophysical limitations to agricultural production in the continent. Estimates of yield gaps are given for major crops, together with a framework for how yield gaps can be estimated. The paradigm of ecological intensification which focuses on yield potential, soil quality and precision agriculture is explored. Our analysis suggests that smallholder farmers are unable to benefit from yield gains offered by plant genetic improvement, while continued cropping without sufficient inputs of nutrients and organic matter leads to   soil degradation. This necessitates a rethink for development policy.

Time in permaculture (online)

Andy Goldring on time in permaculture

Andy Goldring is the Coordinator/CEO of the Permaculture Association, a member of Leeds Permaculture network and an active teacher and designer. This interview was conducted as part of the AHRC-funded Sustaining Time project ( The project asks, if clock time helped build industrial capitalism & the idea of a speeded-up, networked time supports late capitalism, what kind of time would support alternative, sustainable economies?

What is agroecolgy? (report)

Agroecology - What it is and what it has to offer

In a context of a changing climate and growing concerns for more healthy food systems,agroecology is gaining momentum as a scientific discipline, sustainable farming approach and social movement. Yet its promotion in public agricultural policies, research and extension is still limited. This paper explores why this is. It calls for consolidating the evidence base for agroecology through multi-dimensional tools that not only measure yields, but also its many other benefits: economic, environmental and social. Mainstreaming agroecology will require a fundamental cultural and philosophical shift in how we as a society define‘productive’ and ‘efficient’ agriculture.

Interviews with well-known permies (online)

Interviews from the 2014 UK Convergence

13 interviews with permaculture advocates including Ian Lillington, Aranya, Jo Barker, James Taylor, Graham Burnett and several members of Permaculture Association staff, all recorded at the recent UK Convergence, are now available for your listening pleasure.

Mining destroys agriculture (report)

UnderMining Agriculture - How the Extractives Industries Threaten our Food Systems.

The Gaia Foundation's new report exposes the hidden costs of mining on food, water, land, air and climate, showing how each is increasingly affected by toxins as the global land and water grab intensifies. The report is a timely call to action for all food justice and anti mining organisations to come together with a harder line against the extractives sector.  Case studies from around the world illustrate how mining is destroying the conditions essential for healthy and productive agriculture as communities testify to experiencing livestock deaths, soil pollution, acidic water supplies, desertification of agricultural lands, and being forcibly displaced.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mainstreaming agro-ecological innovation in Europe (journal)

This paper reveals the linkage processes that connect innovation networks in sustainable agriculture to elements of the mainstream agricultural regime. It draws on findings from analysis of 17 Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture (LINSA) in the EU. The LINSA examined represent networks of actors engaged in: agricultural food production, alternative food marketing, urban food systems, care farming and farm energy production. The notion of compatibility and linkage at the macro level structures provides a framework in which to examine the linkage processes that enable LINSA to adapt and the regime to accommodate them. Five modes of interaction with the regime are distinguished: Compatible; Complementary; Emergent; Divergent; and Oppositional. The study reveals the dynamic and complex nature of both the LINSA and the regime entities and their interactions and the range of linkage processes that enable LINSAs to adapt and the regime to accommodate them.