Wednesday, 14 September 2016

700 posts and going stronger than ever!

This is the Digest's 700th post. Four years ago when I came up with the idea, I never  imagined it would get this far. Nor did I imagine the size of the audience; as of today we have had 89,074 page views, 1,813 in the last month alone. The audience is a truly global one, with people in over 70 countries using the Digest and more than half the audience now outside the UK and the US, a welcome new development this year. Our most popular post to date has had 398 views.Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read the posts, I hope you find them useful. As ever your feedback is most welcome.

Zen and permaculture design (book)

Zen in the Art of Permaculture Design

Do you wish to creatively engage with the wickedly complex problems of today, while not adding to the mess? Do you want to consciously act with clarity and grace whilst living on a thriving planet? Do you want a fair society, where people care for each other, their children and grandchildren? Stefan Geyer shows how permaculture, infused by insights from the Zen tradition, can be a modern method of liberation from our society’s present woes.
Permaculture is a new regenerative culture, and permaculture design is the method to get there. It offers emancipation and emboldens us to think in joyfully expansive, daringly experimental and creatively caring new ways. This book is full of inspiration that you can carry with you anywhere. Each page explores a permaculture idea or theme. These are not the last word on the subject but catalysts for new thought.

Food sovereignty and feminism (#journal)

Struggling for food sovereignty in the World March of Women

This contribution focuses on how food sovereignty is being re-signified as a feminist issue by a non-peasant transnational feminist network, the World March of Women. First, we review the feminist literature on women, gender and food sovereignty and make suggestions regarding how to conceptualize the latter to better analyze feminist struggles on this terrain. Second, we highlight the variety of discourses and practices through which food sovereignty is appropriated in the different spaces of the March. Third, we identify the uneven deployment of food sovereignty among the national coordinating bodies of the March. Our conclusion stresses the role of discursive articulations and of internal and external alliances as processes through which food sovereignty is diffused and transformed, and draws some implications for the larger scholarship on food sovereignty.

Coloniality in US agricultural policy (#journal)

The coloniality of US agricultural policy: articulating agrarian (in)justice

Drawing on participatory action research with La Via Campesina’s US member groups, this paper traces the coloniality of US agricultural policy. The framework of coloniality conjures history, contextualizing US Department of Agriculture (USDA) racism within long legacies of subjugation, while paying homage to historical resistance. It raises the stakes regarding the neo-imperialism of agribusiness monopolies, while highlighting divide-and-conquer strategies and the colonialist mentalities that linger on despite reform. The discursive impact of coloniality builds upon existing, grassroots articulations of the need to decolonize agricultural policy. Calling out the coloniality of US agricultural policy echoes global revalorizations of peasant agriculture, while overcoming the constraints of the term ‘peasant’ in US-English-speaking contexts.

Perennial staple crops in Malawi (journal)

Ratooning and perennial staple crops in Malawi. A review

The management of staple crops as perennials is a historic legacy and a present-day strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet perenniality is rarely an agronomic subject. Farmers in Malawi cut annual crops, such as pigeonpea and sorghum, to extend production for more than one growing season. Cassava, a perennial food crop, has a proven track record of abating hunger. Here we review ratooning, a method of harvesting a crop which leaves the roots and the lower parts of the plant uncut to give the ratoon or the stubble crop. This review is completed with interviews with Malawian farmers. The management of staple crops as perennials is underserved by research. The literature and interviews indicate that pigeonpea and sorghum have high productive potential when well managed in ratoon systems.

Cover crops in perennial agriculture (#journal)

Cover crops to increase soil microbial diversity and mitigate decline in perennial agriculture. A review

Perennial agriculture is prone to declining productivity due to negative plant-soil feedback. Although cover crops are already used in these systems for other reasons, their capacity to influence soil biota is unexploited. This article examines the role of plant diversity and identity on plant-soil feedback. We conclude that (1) increasing plant diversity increases soil microbial diversity, minimizing the proliferation of soil-borne pathogens; (2) populations of beneficial microbes can be increased by increasing plant functional group richness, (3) brassicas suppress fungal pathogens and promote disease-suppressive bacteria; (4) native plants may further promote beneficial soil microbiota; and (5) frequent tillage, herbicide use, and copper fungicides can harm populations of beneficial microbes. Non-crop vegetation management is a viable and cost-effective means of minimizing crop decline in perennial monocultures.

Coffee agroforestry management (#journal)

Agroforestry coffee production increased by native shade trees, irrigation, and liming

Agroforestry systems usually include shade trees, providing a large diversity of fauna and flora. Shade trees are, however, being removed to increase crop production in many tropical regions. We evaluated the importance of shade tree management for crop production in the context of management practices. Management practices included fertilization, liming, coffee pruning, weeding, and irrigation in 113 coffee agroforests in Kodagu, India. Results show that a rise of 100 shade tree per hectare increased production of berries by 5.6 % and bean size by 6.25 %. Irrigation and liming increased berry production respectively by 16 and 20 %. These management interventions offset the relatively small effect of reducing shade density.