Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Straw mulch is best weed control for peaches (#journal)

Mulching and herbicides in peach: Weed biomass, fruit yield, size, and quality

An experiment  studied the effect of mulches and herbicides on weed population, fruit yield, and quality in peach trees. Covering soil with black polythene resulted in 100% control of weeds at six weeks after treatment (WAT) during both the years of study. Weed control efficiencies with treatments having diuron herbicide did not differ significantly from black polythene at 6 WAT. Atrazine and pendimethalin were the next most efficient and did not differ significantly from each other. Application of straw mulch (8 cm, 15.5 t ha− 1) resulted in high weed control efficiencies at 6 WAT, decreasing somewhat at 12 WAT.  In both years highest fruit yield (69.3 and 67.9 kg tree− 1, respectively) was recorded with straw mulch (8 cm). Conclusively, plastic and straw mulches can be used as an effective chemical-free alternative to manual or chemical weed control in peach.

Guardian newspaper features permaculture (on-line)

The benefits of alternative farming methods

An introductory level article discussing the role of permaculture in the majority world, which nicely contrasts the problems of commercial mono-cropping with the benefits of agro-ecology and permaculture.

Celebrate International Permaculture Day! (on-line)

International Permaculture Day

International Permaculture Day is a day where a range of Permaculture events occur across Australia and around the globe. All activities are held on the first Sunday in May unless specified otherwise. This year it is May 5th. At this site you will find a mammoth list of activities going on all around the globe to celebrate the day, mostly linked directly to project websites. Hopefully there is an event happening near you...

Monthly water reports for England (on-line)

Water situation report for England

The Environment Agency's monthly water situation report for England routinely measures and reports on a range of hydrological parameters to assess the water situation across England. This is done using their own hydrometric data, together with data provided by the Met Office and water companies.

They do this for:
  • the amount of rain that falls
  • how dry the soils are and how much rain they can soak up
  • the amount of water flowing in rivers
  • the amount of water stored below ground in aquifers and above ground in reservoirs
  • the outlook for river flow and groundwater over the coming months
Regional water reports are also produced on the 10th of each month.

Sustainable Intensification in Africa (#journal)

Special Issue of Agricultural Sustainability Considers Sustainable Intensification in Africa

Thirty articles consider a huge range of examples of sustainable intensification from right across Africa, including agro-forestry, integrated aquaculutre, biological controls, conservation agriculture and seed sharing.

Soluble compost has dramatic effect on red peppers (#journal)

90 % yield increase of red pepper with unexpectedly low doses of compost soluble substances

Composts are commonly applied to soil at high dose, e.g. from 20 to 30 t (dry matter) per ha each year. Recently, soluble substances from urban compost at a much lower dose of 1.55 t per ha enhanced tomato productivity much more than the compost itself. Here, we studied the effect of soluble substances at 0–700 kg per ha on red pepper. We measured productivity, chlorophyll, and soil chemical composition. The most remarkable result is an observed maximum productivity for only 140 kg per ha of compost soluble substances. The increases amounted to 90 % for the precocious crop yield, to 66 % for the total crop production, and to 17 % for the per fruit weight. That the highest effects occur at such low treatment dose is very promising to enhance crop productivity in a sustainable way. No detectable change of soil chemical composition was observed.

Using group work to redesign livestock farms (#journal)

Participatory modelling with farmer groups to help them redesign their livestock farming systems

Participatory modelling with livestock farmers to help them remodel their farms is an original approach in livestock farm modelling.  Two causal maps of livestock farming system operation were built, each with a group of five farmers including both those converting and converted to organic farming. The paper assesses the method’s strengths and weaknesses. One of its main advantages lay in its collective dimension: sharing, comparing and questioning interested the participating farmers greatly; however, it requires good facilitation skills and suitable group composition. Analysis of map structures identified similarities and differences between the two groups that were discussed with them; this continued farmers’ self-reflection about their systems, which may help lead to innovative and more sustainable livestock farming systems.




Monday, 29 April 2013

Allotmenteers should swap seeds not buy them (#journal)

Deskilling, agrodiversity, and the seed trade: a view from contemporary British allotments

Historically, quality control standards have had the perverse effect of restricting the circulation of non-commercially bred vegetable cultivars in Britain. Recent attempts to compensate for this loss of agrodiversity have relaxed genetic purity standards and the cost of seed marketing for designated “Amateur” varieties. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at a British allotment site, this article cautions against bringing genetically heterogeneous cultivars into the commercial sphere. Such a move may intensify the horticultural “deskilling” of British allotment gardeners. The activities of dedicated seed savers who circulate the seed of genetically heterogeneous “heritage” varieties, in a manner similar to the management of landraces in the global South, may provide a better model for attempts to safeguard vegetable diversity.

Where's the community in CSAs? (# journal)

Farming alone? What’s up with the “C” in community supported agriculture

This study reconsiders the purported benefits of community found in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Using an online survey of members who belong to CSAs in New York members’ reasons for joining a CSA are assessed. Results show an overwhelming majority of members joined for fresh, local, organic produce, while few respondents joined their CSA to build community, meet like-minded individuals or share financial risk with farmers. Members reported that they do not derive a strong sense of community from either their CSA or other forms of community, yet they volunteered at their CSA and appear to be engaged in activities within their communities. 

Key readings in sustainability (on-line)

Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology

This Reader is one possible set of materials for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students of sustainability science. It consists of links to 93 articles or book chapters from which appropriate readings and internet sources can be chosen. These are organized around three major domains of sustainability science: Part 1: an overview of sustainable development; Part 2: the emerging science and technology of sustainability; and Part 3: the innovative solutions and grand challenges of moving this knowledge into action.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Land grabbing in Europe exposed (report)

 Land Concentration, Land Grabbing and People’s Struggles in Europe

Land concentration and land grabbing do not occur only in developing countries; in fact, both are underway in Europe today. A new report by European Coordination Via Campesina and Hands off the Land network shows that land grabbing and access to land are critical issues today in Europe, and also reveals that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other policies are implicated. The report, involving 25 authors from 11 countries, reveals the hidden scandal of how just three per cent of landowners have come to control half of all farmed land. This massive concentration of land ownership and wealth is on a par with Brazil, Colombia and Philippines.

Recognising humanity as part of nature (on-line)

From Object to Oikeios: Environment-Making in the Capitalist World-Ecology

A fascinating article which argues that the green movement is still largely stuck in a philosophical conception of humanity as separate from nature, whereas we need to develop a concept of humanity as part of nature, intricately bound up with our environment. To help us make this transition, the author proposes a new concept of oikeios, meaning the relationships between us and the place which supports us. Nature-as-oikeios is not offered as an additional factor, to be placed alongside culture or society or economy; it is, rather, the matrix within which all human activity unfolds. Climate, for example, is not external to human civilisation, but shapes every aspect of it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Designing permaculture housing developments (on-line)


The delivery of low cost greenfield housing development in South Africa is generally characterised by low density, dysfunctional, monoculture environments that fosters urban sprawl, and which in turn, hinders opportunities for socio-economic upliftment. This paper uses Permaculture design concepts to show how sustainable and holistic greenfield housing developments can be designed to cater for more functional and safer housing with greater opportunities for urban agriculture, open space systems and community facilities.

How to grow food in vertical places (book)

Growing Up the Wall: How to grow food in vertical

places, on roofs and in small spaces


If you have limited outdoor space and would like to grow your food, this practical, illustrated guide will help you transform plant-free zones into thriving, productive and beautiful green spaces. Create an edible roof garden, grow crops on walls in special containers such as stacking planters or ladder allotments, or simply  make the most of window boxes and hanging baskets.

Science's greatest challenge; global sustainability (report)

Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: the Grand Challenges

A couple of years old (November 2010), but the cry to action contained in this report is still highly relevant to the global scientific community.  

The International Council for Science proposes to mobilize the international global change scientific community around an unprecedented decade of research to support sustainable development in the context of global change. The pace and magnitude of human-induced global change is currently beyond human control and is manifest in increasingly dangerous threats to human societies and human well-being. There is an urgent need for the international scientific community to develop the knowledge that can inform and shape effective responses to these threats in ways that foster global justice and facilitate progress toward sustainable development goals.

Citizen science poduces valuable results (on-line)

Marine Diversity Study Provides value of Citizen Science

Citizen science surveys compare well with traditional scientific methods when it comes to monitoring species biodiversity – according to new research from the University of East Anglia. Research published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows that methods to record marine diversity used by amateurs returned results consistent with techniques favoured by peer-reviewed science.
The findings give weight to the growing phenomenon of citizen science, which sees data crowd-sourced from an army of avid twitchers, divers, walkers and other wildlife enthusiasts.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Third International Permaculture Research Survey (on-line)

Survey 3: How do Researchers Learn and Communicate?

The Permaculture Association is happy to announce the launch of the third stage of our International Permaculture Research Survey. Having first looked at what permaculture research is going on around the world and asking people what kind of research they think is needed, we are now looking for YOUR experiences sharing research and collaborating with others.

We hope that you are as excited as we are about this opportunity to bring permaculture researchers from all over the world together and make our work more visible, effective and connected. Keep up to date with the latest developments and learn more by following us on Facebook or via the Association's web-page. To take part in our third survey (which takes around 10 - 15 minutes) CLICKHERE

If you know other people who do permaculture-related research we would very much appreciate it if you could forward this to them to them.

Cat Richards

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Carbon footprint calculator for food (on-line)

Carbon Calculations Over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities

This free tool enables the food industry and consumers to find out the carbon footprint of hundreds of different food items. You can use the tool to look up different meal ingredients, or to prepare your own meal virtually by adding the ingredients of your choice, 'transporting' and 'cooking' them. You can compare the carbon footprint of different meal options to help you choose the lowest carbon alternative. There is also an app for android tablets and mobile phones.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Environmental State of England's Uplands (on-line)

Natural England Produces Scientific Reviews of the Upland Environment 

Natural England has recently produced previews of a series of scientific reviews looking at the state of the environment in English upland areas. The six reports are:
NEER001 preview  - Natural England Evidence Reviews: guidance on the development process and methods
NEER002 preview - The impacts of tracks on the integrity and hydrological function of blanket peat
NEER003 preview - Restoration of degraded blanket bog
NEER004 preview - The effects of managed burning on upland peatland biodiversity, carbon and water
NEER005 preview - Upland Hay Meadows: What management regimes maintain the diversity of meadow flora and populations of breeding birds?
NEER006 preview - Impact of moorland grazing and stocking rates