Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Timber building design (book)

Sustainable Timber Design

This new resource covers the material selection, structural design and connections detailing of truly sustainable timber building. Historically there has been an imbalance between the availability of information on structural timber design and the much more widespread familiarity with traditional structural materials such as steel and concrete. This book aims to help redress the balance by presenting the essential design principles involved in the creation of elegant, user-friendly timber buildings that are practical, economic, and thoroughly sustainable. Designed to support specialist study into the benefits of 21st Century timber engineering, this book also offers architects, engineers and other construction professionals practical advice on all aspects of modern timber architecture.

Solar cities (book)

Green Solar Cities

The Green Solar Cities EU project focuses on the large scale implementation of solar energy technologies in combination with new build and retrofit low energy building in Copenhagen and Salzburg. This book will benefit those cities aiming at a "Smart City" development, but lacking clear policies of how to achieve that in practice. There is still a lack of understanding concerning how solar energy can play a major role and be combined with energy efficiency policies, use of district heating and combined heat and power. The general aim is to introduce the international "Active House" standard, connecting solar energy with low energy building and energy renovation.

Food sovereignty in context (book)

Food Sovereignty in International Context: Discourse, politics and practice of place

Food sovereignty is an emerging discourse of empowerment and autonomy in the food system with the development of associated practices. This book is a collection of empirically rich and theoretically engaged papers across a broad geographical spectrum reflecting on what constitutes the politics and practices of food sovereignty. They contribute to a theoretical gap in the literature as well as a relative shortage of empirical work on food sovereignty in the global "North"; specific case studies are included from Canada, Norway, Switzerland, southern Europe, UK and USA. The book offers a wide variety of empirical examples and a theoretically engaged framework for explaining the aims of actors and organizations working toward autonomy and democracy in the food system.

Coffee agroecology (book)

Coffee Agroecology: A New Approach to Understanding Agricultural Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development

This book focuses on the ecology of the coffee agroecosystem as a model for a sustainable agricultural ecosystem. It draws on the authors' own research conducted over the last twenty years and incorporates the vast literature that has been generated on coffee agroecosystems from around the world. Key concepts explored include biodiversity patterns, metapopulation dynamics and ecological networks. These are all set in a socioeconomic and political framework which relates them to the realities of farmers' livelihoods. The authors provide a novel synthesis that will generate new understanding and can be applied to other examples of sustainable agriculture and food production. This synthesis also explains the ecosystem services provided by the approach, including the economic, fair trade and political aspects surrounding this all-important global commodity.

Permaculture as counterculture (online)

Value the Edge: Permaculture as Counterculture in Australia

This paper considers permaculture as an example of counterculture in Australia. Rather than describing the history of permaculture, the authors choose two moments as paradigmatic of its evolution in relation to counterculture. The first moment is permaculture’s beginnings as part of the back to the land movement, coalescing around the publication in 1978 of Permaculture One by Mollison and Holmgren, which functioned as “a disruptive technology, an idea that threatened to disrupt business as usual". The second moment is best exemplified by the definition of permaculture as “also a world wide network and movement of individuals and groups working in both rich and poor countries on all continents” (Holmgren). We argue that the shift in understanding of permaculture from the “back to the land movement” to the contemporary conceptualisation of permaculture as a global network of practices, is representative of the shifting dynamic between dominant paradigms and counterculture from the 1970s to the present.

Australian aborigines and permaculture (online)

Indigenous Ecological Sustainability and the Role Permaculture Could Have in Maintaining a Healthy Aboriginal Community

There are many different reasons as to why there is such a divide in the living, social and health standards of Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, but one reason however, seems to have had the greatest of impacts - the loss of traditional land practices. It is only recently that we have understood the intimate connection between Aboriginals, land and spirit and the deep understanding that their whole-of-life view directly contributed to their health and well-being. A fairly new design principle, permaculture, which seeks to integrate humans into a sustainable ecology, has the ability to re-connect Aboriginals to their land and spirit through social understanding and sustainable techniques and therefore, reconnect Aboriginals to their natural healthy ecosystem.

Wonderful worm compost! (#journal)

Humic substances from vermicompost enhance urban lettuce production

Urban agriculture represents about 20 % of Cuban agriculture. However, organic crop production in urban environments is challenging because of intensive plant nutrient requirements and disease incidence. The authors tested an innovative technology based on plant growth promoters isolated from vermicompost and applied directly to lettuce leaves. They applied liquid humates at 10, 15, or 20 mg C L−1 once at the seedling stage and again 15 days after transplantation. Results show that humates at 15 mg C L−1 shortened by 21 days the lettuce production cycle, allowing early harvesting without changing quality while increasing yields. Humate application also decreased total carbohydrate, increased protein, increased nitrate uptake, and stimulated enzyme production in lettuce leaves.

Organic farming benefits soil life (#journal)

Fourteen years of evidence for positive effects of conservation agriculture and organic farming on soil life

This article compares for the first time the long-term effects of conservation agriculture, organic farming, and conventional agriculture on major soil organisms such as microbes, nematofauna, and macrofauna. The authors also analyzed functional groups. Soils were sampled at a 14-year-old experimental site near Versailles, France. The microbial community was analyzed using molecular biology techniques. Results show that both conservation and organic systems hugely increased the abundance and biomass of almost all soil organisms; macrofauna increased from 100 to 2,500 %, nematodes from 100 to 700 %, and microorganisms from 30 to 70 %. Conservation agriculture showed a higher overall improvement than organic farming. Overall, the study shows that long-term, no-tillage, and cover crops are better for soil biota than periodic legume green manures, pesticides, and mineral fertilizers.


A review of bionenergy farming with wood (#Journal)

Bioenergy farming using woody crops. A review

Global energy consumption was 540 EJ in 2010, up about 80 % from 1980. Energy demand is predicted to grow more than 50 % by 2025. Without radical change, fossil fuels will supply about 75 % of energy demand in 2030, substantially increasing atmospheric CO2. One solution is to replace fossil fuels by renewable biomass. Cultivated woody biomass has many advantages such as allowing multiple harvests without having to re-plant. Poplar, eucalyptus, salix, paulownia and black locust are common examples. This article reviews the current situation and future tendency of biomass energy in Europe. It also discusses the potential for short-rotation plantations and the current constraints in Spain. Countries with low biomass resources and high targets for renewable electricity may have to depend on imported solid biomass, because the expansion of short-rotation plantations is much lower than expected in countries such as Spain.

Understanding soil biodiversity (#journal)

Understanding and managing soil biodiversity: a major challenge in agroecology

Soil biodiversity affects both the productivity and stability of agroecosystems and is of paramount importance when designing cropping systems. The progress achieved in soil microbiology in recent years now makes it possible to propose analyses of soil biology. These analyses require the use of standardized procedures for soil sampling, measuring the abundance and diversity of the microbial communities, and the identification of bioindicators. Similarly, referential systems need to be established to interpret these analyses and diagnose the biological status of soils. Great progress to standardize such procedures has been achieved during large-scale research programmes on national and European scales. The aim of ongoing research is thus to propose aids for decision-making, based on the results of biological analyses, so attempts can be made to monitor and manage soil biodiversity.

Wonderful worms! (#journal)

Earthworm services for cropping systems. A review

This article reviews the benefits of earthworms for crops, and presents techniques to increase earthworm abundance. The major points are: (1) Earthworms improve soil structural stability. (2) Earthworms modify soil organic matter and nutrient cycling. (3) Earthworms induce the production of hormone-like substances that improve plant growth and health. (4) Direct drilling increases earthworm abundance and species diversity, but the beneficial effect of reduced tillage depends upon the species present. (5) Organic amendments enhance earthworm abundance. (6) Earthworms feeding at the soil surface are the most exposed to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Finally, the authors discuss how to combine management practices, including inoculation, to increase earthworm services.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Recruiting for research on small farm finance

12 Month Farm Finance Challenge

A lot of farmers are really good at raising chickens, growing vegetables, or herding cattle, but not all of them are great at business. So every month in 2015, John from Camps Road Farm in Connecticut USA plans on sharing his production and financial records. The basic structure of those reports can be seen on his website. In the spirit of “we’re all in this together” other farms are also starting to sign up to the challenge and will be publishing their details on his website as well. Contact John if you would like to participate. This is stuff all farmers should be doing anyways, so this step is just sharing it with the world.


Polyculture research project seeks volunteers

The Polyculture Study - March - September 2015

For 2015, we are delighted to be offering an educational experience in Bulgaria with a difference.  Last year, we conducted a study to gauge how productive a biological polyculture could be.  We wish to expand on this by creating a team of 4 enthusiastic people to participate in further research. 
We'll be establishing a market garden consisting of annual herb and vegetable polycultures. We are aiming to produce food for local markets. We plan to record all aspects of the project including how long it takes to develop, maintain and manage, associated costs, the fertility requirements, the returns in produce weight and income derived from the sale of the produce.

The main questions we will be asking:
  • How productive can polycultures be?
  • How economically viable are they?
  • How much time does it take up?
  • What income can you expect?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Biomimicry design challenge; food systems (competition)

Biomimicry Global Design Challenge: Food System

The Biomimicry Institure is partnering with the Ray C Anderson Foundation and food and conservation experts to solicit nature-inspired solutions toward ending world hunger. From 2015-2017, our Global Design Challenge will mobilize thousands of students and professionals around the world to tackle the problem of food security. Our goal: show how modelling nature can provide viable solutions to reduce hunger, while creating conditions conducive to all life.

Permaculture research tour seeks crowd funding (online)

Permaculture student seeks crowd funding for research tour

This campaign will support a Permaculture Research Tour around the world (Australia and United States) by a Portugeuse landscape architect / permaculture designer in search of mature, regenerative, and productive landscapes efficiently designed by mimicking nature.

Note:Open until 27th January 2015 only

Two international sustainabilty conferences

Alongside IPCUK, two other international conferences may be of particular interest to Digest readers in 2015.

Hosted by Stockholm Resilience Centre, October 7-9 2015 
The conference will gather people from various disciplines around the world to share cutting-edge research on transformations to sustainability, and through a Science MashUp explore the research frontiers in this developing field. The conference aims to build a better understanding of large-scale systems change and fundamental changes in people-planet relationships that can have an impact at scales that match the problems of the Anthropocene.

Hosted by SER, Manchester, England 23-27 August 2015.

The title: “Towards resilient ecosystems: restoring the urban, the rural and the wild” should provide something for everyone, whether working in highly urbanised, ex-agricultural, or natural wild environments. We mean this conference to be as inclusive as possible and are keen to showcase not only the important scientific developments, issues and solutions, but also the cultural, educational and artistic aspects of restoration ecology.

Damning report on UK food system (report)

Urgent recall

This report from the New Economics Foundation concludes the UK food system is failing. It is unsustainable, energy-intensive, supports bad jobs, is overly complex, is unequal and volatile. Including environmental impacts, the cost of obesity and subsidies paid through the Common Agricultural Policy, the report estimates the total external cost of the UK food system as £11-£26 billion, 12–28% greater than the price we pay at the till. To contrast with this picture, examples are presented of food systems that deliver high wellbeing, social justice and environmental stewardship. They have many lessons to teach: small-scale infrastructure is critical; resource efficient systems are possible; short and integrated supply chains can bring benefits for farmers; the social benefits of employment must be recognised; farmers and businesses can drive environmental change. These examples illustrate that environmental and social gains are not mutually exclusive of economic ones.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Benefits of comfrey manure (online)

The Agronomic effectiveness of Liquid Manure extracts derived from comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and tithonia (tithonia diversifolia).

Greenhouse and field studies were conducted to evaluate manure extracts and their effect on crop yield and selected soil chemical and microbial properties in Zambia. For the green house study, comfrey and tithonia plant materials were each used at varying rates. Application of manure extracts increased biomass yield of both rape and tomato, with comfrey being the most effective. The leaf biomass increased with increased biomass of comfrey, while no particular pattern was observed for tithonia. Mixing of comfrey and tithonia residues in the preparation of their manure extracts resulted in substantially increased tomato yield. Furthermore soil pH, P,K,Ca,Mg were positively influenced by the application of manure extracts.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Permaculture International Research E-bulletin December 2014

PIRN E-bulletin December 2014

The latest issue of the PIRN E-bulletin contains an invitation to submit a presentation to the IPCUK conference, information on scholarships for attending IPCUK and a call for papers for an edited collection on permaculture.

What's permaculture?

What's permaculture?

In a series of short videos, Permaculture Diploma apprentices and tutors and PDC students define permaculture in a few words.