Articles, Recent FirstThis Tiny Country Feeds the World The Netherlands has become an agricultural giant by showing what the future of farming could look like.
One more reason to marvel: The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile. It’s bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How on Earth have the Dutch 'e it?
Banks of what appear to be gargantuan mirrors stretch across the countryside, glinting when the sun shines and glowing with eerie interior light when night falls. They are Holland’s extraordinary greenhouse complexes, some of them covering 175 acres.
These climate-controlled farms enable a country located a scant thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value. More than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands.
The brain trust behind these astounding numbers is centered at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), located 50 miles southeast of Amsterdam. Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. The name is a deliberate allusion to California’s Silicon Valley, with Wageningen emulating the role of Stanford University in its celebrated merger of academia and entrepreneurship.
The challenge? Put in bluntly apocalyptic terms, he says, the planet must produce “more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years.”
That’s because by 2050, the Earth will be home to as many as 10 billion people, up from today’s 7.5 billion. If massive increases in agricultural yield are not achieved, matched by massive decreases in the use of water and fossil fuels, a billion or more people may face starvation. Hunger could be the 21st century’s most urgent problem
A conversation with van den Ende is a white-knuckle ride on a torrent of brainstorms, statistics, and predictions. African drought? “Water isn’t the fundamental problem. It’s poor soil,” he says. “The absence of nutrients can be offset by cultivating plants that act in symbiosis with certain bacteria to produce their own fertilizer.” The soaring cost of grain to feed animals? “Feed them grasshoppers instead,” he says. One hectare of land yields one metric ton of soy protein, a common livestock feed, a year. The same amount of land can produce 150 tons of insect protein.
The conversation rushes on to the use of LED lighting to permit 24-hour cultivation in precisely climate-controlled greenhouses. It then detours to a misconception that sustainable agriculture means minimal human intervention in nature.
“Look at the island of Bali!” he exclaims. For at least a thousand years, its farmers have raised ducks and fish within the same flooded paddies where rice is cultivated. It’s an entirely self-contained food system, irrigated by intricate canal systems along mountain terraces sculpted by human hands.
“There’s your model of sustainability,” van den Ende says.
At every turn in the Netherlands, the future of sustainable agriculture is taking shape—not in the boardrooms of big corporations but on thousands of modest family farms. You see it vividly in the terrestrial paradise of Ted Duijvestijn and his brothers Peter, Ronald, and Remco. Like the Balinese, the Duijvestijns have constructed a self-contained food system in which a near-perfect balance prevails between human ingenuity and nature’s potential.
At the Duijvestijns’ 36-acre greenhouse complex near the old city of Delft, visitors stroll among ranks of deep green tomato vines, 20 feet tall. Rooted not in soil but in fibers spun from basalt and chalk, the plants are heavy with tomatoes—15 varieties in all—to suit the taste of the most demanding palate. In 2015 an international jury of horticultural experts named the Duijvestijns the world’s most innovative tomato growers.
It's Time To Put Food Policy Back On The Table, One that benefits farmers, and not Monsanto By Jim Hightower / AlterNet February 14, 2017
During the farm crisis of the 1980s, an Iowa farmer asked if I knew the difference between a family farmer and a pigeon. When I said no, he delighted in explaining: "A pigeon can still make a deposit on a new John Deere."
That's funny—except, it really wasn't. Worse, the bitter reality of the tractor joke is still true: The farm crisis has not gone away, though hundreds of thousands of farm families have. The economic devastation in farm country continues unabated as agribusiness profiteers, Wall Street speculators, urban sprawlers and corrupted political elites squeeze the life out of farmers and rural America.
In the past three years, farm income has declined steadily, plummeting 12 percent in just the last year. But these crucial-but-endangered food producers were totally disappeared by the political cognoscenti.
This disregard for farmers and food policy is not only irresponsible, but also politically inexplicable when you consider that food is far more than economics to people. Purchasing food has become a political act that takes into account cultural, ethical, environmental, and community values. This was confirmed last March in a national survey published by Consumer Reports showing that huge percentages of shoppers consider production issues important
Unfortunately, no matter what We the People want, most of the political class willingly surrenders farmers, and food itself, to industrial agribusiness. That would be that ... except for one thing: You! Far from surrendering to the "inevitability" of a corporatized food future, the great majority of Americans continue to push forward with the alternative future of a local, sustainable, humane -- and tasty -- food system that benefits all.
The ongoing battle for our food future pits the agri-industrial model of huge-scale, corporate-run operations against the agri-cultural model of sustainable, community-based family farming. The big money is with the global goliaths of corporate ag, but the grip the giants once had on the marketplace has been slipping as consumers and farmers (especially younger producers) are making clear that they prefer non-industrial food. One measure of this is the contrasting fortunes of biotech vs. organic production.
The promised "miracle" of genetically altered crops, introduced in 1994 by Monsanto, turns out to have been ephemeral. The prices of corporate-altered seeds have skyrocketed, yields from those seeds have not met expectations, planting GMO crops has forced farmers to buy more pesticides, and consumers overwhelmingly oppose GMO Frankenfoods. Thus, fewer farmers are using the biotech industry's product: US farmers cut their plantings of GMO crops by 5.4 million acres in 2015, and sales of GMO seeds fell by $400 million.
Not only does consumer demand for organically produced food keep going up, but such major producers as General Mills and Kellogg are switching to greater use of organic ingredients. As of last June, the number of America's certified organic farms was 14,979 (up by more than 6 percent from a year earlier), and sales of organic products zoomed up by 11 percent to $43.3 billion in 2015, about four times more than the growth in conventional food sales. This rise would have gone even higher, but the demand for organic is now outstripping the supply! Consumers clearly want to buy more, thus creating good opportunities for new organic farmers -- and a bright future for agri-culture.
How drip irrigation can save the world From water conservation to less pollution to women's empowerment, a founder of Netafim explains why drip irrigation is the future of agriculture.
© K Martinko -- A jojoba plant receives water from a subsurface dripper line.
Agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of the world’s water use, growing food crops, bio-fuel, fodder for livestock, and fiber for clothes (i.e. cotton). Only 20 percent of the agricultural sector irrigates its crops, and yet that segment is responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s food. Irrigation is key, Barak argues, to improving crop yields.
There are different forms of irrigation. Four percent of farmers who irrigate use drip irrigation. Twelve percent uses pivot irrigation, another fairly efficient form of irrigation, while the remaining 84 percent uses flood irrigation.
Flooding is inefficient; it requires great quantities of water, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions, emitting methane, and contaminating aquifers. Often it requires women and children in poverty-stricken countries to spend many hours hauling water in buckets by hand, making it difficult for them to pursue education or complete other tasks.
Enter drip irrigation, which Netafim has been promoting since 1965. The idea is to give the plant whatever it needs, at the right time, and to irrigate the plant, as opposed to the soil. This is 'e via plastic ‘drip lines’ that lie either above the soil or sub-surface. Water is controlled at the source, whether it’s a reservoir or tank, and the soil around the plant receives a small, steady, and equal amount of water when the valve is opened.
There are countless benefits to this system, Barak tells us. Not only does it use 60 to 70 percent less water – a precious limited resource on our planet today – but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions through more precise use of fertilizers, which are pre-mixed in the water before irrigation. It allows farmers to grow crops on hilly land, as only level ground can be tilled when flood irrigation is required. Drip irrigation reduces nitrate leaching and heavy metal absorption in the soil.
It increases crop yields significantly. Barak shows pictures of greenhouses in the Netherlands and Israel, where tomatoes and strawberries are grown with drip irrigation, resulting in much higher yields than in fields. For example, the average yield of tomatoes in one of these greenhouses is 650 tons per hectare, compared to 100 tons/hectare in a field using flood irrigation. Barak tells us that the resulting crop is of better quality, too.
Drip irrigations can break the poverty cycle. While Netafim is best known for its high-tech, computer-controlled irrigation systems that can provide large-scale farmers with real-time field data, the company also sells very basic Family Drip Systems, which can be used off-grid by relying on gravity to transport water from a holding tank through lines in the fields.
These are an affordable option for the planet’s 500 million subsistence farmers, who currently provide 80 percent of the developing world’s food. Many of these farmers are women, and to be less tied to the backbreaking job of watering crops is incredibly empowering.
© K Martinko -- A view of Kibbutz Hatzerim, where Netafim began in 1965.
Smart irrigation valve adds connectivity and automation to any hose Zilker aims to bring smarter watering to more yards, without adding a costly sprinkler system.
Smart watering and irrigation devices keep popping up like mushrooms after a broken sprinkler head, and considering how much of an average home's water use is for the outdoors (30%), and how much of that gets wasted from inefficiencies (about half), it's probably high time that more of these types of devices are readily available. According to the US EPA, landscape irrigation is said to account for about one-third of all residential water use (to the tune of some 9 billion gallons per day), so cutting out most of those watering inefficiencies can have a significant impact on home water consumption.
However, the latest entry to the smart yard and garden market might just fill that need, as it's a drop-in water valve that adds a host of convenient features to any hose bibb, allowing for more control over your outdoor watering, even without having a sprinkler system. The Zilker system includes a small bridge, or hub, which is installed inside the home to communicate with one or more of the valves, and the valves themselves, which are designed to thread onto standard hose fittings, one per zone or hose.
With the Zilker bridge and valve in place, the flow from the hose can be controlled automatically, through a combination of scheduling and the inclusion of local weather conditions, as well as manually (with a single on/off switch on the valve), and by using the iOS app, water delivery from each valve can be set by either the desired inches of water to apply or by the desired amount of gallons.
Multiple valves can be set up with each bridge, and a single hose bibb with a 4-way adapter on it could be used as a multi-zone controller with one valve for each watering line, with each valve configured to a different schedule for varying yard watering needs. Users can have one zone for watering trees and shrubs, one for watering the lawn, one for the garden, etc., and because these can all be above ground, using standard garden hoses, it's possible to have a smarter watering system for much less work and money than installing a new irrigation system.
Zilker is currently in a crowdfunding phase with a pretty ambitious Kickstarter campaign, where early bird backers at the $129 USD level can reserve a bridge and valve (with additional valves at $59 each), which are expected to be delivered to backers in the spring of 2017. More info can be found at Zilker, where the company mentions that many cities have rebates for purchases of water timers like theirs, so your end cost may actually be less than your pledge.
Regenerative Agriculture Solution We face a number of very pressing problems in the world today. Water scarcity is getting worse as aquifers are drained faster than they can be refilled. Soil erosion and degradation is also rapidly worsening. Ditto for air and water pollution.
Land is turning into desert at a rapid clip, and with it, we're losing biodiversity of both plant and animal life. Manure lagoons from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) pose hazards to the environment and human health.
Everything is getting more toxic, and according to scientists, we may have less than 60 years' worth of "business as usual" before we reach a point at which nature will no longer sustain us on any front, be it water, air, or soil quality.
Modern Farming Has Proven Itself a Failed Experiment
The really good news is that we have already found a solution that addresses virtually all of these problems.. regenerative farming helps rebuild and optimize soil quality, and the benefits to air, water, ecosystem, food, animal welfare and human health are downstream results of this optimization.
The Importance of Grasslands and Cover Crops
Check out the infographic "Why Grasslands Are Important" and find out why grasslands are an important ecosystem that is essential to your health and the environment. Share it on your website using this embed code.
Five Tenets of Soil Regeneration
To halt environmental destruction, and to continue growing healthy foods, we must rebuild our eroding topsoil. Using the following five tenets of soil regeneration, a farmer can "build" approximately one inch of topsoil in a five-year period:
1. No-tillage. Tilling is probably one of the most destructive aspects of modern-day industrial agriculture, as it disrupts and destroys soil biology. It's particularly harmful for the mycorrhizal fungi — important soil fungi that attach to the roots of plants. Today, no-till farming has started to catch on in the Northern Plains, which is encouraging.
2. Plant diversity and rotation
3. Multispecies cover-cropping. While home gardeners can add crop cover like mulch or wood chips, large scale operations achieve the same results by planting cover crops. Cover crops may be grown before a cash crop, along with a cash crop, or after. These plants pull down and "trap" carbon in the soil, where it does the most good (opposed to in the air).
Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn't get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. Also, the soil biology heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas.
4. Maintaining living roots in the soil year-round. It's important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. To accomplish this, use cover crops when not growing a cash crop. Interestingly, as described in Mother Jones,10 depleted and eroded grasslands can also be regenerated by adding compost, allowing the grasses to grow back faster, while simultaneously nourishing the soil.
5. Livestock integration and diversification [or better yet stop eating meat].
You Are What You Eat ... And Health Begins in the Soil
Aside from the environmental harm being 'e by CAFOs and chemical-dependent agriculture, the current food production system also takes an incredible toll on human health. Many kids are not getting the nutrients they need in order to thrive, especially in the U.S. where nearly 40 percent of children's diets come from added sugars and unhealthy fats. Only 21 percent of youth aged 6-19 eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Your best bet for finding healthy food is to grow your own. If that is not possible then connect with a local farmer that raises crops according to organic standards. [Better yet, look into Veganic farming. Organic customarily, in making compost to enrich the soil, uses manure & livestock industry by-products like bone meal and blood meal which contain hormones, drugs & toxins given to the animals. Veganic, in contrast, contains no such pollutants, using only green manure (plants) for compost.]
Remember, even if you're not a farmer, you can still have an impact by implementing regenerative aspects such as no-till, plant diversity, and using ground cover like wood chips into your home garden. Along with that, plant some pollinator species to provide a habitat for pollinators. Monarch butterflies, for example, need milkweed to feed and reproduce. When purchasing bee-friendly plants, make sure they have not been pretreated with pesticides that are toxic to bees.
Most importantly, as a consumer, use your dollars to drive change, and educate others as to the importance of nutrient-dense, toxin-free food. Every single time you spend money you make an impact, whether you're buying organic heirloom seeds for your garden, organic food for your family, organic cotton clothes, or any other organic items, furnishings, and building materials.
It all adds up [every individual makes a difference], and together we can drive larger industries that have such an enormous impact on our environment and health toward more sustainable, regenerative practices.
From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food byAndré Leu, Ronnie Cummins. Published on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 by Common Dreams
But when a widely discredited and despised company like Monsanto co-opts the word "sustainable," the word loses all meaning for consumers. On its website, Monsanto says:
Our vision for sustainable agriculture strives to meet the needs of a growing population, to protect and preserve this planet we all call home, and to help improve lives everywhere. In 2008 Monsanto made a commitment to sustainable agriculture – pledging to produce more, conserve more, and improve farmers’ lives by 2030.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready, chemical-intensive GMO crops now dominate agriculture, on a global scale, poisoning soil, water, air, farm workers and consumers. The words on their website fool no one—the agriculture they promote is anything but "sustainable."
It is the same with the certified "sustainability" labels promoted by corporations such as Cargill, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé, Unilever and Cadbury. These labeling schemes—such as Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Agriculture Network, and UTZ—can be congratulated for promoting the planting of trees on farms, for improving the farm environment and for requiring compliance with minimum labor standards. But they do nothing to curtail the use of soil-destroying, climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers and the thousands of toxic pesticides that are known to cause both environmental and health damage.
GMO Dangers: Facts You Need to Know Gradually, however, it became clear that certain companies thought differently. Some of my older colleagues shared their skepticism with me that commercial interests were running far ahead of scientific knowledge. I listened carefully and I didn’t disagree. Today, over twenty years later, GMO crops, especially soybeans, corn, papaya, canola and cotton, are commercially grown in numerous parts of the world.
Depending on which country you live in, GMOs may be unlabeled and therefore unknowingly abundant in your diet. Processed foods are likely to contain ingredients from GMO crops, such as corn and soy. Most crops, however are still non-GMO, including rice, wheat, barley, oats, tomatoes, grapes, beans, etc. For meat eaters the mode of GMO consumption is different. There are no GMO animals used in farming (although GM salmon has been pending FDA approval since 1993); however, animal feed, especially in factory farms, is likely to be mostly GMO corn and GMO soybeans. In this case, the labeling issue and potential impacts are complicated even further.
I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks. In broad outline, the reasons I believe so are quite simple. As a biologist I have become much more appreciative of the complexity of biological organisms and their capacity for benefits and harms, and as a scientist I have become much more humble about the capacity of science to do more than scratch the surface in its understanding of the deep complexity and diversity of the natural world. To paraphrase a cliché, I more and more appreciate that as scientists we understand less and less.
A global ‘Regeneration Revolution’ is under wayIn the 1970s, Robert Rodale, son of American organic pioneer J.I. Rodale coined the term 'regenerative organic agriculture' to distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond simply "sustainable."
According to the Rodale Institute:
Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.
Regenerative organic agriculture "takes advantage of the natural tendencies of ecosystems to regenerate when disturbed. In that primary sense it is distinguished from other types of agriculture that either oppose or ignore the value of those natural tendencies." Regenerative organic agriculture is marked by tendencies towards closed nutrient loops, greater diversity in the biological community, fewer annuals and more perennials, and greater reliance on internal rather than external resources. Regenerative organic agriculture is aligned with forms of agroecology practiced by farmers concerned with food sovereignty the world over."
New Platform Launched by FAO to Support Family Farmers Worldwide The new Family Farming Knowledge Platform (FFKP), recently launched by the FAO, provides data for policymakers to support family farmers and organizations that support rural communities.
Family Farmers Feed the WorldAccording to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 80 percent of the world’s food is produced by family farmers. And approximately 72 percent of farms worldwide are less than one hectare, while just 6 percent are larger than five hectares, according to the FAO.
To examine the challenges faced by these small family farmers and to celebrate FAO launched the new Family Farming Knowledge Platform (FFKP) to support better policies for family farmers and provide data for governments and organizations.
Using Swales to Your Advantage: How to Water Your Garden With the Power of Nature The typical explanation of a swale is that it is something along the lines of a ditch but with a level bottom. Rather than removing the water, as a ditch would, a swale fills up like a bathtub and holds that valuable hydration, allowing it to absorb into the landscape, where plants can take advantage of it. Often the swale is filled with something, such as wood chips so that it can also function as a path.
Swales are not exclusive to permaculture, but they are widely used in the practice. They are a popular component for many garden designs, especially food forests. They are simple to make, requiring only rudimentary tools and a basic knowledge of what they’ll be doing: hydrating the landscape from below the earth’s surface. This can be especially useful in environments with low annual rainfall or distinctly dry season.
What’s more is that, while swales can be and often are massive trenches that stretch for hundreds of yards, they can also be something that works for a suburban lawn, as well as nearly undetectable to the untrained eye.
Tree-Based Farming Could Deliver Abundant Benefits LON'—Forests may be the green investment with the richest returns for humankind, according to new research... While one study outlines the ways in which forests provide food, fuel, shelter and a safety net for more than a billion humans, a separate one confirms that a canopy of older, sturdier trees helps protect the saplings and juvenile growths against heat and drought.
Who Controls Our Food? A new report from Global Justice Now, From The Roots Up, shows that not only can small-scale organically produced food feed the world, but it can do so better than intensive, corporate-controlled agriculture.
What the U.S. Can Learn From Cuba’s Food Revolution ...about Cuba’s world-class experiment in organic farming.... Cuba’s widespread use of organic farming. Ninety percent of Cuba’s fruits and vegetables are grown without chemicals, according to Cuban agronomists, making the country the largest per capita consumer of organic produce in the world... Cubans turned to organic farming for very practical reasons when the USSR collapsed and Cuba could no longer afford to buy chemicals... But Cubans came to embrace organic philosophy as well. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are still very expensive, Matos explained, but more significantly, they permanently damage the environment. “What we eat is what we grow,” she told me. “If we’re spraying chemicals, then we’re eating the chemicals.
he began the evening with a joke. “A farmer places an ad in the newspaper,” Funes said with a sly smile. “It reads: farmer seeks wife. Must have own tractor. P.S.—send photo of tractor.”
Funes noted that under Cuban-style socialism, consumers '’t pay extra for organic food. That’s because labor is relatively low cost. The state owns the land and leases it to farmers very cheaply, so mortgage payments are low. Once nontoxic methods have been established, organic farming is actually cheaper than using chemicals, he said.
Two of the chefs ran out of the kitchen with mouths on fire. Cubans, David learned, generally '’t like spicy food. He assumed habanero chilies originally came from Havana. In reality, they come from Mexico. Residents of Havana definitely '’t like habaneros.
Fix the Soil, Feed the Planet, Save the World: The Power of Regeneration 'Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy,' says Vandana Shiva
Agroecology Boosted at Pioneering Meeting BRAZIL - We have reached a landmark moment for the global recognition of ‘agroecology’ as a solution to the global food and climate crisis, according to Friends of the Earth International. "The agroecology and food sovereignty movement gives us a path to completely transform the industrial food system which is responsible for up to half of man made climate emissions and perpetuates hunger and poverty.”
Agroecology is rooted in the practices of small scale food producers who conserve soils, preserve thousands of varieties of seeds, livestock and fish and still feed over 70% of the world’s population despite owning a tiny proportion of its land.”
“Instead of backing food corporations, our governments must put in place public policies to support agroecological production by small scale producers.”
Glossary of Tree Health Terms covers a lot of fungi
Aquatic Rice Farming
Azolla is a highly productive plant. It doubles its biomass in 3–10 days, depending on conditions, and yield can reach 8-10 tonnes fresh matter/ha in Asian rice fields. 37.8 t fresh weight/ha (2.78 t DM/ha dry weight) has been reported for Azolla pinnata in India (Hasan et al., 2009)
The plants are small (usually only a few cm across) and float, but can be very abundant and form large mats. The plants are typically red, and have very small water repellent leaves. Azolla floats on the surface of water by means of numerous, small, closely overlapping scale-like leaves, with their roots hanging in the water. They form a symbiotic relationship with the cyanobacterium Anabaena azollae, which fixes atmospheric nitrogen, giving the plant access to the essential nutrient. This has led to the plant being dubbed a "super-plant", as it can readily colonise areas of freshwater, and grow at great speed - doubling its biomass every two to three days. The only known limiting factor on its growth is phosphorus, another essential mineral. An abundance of phosphorus, due for example to eutrophication or chemical runoff, often leads to Azolla blooms.
The nitrogen-fixing capability of Azolla has led to Azolla being widely used as a biofertiliser, especially in parts of southeast Asia. Indeed, the plant has been used to bolster agricultural productivity in China for over a thousand years. When rice paddies are flooded in the spring, they can be inoculated with Azolla, which then quickly multiplies to cover the water, suppressing weeds. The rotting plant material releases nitrogen to the rice plants, providing up to nine tonnes of protein per hectare per year.
Azolla are weeds in many parts of the world, entirely covering some bodies of water. The myth that no mosquito can penetrate the coating of fern to lay its eggs in the water gives the plant its common name "mosquito fern".
Azolla has been used, for at least one thousand years in rice paddies as a companion plant, because of the presence of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in mutual symbiosis with Azolla, and its tendency to block out light to prevent any competition from other plants, aside from the rice, which is planted when tall enough to poke out of the water through the azolla layer. Mats of mature azolla can also be used as a weed-suppressing mulch.
We know for certain that rice farmers used Azolla as a rice biofertilizer 1500 years ago. The earliest known written record of this practice is in a book written by Jia Ssu Hsieh (Jia Si Xue) in 540 A.D on The Art of Feeding the People (Chih Min Tao Shu). By the end of the Ming Dynasty in the early 17th century, Azolla’s use as a green compost was being recorded in numerous local records.
As an additional benefit to its role as a paddy biofertilizer, Azolla spp. have been used to control mosquito larvae in rice fields. The plant grows in a thick mat on the surface of the water, making it more difficult for the larvae to reach the surface to breathe, effectively choking the larvae.
A study of Arctic paleoclimatology reported that Azolla may have had a significant role in reversing an increase in greenhouse effect that occurred 55 million years ago that caused the region around the north pole to turn into a hot, tropical environment. This research conducted by the Institute of Environmental Biology at Utrecht University claims that massive patches of Azolla growing on the (then) freshwater surface of the Arctic Ocean consumed enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the global greenhouse effect to decline, eventually causing the formation of Ice sheets in Antarctica and the current "Icehouse period" which we are still in. This theory has been termed the Azolla event. Bioremediation: Azolla can remove chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, and lead from effluent.
cyanobacterium Anabaena Anabaena is a genus of filamentous cyanobacteria that exists as plankton. It is known for its nitrogen fixing abilities, and they form symbiotic relationships with certain plants, such as the mosquito fern.
innovative biological technologies for lesser developed countries Azolla/Algae Symbiosis
Marriage Between A Fern & Cyanobacterium Azolla In The Biology Laboratory: Good Source Of Prokaryotic Cyanobacteria
Algae and fungi live together in an association called lichen, and nitrogen-fixing bacteria live symbiotically inside the root nodules of legumes. But one of the most fascinating of all plant marriages involves a tiny aquatic water fern (Azolla) and a microscopic filamentous blue-green alga or cyanobacterium (Anabaena azollae). They grow together at the surface of quiet streams and ponds throughout tropical and temperate regions of the world.
It has been estimated that there are at least 10,000 different species of ferns in the world, from large tree ferns of tropical rain forests to small rock ferns of desert canyons and alpine crevices. Fossil evidence indicates that many additional species of ferns flourished on earth during the Carboniferous period, some 300 million years ago. But of all the great diversity of ferns, relatively few kinds have colonized the water. Azolla belongs to the Salvinia Family (Salviniaceae), although some authorities now place it in the monotypic family, Azollaceae. Six species are distributed worldwide, three of which occur in the United States: A. filiculoides, A. mexicana and A. caroliniana.
Azolla This Red or Ferny azolla is a native Australian, but good news is that there are six more species worldwide. You can grow it too & soon you may want to because it is a super plant. This title is awarded for its ability to colonise fresh water & double its biomass every few days. This ability stems from a symbiotic relationship azolla has with a blue-green algae species, Anabaena azollae. The algae fixes atmospheric nitrogen, allowing azolla to spread places where many other water plants are unable to take hold. In this way, azolla is an ecological trail blazer which will clean water, adding nitrogen to the system & allow other species to help establish healthy regimes.
Azolla is also known as Mosquito or Duckweed Fern. It has been used as a biofertiliser & weed suppressant in aquatic agriculture for thousands of years. In China for example, it has been grown in rice paddies between seasons since ancient times.
The name Mosquito Fern is gained from azolla's ability to prevent mosquitoes from breeding by carpeting water surfaces. This fact combined with its water cleaning & nitrogen-fixing characteristics make it good for covering water stored for gardening or agriculture; even if it isn't harvested for direct application as a green manure.
Rice: A Major Force in Japan's History It is difficult to overstate the importance of rice in human history. After humans had begun to acquire an understanding of agricultural technique some ten thousand years ago, but well before most had acquired writing systems, rice became the single most important foodstuff to the species' survival. And it has remained so down to today.
Rice, which probably was first cultivated several thousand years ago in the borderlands of present-day China-Thailand-Vietnam, came subsequently to be cultivated widely throughout Asia, from Japan southwestward across Korea, China, Southeast and South Asia, on into Africa, and eventually to all other major areas of human occupancy.
Rice is notable for its capacity to sustain large human populations. It can do so, moreover, in areas that seem relatively unfavorable to agriculture because of their mountainous or swampy character, Japan being a case in point. Furthermore, because the most productive techniques of rice cultivation demand much labor, social organization, and technical know-how, societies that practice it tend to be densely settled and complexly organized. One wonders: what is it about rice that has caused it to have these ramifications?
Rice: the PlantWhen we think of rice cultivation, we commonly picture a crop growing in fields flooded with a few inches of water, and that image is appropriate. Properly speaking, however, rice (Oryza) is not an aquatic or swamp plant.1 Like wheat or barley, it is a genus of grass (Gramineae), a grain. However, because of their vascular structure, the few species of rice that are cultivated (Oryza sativa) flourish in wet soils as other grains do not. Conversely, most varieties are much less tolerant of drought than are other grains. When adequately watered, however, cultivated rice produces a much larger number of seeds per plant than do most grains. In consequence a crop yields a greater harvest per acre, and of that yield a much smaller proportion must be saved as seed-grain for the following year.
Regarding those varieties of cultivated rice that can be grown as dryfield crops, they yield far less harvest per acre than does rice grown in flooded fields. Within two or three years, moreover, crops of dry-field rice can exhaust a field's fertility. Probably for those reasons rice appears, almost from its initial cultivation, to have been grown primarily in flooded fields. For all practical purposes, therefore, to speak of cultivated rice is to speak of rice grown in flooded fields --i.e., "wet rice" or paddy (from pacti, the Malay word for rice).
Rice: Its Cultivation The great productivity of wet-rice cultivation reflects, in part, the plant's large seed-count. But it also reflects the impact of irrigation. Unlike the rainfall that waters dry fields, the inflowing runoff-water that keeps paddy fields flooded carries organic matter, which feeds algae and microorganisms present in the water and topsoil. They convert the organic matter into nutrients that the paddy roots are capable of absorbing to sustain vigorous plant growth. Moreover, because this inflow of nutrients occurs whenever paddy fields are kept flooded, those fields, unlike dry ones, can be used year after year without periodic fallowing. The upshot is that while paddy tillage can be a technically complex and labor-intensive form of cropping, it enables cultivators to harvest a substantially greater yield per-acre and to do so year in, year out, provided the water supply is not seriously disrupted. Paddy tillage works better if the cultivator can stop the inflow of water and dry out the field annually. Not only does that procedure produce a better harvest, it also produces a more efficient field. One way it does so is by enabling the tiller to grow a dry-field crop on it during the colder months, if climate permits. More importantly, however, periodic drying improves the field's efficiency as paddy land.
Great video in Spanish with English audio.
The animals, often barely able to stand when taken from the crates, have been rescued from huge industrial or factory farms by activists.
The crates are delivered anonymously under the cover of darkness. This is because those who liberate animals from factory farms are considered terrorists under U.S. law. If caught, they can get a 10-year prison term and a $250,000 fine under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. That is the punishment faced by two activists who were arrested in Oakland, Calif., last month and charged with freeing more than 5,700 minks in 2013, destroying breeding records and vandalizing other property of the fur industry.
Only in the insanity of corporate America can nonviolent animal rights activists be charged as terrorists while a white supremacist who gunned down African-Americans in a South Carolina church is charged on criminal counts. Only in the insanity of America can Wall Street financers implode the global economy through massive acts of fraud, causing widespread suffering, and be rewarded with trillions of dollars in government bailouts. Only in the insanity of America can government leaders wage wars that are defined as criminal acts of aggression under international law and then remain, unchallenged, in positions of power and influence. All this makes no sense in an open society. But it makes perfect sense in our species of corporate totalitarianism, in which life, especially the life of the vulnerable, is expendable and corporate profit alone is protected and sanctified as the highest good.
The animal agriculture industry causes suffering, death and environmental degradation—to humans as well as animals—on a scale equaled only by the arms industry and the fossil fuel industry. And by eating meat and dairy products we aid and abet a system that is perhaps the primary cause of global warming and is pumping toxins and poisons into our bodies and the rest of the ecosystem.
Animal agriculture sends more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than worldwide transportation. The waste and flatulence from livestock are responsible for creating at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock causes 65 percent of all emissions of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Crops raised to feed livestock consume 56 percent of the water used in the United States. Seventy percent of the crops we grow in the U.S. are fed to animals. Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals. It is a flagrant waste of precious and diminishing resources. It takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk.
Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen—which the government briefly listed as an “extremist” animal rights group in the early 1990s—is probably the world’s most lavish retirement home for farm animals. Gene Baur and Lorri Houston founded it. They raised money to create Farm Sanctuary, and to pass out literature about the abuse of animals at the hands of factory farm operators, by selling vegan hot dogs from a Volkswagen van at Grateful Dead concerts. In all, they drove their van to the parking lots outside nearly 100 concerts across the country. The first animal they rescued was a sheep, later named Hilda, found lying in a pile of dead animals behind a stockyard.
“Farm Sanctuary begins with the idea that there’s this horrible system and most people are unwittingly supporting it by buying animal-based foods,” Baur said when I reached him by phone at his home in Arlington, Va.
“We can only rescue a small handful compared to the billions who deserve to be rescued,” he said. “So we try to model and encourage a new kind of relationship with animals. Rescuing individuals also helped us cope with the horrors of factory farming. Going into these places we would see atrocious abuse. We would witness thousands of animals confined in horrible conditions, held in crates where they couldn’t even turn around. This takes a toll on you emotionally. Being able to rescue a few individuals out of that system helped heal us. Farm Sanctuary is a place of hope. It is a place of transformation. Animals who had been terribly mistreated, and seen only as production units, as commodities, have their lives transformed. They become our friends, instead of our food. You can’t rescue them all, but you do what you can. Farm animal rescue is an immediate concrete response to an untenable chronic problem.”
Farm Sanctuary, which operates through 'ations, has a budget of $10 million a year and runs two farms in California besides the one in New York state.
There are 1,000 animals at the organization’s three farms—cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, pigs, geese, 'keys, chickens and ducks. The animals, which receive state-of-the-art medical care and are fed vegan food, roam the pastures unmolested. Cows are not impregnated in order to keep them producing milk. Eggs are not taken from chickens for human use. And all the creatures live out their natural lives liberated from the animal holocaust that defines the animal agriculture industry.
“It is very easy to love dogs and cats,” Coston, the sanctuary’s shelter director, said as we stood amid a flock of turkeys one rainy morning. “They are everywhere. They are in our world. But it is not easy to love turkeys because very few people get to meet turkeys. But look, they just followed us in,” she said as we stepped into a barn. “They love being around people. They love attention. They are no different from pets. They also like to be petted.”
“Every animal [at the farm] has a different personality, every animal has a name, all have health records,” she went on as we walked to a barn that held rescued pigs. “We are saying they are as important as any other individual.”
The relationships between the animals, including two blind cows that are inseparable, and between the animals and the men and women who work at the sanctuary were evident, and often moving. Pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows often responded to those working in the barns the way pets respond to their human companions. The animals gathered around barn workers to be scratched or stroked. Coston often suspended our conversation to address a pig or a cow by name and explain the intricacies of their histories and personalities—some shy, some gregarious, some rebellious, some jealous of others in the herd or flock, some moody and some attached to a particular worker at the farm.
Coston said the farm keeps the numbers small to maintain the relationships. “I won’t overcrowd,” she said. “I could go out now and save 5,000 spent layers [chickens]. But I would not see them, and many of them would die. They would no longer be individuals.”
Farm Sanctuary has been behind ballot initiatives to end the worst abuses in factory farming and has rescued pigs trapped by flooding in Iowa and more than 700 chickens at a Mississippi broiler factory struck by a tornado. Coston said that after storms hit factory farms—some of which can house more than a million chickens—the animals often are bulldozed alive into pits.
Myth #1: Too little food, too many peopleOur response: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Even though the global population more than doubled between 1961 and 2013, the world produces around 50 percent more food for each of us today—of which we now waste about a third. Even after diverting roughly half of the world’s grain and most soy protein to animal feed and non-food uses, the world still produces enough to provide every human being with nearly 2,900 calories a day. Clearly, our global calorie supply is ample.
Food scarcity is not the problem, but the scarcity of real democracy protecting people’s access to nutritious food is a huge problem. So, fighting hunger means tackling concentrated political and economic power in order to create new equitable rules. Otherwise hunger will continue no matter how much food we grow.
Myth #2: Climate change makes hunger inevitableOur response: Climate change is no myth. It already means crop losses from drought and the expansion of pests into new regions. The World Food Program forecasts the number of malnourished children to increase by 24 million by 2050, or about one-fifth more than without climate change. These expert observations form a powerful call to action, but they are a far cry from a verdict that hunger and famine are inevitable.
Because the global food system is so inefficient and inequitable, we have plenty of room to increase available food before we hit earth’s actual limits. If remade, our food system has unique capacities to help rebalance the carbon cycle by cutting emissions and storing more carbon in the soil. Climate-friendly farming practices are low-cost and especially benefit small-scale farmers and farmworkers, who are the majority of hungry people.
Myth #3: Only industrial agriculture and GMOs can feed the worldOur response: Industrial agriculture relies on patented seeds, manufactured fertilizers and pesticides, and large-scale machinery. The production increases of “industrial agriculture” are no myth, but this model of farming is not sustainable and has already proven unable to end hunger.
Myth #4: organic and ecological farming can’t feed a hungry worldOur response: In many parts of the world, farming practices that minimize or forgo manufactured pesticides and fertilizer are proving effective. Called organic farming or agroecology, the approach involves much more than the absence of chemicals. Agroecology is an evolving practice of growing food within communities that is power-dispersing and power creating—enhancing the dignity, knowledge, and capacities of all involved. Agroecology thus helps to address the powerlessness at the root of hunger. It builds on both traditional knowledge accrued over millennia by peasants and indigenous people and the latest breakthroughs in modern science.
Cover CropsCovering the bases with cover crops "Cover crops are usually planted between the regular crop production periods," says Hanna Poffenbarger. Poffenbarger is a graduate student in the department of agronomy at Iowa State University. She researched cover crops in her graduate work at the University of Maryland. "They protect the soil from erosion and take up excess nutrients when the ground would otherwise be bare."
Instead of being harvested, many cover crops are returned to the soil. In this way their nutrients can be used by other crops. Legume cover crops, in particular, are an excellent source of nitrogen - a key nutrient for all plant life. Cover crops also control weeds and help to manage pests.
Once the cover crops' season is finished, they need to break down quickly as the next crop begins to grow. Working under the advisement of Steven Mirsky (USDA-ARS) and Ray Weil (University of Maryland), Poffenbarger examined mixtures of two cover crops, cereal rye (a grass) and hairy vetch (a legume).
Cereal rye decomposes slowly and provides long-lasting mulch. This controls weeds and conserves soil moisture. However, it leaves the soil without much nitrogen for any crop planted later. Hairy vetch decomposes faster and provides a more immediate supply of nitrogen, but it doesn't make a good mulch.
What is the perfect proportion of these two cover crops? "We wanted to determine how the composition of the cover crop mixture affects the rate of nitrogen release and the persistence of the mulch," Poffenbarger explains.
A second question was how another source of nitrogen, poultry litter (chicken manure mixed with bedding) affected the cover crop decomposition. Poultry litter is often added to agricultural fields in Maryland, and the study tested decomposition of cover crop mixtures with and without poultry litter.
In general, researchers found more hairy vetch sowed on the field resulted in more nitrogen. The amount of cover crops broken down also increased. Additionally, cover crops combined with poultry litter had even more decomposition and nitrogen release than cover crops alone. However, this result only applied if the cover crop contained at least 50 percent cereal rye.
The method by which scientists applied poultry litter also played an important role. Poultry litter mixed with cover crop residues increased decomposition and nitrogen release. In contrast, poultry litter applied under the soil surface did not affect these factors.
Poffenbarger's research will be used to develop decision-making tools to help farmers understand which benefits their cover crops can best provide. Some farmers might prefer cover crops that break down slowly, but others may want quick nitrogen release.
"Farmers can use our results to optimize cover crop management for their specific mulch and nitrogen goals," she says.
Poffenbarger notes that future work will provide more information about how cover crops break down in different locations. "The final step," Poffenbarger says, "is to make this information easily available through online resources."
Earth is Running Out of Land … Seriously. And It’s Going to Spell Disaster for Our Food System The University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures discovered that around one-third of the planet’s arable land (i.e. land that is suited for growing crops, excluding deserts, ice, etc), has been destroyed by erosion or pollution in the past 40 years alone.
According to the to study’s authors, the loss was “catastrophic” and near irreversible without major changes to agricultural practice. Considering 33 percent of land worldwide is occupied with growing livestock feed and another 26 percent is being used to graze animals for consumption … we have to say we absolutely agree with the whole “catastrophic” thing … in fact, that might not even do it justice.
While this news is absolutely ridiculous, the reality is that we can all do something about this, starting today. By shifting our diets away from animal agriculture and towards more plant-based foods, we can redirect enough grain to feed 1.4 billion people.
Eat for the Planet http://www.onegreenplanet.org/ campaign
In the past 40 years, we’ve lost 52 percent of wildlife from the face of the planet; there is currently more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been in the past 800,000 years and our oceans are riddled with over 400 massive dead zones, completely devoid of life due to our pollution. While it may be difficult to fathom the fact that humankind has been responsible for this enormous amount of damage, it is the reality. But what is possibly even more challenging for people to understand is that something as simple as the food choices we make every day can be intrinsically tied to this destruction. Especially, our appetite for meat, dairy and eggs.
70% of global freshwater supplies are used for agriculture.
These statistics illustrate the devastating use of land resources, freshwater supplies and sheer volume of greenhouse gases produced by the livestock industry, and yet, 850 million people across the world still suffer from lack of food. Not to mention, animal agriculture is also the leading driver of deforestation and habitat loss which has pushed countless endangered species on to the brink of extinction. As our population grows to nine billion by 2050, these percentages are set to grow exponentially.
If every person in the U.S. were to choose more plant-based foods, we could cut our carbon footprint in half, save around 200,000 gallons of water each, redirect enough grain from the livestock system to feed roughly 2 billion people. We have the potential to make an enormous impact.
No matter how you look at it, the animal agriculture industry is a losing bet for the environment, animals, and people. It is time that we stop looking for ways to make this archaic industry “less inhumane,” “less environmentally destructive,” and “less unhealthy,” and choose an option that is not “less bad” but undeniably better: plant-based.
Eating for the planet has never been easier … or more delicious. One Green Planet just happens to be home to the largest vegan recipe database on the web – and trust us, once you dive in, you’ll probably ask yourself why you never considered eating plant-based before.
Why This Farmer Refused To Plow His Land How a “do nothing” approach to farming yields more food and happier people.
Could Veganism End World Hunger? The World Health Organization calls malnutrition "the silent emergency", and says it is a factor in at least half the 10.4 million child deaths which occur every year.
If you’re concerned about animal rights, water conservation, clean air and health then you may already be on the road to becoming vegan – so why not take five minutes and find out how veganism could end world hunger?
There is more than enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world twice over.
The problem is, our meat-based diet means that land, water, and other resources that could be used to grow food for human beings are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead.
70% of U.S. grain production is fed to livestock.
One-third of the world's fish catch is fed directly to livestock.
In cycling our grain through livestock, we waste 90% of its protein and 96% of its calories.
An acre of cereal can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production. Legumes [beans] can produce ten times as much.
"Those who consume livestock products and fish are competing directly with those who need grain for food." (Lester Brown, president of Worldwatch)
The truth can no longer be dodged. Livestock farming gobbles up agricultural land, water and energy that could be far more efficiently devoted to growing food for people.
The cost of an 8 ounce steak will fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains.
Livestock now outnumber humans by almost three to one. In the last 40 years, the number of cattle has doubled and the fowl population has trebled.
The meat and dairy industry is also putting a huge strain on our water supply.. it is unsustainable.
"The American fast food diet and the meat-eating habits of the wealthy around the world support a world food system that diverts food resources from the hungry" [Dr. Waldo Bello].
It would take just 40 million tons of food to eliminate most world hunger, yet a staggering 760 million tons of grain will be used to feed farmed animals this year.
An individual can make a huge difference. They can stop supporting the meat, fish, egg and dairy industries. They can become vegan.
In the U.S., 64% of cropland produces feed for animals, while only 2% grows fruit and vegetables.
It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater.
Fact: You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.
Veganism is about wanting something better.. for the future of our children and the world as a whole.
Veganism is about making the world we live in a better place for people and animals alike.
Diet and Global Warming If one takes the threat of global warming seriously, the most powerful personal step you can take may well be choosing a vegetarian diet.
Sustainable / Regenerative FarmingRegenerative Farming
..rather than come up with one definition for the word "sustainable" as it refers to food and food production methods, we suggest doing away with the word entirely. In its place, as a way of helping food consumers make conscious, informed decisions, we suggest dividing global food and farming into two categories: regenerative and degenerative.
In this new paradigm, consumers could choose food produced by degenerative, toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture-based industrial agriculture systems that destabilize the climate, and degrade soil, water, biodiversity, health and local economies.
Or they could choose food produced using organic regenerative practices based on sound ecological principles that rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.
Veganic Food & FarmingOrganic customarily, in making compost to enrich the soil, uses manure which contains hormones, drugs & toxins given to the animals and also animal industry by-products like bone meal and blood meal which also contain hormones, drugs & toxins. Veganic, in contrast, contains no such pollutants, using only green manure (plants) for compost & soil enrichment.
Veganic VEGANIC DEFINED Good food grown safely. That’s the essence of veganic agriculture. More than a destination, veganic is a journey, a way principled farmers grow crops without the use of chemicals, compounds or animal inputs of any kind. It’s a new standard beyond organic, an ethical choice—and an exhilarating discovery.
Vegan organic gardening Vegan organic gardening and farming is the organic cultivation and production of food crops and other crops with a minimal amount of exploitation or harm to any animal. Vegan gardening and stock-free farming methods use no animal products or by-products, such as bloodmeal, fish products, bone meal, feces, or other animal-origin matter, because the production of these materials is viewed as either harming animals directly, or being associated with the exploitation and consequent suffering of animals. Some of these materials are by-products of animal husbandry, created during the process of cultivating animals for the production of meat, milk, skins, furs, entertainment, labor, or companionship; the sale of by-products decreases expenses and increases profit for those engaged in animal husbandry, and therefore helps support the animal husbandry industry, an outcome most vegans find unacceptable.
Vegan - Organic - Agriculture / Permaculture The Future Of Farming! All Things Related To: Organic Gardening, Farming & Food Forests Free From Animals & Animal Products.
Forest gardening is a fully plant-based organic food production system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to replicate a woodland habitat. Forest gardening can be viewed as a way to recreate the Garden of Eden. The three main products from a forest garden are fruit, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Robert Hart's forest garden in Shropshire, England.
Robert Hart adapted forest gardening for temperate zones during the early 1960s. Robert Hart began with a conventional smallholding at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire. However, following his adoption of a raw vegan diet for health and personal reasons, Hart replaced his farm animals with plants. He created a model forest garden from a small orchard on his farm and intended naming his gardening method ecological horticulture or ecocultivation. Hart later dropped these terms once he became aware that agroforestry and forest gardens were already being used to describe similar systems in other parts of the world.
Vegan permaculture (also known as veganic permaculture, veganiculture, or vegaculture) avoids the use of domesticated animals. It is essentially the same as permaculture except for the addition of a fourth core value; "Animal Care." Zalan Glen, a raw vegan, proposes that vegaculture should emerge from permaculture in the same way veganism split from vegetarianism in the 1940s. Vegan permaculture recognizes the importance of free-living animals, not domesticated animals, to create a balanced ecosystem.
The veganic gardening method is a distinct system developed by Rosa Dalziell O'Brien, Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien and May E. Bruce, although the term was originally coined by Geoffrey Rudd as a contraction of vegetable organic in order to "denote a clear distinction between conventional chemical based systems and organic ones based on animal manures". The O'Brien system's principal argument is that animal manures are harmful to soil health rather than that their use involves exploitation of and cruelty to animals.
The system employs very specific techniques including the addition of straw and other vegetable wastes to the soil in order to maintain soil fertility. Gardeners following the system use soil-covering mulches, and employ non-compacting surface cultivation techniques using any short-handled, wide-bladed, hand hoe. They kneel when surface cultivating, placing a board under their knees to spread out the pressure, and prevent soil compaction. Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien published a description of his system in Veganic Gardening, the Alternative System for Healthier Crops:
"The veganic method of clearing heavily infested land is to take advantage of a plant's tendencies to move its roots nearer to the soil's surface when it is deprived of light. To make use of this principle, aided by a decaying process of the top growth of weeds, etc., it is necessary to subject such growth to heat and moisture in order to speed up the decay, and this is 'e by applying lime, then a heavy straw cover, and then the herbal compost activator…The following are required: Sufficient new straw to cover an area to be cleared to a depth of 3 to 4 inches."
The O'Brien method also advocates minimal disturbance of the soil by tilling, the use of cover crops and green manures, the creation of permanent raised beds and permanent hard-packed paths between them, the alignment of beds along a north-south axis, and planting in double rows or more so that not every row has a path on both sides. Use of animal manure is prohibited.
Vegan biodynamic agriculture
The german agricultural researcher Maria Thun (1922 - 2012) developed vegan equivalents to the traditional, animal based biodynamic preparations. As a reaction to the BSE scandal in Europe she started researching plant based preparations, using tree barks as replacement for animal organs as sheath for the preparations.
In particular in Italy, there is a movement of vegan biodynamic farming, represented by farmers such as Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Cristina Menicocci.
There are many other methods currently used and under development.
Soil fertility is maintained by the use of green manures, cover crops, green wastes, composted vegetable matter, and minerals. Some vegan gardeners may supplement this with human urine from vegans (which provides nitrogen) and 'humanure' from vegans, produced from compost toilets. Generally only waste from vegans is used because of the expert recommendation that the risks associated with using composted waste are acceptable only if the waste is from animals or humans having a largely herbivorous diet.
Veganic gardeners may prepare soil for cultivation using the same method used by conventional and organic gardeners of breaking up the soil with hand tools and power tools and allowing the weeds to decompose.
Biodynamics Without the Cow Horn: Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni on why Querciabella went vegan Guided by the principle that biodynamic practictioners must adapt to the needs of their land and surrounding environment, Querciabella has become a fertile arena for some of the most pioneering experimentation in biodynamic agriculture since the early 20th century. The Tuscan estate's uniquely cruelty-free approach underscores Sebastiano's vehement stance against factory farming. "It is unethical to kill and torture animals and raising them, on any scale, is simply not sustainable for our planet," he says. While ongoing trials are underway, a collaboration with Italy's leading authority on biodynamic farming, Leonello Anello, has broadened the range of alternative vegan practices at Querciabella, including the use of inert vessels in lieu of cow horns and the production of plant-based preparations composed of estate-grown grasses, medicinal herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes.
Querciabella is a Tuscan producer of fine wine with 74 hectares (183 acres) of biodynamic vineyards in Chianti Classico (Greve, Panzano, Radda and Gaiole in Chianti) as well as 32 hectares (79 acres) in coastal Maremma. Rigorous production standards and a cruelty-free philosophy make the winery an important Italian benchmark for ethical viticulture and winemaking. The estate produces Batàr, Camartina, Palafreno, Querciabella Chianti Classico and Mongrana. Follow the winery @Querciabella on Twitter and Facebook.
Different ways to garden veganically There is no single way to "do" veganic gardening. It is not a specific technique, but rather a set of ideals and guidelines that shape the way we garden. Veganic means that a gardening system is plant-based (free from animal products and chemical fertilizers). Beyond that, veganic also means that the gardening techniques are respectful of free-living animals, encourage natural biodiversity, and aim for ecological sustainability.
There are many different ways that these ideals can be applied in your backyard, or even on rooftops and balconies. This article presents some of the key approaches that work well for a home-scale veganic garden: container gardening, Ruth Stout technique, biointensive, lasagna gardening / sheet composting, forest gardening, permaculture, self-fertilizing gardens, Japanese natural agriculture, square foot gardening, as well as "standard" gardening as we typically know it. Many of these techniques aren’t inherently veganic, though they can easily be applied in a veganic way. Perhaps one approach will best suit your bioregion, personal situation or available resources, or perhaps you can combine more than one approach to meet your needs.
Container gardening offers a versatile option for people living in city environments, and can be 'e veganically by using vegetable compost. Container gardens can be grown on balconies, rooftops, patios, concrete surfaces, contaminated lots, staircases, and suspended from fences, railings and ceilings. Fruit-bearing plants, like tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant, do especially well in container gardens with ample sunlight. Learn about making your own self-watering container garden from re-used food-grade buckets and styrofoam coolers, as well as tips for a successful season of container gardening.
Ruth Stout technique - Permanent mulch
Ruth Stout was a self-proclaimed “lazy gardener,” and she gardened well into her 90’s. She developed a gardening system that is based exclusively on mulching with a thick layer of vegetable matter (at least 8 inches thick). The soil is never tilled or dug, so the soil ecosystem is undisturbed. As the mulch decomposes over the course of the season, it feeds the soil food web and keeps the soil fertile. The mulch conserves moisture and really cuts down on weeds, so with the exception of perennial weeding there is very little maintenance needed. At the Veganic Agriculture Network, this is the technique we choose for our garden in the countryside, mulching twice a year with hay as the only source of fertility.
Ruth Stout Gardens
Tips for the Ruth Stout method My own experience with deep mulch and sheet mulching has been it takes a couple years for the soil to get to the point where plants grow well. This might have to do with the quality of the soil you're starting with. In my case it's humus-deficient heavy clay, and baby plants have a hard time especially if we suddenly get hot sunny weather. Once plants get large they do better, but I'm still losing more seedlings than I'd like. If you can't get hold of a lot of finished compost to start, it might take patience until the soil is sufficiently improved by the sheet mulch.
Ruth Stout Gardens
I am trying to combine ruth stout and Emelia Hazelip's systems. Ruth Stout started things from seed in the garden usually in short rows.
Hazelip had seedlings grown in flats and encouraged volunteers and transplanted them where she wanted them. Growing things out in flats and trays until they get huge enough to survive in my garden will be a drag at some point. I am really only wanting to do that on tomatoes because that is kind of a hobby of mine.
I have been getting a mixed bag. Swiss Chard came up fine for me recently and salad mixes spotty. I dare not plant arugula or it will take over my entire garden. Whatever conditions I have are perfect for that stuff. My sister said recently that her adventures into plants not usually grown in the south have usually turned out poorly. She opined that the old timers grew what they grew because it does well here.
Bill Mollison got me excited about Scarlet Runner Beans, Emelia Hazilip got me worked up to try calendula. Both on Nasturtium. Runner beans were pretty but didn't like the heat, the calendula grew but I didn't care for it. Nasturtiums are working out for me after a tough start, I started roughing up the seeds and soaking them and do very well indeed. So some of this is sorting out over time what works or how to work with the different plants.
Ruth Stout Gardens
Tyler another thing I meant to mention about the Ruth Stout system is attitude. The youtube video of her planting and tending her garden as a very elderly woman clearly depicts an attitude that I ''t currently have. She says "the weeds grow, so why wouldn't the plants grow?" The "carrots aren't quite normal but who is normal anyway?" She throws sprouting potatoes on the ground, puts hay on top and declares "planted!" This is where I am headed, I can sustain that.
She pulls the mulch back, throws the seed down and attempts to pat it a little to get into contact with the soil. She adds the, now declared evil, cottonseed meal to give the little plants the nitrogen they need to get started. So she does add nitrogen. You ''t like cottonseed meal so use something else.
Ruth Stout Gardens
Mary what you do is much more than Ruth Stout did. She just covered everything with hay. Her weeding system was to add more hay. She may have put kitchen scraps here and there under the hay but she kept it very simple.
Pee on it. As long as you're not taking any drugs which would pass to the garden through the urine. Dilute with water at least 3:1, better is 10:1 or 20:1. There's your nitrogen and a bunch of other nutrients. Ta-daaaa!
Ruth Stout Gardens
My understanding has always been she started with her base mulch which incorporated hay as well as some hot additives then added on top of it in place of weeding..In my area it is not quite as feasible to start off a quick easy garden with out the deeper base which is what I used 20 years ago after experimenting with the shallower amounts.It was not enough to support the plants I was growing for the first four years until it built up.We were creating a garden on over the top of about 6 inches of soil on bedrock....Hence building it up more so I could have produce with less work.Once in it was the same process of just adding straw as mulch for weeding and all.The people whom I learned from were from her generation their gardens was amazing but they had been using the methods for 20 years previous to teaching others.
That being said, using the Ruth Stout method this year has been a big success. If you are thinking about trying it, try it. I didn't initially realize how cognizant I had to be with proper C:N ratios, but once that was taken care of our fairly small plot (20' by 30') has been producing about $100 of produce weekly, and has needed about a half hour of work a week, most of which is picking. I haven't weeded all summer, and I've watered 4 times. There's been little issue with pests. At first we had a bit of an aphid problem, but after a bit crickets came in and ate up most of those. And now we have a couple of garter snakes that take care of the crickets.
I sat on the screen porch with my wife this afternoon and we watched clouds roll in from the west and soon there was a torrential downpour. The garden just soaked it up. The mulch holds everything in place. It is a very stable looking environment without runoff. Conventional gardeners around here ''t mulch and in a rain like that there would be red rivers leaving their gardens.
I started a new garden this spring using mulch plus a single sheet of brown paper on turf. I had some yellowing on the hot weather crops that disappeared once the weather warmed up. I used mostly composted sheep bedding, plus uncomposted sheep bedding, straw, and hay, with a depth of about a foot. Very little grass came through,and that was in the area where I used the uncomposted bedding. I applied it to frozen ground, not by choice, but perhaps looking back that could be why there was such a complete kill of the underlying quack turf. Overall, it has been the best garden ever. I am trying a living mulch of clover, not sure about it. I like having it, things seem healthy and less heat stressed, but am finding rodents and harvesting a row of onions was a pain - I couldn't pull them through the clover and was cutting them when scalping the clover off the bed (I am trying to keep the roots intact for soil structure while scalping the crowns off to [prepare the bed for replanting). I frost seeded the clover into the surrounding turf and it has definitely out competed the quack surrounding the garden, so less hassle keeping that at bay, but it requires overhead watering in order to do so. One photo shows what the surrounding garden area is like and what the garden area was like this time last year. This is the firsttime I have tried to attach photos, so please forgive if they aren't there...
Ruth Stout Gardens Before and After
No-till Techniques At the Veganic Agriculture Network, no-till techniques are our favourite approach to gardening. Our garden in Quebec was grown directly on a lawn without ever using a shovel. In autumn 2005, part of the lawn was covered with cardboard and hay, and another part of the lawn was covered in cardboard and Chipped Branch Wood:
Over the next few months, the hay, cardboard and Chipped Branch Wood slowly decomposed, adding organic material to the soil. It also killed off the grass and dandelions without ever having to use a shovel, by blocking the sunlight. This means that the ground preserves all its nutrients and topsoil, since nothing is removed. The following spring, the ground is ready for planting. Here is a picture of our garden in August 2006:
This garden has continued year after year without ever being dug up with a shovel or rototiller.
In no-till gardening, the basic premise is to add a thick layer of nutrient-rich material on the ground, where it suppresses weeds and slowly decomposes. This is an ideal way of protecting and feeding the soil food web, the microorganisms that keep our soils fertile. There are many approaches to creating a no-till garden. In the Ruth Stout approach, hay can be used as the sole source of fertility. Or, Chipped Branch Wood can be used as the only source of organic matter. In sheet mulching or lasagna gardening, several layers of biodegrable materials are used, such as compost and cardboard, covered with leaves, hay, twigs, and grass.
If started in the autumn, no-till gardens are ready for a full garden the following spring. If started in the spring, more robust plants like potatoes and broad beans, or transplants like tomatoes, leeks and cucumbers do well in the first year, followed by a more diverse range in future years once the organic matter has decomposed.
French Intensive Gardening He is not “working” the land. But, rather, co-operating with it. Nuturing. Coaxing. Encouraging. Complimenting. He is both a craftsman and an artist. And his garden, as all our lives, is a work in progress.
M.Greenthumb exemplifies a dominant trait in the French character:
A genetic passion for the land. A realization that this is where food comes from. And that food should be treated with respect, not chemicals.
French Intensive Gardening
Virtually every Frenchman (and yes, I’m including the “fairer sex”here) regardless of profession, has a garden of some size. No matter how tiny. The height of French pride is to serve you garden goodies,”fabrication maison.” (home made.)
But for all the M., Mme. And Mlle. Greenthumbs, the process is equally important. It’s their culture. It’s a social event. A point of commonality. Sharing techniques. Sharing seeds. Sharing stories.
Each time I pass,'ating an encouraging word or two, M. Greenthumb’s smiling ear to ear response is equally brief. But in that brief instant, we establish a genuine human connection. Reaffirming Dr. Johnson’s observation that: “True happiness is to be found in the texture of everyday life.” And everyday life, truly lived, is sharing the moments.
“Enjoy the moments kid. Cause in the end,those moments will add up to a life.” – Humphrey Bogart –
Veganic Agriculture Network Promoting plant-based farming and gardening throughout North America
Large site with news, veganic growing techniques, gardening how-to, list of farms, how to get involved, resources
Backyard Urban Farming
Living in the Garden I can’t complain. Although life’s hardships, tragedies, natural disasters and economic conditions here and around the globe cause misery for many and keep the stress levels high for most people on the planet, I thank God for the blessings of good health and work that allow me to live in my world relatively sane and comfortable… so far. I am full of gratitude and do not take any of the good things in my life for granted. Everything can change in an instant! My prayer always is that love, forgiveness and peace will manifest themselves in the hearts of all God’s children, and that we will all try harder to heal our world and make it a better and safer place for everyone.
Backyard Urban Farming
Backyard Urban Farming
Backyard Urban Farming
Coffee Grounds Perk Up Compost Pile With Nitrogen Coffee grounds can be an excellent addition to a compost pile. The grounds are relatively rich in nitrogen, providing bacteria the energy they need to turn organic matter into compost. About 2 percent nitrogen by volume, used coffee grounds can be a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich manure in the compost pile.
"A lot of people ''t want to use manure because of concerns about pathogens," said Wise.
Contrary to popular belief, coffee grounds are not acidic. After brewing, the grounds are close to pH neutral, between 6.5 and 6.8. The acid in the beans is mostly water-soluble, so it leaches into the coffee we drink.
Here are some suggestions for using composted grounds in the yard and garden from the OSU Extension compost specialists:
Mix grounds into soil as an amendment. Make sure to keep them damp. Add some nitrogen fertilizer if you do this, as coffee grounds encourage the growth of microbes in the soil, which use up nitrogen. While microbes are breaking down the grounds, the nitrogen will provide a source of nutrients for your plants.
Spread grounds on the soil surface, then cover them with leaves or bark mulch.
Add grounds to your compost pile, layering one part leaves to one part fresh grass clippings to one part coffee grounds, by volume. Turn once a week. This will be ready in three to six months.
Or, put them in an existing unturned pile. Just make sure to add a high carbon source, such as leaves to balance it.
Grounds may be stored for future use. They may develop molds but these appear to be consumed during the composting process. Or a large plastic bag works for storage as well.
Paper coffee filters may be composted with the grounds.
Keep in mind that uncomposted coffee grounds are NOT a nitrogen fertilizer. Coffee grounds have a carbon-to-nitrogen ration of about 20 to 1, in the same range as animal manure. Germination tests in Eugene showed that uncomposted coffee grounds, added to soil as about one-fourth the volume, showed poor germination and stunted growth in lettuce seed. Therefore, they need to be composted before using near plants.
Wise and her composting protégés have been conducting informal research on composting coffee grounds. So far, they have observed that coffee grounds help to sustain high temperatures in compost piles. High temperatures reduce potentially dangerous pathogens and kill seeds from weeds and vegetables that were added to the piles. They have noticed that coffee grounds seem to improve soil structure, plus attract earthworms.
When coffee grounds made up 25 percent of the volume of their compost piles, temperatures in the piles stayed between 135 degrees and 155 degrees for at least two weeks, enough time to have killed a "significant portion" of the pathogens and seeds. In contrast, the manure in the trials didn't sustain the heat as long..
"We were amazed at the results we got with coffee grounds when we did the trial," said Wise.
Jack Hannigan, an Extension-trained compost specialist, is pleased with the results he gets from the coffee grounds he collects from the Fast Lane Coffee Company in Springfield to use on his farm in Pleasant Hill.
"I make hotbeds that run about 150 degrees," Hannigan said. "It kills the weeds. I can get the piles hotter and break down the compost better with coffee grounds than I can with manure. It works great."
Coffee grounds also can be added directly to soil but the grounds need a few months to break down, Wise said. "We're not certain about how coffee grounds act with the soil, but anecdotally people say they do dig it into the soil," she said.
An additional benefit of diverting coffee grounds from the landfill is that it helps cut greenhouse gas emissions, said Dan Hurley, waste management engineer for Lane County's Short Mountain Landfill.
"To keep organics out of the landfill is a good thing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions because organics decompose and produce methane. Methane is about 25 times as bad as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas," said Hurley.
Recycling coffee shop grounds also fosters interactions between community residents and local businesses. The coffee grounds stay in their communities, meaning that fuel isn't being used to truck them from far-flung areas of the county to landfills
Forest gardening Forest gardening, also known as food forests and three dimensional gardening, takes an ecosystem approach to gardening. It makes ample use of vertical space by growing multiple layers of plants in the same area: a canopy of fruit or nut trees can have understories of edible shrubs, herbs, vegetables, berries, roots and fungi, and as well as supporting fertility plants. Requiring an initial investment of time and energy, forest gardening is a long term, sustainable and low maintenance system that is well suited to those who have access to an area of land over a long period of time.
Forest Gardens. The two have written a book documenting their ten years of work on this permaculture garden called “Paradise Lot”.
Why composting is important We encourage everyone to compost, even if you’re not currently a farmer or gardener. Composting is an essential act for all groups and individuals, to help protect our collective airways, waterways, and nutrient stocks.
Did you know that up to 40% of household waste can be composted? Not to mention the organic waste generated by restaurants, schools, work places and grocery stores.
Composting this organic matter instead of sending it to a landfill or incinerator has huge benefits:
Even if you’re not yet a farmer or gardener, this is still the perfect time to start composting. You can share your compost with people who garden, or spread it around the base of shrubs or trees. And the moment you do decide to become a gardener, you’ll already have the main ingredient that you need.
If you are already a farmer or gardener, try to convince others around you to start composting! Perhaps they can share their finished compost with you. Or perhaps your neighbours can provide you with their fresh food scraps and fallen leaves, and you can add them to your compost pile!
First Urban ‘Agrihood’ In America Feeds 2,000 Households For Free The agrihood is located in Detroit, Michigan, and feeds thousands of families in the area. Children and adults can learn about sustainable agriculture when they take part in the food forest's development.
Have you ever contemplated the fact that humans are the only species on Earth that pays to live on the planet? This continues, despite the fact that there is presently more than enough resources to care for every citizen.
As a matter of fact, enough food is produced around the world to feed 10 billion people. However, because 70% of the mono crops which are grown are feed livestock intended for slaughter, a distribution problem exists. In effect, 795 million people go to bed hungry each evening.
Keyline Design/SystemKeyline design is a technique for maximizing beneficial use of water resources of a piece of land. The Keyline refers to a specific topographic feature linked to water flow. --Wikipedia.
The tool used for keyline plowing is the Yeoman's plow, a subsoiler with very thin shanks. Created in the 1950s by P.A. Yeoman, an Australian mining engineer and farmer, it was designed to lift and aerate the soil while limiting soil disturbance to minimize oxidation of organic matter.
"Plan the work then work the plan." — P.A. Yeomans
Freshly keyline plowed (Photo: Kirsten Bradley)
In the mid 1950s, Australian engineer P.A. Yeomans demonstrated a new system of land management he called the Keyline system. The consensus of the time, championed by people like Dr H.H. Bennett, was that soil was a finite resource and that once depleted “it was irretrievably lost as if consumed by fire”. P.A. understood that long natural carbon cycles create soil, but also knew that this process takes hundreds or thousands of years. By adjusting the conditions in the soil with his plowing and management techniques, P.A. was able to speed this process and create dozens of millimeters of fertile topsoil in just one year.
P.A. started out as a conservationist, but quickly realized that creation of topsoil was the ideal solution, while conservation simply delayed the inevitable soil destruction. Depending on the climatological conditions, conservation may ‘work’ for just a few years under harsh conditions, while allowing profitable cropping for decades in other milder regions. This is a direct cause of the extractive farming methods still used today. Farming then and now is still dominated by the practice of mining the topsoil for minerals, turning over the exhausted topsoil with plows, and replenishing the minerals lost in the crop with fertilizers. This, as seen over and over, leads to soil depletion, erosion, and finally desertification.
Keyline Design was first developed by the great Australian, P.A. Yeomans (1904-1984), in the late 1940s & 50s initially as a practical response to the unpredictable rainfall regime he found on his new property
By changing this method of conservation to one that continually builds soil fertility to feed the crops, the land will become more fertile over time. This creates a feedback loop, but one with positive outcomes. It can be said that one should “feed the soil, not the plants.” When healthy soil is present and maintained, any crops suitable for the region will grow well without any fertilizer. Herein lies P.A.’s argument that soil creation and the Keyline system will lower the costs of the farm while at the same time producing higher yielding, and thus more profitable, harvests. This is even more relevant in today’s profit driven world. Farmers that would not otherwise concern themselves with improving their methods for the sake of the land will more often pursue actions that will increase their bottom lines.
Leveling is the primary concept when dealing with water and the Keyline system. Before any earth is moved the land should be sufficiently surveyed and pegged. Pegging is simply placing pegs at a corresponding level around the property to give rise to a visual level line. By manipulating the techniques used to determine each peg’s placement, one can plan-out all of the features of a system.
While a modern laser level would be the easiest tool to use in leveling, low-tech, do-it-yourself options exist. P.A. designed a type of level called a bunyip. Another DIY level is an A-Frame level. A-frame levels can be constructed even easier than bunyips, requiring only three pieces of wood, a string, and a rock!
Any of these leveling devices will need to be accompanied by a large number of pegs. When the level is found, the pegs can be placed accordingly to map out the land before any work is 'e. It may be useful to have pegs tall enough to be readily seen over the surrounding vegetation, or the vegetation can be cleared off before the pegs are placed. When using pegs to mark keylines, channels, and dam water levels, it is advisable to have the pegs painted or flagged to distinguish the lines dotting the landscape at a glance.
Employing the methods developed by P.A. Yeomans, keyline pattern plowing is a proven component in the job of revitalizing degraded soils. The plow performs deep ripping with minimal plant disturbance.
By using a chisel, tyne, or P.A.’s keyline plow, both aeration and water integration can be accomplished in one pass over the land. While mouldboard type plows turn over just the topsoil, the chisel plow creates numerous deep cuts into the compacted and often sealed soil where air and water can now penetrate deeper and activate the decomposition process just below the topsoil.
Different kinds of soil types may require altered preparation. For example, sandy, light soil in arid conditions can be chisel plowed deeply (45 cm) from the very start, while in heavy clay soils you must chisel plow shallowly (8 cm) the first year, while slowly increasing plow depth each year. This is because the heavier soil types will seal over with the first substantial rainfall, locking out the water and air.
The goal of this type of cultivation is to blend the subsoil and topsoil into one contiguous layer. This creates a more balanced distribution of minerals, nutrients, air, and water, everything needed to grow healthy plants. Again, a more traditional turn-plowing would leave the topsoil overturned and segregated from the subsoil leading to soil destruction rather than creation.
To create soil, certain conditions must be met. Some kind of organic material must be present that, when combined with the correct levels of moisture and air, will create an ideal soil climate for decay to occur. While adding organic material is often the fastest way to improve soil condition, over large areas of land it is not practical to haul in the massive amount of materials that would be required. The Keyline system focuses on hastening the decomposition of the naturally occurring organic material already in the soil by adjusting the moisture and air levels within. Once the biotic conditions in the soil are jump-started, micro and macroscopic life return in such abundance that it dwarfs the total weight of a harvested crop or the grazing cows above.
Roots are one of the main organic components that will be decomposing in the midst of the added moisture and air. As soil improves, more plants will grow, from the soil’s seed-bank or from being sown, and increase the field’s biomass; this is another positive feedback loop. Some of these plants are likely to have deep tap roots that stretch down into the subsoil and bring up minerals unlocked by chisel plowing, making them available for plants with shallower roots. As these and other pants die, the roots decay more rapidly in the improved soil conditions. The spaces left behind by the roots create natural pathways for air and water to further integrate into the soil. Even crops grown for harvest or grazing will still leave the roots in the soil, continuing the improvement process.
A positive interaction in soil life that can be used to your advantage is one between the roots of legume plants and bacteria that live on them. The bacteria fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, making it available to plants. The bacteria does this in exchange for starches created by the legume plant. If seeds are to be sown on land that is undergoing Keyline cultivation improvement, it is strongly suggested to use a mix that includes inoculated legume seeds appropriate for the area. Yet another benefit to growing legumes is that they are often high in protein, making them nutritious pasture.
The shape of the land will determine how water flows over it. While some land is flat, most have at least slight valley and ridge shapes. Water will naturally flow from the higher ridges into the valleys, following and eroding the steepest path. These waterlines should be identified at the beginning of a project because they form the framework the land will follow. The placement of buildings, dams, paddocks, and anything else on the farm will be determined in relation to the existing waterlines.
All water will flow off of ridges and into valleys perpendicular to contour. When examining a topographical map, water will flow the shortest distance between two contour lines.
Water and Controls
Within the Keyline system, all water sources available to the farm fall into four categories. The first is the rain that directly falls onto the land, the second is runoff from the farm itself, the third is runoff from outside the farm, and the fourth is groundwater. In short, the idea is to capture and hold the water on your land as long as possible by controlling when and where it flows — via channels, keyline plowing, dams, and other features of the Keyline system.
Plowing and the Keyline
The first step in determining your water management plan is to find the keylines of the land. These are on-contour lines that occur where the steeper and flatter parts of the land meet in the center of a valley. A keyline can be found on topographical maps where the contour lines begin to get further apart. This represents the highest contour of the land that can efficiently hold water; there may be lower keylines, but they represent the highest point in a valley formation, not the overall property, where water can be held. Not all valleys have their keylines on the same contour.
The plowing should start at the center of a valley and follow the keyline. As you get further away from the keyline, the contour of the land changes, but the plowing should continue parallel to the initial keyline. This creates a slight grade in the plow cut that channels water in the furrows toward the ridge.
Keyline valley map
The furrows’ grade is slight. It is not intended to create any great flow, but to distribute the water more evenly over the ridge and valley formations with a gentle drift. By slowing the flow, the water is allowed ample time to absorb into the soil. This has a side effect of obstructing erosion. If you are familiar with on-contour swales, this concept will be familiar to you.
In flat lands the plowing can continue down the land as needed. In more undulating lands, paddocks may need to be created and plowed from multiple keylines. Keyline plowing can continue up the steeper land as high as the tractor can go.
After the keylines have been identified, a determination of which valleys should have dams constructed in them can be made. It is always worth holding water at the highest point possible to take advantage of gravity doing the work of irrigating the land below the dam. With 15 meters of height, gravity irrigation from a dam will have as much pressure as a spray irrigation system and can be used as such. This would give the farmer the benefits of spray irrigation while letting gravity pick up any energy costs.
The cost of building any dam comes down to a ratio of earth moved to water stored. When determining the ideal minimum shape of a dam, the length of the wall across a valley should be less than or equal to the distance water will back-flood. The ideal depth is between 3 and 6 meters. This depth should include 0.9 meters of free-board, the height between the full water line and the top of the wall, above the spillway level. This compensation will allow for 0.6 meters of free-board during rain events where 0.3 meters depth of water evacuates the dam via the spillway. This extra safety precaution is to compensate for large, 50 or 100 year, floods.
Keyline and dams
Types of Dams
High contour dams are installed above the valley keyline. Water from runoff is limited above these dams given their high positioning in the landscape. To fill these dams, swales can be constructed around the ridge to channel rainfall to these types of dams. These steep land dams come at a high price since great deals of earth need to be moved to store relatively little water in these narrow dams. Their water will be freely available for use in pressurized and flood irrigation just about anywhere on the property.
Following the land lower, valley keyline dams are the most common dams found in the Keyline system. Found in undulating lands, keyline dams are more economical than high contour dams; they store greater sums of water for little earth moved. Keyline dams offer another chance to use the stored energy of water to irrigate, but the irrigation area is restricted to the lands below the dam.
In flatter lands dams become even more economical, storing great sums of water for very little earth moved. As the land becomes flatter the wall of the dam will not necessarily find enough height between 2 shallow ridges. In this case the wall is extended back to create sides, or wings, that hold the water in. An extreme example of a flat lands dam is the broken ring dam. The side walls on the broken ring dam extend and curve back on the dam itself.
Finally, in dead flat lands ring dams can be utilized. Ring dams will have no runoff entering them naturally. To keep a ring dam filled, water must either be pumped or piped in from another source. The advantage a ring dam has over a pond is that the ring dam sits above ground level and therefor contains energy, albeit slight, that can push the water into an irrigation channel.
Dams can be fitted with lock-pipes under the wall. While these lock-pipes add greatly to the cost of constructing the dam, they then provide gravity fed water at the turn of a valve. The cost of the lock-pipe will be overshadowed in the savings over running a pump for irrigation. Irrigation can be spray if the total height of the water is 15 meters or more, but even in flatter lands gravity will still allow for, what Yeomans calls, flood-flow irrigation.
Flood-flow irrigation uses an irrigation ditch to channel the water from a dam’s delivery point source, the lock-pipe. Watergates along the irrigation channel can be opened and closed by one man to irrigate several hectares per hour of the land below. This land can be separated into smaller paddocks by fencing that is run on an irrigation steering bank. The bank will allow for more control of water disbursement.
Each paddock should be Keyline cultivated to spread the irrigation, or rainfall, evenly over the land. The keylines should ultimately lead the water to the next lower dam on the property. The slow speed of the water traveling through the keyline system, coupled with good drainage in each paddock leading to the next dam, will allow for sufficient absorption while also preventing the land from ever being over-saturated. This keeps in-line with holding the water on the land as long as possible, using and reusing it as often as possible.
The irrigation channels should be grassed over quickly in dry, windy areas to prevent erosion. This should be a simple task given the nature of the channels to be watered with every rainfall or irrigating.
The "Wombat" point causes effective shattering of compacted subsoil ~ Finding Yeomans Keypoint
Swales, which appear similar to irrigation channels, can be used to connect dams, hold water in places dams are not viable, and to help direct rainfall to different parts of the land. By connecting dams of the same level with a swale, you gain additional flood insurance; after one dam fills, the excess water can back-fill the swale and equalize all the dams in a lateral chain before any water is lost over the spillway.
Swales are built on contour so that there is no directional flow. The energy of the rising water will evenly spread water along the length of the swale. The water held in a swale after a rain event absorbs into the soil, adding to the subsurface hydrological flows. This underground water will flow through and down the land very slowly. This water moves so slowly it is effectively held in the land itself instead of on the surface in a dam. If rains are regular, the land should build to maximum water content within a few years; at this point springs may appear in the lower portions of the property.
While swales are not a major component of the Keyline system, they are worth mentioning because modern permaculture uses of swales have evolved alongside the techniques described in Yeoman’s books – and compliment each other well. Swales can be effectively deployed on properties not large enough to support full sized dams. They are also extremely cost effective soft earthworks, requiring no compaction.
When dams become over full there needs to be a overflow mechanism in place that will not allow water to flow over the wall of the dam, but also not concentrate the water such that erosion occurs. Spillways accomplish this task by controlling the overflow of water through a wide level gap in the wall. The water flows evenly and slowly over the spillway and onto land outside of the wall that is also graded nearly flat. From here the water will be treated as rain that falls outside of the dam and its watershed. In a large rain event lock-pipes can be opened as extra insurance against an overflowing dam, but this should only be necessary in extraordinary rains.
Trees plan an important role in the Keyline system. Belts of timber can be planted above keylines on the steeper less suitable slopes. These belts provide wind breaks, erosion control, shelter for grazing animals, and an opportunity to harvest poles for fencing. Trees can also be used along fence and farm roads to like effect. When planted above keylines, the trees provide a plowing guideline that can be followed each subsequent year.
After implementation, the Keyline system offers up a number of benefits. Some of these benefits are seen immediately, such as the stopping of erosion, while others take longer to show and are not as overt, such as restoring subsurface hydrological flows. Still another boon offered by the Keyline system, particularly the system of dams, is the abatement of both floods and droughts.
Often times water is sheeted off the land as fast as possible, increasing stream and river flows greatly but temporarily, before the water finds itself disbursed into the ocean. This fast moving water contains a great deal of energy that is not only wasted, but actively erodes the land on its journey to the ocean. By slowing the advance of water over the land with the Keyline system, the water has a chance to absorb fully into the land.
This restores aquifers and ancient subsurface flows. These aquifers and subsurface flows act as a battery. Once recharged the surrounding landscape will come alive as springs begin to dot a once dry landscape. Further this battery of water will regulate the flow of rivers, preventing large floods by slowing the water and compensating for the flow lessening ill effects of drought.
Additionally water that takes a leisurely subsurface course will have time to be naturally filtered. The results of this would be rivers carrying less sediment. This sediment is not noticeable when deposited in the ocean, but many bodies of water such as the Newcastle Harbour in Australia and the Chesapeake in the United States have been polluted by runoff from improper water management. The implementation of the Keyline system would have a side effect of clearing such bodies of water over the subsequent decades.
Keyline Plowing Results
The Keyline system provides a total solution to farmers that provides ample water infiltration in even arid regions for cropping or grazing land. This water, coupled with Keyline cultivation, activates decomposition where the top and subsoils meet. This decomposition leads to deeper, richer, more biologically active soil which in turn leads to more productive land.
By capturing and controlling water as it falls and flows over the land, erosion is completely mitigated. The water control system also tempers the bust and boom flood and drought cycles. Ultimately Keyline planning is the only long term, cost effective, restorative land management system available that can be applied to conventional farm and pasture lands without the need for less conventional modifications seen in more modern permaculture solutions.
Ken Yeomans is continuing his father’s work, selling copies of the books listed below as well as offering keyline consulting.
This process is carried out when soil moisture conditions are ideal and is only 'e once a year if cover cropping or 5 – 7 years if sowing a permanent pasture.
Send comments to email@example.com, Colby Glass, MLIS