We Speak For Earth

Be the change you want to see here on Earth. Boldly protect your rights and the rights of all living things on Earth including the Earth itself.

Contributing Authors
Posts tagged "agriculture"


Cider May Be Healthier Than Clear Apple Juice

Clear apple juice may be prettier, but cloudy apple juice is probably better for your health. A new study shows that cloudy juice can contain more than five times as much of a health-linked antioxidant as clear juice has.

The color of most apples, other fruits, and vegetables comes from a family of antioxidants called polyphenols. Studies have associated these chemicals with health benefits ranging from a reduced risk of cancer to improved brain functions.

Generally, the stronger the color of the fruit is, the higher the concentration of polyphenols will be. The skin and seeds of an apple are particularly high in these compounds, and the process of making clear apple juice removes this solid matter.

"It is better if you eat whole apples than juices. But for juices, it’s better if you drink this cloudy juice," says the new study’s lead author Jan Oszmianski, who studies fruit and vegetable processing at the Agricultural University of Wroclaw in Poland.

While scientists had widely assumed that cloudy juice (cider) ought to be more healthful, Oszmianski’s study provides a more accurate picture of the difference in antioxidant activity between these two juice types. That’s because the most common way to measure this activity requires a transparent sample. In other words, it only works well with clear juice.

Oszmianski and his colleagues employed a technique called electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), which can measure the activity of antioxidants in both cloudy and clear juice. The method even accounts for polyphenols bound to solid bits of pulp, which include an especially potent class of polyphenols called procyanidins.

"This is the first time that I’ve seen [anyone] use [EPR] to measure antioxidant activity in plant extracts," says Joshua Lambert, assistant professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., who was not involved in the study.

Oszmianski’s team found that procyanidins were between 2.6 and 5.3 times as abundant in cloudy juice as in clear, depending on the variety of apple used. However, amounts of other antioxidants were more nearly equal between the two kinds of juice. Overall, the cloudy juice was 1.5 to 1.8 times as effective an antioxidant as the clear juice. Oszmianski and his colleagues report their results in an upcoming Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

(via afro-dominicano)


I’m Not Just Gaming, Ma! I’m Helping The World’s Farmers

There’s no easy way to track all of the world’s crops. What’s missing, among other things, is an accurate map showing where they are.

But the people behind Geo-Wiki are hoping to fix that, with a game called Cropland Capture. They’re turning people like you and me into data-gatherers, or citizen scientists, to help identify cropland.”

Read more from NPR.


Mathematic Study Clears Path for Super-Crops

How some plant species evolved super-efficient photosynthesis had been a mystery. Now, scientists have identified what steps led to that change.

Around three percent of all plants use an advanced form of photosynthesis, which allows them to capture more carbon dioxide, use less water and grow more rapidly. Overall this makes them over 50 percent more efficient than plants that use the less efficient form.

A new study has traced back the evolutionary paths of all the plants that use advanced photosynthesis, including maize, sugar cane and millet, to find out how they evolved the same ability independently, despite not being directly related to one another.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/10/mathematic-study-clears-path-super-crops



Image: Al_HikesAZ via photopin cc

The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Over the last decade, world grain reserves have fallen by one third. World food prices have more than doubled, triggering a worldwide land rush and ushering in a new geopolitics of food. Food is the new oil. Land is the new gold.

This new era is one of rising food prices and spreading hunger. On the demand side of the food equation, population growth, rising affluence, and the conversion of food into fuel for cars are combining to raise consumption by record amounts. On the supply side, extreme soil erosion, growing water shortages, and the earth’s rising temperature are making it more difficult to expand production. Unless we can reverse such trends, food prices will continue to rise and hunger will continue to spread, eventually bringing down our social system. Can we reverse these trends in time? Or is food the weak link in our early twenty-first-century civilization, much as it was in so many of the earlier civilizations whose archaeological sites we now study?

This tightening of world food supplies contrasts sharply with the last half of the twentieth century, when the dominant issues in agriculture were overproduction, huge grain surpluses, and access to markets by grain exporters. During that time, the world in effect had two reserves: large carryover stocks of grain (the amount in the bin when the new harvest begins) and a large area of cropland idled under U.S. farm programs to avoid overproduction. When the world harvest was good, the United States would idle more land. When the harvest was subpar, it would return land to production. The excess production capacity was used to maintain stability in world grain markets. The large stocks of grain cushioned world crop shortfalls. When India’s monsoon failed in 1965, for example, the United States shipped a fifth of its wheat harvest to India to avert a potentially massive famine. And because of abundant stocks, this had little effect on the world grain price.

When this period of food abundance began, the world had 2.5 billion people. Today it has 7 billion. From 1950 to 2000 there were occasional grain price spikes as a result of weather-induced events, such as a severe drought in Russia or an intense heat wave in the U.S. Midwest. But their effects on price were short-lived. Within a year or so things were back to normal. The combination of abundant stocks and idled cropland made this period one of the most food-secure in world history. But it was not to last. By 1986, steadily rising world demand for grain and unacceptably high budgetary costs led to a phasing out of the U.S. cropland set-aside program.

Today the United States has some land idled in its Conservation Reserve Program, but it targets land that is highly susceptible to erosion. The days of productive land ready to be quickly brought into production when needed are over.

Continue reading


Urban farms give city folk ‘food sovereignty’

When Choi Chang-hwan, a 71-year-old retired oil company worker, wakes up every morning to sweet chirpings of sparrows, his top priority isn’t turning the pages of the morning newspaper while waiting for breakfast, like other aged Korean men.

After jumping out of bed, Choi goes straight to the rooftop of his two-story house in Junghwa-dong, northeastern Seoul, to check the progress of his homegrown vegetables.

“There’s nothing like planting a seed, nurturing it and harvesting it,” Choi said. “It’s amazing to see how vegetables go from my roof to my table. I water them every day and feed them with compost. The seeds sprout and the vegetables grow beautifully.”

Choi said he needs to check his crops every morning to make sure seeds and vegetables aren’t attacked by sparrows, pigeons or bugs.

“I don’t use harmful pesticides,” he said. “I use a small metal pincer to pick bugs off the crops. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Choi is just one of a growing army of urban farmers in Korea.

While urbanites groan under food prices that never seem to stop rising, due to the higher cost of transport or the freaky weather conditions that are increasingly common, a potential solution for anyone with a rooftop or a balcony is to move the farm to the heart of the city.

That’s what more and more city dwellers are discovering. Urban farming is springing up in spaces all over Korea’s cities, including abandoned lots, weekend community gardens, rooftops and plastic containers on apartment balconies.

Experts are predicting that urban farming isn’t a mere fad as more Koreans see the virtues of food sovereignty due to agflation and rising concerns over food safety.

Green in the city

Urban farming has been catching on in other developed countries including Germany, England, Japan and the United States.

According to a report by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Germany has 1 million small city farms, while England has 300,000, Japan has 3,000 and New York City is home to 600.

The ministry said the urban farming phenomenon is also slowly becoming mainstream in Korea. While there’s no concrete data, the ministry estimates that over 700,000 city dwellers grow vegetables as a hobby in metropolitan areas.

Among those 700,000 people, 153,000 are in Seoul, the ministry said.

Considering that Seoul, the biggest city in Korea, has a population of 10.5 million, that means that 7 percent of Seoul citizens are partaking in urban gardening.

read more at http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2941546

(via tomrboyden)



The number of farmers markets in Vancouver has doubled and more than 1,000 community garden plots have been created in the past three years. Image: Ms Baboo, Flickr

The city’s new food strategy depicts a high-density urban environment lush with edible landscaping, community vegetable gardens, green walls, rooftop greenhouses, farmers markets and thousands of green jobs based in a burgeoning local food economy.

City council intends the Vancouver of the near future to be a model system of just and sustainable locally-grown food, a city as pretty as it is delicious.

“People will be able to see the fruit of this plan everywhere, when they walk down the street, in schoolyards and community centres, you’ll see it on empty lots and on vertical walls, farms that pick up and move from location to location,” said Coun. Heather Deal. “Food will be grown everywhere.”

We won’t have to wait long to see how it all works out. Most of the 71 recommended actions in the new 150-page document being considered by council on Tuesday are designed to be achieved in the next seven years, by 2020.

“We are taking this gardening issue beyond the realm of hobby or avocation and bringing it firmly into the world of business, health, social justice and food security,” said Deal, council’s liaison to the city’s community-based food policy advisory council. “By creating an integrated plan of action we are really making food central to all of our actions and policy decisions.”

The draft report, titled What Feeds Us, depicts the local food system as a complete loop from food production, processing, storage, distribution and, finally, food waste collection for composting.

“The city is in some ways a food eco-system and we need to consider all aspects of that,” said food policy council co-chair Brent Mansfield. “This document will make food visible and understandable to all the city’s institutions and it describes what has to happen at every level across that eco-system.”

Continue reading

As many as three out of every five of the children presently coming through school in the well-off world are destined to die as a result of what they eat, from the host of chronic disorders that result from overnutrition. Many of the diseases of affluence — heart disease, cancer, and diabetes — are also now spreading like wildfire in the developing world as diets change there, too. We accept the principle of giving children vaccines to prevent illness and untimely death. Perhaps we should also vaccinate them with greater knowledge about food, so they can live longer, healthier, and less costly lives. Perhaps we should vaccinate them against the mining and destruction of the Earth’s food- producing systems and the wars that follow by teaching them more about how to grow and consume food sustainably. Perhaps we should vaccinate them against waste and pollution of our natural ecosystems by teaching them how this can be avoided and about the virtues of recycling.
Julian Cribb, The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It (via perscientiamlibertas)


A report published by the RSC says that innovative research in soil science will be fundamental in overcoming the growing threat of global food and fuel crop shortages as the world’s population continues to increase.

Food security is one of the great global challenges of the 21st century. The global population grew to seven billion in 2009. By 2050 it is expected to reach over nine billion. 

But the world’s resources to feed all these people are limited. In 1960, one hectare of land produced enough food to feed two people. By 2050, we will require the same amount of land to feed six people. 

One answer to meeting these demands lies on the Earth’s surface. Soils will play a central and critical role in delivering enough food and fuel crops to sustain the increasing global population. 

Soils are also critical for ensuring the quality of our food, particularly in the face of inclement weather. A recent report on BBC Farming Today said that nutrients available to plants are reduced during periods of heavy rainfall such as those the UK has experienced recently, because they are leached from the soil. 

Securing soils for sustainable agriculture - a science led strategy - a joint report by the RSC, the University of Sheffield, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (ESKTN) - highlights a number of actions that must be taken to ensure that the UK soil research is at the forefront of technological advances in this area. 

Securing soils for sustainable agriculture - a science led strategy - a joint report by the RSC, the University of Sheffield, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (ESKTN) - highlights a number of actions that must be taken to ensure that the UK soil research is at the forefront of technological advances in this area. 

The report is the outcome of a research strategy workshop that drew on the collective input of experts from universities, national research centres, industry and government. The event was held as part of a NERC-funded soils research project led by the University of Sheffield, with the University of Leeds and the University of Bristol. 

Professor Steve Banwart of the University of Sheffield, who co-authored the report, said: “Our research consortium has shown how plants and soil fungi work together to direct the solar energy captured by photosynthesis into the root zone to target and extract specific nutrients from soil minerals. 

“Advances like this are paving the way for precision agriculture, where crops and soil are managed together to gain a much more targeted and efficient uptake of nutrients. It’s exactly the type of science that the UK can utilise for new agricultural technology that increases production and reduces the demand for energy and chemical inputs to fields.” 

Continue reading

Further reading:



Urban agriculture is the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses, and related processing and marketing activities, within and around cities and towns. Urban agriculture has received increased attention in the past few years from development organisations and national and local authorities in developing countries. With its multiple functions, urban agriculture plays an important role in urban poverty alleviation and social inclusion, urban food security, urban waste management and urban greening.

Since 1999, partners of the International Network on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF Foundation) have been playing a crucial role in improving access to information on urban agriculture and in enhancing the capacities of local authorities, NGOs, farmer organisations and other stakeholders regarding local participatory diagnosis and strategic action planning on urban agriculture.

This publication presents the “state of the art” of the development of sustainable urban agriculture and as such indicates progress made since the first major publications on urban agriculture: the UNDP publication “Urban Agriculture”(published in 1996 by Smit et al.) and the DSE publication “Growing Cities, Growing Food: Urban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda”(published in 2000 by Bakker et al). You may order your 460 pages hard copy from IIRR: bookstore@iirr.org | www.iirr.org Please use the previous and next buttons to scroll through the different chapter pages and click on the pdf attachment to read the full chapter.