Thursday, 28 April 2016

New EU project supports diverse food systems

DIVERSIFOOD: High quality  food systems
 DIVERSIFOOD (2015-­‐2019) is an EU funded research and innovation programme that will increase    the    performance    and    resilience    of    different    agro-ecosytems and    develop    new    healthy    and    tasty    produce. By  integrating    existing    experienced    networks    and    using    specific    and    relevant    cases across    Europe,    the    project    will    strengthen    food    culture to    improve    economic    viability    of    local    chains    resulting    in    a    greater    diversity    of    produce    with    a    cultural    identity.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

How British horticulture can feed Britain (report)

Horticulture in the UK: potential for meeting dietary guideline demands

Public health analysis suggests that many lives can be saved if the UK population actually followed dietary guidelines on fruit and vegetable daily intake. This paper presents current national levels of fruit and vegetable production and consumption. It outlines the origins of what horticultural produce is consumed here and the potential for meeting demand should diets adapt to those suggested by government guidelines. The Briefing provides a summary of key facts on UK horticulture based on information that is publicly available.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

PIRN website goes live!

Permaculture International Research Network website now live!

In order to further knowledge and understanding of permaculture in all its aspects, researchers and practitioners need to work closely together and learn from each other. PIRN will facilitate this by:
  • Promoting knowledge exchange,
  • Providing peer group support,
  • Giving access to journals, books and literature reviews,
  • Developing collaborative action research projects, and
  • Creating a place to access research and to share findings.
PIRN is the world’s first such network. PIRN was launched at the International Permaculture Conference in London, September 2015. We are delighted to announce that the PIRN website is now live.

Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air (free book)

Sustainable Energy- Without the Hot Air

In tribute to author David MacKay, who died last week, here is a link to a free copy of his ground breaking book on sustainable energy.
 'The public discussion of energy options tends to be intensely
emotional, polarized, mistrustful, and destructive.  Every option is
strongly opposed. We can't be anti-everything!
 We need an energy plan that adds up. But there's 
a lack of numeracy in the public discussion of energy. 
 My motivation in writing "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air" is 
to promote constructive conversations about
energy, instead of the perpetual Punch and Judy show. 
I've tried to write an honest, educational and fun book.'

Ecovillages and social innovation (report)

This report provides a summary of a full case report that includes in-depth case studies of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). The report was guided by four empirical research questions:
1. the overall development of the local cases and the transnational network(ing);
2. how they relate to different types of change and innovation (incl. social innovation, system innovation, game changers, narratives of change and societal transformation);
3. how actors are empowered and/or disempowered in and by the local cases and the transnational network(ing), including topics such as governance, learning, resourcing and monitoring;
4. what are other relevant emergent issues with regard to understanding the dynamics of transformative social innovation

'Grass fed is the new organic' (online)

The Eco Guide to grass-fed

'Grass-fed' is the new organic. US sales of grass-fed labeled milk, eggs, yogurt, butter, cheese and even protein powders are soaring. Livestock are reared outside, deriving most of their diet from grass, in contrast to the North American system where cows are grain-fed in a Cafo (concentrated animal feeding operation). Studies suggest grass-fed milk contains far more omega-3 (desirable), and far less omega-6 (undesirable). It can also help ensure livestock products are free of GMOs, as most conventional feed contains GM ingredients. Plus, animals reared outside are given fewer antibiotics.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Organic farming has a key role to play (#journal)

Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century

The authors examine the performance of organic farming in light of four key sustainability metrics: productivity, environmental impact, economic viability and social wellbeing. Organic farming systems produce lower yields but are more profitable and environmentally friendly, and deliver equally nutritious foods that contain less (or no) pesticide residues. Moreover, organic agricultural systems deliver greater ecosystem services and social benefits. No single approach will safely feed the planet; a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems is needed. Significant barriers exist to adopting these systems, however, and policy instruments will be required to facilitate their development.



Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Soil and Health Library - free resource (online)

Soil and Health Library

This website provides free downloadable e-books about radical agriculture, natural hygiene/nature cure and self-sufficient homestead living. There are secondary collections involving social criticism and transformational psychology. There is no fee for downloading anything in this library. The library’s topic areas connect agricultural methods to the health and lifespan of animals and humans. A study of these materials reveals how to prevent and heal disease and increase longevity, suggests how to live a more fulfilling life and reveals social forces working against that possibility.

Agroecosystems and agricultural sustainability - a review (online)

This paper reviews the existing scientific knowledge about agroecosystem diversity, agroecology, traditional and alternative farming systems based on permaculture and bio-dynamics. It contains: 1) a discussion and summary of current findings on the role of agroecosystems diversity on the sustainability of agriculture, 2) an evaluation of the "state of the art" pointing out research needs, and 3)
conclusions on the future developments and actions needed to adapt agricultural practices towards sustainability of agricultural systems.

US thaw threatens Cuba's agro-ecology

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw 

President Obama’s trip to Cuba accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people believe that normalizing relations will spur investment in Cuba and improve life for its citizens. But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead. Cuba has 383,000 urban farms, producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield 20 kg of food per square meter, the highest rate in the world. But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Citizen scientists record their local woods (online)

Logging Your Local Woodland for Citizen Science: No Axe Required! 

ROS_CP_B1aTrack a tree is a UK citizen science project that asks volunteers to visit their local woodlands, select a tree, and record seasonal events as they take place in the immediate ecosystem of the tree. Through recurring visits and focused observation volunteers become familiarized with the tree’s particularities. You become a scientist of phenology, the study of the seasonal-ecosystem interaction. Phenology observes timing variations seasonal events, and the resulting affect on plant and animal life. Recent rapid shifts in the earth’s climate make phenology evermore interesting and important.

Good and bad news about plants and climate change (online)

Read summaries of three recent scientific article on climate change here. Good news for climate science from the vegetable world: as global temperatures rise, plants in the forests and fields may breathe in more carbon dioxide, and respire a little less, according to an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But bad news too: a new study in Environmental Research Letters concludes that more carbon will be released by climate change than can be stored by trees and shrubs as they colonise more and more of the high latitudes, and a report in the journal PLOS One suggests that microbial communities might not be capable of responding quickly to climate change.

Monday, 4 April 2016

7 ways to build Soil Organic Matter (report)

Seven Ways to Save Our Soils 

The Soil Association is releasing a new document calling on policy makers and farmers to do their bit to protect UK soils. The report outlines seven key ways to increase Soil Organic Matter (SOM) in UK arable and horticultural soils by 20% over the next 20 years. Increasing SOM is not only important for protecting agricultural productivity: healthy soils are also better at locking up carbon, therefore helping mitigate climate change, and are more resilient to both floods and droughts. They are more able to absorb excess rainfall and therefore have the potential to reduce flooding downstream. In turn, these effects all protect land from unpredictable weather events which are increasingly affecting farmers.

Land use changes in England 2014-15 (online)

Land Use Change Statistics are a rich source of information which show how land use has changed in England. The information includes the nature of the changes, the areas of land affected and the locations of the changes. Headline statistics: 58% of new houses were built on previously developed land, 3% were built in the green belt and 8% on flood plains. Average density of new housing was 31 addresses per hectare.