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mushroom

Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Mycologist Paul Stamets lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe: cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu viruses.

 

To understand how Stamets came to believe mushrooms could save the world, it helps to know how they saved Stamets.

He was born in 1955 in Salem, Ohio, one of four brothers. His father, an engineer, owned a firm that oversaw construction projects for the U.S. Army. Stamets was a shy kid with a crippling stutter who dreamed of becoming a trailblazing scientist. “We lived in a big house with a lab in the basement,” he recalls, “and I looked up every experiment I could find.” He nearly blew the place up on several occasions while tinkering with chemicals.

Then, when he was 12, his father’s business failed and the family splintered. Stamets’ mother decamped with him and his twin brother to a small apartment in Columbiana, Ohio, where they lived in poverty. Eventually, she moved with the boys to her own parents’ vacation home near Seattle and sent them on scholarship to a boarding school in Pennsylvania. Stamets felt like a misfit among preppies. He threw himself into martial arts (later earning black belts in both tae kwon do and hwa rang do) and identified with the counterculture that was reaching its crest.

During his senior year, Stamets and his brother were expelled for selling marijuana to fellow students. They hitchhiked back to Seattle, where they finished high school at a public institution. Stamets spent a summer toiling as a sawmill hand before enrolling at Kenyon College in Ohio. But he still felt out of place and spent hours wandering in the woods off campus.

That’s where he headed the day he tried hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms for the first time. He climbed a tree, but was too intoxicated to climb down. Soon a thunderstorm blew in, and he was lashed by rain and wind. As lightning struck nearby, he realized he could die at any moment, yet the scene was overwhelmingly beautiful. He felt part of the forest and the universe as never before. He reflected on his life and how to change it. “Stop stuttering now, Paul,” he told himself, repeating the phrase like a mantra.

 

Click here to read the full article.

food crises

Global Food Crises

Sara Menker quit a career in commodities trading to figure out how the global value chain of agriculture works. Her discoveries have led to some startling predictions: “We could have a tipping point in global food and agriculture if surging demand surpasses the agricultural system’s structural capacity to produce food,” she says. “People could starve and governments may fall.” Menker’s models predict that this scenario could happen in a decade — that the world could be short 214 trillion calories per year by 2027. She offers a vision of this impossible world as well as some steps we can take today to avoid it.

 

Global Report on Food Crises 2017

Globally, 108 million people in 2016 were reported to be facing Crisis level food insecurity or worse (IPC Phase 3 and above). This represents a 35 percent increase compared to 2015 when the figure was almost 80 million.

The acute and wide-reaching effects of conflicts left significant numbers of food insecure people in need of urgent assistance in Yemen (17 million); Syria (7.0 million); South Sudan (4.9 million); Somalia (2.9 million); northeast Nigeria (4.7 million), Burundi (2.3 million) and Central African Republic (2 million). The immediate outlook points to worsening conditions in some locations, with risk of famine in isolated areas of northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

Conflict causes widespread displacement (internal and external), protracting food insecurity and placing a burden on host communities. The populations worst affected are those of Syria (6.3 million Internally Displaced People) and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (4.8 million); Iraq (3.1 million); Yemen (3.2 million), South Sudan (3 million), Somalia (2.1 million) and northeast Nigeria (2.1 million).

In some countries, food security has been undermined by El Niño, which largely manifested in drought conditions that damaged agricultural livelihoods. The countries most affected are in eastern and southern Africa and include Somalia, Ethiopia (9.7 million), Madagascar (0.8 million in the Grand Sud), Malawi (6.7 million), Mozambique (1.9 million) and Zimbabwe (4.1 million). Projections for early 2017 indicate an increase in the severity of food insecurity in these regions. This is particularly the case in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Record staple food prices, notably in some southern African countries, Nigeria and South Sudan, also severely constrained food access for vulnerable populations, acutely aggravating food insecurity and the risk of malnutrition.

El Niño-induced weather patterns and conflicts were the main drivers of intensified food insecurity in 2016. The persistent nature of these drivers, and their associated impacts, has weakened households’ capacity to cope, undermining their resilience and ability to recover from future shocks. The food crises in 2016 were both widespread and severe, affecting entire national populations, such as in Yemen, or causing acute damage in localized areas, such as in northeast Nigeria. These shocks were not bound by national borders and the spillover effects had a significant impact on neighbouring countries.

 

No Dig Garden

Intensive Farming

Intensive Farming

 

Intensive farming or intensive agriculture involves various types of agriculture with higher levels of input and output per unit of agricultural land area. It is characterized by a low fallow ratio, higher use of inputs such as capital and labor, and higher crop yields per unit land area.

 

No Dig Garden

Strip-till is a conservation system that uses a minimum tillage. It combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till by disturbing only the portion of the soil that is to contain the seed row.

Benefits of Strip till

Strip till warms the soil, it allows an aerobic condition, and it allows for a better seedbed than no-till. Strip-till allows the soil’s nutrients to be better adapted to the plant’s needs, while still giving residue cover to the soil between the rows. The system will still allow for some soil water contact that could cause erosion, however, the amount of erosion on a strip-tilled field would be light compared to the amount of erosion on an intensively tilled field. Furthermore, when liquid fertilizer is being applied, it can be directly applied in these rows where the seed is being planted, reducing the amount of fertilizer needed while improving proximity of the fertilizer to the roots. Compared to intensive tillage, strip tillage saves considerable time and money. Strip tillage can reduce the amount of trips through a field down to two or possibly one trip when using a strip till implement combined with other machinery such as a planter, fertilizer spreader, and chemical sprayer. This can save the farmer a considerable amount of time and fuel, while reducing soil compaction due to few passes in a field. Strip-till conserves more soil moisture compared to intensive tillage systems. However, compared to no-till, strip-till may in some cases reduce soil moisture.

Challenges of both Strip-till and No-till systems

In reduced tillage strategies, weed suppression can be difficult. In place of cultivation, a farmer can suppress weeds by managing a cover crop, mowing, crimping, or herbicide application. The purchase of mowing and crimping implements may represent an unjust expenditure. Additionally, finding an appropriate cover crop mix for adequate weed suppression may be difficult. Also, without mowing or crimping implements it may not be possible to achieve a kill on the cover crop. If mowing, crimping, and suppression with a cover crop mixture fail, herbicides can be applied. However, this may represent an increase in total farm expenses due to herbicides being used in place of cultivation for weed suppression.

Go Back to: Small scale intensive agriculture

small holding farming

Ending World Hunger

How do we rid the world of hunger?

Answer: We can’t – unless we can get modern agricultural technology to smallholder farmers.

The challenge is massive. The world’s smallholder farmers – generally speaking, those who operate farms of a few acres or less – account for more than 90 percent of the world’s farmers, most of them in rural areas of the developing world where poverty and hunger are widespread. I’ve seen firsthand how bad roads, poor communication, lack of quality inputs like good seed and fertilizers, food waste due to lack of refrigerated storage and contamination, and a tangle of other obstacles including government policies, have kept these growers from advancing – keeping their yields (production per acre) and return on investment at only a fraction of those achieved by their counterparts in the developed world.

  • There is broad consensus that many of these complex problems can be solved with the help of science.
  • For example, Dr. Shapiro wants to use technology to solve the problem of aflatoxin, which contaminates approximately one quarter of the food crops in the world, causing enormous waste as well as growth stunting and liver cancer in thousands who consume it.
  • In another example, genetically modified (GMO) seeds that have already been developed could immediately help mitigate damage from one of the greatest threats currently facing African agriculture – the fall armyworm.
  • Non-science-based regulations throughout the continent also deny these same farmers access to safe and effective weed control technology that is widely used across the Western world.
  • When it comes to seeds, there have been quite a few PPPs that have successfully bred crops that are better suited to grow in the Sub-Saharan environment.
  • New gene editing techniques can also provide transformational improvements at a relatively low cost.
  • Breakthroughs in digital communication technology are also making it possible to communicate directly with individual smallholders – helping them overcome the historic obstacle of isolation.

So…what’s missing?

If the scientific capability is there and the barriers to adoption are low – and there is obviously dire need – what is keeping modern agricultural technology from getting to smallholders in developing countries? In my view, two main things are still needed: regulatory easement and large-scale seed production.

Extracts from the article by: Robb Fraley click here to read the full Article.

Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto

permaculture garden design

Permaculture Garden Design Principles

The Permaculture Design Principles are a set of universal design principles that can be applied to any location, climate and culture, and they allow us to design the most efficient and sustainable human habitation and and food production systems.

Permaculture is a design system that encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, such as ecology, landscape design, environmental science and energy conservation, and the Permaculture design principles are drawn from these various disciplines.

permaculture garden design

Design principles

Firstly, to introduce all the design principles we employ in Permaculture, here is a summary list with brief descriptions of each one where necessary, to provide a general overview of the areas they cover. The links below will direct you to the detailed articles on each of the design principles.

  1. Relative Location – every element is placed in relationship to another so that they assist each other
  2. Each element performs many functions
  3. Each important function is supported by many elements
  4. Efficient energy planning –  for house and settlement (zones and sectors)
    -Zone Planning
    -Sector Planning
    -Slope
  5. Using Biological Resources – Emphasis on the use of biological resources over fossil fuel resources
  6. Energy Cycling – energy recycling on site (both fuel and human energy)
  7. Small Scale Intensive Systems
    -Plant Stacking
    -Time Stacking
  8. Accelerating Succession and Evolution – Using and accelerating natural plant succession to establish favourable sites and soils
  9. Diversity – Polyculture and diversity of beneficial species for a productive, interactive system
    -Guilds
  10. Edge Effect – Use of edge and natural patterns for best effect
  11. Attitudinal Principles
    -Everything works both ways
    -Permaculture is information and imagination intensive

Go Back to Small Scale Intensive Farming  (SSIF)

The right machinery

The right machinery

For many starting out on small plots, the tractors, harvesters, machinery and other farm equipment that may be needed are expensive and often too big for the job in hand. These lightweight, affordable and open-source tools will become a part of the growing revolution that is taking place across the globe.

 

 

Small scale farming

Small scale intensive agriculture

Small Scale Intensive Farming  (SSIF)

One of the biggest myths about farming is that it only takes place in rural settings, on large plots of land, and with just a few crops in cultivation. Small-scale intensive farming doesn’t require large acreage, allows for the cultivation of multiple crops and livestock, and can take place right in your community. Now, farming is moving back to communities, back into cities and towns.

Agriculture is something that we believe should happen everywhere, even in your own backyard.

Small-scale farming is a natural outgrowth of sustainable agriculture, which is essentially agriculture that produces abundant food without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting its environment. It is agriculture that follows the principles of nature to develop systems for raising crops and livestock that are, like nature, self-sustaining.

Tools for Small-Scale Farming

With the increase in small-scale farming comes the need for suitable equipment. For many starting out on small plots, the tractors, harvesters, machinery and other farm equipment that may be needed are expensive and often too big for the job in hand. These lightweight, affordable and open-source tools will become a part of the growing revolution that is taking place across the globe.

What are the benefits of smallholding?

Productivity

Smallholdings can be more productive per acre than larger farms because they often have many uses for the same patch of land e.g. a fruit orchard containing sheep, chickens and bees. Crop output can benefit from the inter-relationships between species when grown together i.e. polyculture versus monoculture (and, just maybe, when there is more love applied per acre by smallholders living on and from their land than large farms with huge subsidies and absentee landlords).

Small is bountiful: Smallholdings produce more food per acre than large farms

The Landworkers’ Alliance have produced five short films on the multiple benefits of small scale farming called “A Matter of Scale”. This one above is 1 of 5 and is about productivity, but the whole series can be found on Vimeo.

 

Landworkers’ Alliance “A Matter of Scale” 1 of 5: Productivity from Landworkers’ Alliance on Vimeo.

This short films contain interviews with small scale farmers from across England discussing the multi-functional benefits of small scale farming.

Environmental

Smallholders on their own land are often inventive with their methods and harvests, as their rewards are not purely financial. Many experiment with low-impact practices and technologues such as tree-planting, wind turbines, reed beds, rainwater harvesting, charcoal burning etc. As smallholders can provide  more of life’s necessities for themselves and their local communities there are reduced transport needs and associated fossil fuel usage. The varied activities on a mixed smallholding allow and encourage more biodiversity and of course, environmental benefits are far greater if the smallholding is organic.

Social

Acre for acre smallholdings employ more people than larger farms, and so provide benefits to rural economies in terms of employment and locally-produced goods for sale. Buying direct from smallholdings rather than supermarkets helps keep money local, which is important because stronger rural communities and economies can retain more services such as buses and post offices, and can support traditional skills such as blacksmithing and hedgelaying.

Personal

It’s not easy to make a living from a smallholding, but no more difficult than from a larger farm. Smallholdings offer activities that are varied, physically and mentally demanding, healthy, creative, outdoors and close to nature. It’s less of a job and more of a way of life – in fact another word for smallholding is lifestyle farming. The rewards are social, environmental and even spiritual, with greater independence from commercial pressures.

Farming Method:

Permaculture Design Principles

Intensive Farming

Microgreen

Vertical farming

Green house farming