Thursday, 24 March 2016

Selecting cultivars to withstand climate change (#journal)

Cultivars to face climate change effects on crops and weeds: a review

Yield losses are caused both by direct effects of climate change on crops and by increases in weeds.  Rising temperature will decrease yields of maize, soybean, wheat, rice and cotton, also specialty crops such as almonds, grapes, berries, citrus, or stone fruits. Drought stress should decrease the production of tomato, soybean, maize, and cotton. Temperature increases will mainly affect the distribution of weeds by expanding their geographical range. This will enhance further yield losses.  Selection of cultivars that secure high yields under climate change but also by competing with weeds is therefore of major importance. Traits related with (a) increased root/shoot ratio, (b) vernalization periods, (c) maturity, (d) regulation of node formation and/or internode distance, (e) harvest index variations, and (f) allelopathy merit further investigation.

Stability and resilience in farm systems (#journal)

Stability, robustness, vulnerability and resilience of agricultural systems. A review

This article reviews four concepts: stability, robustness, vulnerability and resilience, commonly used but sometimes difficult to distinguish. Main findings are: (1) agricultural systems face different types of perturbations, from small to extreme; (2) stability, robustness, vulnerability and resilience are increasingly applied to predict the system response under changing conditions; (3) the four concepts are distinguished by the nature of the system components and by the type of perturbation studied; (4) assessment methods must be tested under contrasting situations; and (5) the major options allowing system adaptation under extreme changes are the increase of diversity and the increase of  adaptive capacity.

Assessing the social acceptability of urban farming (#journal)

Socially acceptable urban agriculture businesses

The authors hypothesized that societal acceptability of urban agriculture projects are ruling their success or failure. Surveys show 80 % of respondents preferred accessible systems such as public green spaces and rooftop gardens, but land uses that do not provide accessibility showed acceptance below 40 %. Second, 60 % of participants expressed acceptance of rooftop farming, agriculture in the urban fringe, or in inner-city brownfields, whereas 65 % rejected agriculture in multi-story buildings, agroparks, or aquaponic farms. Third, more than 50 % are willing to buy horticultural products, but they reject products from intensive production systems and animal farming. The highest degree of acceptance is reached for multifunctional urban agriculture that combines commercial with ecological and social goals; projects that are purely production-driven or technologically intensive are more likely to be rejected.

Forest garden wiki (online)

Edible Forest Garden Wiki

The Edible Forest Garden Wiki connects forest gardeners around the world to an editable resource of interconnected plant species, polycultures, and forest gardens. Users can add their own observations and experiments, create new polyculture designs, and manage their own forest garden page! The Wiki creates a self-supporting network that functionally interconnects gardeners, permaculturists, universities, NGOs, for minimal competition and maximum cooperation. This is the cutting-edge research grounds for the next generation of ecological agriculture -- and we'll need your input.

Online permaculture resources evaluated (journal)

Online resources on permaculture represent a promising direction by supplementing existing printed sources, serving to update and diversify existing content, and increasing access to permaculture information. This study evaluated a sample of online resources using parameters reflecting website usability and content quality. The evaluation revealed good quality and usability in the majority of cases, and suggests a strong online presence among the existing permaculture community, and accessible support for those with an interest in joining the movement.

Forget global tipping points, act locally (journal)

Time to forget global tipping points

The idea that Earth is approaching a point of no return is probably untrue and almost certainly unhelpful. No theoretical or empirical evidence exists for such a claim, and a widespread belief in it threatens to push ecological science in the wrong direction.To deny the likelihood of an impending global tipping point is not to deny that we are transforming the biosphere in ways that are likely to disgrace us in the eyes of future generations. Much of our planet’s ecology can and will be lost unless we focus much greater effort on conserving and restoring it, but it is the local and regional levels that are the key for conservation and management.

French food forest research centre launched (website)

Association La Foret Nourriciere - Projet de Eco-Centre

An announcement (plus fundraiser) for the start of a food forest research center, for research, experimenting, development and education of permaculture in temperate climates. It's an association based in Bretagne, France, established in 2011. The website is entirely in French.

Software tool for forest restoration planning (online)

New tool for smarter investments in forest restoration

Peter Hawthorne has led the development of the Restoration Opportunity Optimization Tool, a new open-source ecosystem services software program for forest landscape restoration planning. The tool will allow regional planners to weigh the pros and cons of various land management scenarios in terms of keeping water clean, sequestering carbon and other goals. More broadly, ROOT will help inform smarter, targeted investments in forest landscape restoration decisions by illustrating which restored areas may provide the greatest benefit at lowest cost.

Great intro film about Bill Mollison from 1980s (video)

Bill Mollison - In Grave Danger of Falling Food - Full video

Want to go back to permaculture basics? Then watch this film from the late 80s. In this introductory video, Bill Mollison, the movement's co-founder, takes the viewer through the history and developments of the movement. With laconic humour and insight he deconstructs the modern agribusiness and the "modern plague" : manicured ornamental lawns. In this video he offers an antidote, which is an antidote to both our currently unsustainable practices and our unsustainable culture. Both of these have to change and adapt. Permanently.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Holistic river management to stop flooding

Following the catastrophic floods in Northern England at the end of 2015, this report explains why bad management of river catchments greatly exacerbates flood events, and describes in detail how holistic management can significantly reduce flooding. It is full of real examples of successful holistic flood management schemes in Northern England and Wales.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Crowfunder for perennial polyculture wiki

Apios Institute Crowdfunder  for perennial polyculture wiki

The Apios Institute is running an crowdfunding campaign to expand and improve their wiki of perennial-crop polycultures. The Apios Institute exists to share experience and knowledge about food forests (aka homegardens or forest gardens) in order to fill critical knowledge gaps regarding the design and management of these systems. They are raising $10,000 to complete the development of Apios 3.0, which will revamp their platform from the ground up. Their current Wiki has worked for thousands of people in cold climates—but it is incomplete. Many people around the world have asked them to expand to include other climates. We invite you to participate any way you can with this campaign: contribute money, offer help, or share the campaign with your network.

Oxford Real Farming Conference recordings (audio)

2016 Oxford Real Farming Conference recordings now online

From practical on-farm experiences, to participatory workshops and talks from the UK’s leading sustainable food experts, the annual Oxford Real Farming Conference  offers a range of ways for delegates to explore agroecological solutions to common farming challenges. 
Filling the Oxford Town Hall for two days, delegates explore issues from bees & neonicotinoids to grain and bread, the benefits of putting trees on farms, to better jobs in better farming. For those of you who weren't able to make it to the ORFC, the recordings and slides from the 2016 Conference are now available online.

The carbon farming solution (book)

The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security
In this book the term carbon farming is used to describe a suite of crops and agricultural practices that sequester carbon in the soil and in perennial vegetation like trees. If widely implemented, these practices could sequester hundreds of billions of tons of carbon in the coming decades. And if we combine carbon farming with a massive reduction in fossil fuels, it can bring us back from the brink of disaster and return our atmosphere to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Unlike high-tech geoengineering strategies, these practices can also feed people, build more fertile soils, and contribute to ecosystem health.
Despite the challenges and the need for additional research, the evidence is already clear: these practices can contribute mightily to the most pressing issue of our time.

Why British diets are so unhealthy (report)

Food Foundation Launches its First Report - Force Fed

This new report assesses how difficult it is for British families to eat a healthy diet. Through original research and a literature review, it shows that poor diets now pose the greatest threat to our health. It demonstrates how much of our calories come from foods high in fat, sugar or salt. It documents weaknesses in planning regulations, advertising regulations, labeling, formulations and marketing. It assesses why the price balance of our foods is wrong, and argues that education on healthy eating can’t work when so many other factors push in the opposite direction. The onus must instead be placed on government to introduce a sugar tax and policies for the fruit and veg sector which could get a healthier balance of prices, and a fairer deal for farmers.

Where was The Digest in February?

Where was The Digest in February?

Sincere apologies for the recent lack of any posts! Unfortunately, in spite of having a whole extra day this year, February was too short for me. Funding deadlines, organising interns, a big new research project, the development of PIRN and a really horrible cold meant that I had too much on my plate to make a single post. And as long as The Digest remains unfunded, it will never be top of my priority list. Hopefully March will prove better and I can get back on track for my '20 posts a month' target. Let's start with half a dozen right now...