Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Defending Beef (book)

Defending Beef: The Case forSustainable Meat Production

The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations. But Defending Beef argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants. Dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment. The author—a longtime vegetarian—goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.

Guerilla gardening in the UK (report)

Guerrilla Gardening in Manchester

Exploring Perceptions of Guerrilla Practices

Urban Agriculture (UA) is an emerging field in the academic world.
Yet the idea of illegal or ‘informal’ urban gardening is neglected. Guerrilla
gardening is "the illicit cultivation of someone else's land" and has a long tradition across the globe. It is not restricted to food production but also includes the beautification of space with flowers and other plants. In Greater Manchester, several forms of UA exist with guerrilla gardening being one of them. Although local people and organisations might not know the term guerrilla gardening, they practice it. This report gives a view on the (il)legal urban agriculture scene in Greater Manchester.

De Schutter on the future of food (#journal)


UN Special rappoteur on the Right to Food, Oliver De Schutter, discusses the future of food production and food policy, and encourages a move away from productivism (obsession with simple quantitative measures of food production) towards sustainability and food security, ensuring everyone has access to food and that environmental harms of food production systems are eliminated.

Intensive agriculture reduces soil biota (#journal)

Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity across Europe

Soil biodiversity plays a key role in regulating the processes that underpin the delivery of ecosystem goods and services in terrestrial ecosystems. Agricultural intensification is known to change the diversity of individual groups of soil biota. This study examined biodiversity in soil food webs from grasslands in Sweden, the UK, the Czech Republic and Greece. It found that land use intensification reduced the complexity in the soil food webs, as well as the community-weighted mean body mass of soil fauna. In all regions across Europe, species richness of earthworms, Collembolans and oribatid mites was negatively affected by increased land use intensity. Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity, making soil food webs less diverse and composed of smaller bodied organisms.

The Integral Permaculture Academy (online)

The Integral Permaculture Academy

Integral Permaculture is a design practice based on a holistic & ethical science that includes all levels of experience - internal & external, individual & collective, ancient & modern - united into a coherent & systemic whole, with the sole purpose of designing healthy & sustainable cultures & environments for all species. The Integral Permaculture Academy is a collective of experienced permaculture designers, social activists & change agents who are designing an international, multi-lingual community together with  students and others who are passionate about the need to co-create healthy & sustainable cultures & environments for all species.

Fantastic food systems website launched (online)

 Food systems academy an open education resource to transform our food system

Food systems around the world have been radically transformed in the past 200 years. Yet over 800 million people go hungry and 1.4bn are overweight. Food systems will be further transformed this century in the face of globalisation, climate change and a world population of 9-10 billion. The key questions are how, in whose interests and to what ends?
This site aims to help you increase your understanding of our food systems – where they came from, how they change, what the challenges are and how to meet them.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Exploring sustainability science journals (#journal)

Creating an academic landscape of sustainability science: an analysis of the citation network

 Sustainability is an important concept for society, economics, and the environment, with thousands of research papers published on the subject annually. This paper provides an academic landscape of sustainability science by analyzing the citation network of papers published in academic journals. Results show the existence of 15 main research clusters: Agriculture, Fisheries, Ecological Economics, Forestry (agroforestry), Forestry (tropical rain forest), Business, Tourism, Water, Forestry (biodiversity), Urban Planning, Rural Sociology, Energy, Health, Soil, and Wildlife. Agriculture, Fisheries, Ecological Economics, and Forestry (agroforestry) clusters are predominant.

UK mosquitoes breed in water butts (journal)

British Container Breeding Mosquitoes: The Impact of Urbanisation and Climate Change on Community Composition and Phenology 

In Britain, storage of water in garden water butts is increasing, potentially expanding mosquito larval habitats and influencing population dynamics and mosquito-human contact. The authors show that the community composition, abundance and phenology of mosquitoes breeding in experimental water butt containers were influenced by urbanisation. Mosquitoes in urban containers were present in significantly higher densities than those in rural containers. Urban containers were dominated by Culex pipiens (a potential vector of West Nile Virus [WNV]) and Anopheles plumbeus (a human-biting potential WNV and malaria vector). Among other factors, this was associated with an urban heat island effect which raised temperatures by around 1°C. Further increases in domestic water storage in combination with climate change will likely alter mosquito population dynamics in the UK.

Bioenergy could provide 62% of UK electricity (#journal)

The potential for bioenergy crops to contribute to meeting GB heat and electricity demands

The paper presents a model system to determine the optimal distributions of both Miscanthus and short rotation coppice willow (SRC) in Great Britain, as well as their potential contribution to meet heat and electricity demand in GB. Results show that Miscanthus and SRC could generate, in an economically competitive way compared with other energy generation costs, 224 800 GWh yr−1 heat and 112 500 GWh yr−1 electricity, with 8 Mha of available land under Miscanthus and SRC, accounting for 66% of total heat demand and 62% of total electricity demand . Miscanthus is favoured in the Midlands and areas in the South, while SRC is favoured in Scotland, the Midlands and areas in the South.

Mushroom growing indoors and out (book)

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage invasive species and thereby reduce herbicides? Is it possible to develop a mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation after a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success? For more than twenty years, mycologist Tradd Cotter has been pondering these questions and researching for answers. He offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices, and shares insight into his groundbreaking research on challenges such as cultivating morels, “training” mycelium to respond to contaminants, and perpetuating spawn on cardboard. Geared toward readers who want to grow mushrooms without the use of pesticides, Cotter looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Carbon footprint calculators for crops (#journal)

A Comparative Analysis of Relevant Crop Carbon Footprint Calculators, with Reference to Cotton Production in Australia

An increasing concern over the sustainability of food and fiber crops require that farmers have access to appropriate and tools to be able to measure and improve the outcomes. This article focuses on one of the sustainability indicators, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and nine internationally accredited carbon footprint calculators were compared on an outcomes basis against the same cropping data from a case study cotton farm. The purpose of this article is to identify the most “appropriate” methodology to be applied by cotton suppliers in this regard. The authors propose a new integrated model as the basis for an internationally accredited carbon footprint tool for cotton farming.

Integrating farmer knowledge with science (#journal)

Linking Farmers’ Knowledge, Farming Strategies, and Consequent Cultivation Patterns into the Identification of Healthy Agroecosystem Characteristics at Local Scales

In order to identify sustainable management solutions for small-scale farmer agroecosystems, a better understanding of these dynamic forest–farmland systems, existing farming and forestry strategies, and farmer perspectives is important. The authors' examined the relationship between agricultural land use patterns and farmers’ practices in the context of village communities in Zanzibar, Tanzania. By integrating local expert knowledge and realities with scientific knowledge, we identified sustainable agroecosystem characteristics and farming practices, which are knowledge-intensive, alternative and adaptable to local conditions. Some of these practices are already a part of the local farming strategies and some require training and higher level support to reach healthier agroecosystem and better food security.

Critiques of food sovereignty (#journal)

The debate on food sovereignty theory: agrarian capitalism, dispossession and agroecology

This article reviews recent critiques of the food sovereignty framework. It identifies tendencies in food sovereignty approaches to assume a food regime crisis, to emphasize accumulation by dispossession and to overlook expanded reproduction, and to espouse a romantic optimism about farmer-driven agroecological knowledge, devoid of modern science. Alternatives to current modernization trajectories cannot simply return to the peasant past. Instead, they need to recognize the desires of farmers to be incorporated into larger commodity networks, the importance of industrialization for feeding the world, and the support of state and science for realizing a food sovereign alternative.

Transforming the agro-food system (#journal)

Agroecological Research: Conforming—or Transforming the Dominant Agro-Food Regime?

Agroecology has three forms—a scientific discipline, an agricultural practice, and a social movement. Their integration has provided a collective-action mode for contesting the dominant agro-food regime and creating alternatives. But agroecology has been recently adopted by some actors who also promote conventional agriculture. Tensions between “conform versus transform” roles can be identified in European agroecological research. To play a transformative role, collaborative strategies need to go beyond the linear stereotype whereby scientists “transfer” technology to farmers. When farmer–scientist alliances co-create and exchange knowledge, such gains can transform the research system.

Polycultures drive plant diversity (#journal)

Selection for niche differentiation in plant communities increases biodiversity effects

In experimental plant communities, relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been found to strengthen over time. This paper shows that selection for niche differentiation between species can drive this increasing biodiversity effect. When grown in mixtures, relative differences in height and leaf area between plant species selected in mixtures (mixture types) were greater than between species selected in monocultures (monoculture types). Furthermore, net biodiversity and complementarity effects were greater in mixtures of mixture types than in mixtures of monoculture types. Our study demonstrates a novel mechanism for the increase in biodiversity effects: selection for increased niche differentiation through character displacement. Selection in diverse mixtures may therefore allow increased mixture yields in agriculture or forestry.

Tree Morphogensis (book)

Tree Morphogenesis Book 1, Reduction by Thinning Theory

Reduction Via Thinning is based on a conceptual model  which is in turn, based on new and innovative insights into how trees are designed. Originally a service offered exclusively by the authors tree surgery company the ideas and rationale behind the service are now being made available to people and tree contractors around the world.
The science and art of tree care are closely linked in ways that may surprise you and by reading the book now available you will understand the Tree Morphogenesis project and the tree management strategy "Reduction Via Thinning" and how it can be applied to your trees.

Perennials in agriculture (online)

The advantages of perennial agriculture

This short introductory essay argues that agriculture can be made far more sustainable by transitioning to perennials. Conversion of annual fields into perennial fields offers many biodiversity-friendly benefits; reduced soil erosion, reduced chemical run-off, reduced water use and reduced fossil fuel input.The Land Institute, a United States non-profit group devoted to sustainable agriculture, offers a 50 year farm plan that aims to convert U.S. farmlands to 70 percent perennial crops from their current state of 25 percent perennials within 50 years. The Land Institute’s plan can be adapted to any developed government with centralized research and agriculture support.

Conference call; literature, art and permaculture

Permacultural Practices, panel proposed for the ASLE Eleventh Biennial Conference, June 23-27, 2015, University of Idaho
Permaculture has become a truly global movement, inspiring home gardeners and farmers, intentional communities and design courses, and artists and activists, coming to refer more broadly to all aspects of culture, and referring as much to an ethics of life and the living as to principles of conscientious and efficient design. Inspired by this broadening of the concept, this panel queries the applicability of permacultural values to the study of art and literature. To what extent might permaculture offer a model for thinking about the slow violence and environmental injustice of contemporary (agri)culture? How might consideration of permaculture’s design principles inform our interdisciplinary aspirations? Could permaculture enhance our thinking of peak oil, global warming, deep time, and the anthropocene? And, to what extent can art or literature contribute to permaculture on the ground? Please submit a 300-word abstract and a brief bio by November 10, 2014, to both Molly Wallace ( and David Carruthers (

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Polycultures create win-wins (#journal)

Do polycultures promote win-wins or trade-offs in agricultural ecosystem services? A meta-analysis

This meta-analysis tested whether within-field crop diversification can lead to win-win relationships between  yield and biocontrol of crop pests. 26 studies were considered. Win-win relationships were found between per plant yield of the primary crop and biocontrol in polyculture systems that minimized intraspecific competition. Findings were consistent across geographical regions and by type of primary crop. Practitioners should therefore utilize polycultures that decrease plant–plant competition through a substitution of large quantities of the primary crop for compatibly harvestable secondary crops. Additionally, if planting at high cropping densities, it is important that legumes be the secondary crop.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The time has come for agro-ecology (online)

The Time has Come for Agro-ecology

This short article reviews the FAO's first Symposium on Agro-Ecology in Rome, and gives a good introduction to agro-ecology as a political movement.