Tag: sustainable agriculture

Weird Nature: Is “Ugly” Produce the Next Big Thing at the Farmers’ Market?

Jon Fisher looks at unsprayed but “ugly” produce at the farmer’s market and asks: Could blemished apples be the next big thing? And are there environmental benefits?

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New Science: Wild Pollinator Habitat Benefits Agriculture

When most people think of pollinators, honey bees are the first thing that comes to mind. But wild pollinators–like bumblebees, sweat bees and squash bees–can be more effective at pollinating than managed honey bees. Despite the evidence of wild pollinators being a viable alternative to managed honey bees, they are only just beginning to catch on as a strategy in the agricultural community, primarily due to a lack of understanding of the costs and benefits of investing in them. The Nature Conservancy has completed an economic analysis of wild pollinator contribution to 10 major crops grown in the northeastern United States – tomatoes, blueberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, soybeans, cucumbers, squash, apples, peaches, and bell peppers.

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Disrupting Bacterial “Communication”: A New Idea for Sustainable Agriculture

Group communication may seem tough at times for humans, but not for bacteria. But new research suggests that we might be able to disrupt that bacterial “group communication” (also known as “quorum sensing”) in ways that could make agriculture safer without the use of traditional pesticides.

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Kareiva: Vanishing Soils, the World’s Dirty Secret

We talk a lot about the biodiversity crisis, the energy crisis, the water crisis, the climate crisis, the food crisis, deforestation and so on. But what about the soil crisis?

Today, around the world the mean rate of soil loss is roughly ten times the rate at which soil is replenished. In some countries such as China, the rate of soil loss can be as high as 50 times greater than replenishment.

It is hard to imagine a better indicator of our failure to achieve sustainability. What could be more fundamental than the soil that grows the plants from which 99% of humankind’s calorie intake is derived?

From a biodiversity and conservation perspective, this soil loss also impinges on many of our more traditional concerns. It represents nutrient and sediment flow into our rivers and estuaries, to the detriment of fisheries.

Conservation has many narratives of profligate humanity soiling their nest and creating some sort of eco-catastrophe. Often those narratives are overstated and excessive.

But in the case of soil, the doom-and-gloom has some merit. Some historians have examined the arc of human history as a series of civilizations bankrupting their soils.

And it is not just data and science. If you have gardened and felt the comfort and seduction of warm, fertile soil in your hands, you know how primal is the link between people and soil. When someone back in the recesses of time coined the term “Mother Earth,” I have to believe she or he was thinking of warm soil.

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