Posts

Soil Conservation Plants Hope

The soil beneath our feet might save the planet.

“If we get the soil right we can fix a lot of our issues,” Ray Archuleta says. “Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant, a healthy animal, a healthy human, healthy water, and ultimately a healthy climate and planet.”

Archuleta, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist with the Soil Science Society of America, has a calling – soil conservation. He’s traveled the United States as well as abroad to plant the seeds of thought about the negative effects of a problem that he sees everywhere he goes. That problem is soil erosion.

In the film “Kiss the Ground,” released in 2020, the problem of rapid soil erosion is said to have begun long ago when mankind invented the plow. As the plow became popular vast areas around cities were plowed to grow grain for food. As the soils eroded so did those early empires until they eventually vanished into the dust. The film describes the 1930s Dust Bowl era as the largest manmade disaster in history. By the end of 1934, millions of cropland acres were permanently damaged.

KEEP READING ON KMA LAND

‘We Wanted to Work the Land with Our Kids’: The Black Us Farmers Reclaiming the Soil

Malcolm Shabazz Hoover is rattling off his vegetable varieties to two potential customers from a local restaurant.

“It’s called Brassica juncea, a west African mustard green,” Hoover says to Marissa Lorette and Ian Watson, co-owners of BeesWing, a local restaurant looking to work with Black businesses. He picks some from the ground and offers it to them. “Taste it.”

“It’s sweet and spicy,” Watson says, looking pleased and happily confused, and Black Futures Farm bags another client. This brings the number of entities to which it sells produce through the city’s Community Supported Agriculture program to 17 – in less than a year of operation.

I have come to meet Hoover on his micro farms at Portland State University’s Learning Gardens Laboratory. I’ve known this Black naval reserve vet for many years – and the silver-haired 50-year-old has, at times, been one of the most restive and unstable of my Portland associates. When I heard he had turned to farming, I had to see it for myself.

KEEP READING ON THE GUARDIAN

4 cosas que hacen de la tierra una de las cosas más asombrosas de nuestro planeta

La tierra es una de las maravillas más subestimadas y poco comprendidas de nuestro planeta.

Bajo tus pies hay cosas maravillosas, asegura Bridget Emmet, especialista en tierra del Centro para la Ecología y la Hidrología de Reino Unido, y, con las siguientes palabras, le explicó a la BBC por qué cree eso.

Lejos de ser mugre, se estima que en un solo gramo de tierra puede haber hasta 50.000 especies de organismos microscópicos.

En una sola cucharadita, hay más microorganismos que personas en la Tierra.

Pero mucho de lo que hay ahí abajo, en este universo profundo y oculto, todavía nos es ajeno.

1. Es desconocida pero invaluable

A pesar de estar literalmente bajo nuestros pies, los humanos hasta ahora solo han identificado una pequeña fracción de la extraordinaria vida que abunda bajo tierra.

Sin embargo, los animales y microorganismos que conocemos sabemos que desempeñan un papel invaluable.

Millones de años de competencia evolutiva han llevado a los microorganismos a producir compuestos antibióticos para luchar contra sus vecinos.

CONTINUE LEYENDO EN EL ECONOMISTA

Soil Fungi Act like a Support Network for Trees, Study Shows

Being highly connected to a strong social network has its benefits. Now a new University of Alberta study is showing the same goes for trees, thanks to their underground neighbours.

The study, published in the Journal of Ecology, is the first to show that the growth of adult trees is linked to their participation in fungal networks living in the forest soil.

Though past research has focused on seedlings, these findings give new insight into the value of fungal networks to older trees–which are more environmentally beneficial for functions like capturing carbon and stabilizing soil erosion.

“Large trees make up the bulk of the forest, so they drive what the forest is doing,” said researcher Joseph Birch, who led the study for his PhD thesis in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

When they colonize the roots of a tree, fungal networks act as a sort of highway, allowing water, nutrients and even the compounds that send defence signals against insect attacks to flow back and forth among the trees.

KEEP READING ON EUREKA ALERT

 

Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Transition Filipino Farmers to Agroecological and Organic Regenerative Practices

DAVAO, PHILIPPINES – Nearly one year ago today, Regeneration International (RI) signed the “Regeneration Philippines” pact, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Filipino League of Organic Municipalities Cities and Provinces (LOAMCP) and RI. 

Fast forward to today and we are blessed to have reconnected virtually with our friends in the Philippines, this time, through the addition of a new RI partner, Agro-Eco Philippines (AEP), an organization dedicated to “building resilient farming communities and sustainable economies.”

AEP began its work with small farmers in Mindanao or the Southern Philippines in 1991. Today, the non-profit government organization (NGO) works with 4,000 individual farmers in 300 farmers’ organizations in Mindanao, eastern Visayas and eastern Luzon. 

Its mission is to advocate for Filipino’s right to healthy food, alleviate hunger in poverty-stricken farming communities and teach farmers organic regenerative and agroecological practices that produce healthy food, increase the socio-economic livelihood of farmers, and build resilience against the effects of climate change. 

AEP also invests in the development of local markets through community-led research to help boost profits for smallholder farmers.

AEP and its work transitioning conventional Filipino farmers to agroecological and organic regenerative agriculture practices is showcased in our “Trails of Regeneration” video series, which highlights stories of regeneration throughout the globe. 

In our latest episode, “Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Farmers Go Organic,” AEP’s Executive Director Geonathan Barro discusses how the NGO has trained an impressive number of farmers on organic practices. Barro told us in a Zoom interview:

“So far, we have trained roughly 10,000 conventional farmers to go organic. The key is to build on the hard labor of the previous years without relying on middle men or corporate entities to distribute and process our products.”

AEP is firm in its belief that the role humans play on farms is a key component of agroecology. According to its website

“Farmers . . . are critical actors in agroecological practice and agroecological transformation. They are stewards of biodiversity and the real keepers of relevant knowledge for this agenda. It is therefore important that agroecological knowledge and technologies are developed on the basis of farmers’ own knowledge and experimentation. Further, this means that agroecology has to be context-specific and culturally appropriate. Agroecology makes best use of the human, social, and environmental capital available locally.”

Green Revolution forces farmers into degenerative farming model

The future hasn’t always been so bright for some farmers in the Philippines.

Since the launch of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, Filippino farmers have largely depended on degenerative agricultural models that have forced millions of farmers into debt due to the high cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that over time eroded the soil and polluted waterways. 

More than half a century ago, the Filipiino government, with influence from the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, created the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In 1962, the IRRI crossed Dee-Geo-woo-gen and Peta rice strains to create IR8 or “miracle rice.” By 1981, “miracle rice” accounted for more than 80 percent of total rice crops in the Philippines.

The “miracle rice” produced high yieldsten times the amount of traditional rice varietiesallowing the Philippines to go from being an importer of rice to a global exporter.

Unfortunately, the benefits of the Green Revolution were short-lived. They were also outweighed by the rising costs of high-debt, falling income and the environmental consequences of chemical-intensive agriculture. 

This chain of events is found in many developing countries that fell victim to big agricultural corporations selling high-yielding seeds that provide productive harvests the first year, but then require major increases in chemical inputs the following year. 

The allure of high (but unsustainable) crop yields has led to a system of enslaved farmers whose farmlands have been rendered unproductive without the application of synthetic and chemical inputs.

Over time, pesticides destroy key microbes in the soil and alter its ability to retain nutrients and water, which makes farmers more vulnerable to drought, floods, pests and crop-related diseases. This escalates production costs that put smallholder farmers at risk of bankruptcy. 

Filippino farmers campaigning against Monsanto’s Golden Rice, promoting regenerative systems of rice intensification and defending local seed sovereignty.

AEP teaches farmers organic regenerative practices that benefit the environment and the community

AEP is working to break the patterns of conventional food and farming systems by providing smallholder farmers with free access to local indigenous seeds and information on practices such as composting, cover cropping, seed saving, crop rotation and the integration of livestock. 

It also teaches farmers about agroforestry, the incorporation of trees into agriculture, and encourages the exchange of knowledge between fellow farmers.

Agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices have never been more important. Like many nations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to food shortages in the Philippines. 

The silver lining, however, is that empty store shelves have encouraged locals to buy directly from their farmer. Not only does this help small farmers, but it also provides families with safe, nutritious food that builds a strong immune system, Barro told RI.

Selling direct to consumers, and removing grocery stores from the equation, has allowed Filippino farmers to sell their products for less money. 

Luz Astronomo, an AEP member and small farmer from Davao City, Philippines, told RI in a Zoom interview that he’s able to sell his produce for 60 percent less than other produce because everything he needs to grow it comes from his farm, including the seeds and organic inputs.

“So, we don’t have to sell our products at a high price,” he said. 

In many localities, conventional farmers are now buying food from organic farmers because the monoculture systems they depend on are failing to compete with the diversified agroecological systems practiced by AEP’s members. Barro told RI:

“These are very difficult times brought about by COVID-19, but these very difficult times have painted us a picture of what kind of agriculture the world needs to overcome such crises.”

Organic regenerative agriculture helps fight climate change

In addition to producing healthier food, agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices help mitigate climate change by building healthy soil that draws down excess atmospheric carbon and stores it in the ground.

Farmers are instrumental in addressing climate change because they experience the impacts of a changing climate, Barro said.

AEP recognizes this, too, which is why it now offers a course on soil quality management to teach farmers how to better manage soil when dealing with pests, disease and climate extremes. 

Mr. René Garcia, also a small farmer and member of AEP, says regenerative agriculture practices help restore key microbes in the soil. Garcia told us in a Zoom interview:

 “We are practicing regenerative agriculture to return microorganisms to the soil that feed the plants. By using the systems of rice intensification, which can reduce flooding in rice paddies and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and can also help conserve water and boost yields.”

AEP believes that all farmers can grow resilient to the effects of climate change by caring for their soil, ditching the toxic chemicals, producing and distributing food locally, and practicing and advocating for organic regenerative farming systems.

“Success stories of farmers that are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change will inspire people all over the world,” said Barro, adding that it gives people hope to know others are coming together to make this world a better place. 

Stay tuned for more stories of regeneration both in the Philippines and around the world. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.

Soil Power! The Dirty Way to a Green Planet

The last great hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may lie in a substance so commonplace that we typically ignore it or else walk all over it: the soil beneath our feet.

The earth possesses five major pools of carbon. Of those pools, the atmosphere is already overloaded with the stuff; the oceans are turning acidic as they become saturated with it; the forests are diminishing; and underground fossil fuel reserves are being emptied. That leaves soil as the most likely repository for immense quantities of carbon.

Now scientists are documenting how sequestering carbon in soil can produce a double dividend: It reduces climate change by extracting carbon from the atmosphere, and it restores the health of degraded soil and increases agricultural yields. Many scientists and farmers believe the emerging understanding of soil’s role in climate stability and agricultural productivity will prompt a paradigm shift in agriculture, triggering the abandonment of conventional practices like tillage, crop residue removal, mono-cropping, excessive grazing and blanket use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide.

 

KEEP READING ON THE NEW YORK TIMES

Corporate Agribusiness Is Blocking Important Action on the Climate

Climate change action plans often call for less fossil fuel usage, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and a shift toward renewable energy sources. But one area that hasn’t received the broader attention it deserves is industrial farming.

The latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that the turning over of more and more land to commercial agriculture has resulted in increasing net greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity. And so, “sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change,” the report finds.

This IPCC offering followed on the heels of the National Academies of Sciences study into negative emissions technologies and carbon sequestration, which also found that efforts to store more carbon in agricultural soils generally have “large positive side benefits,” including increased productivity, water holding capacity and yield stability.

KEEP READING ON TRUTHOUT

Soil Is the Unsung Hero in the Fight Against World Hunger

Cutting-edge tech promises to produce food more cheaply and at a greater scale than we ever thought possible: tractors with AI, gene-edited crops, and single-sex dairy cow reproduction have made the news lately. Many of these innovations are the natural outgrowth of a century focused on reducing food production to a series of inputs that can yield something ingestible at the greatest possible profit.

Photo credit: Pexels

We moderns have tended to look on these innovations with admiration, as we do with so many technological and industrial advancements—they reflect our inclination to seek ever-greater control and domination over natural systems.

Yet food is an area where we should be deeply engaged with natural systems, rather than trying to dominate them. We should be looking to nature for answers to today’s big questions: How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? How will we grow enough food on a hotter planet?

KEEP READING ON QUARTZ

Paul Hawken: Why We Need to Regenerate More Than Just Agriculture

In this talk, Paul Hawken, noted environmentalist and author, talks about why we need to regenerate more than just agriculture to heal our diseased earth and bodies. He discusses the difference between climate change and global warming and how our food choices impact the environment, before sharing innovative solutions to tackling some of our world’s biggest problems.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

Want Healthier Soil? Link It to Crop Insurance

Author: Elizabeth Grossman | Published on: May 2, 2017

Most farmers know that the health of their soil is important, but they don’t all prioritize it over, say, maximizing what they grow each year. Now, some scientists are looking into ways to ensure that more farmers—especially those producing commodity crops in the middle of the country—start taking soil seriously.

The world’s biggest crop insurance program, the U.S. Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) provides coverage to help farmers recover from “severe weather and bad years of production.” But recently, a pair of Cornell University scientists looked at what might happen if crop insurance were also tied to soil quality—that is, if insurance companies began considering soil data when determining rates.

In a new paper, Cornell University assistant professor of agricultural business and finance Joshua Woodard and post-doctoral research assistant Leslie Verteramo Chiu argue that tying the Crop Insurance Program to the health of a farm’s soil could make it a powerful tool for promoting more sustainable and resilient farming. Including soil data in crop insurance criteria, they write, would “open the door to improving conservation outcomes” and help farmers better manage risks to food security and from climate change.

Or, as Paul Wolfe, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) senior policy specialist, explained, “The big picture is that crop insurance could be a great way to incentivize conservation, but it isn’t now.”

KEEP READING ON CIVIL EATS