Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Students flock to campus organic farms

CNN.com - Students flock to campus organic farms:
CNN.com -- July 22, 2005
Corvallis, OR -- ...In the last decade or so, student-run farms have cropped up across the country, at almost 60 schools in 27 states. Foodies call it the latest sign of the seasonal, regional food movement's influence, even on a collegiate landscape that's virtually paved with Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and leftover pizza...

GM crops created superweed, say scientists

This news is very serious for two reasons. First, scientists promoting genetically modified crops were sure it couldn't happen. "Jurassic Park" had it right -- "life will find a way." What else might happen despite assurances? Secondly, these superweeds will cause tremendous damage if they multiply -- for conventional and organic growers. This story details instances in Canada and elswhere where superweeds are a real problem. In some of these instances, it's not even genetic modification causing the problem -- it's just the selection pressure from repeatedly using powerful chemical pesticides.
Guardian Unlimited | GM crops created superweed, say scientists:
Paul Brown, environment correspondent -- The Guardian -- July 25, 2005
Modified rape crosses with wild plant to create tough pesticide-resistant strain
Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant 'superweed', the Guardian can reveal.
The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.
The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

EM bokashi composting

Bokashi is a mixture of effective microorganisms in a substrate of bran. This article describes how to make it and layer it with household garbage to quickly make a superb compost.
EM bokashi composting:
by Brian Smallshaw -- cityfarmer.org -- Feb 25, 2004
I'll give you a brief overview of how we use EM bokashi in composting, together with a few photos.
We have been using bokashi to treat our kitchen compost for about six or seven years, beginning soon after we cleared a spot for our garden here on Saltspring after moving from Tokyo. I won't go into the details of preparing bokashi, except to say that we mix up 100lb batches every summer, or every other summer, and store the dried mixture in a couple of large plastic barrels. We then keep a smaller bucket of bokashi in the kitchen handy for daily use.

Effective Microorganisms for Organic Farming, Gardening

Soil high in organic matter will naturally have a better level of beneficial microorganisms, but this article tells of a method to introduce an ideal population of photosynthetic, nitrogen fixing, and other microorganisms that maximize crop yields by maximizing the ability of crops to use available nutrients.
Dr. Teruo Higa and Dr. James F. Parr -- 1994
EM is not a substitute for other management practices. It is, however, an added dimension for optimizing our best soil and crop management practices such as crop rotations, use of organic amendments, conservation tillage, crop residue recycling, and biocontrol of pests. If used properly, EM can significantly
enhance the beneficial effects of these practices (Higa and Wididana, 1991b). Throughout the discussion which follows, we will use the term 'beneficial microorganisms' In a general way to designate a large group of often unknown or ill-defined microorganisms that interact favorably in soils and with plants to render beneficial effects which are sometimes difficult to predict. We use the term 'effective microorganisms' or EM to denote specific mixed cultures of known, beneficial microorganisms that are being used effectively as microbial

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Effective Microorganisms for Composting

Microbes touted for composting:
by TIM HIGGINS of the Tribune's staff -- Aug 12, 2000
Japanese professor sees boon for environment.
It might look like nothing but a pail of garbage.
Leigh Lockhart is co-owner of The Main Squeeze, the only restaurant in Columbia to recycle food waste with a new process that uses microbes.The restaurant's refuse is trucked to MU's South Farm, where the treatment helps the waste decay faster and without odor...

The creator of the process, Japanese professor Teruo Higa, is in Columbia speaking at MU this weekend. Higa kicked off the series of seminars, sponsored by Sustainable Community Development, yesterday morning by talking to a group of roughly 25 scientists, farmers and environmentalists from around the state and country about his process of composting and neutralizing food waste, trash and feces...

Higa touts the treatment, which he calls EM - Effective Microbial - as a cure-all for environments damaged by pollutants. He said the treatment can be used in lakes, rivers and fields. 'It begins to clean up the sludge and other pollutants,' he said through an interpreter...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eating a Truly Local Diet for a Year

Living on the Hundred-Mile Diet:
by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon -- TheTyee.ca -- June 28, 2005
In a jam? Eating a truly local diet for a year poses some tricky questions. First in a series.
It's strawberry season. James and I are at the Ellis Farms u-pick on Delta's Westham Island, crouching between long rows of the bunchy green plants, plucking the big berries and dropping them gently into small buckets. We imagine their future with cream and in pies. I lick the sweet red juice from my fingers. 'If I make jam we can have strawberries all year,' I say. James asks with what, exactly, I plan to make the jam? Sugar? One of the planet's most exploitative products, shipped in from thousands of kilometres away?
'But what,' I reply, 'will we eat all winter?'
This may seem like a peculiar question in an age when it's normal to have Caribbean mangoes in winter and Australian pears in spring. However, on March 21, the first day of spring, we took a vow to live with the rhythms of the land as our ancestors did. For one year we would only buy food and drink for home consumption that was produced within 100 miles of our home, a circle that takes in all the fertile Fraser Valley, the southern Gulf Islands and some of Vancouver Island, and the ocean between these zones. This terrain well served the European settlers of a hundred years ago, and the First Nations population for thousands of years before...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Anti-Ethanol Study Roasted

Colorado experts doubt authors' methods :
By Gargi Chakrabarty -- Rocky Mountain News -- July 19, 2005
Colorado experts on Monday debunked a new study that says alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel burn more energy than they produce.
The study, by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley, said 29 percent more fossil energy, such as oil or natural gas, is required to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of energy the process produces.

The study also said it takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same with sunflower plants.
'Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy or the environment,' said the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek. They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy.
Those results raise important issues for Colorado, where investors are pumping millions of dollars into two new ethanol plants in Weld County and a new biodiesel refinery in Monte Vista...

Pimentel and Patzek included in the study such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production.
The study also omitted $3 billion in state and federal government subsidies that go toward ethanol production in the United States each year, payments that mask the true costs,"

Organic Crops Produce Same Yield with Less Inputs says Cornell Study

Organic farming success:
by Susan S. Lang -- Cornell Press Release -- July 13, 2005
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes. David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, 'Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans.' Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is published in the July issue of Bioscience (Vol. 55:7) analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. The study is a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Training programs booming for organic professionals in India

Organic farming's latest buzz for GenX:
by PRABHA JAGANNATHAN -- The Economic Times -- July 12, 2005

NEW DELHI: The genNext Indian farmer is busy reinventing the Jai Kisan tag. And the makeover is focusing on organic farming and farm produce, which spin money as well as environmental feel-good in developed countries. New professional courses in organic farming are drawing agri-professionals by droves who, in turn, are being snapped up by national and international agencies.

Cashing in on the new trend and its hunger for trained professionals, specialised study courses have begun grabbing eyeballs in the sector compared to conventional courses available in agricultural universities. Mainstream farm colleges have, in fact, now begun structuring new courses so that India can carve out a presence in world trade.

Globally, trendy sectors like organic farming now face a major constraint of trained professionals. But introduction of agriculture education here coincided with the development of chemicals. Therefore a de-learning process is required before the induction of agricultural professionals in a market crying out to be tapped, a farm specialist points out.

Stricter Standards Could Slow Growth of Organic Farming

Bismarck Tribune Online - Bismarck, ND:
by Frederic Frommer, Associated Press writer -- June 27, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Some farmers are worried that a federal court ruling requiring the Agriculture Department to come up with stricter standards for organic food will slow the fast-growing industry.

But consumers advocates are cheering the decision, saying it will ensure people get higher-quality food when they purchase products with the organic label.

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court in Maine finalized a court ruling that bans dozens of synthetic ingredients that the USDA had allowed in products labeled organic. Of particular interest in the upper Midwest, the court also ruled that dairy farmers must give their herds 100 percent organic feed for a full year before being certified organic. They had been able to get by with 80 percent organic feed.

The ruling came after a Maine organic blueberry farmer, Arthur
Harvey, sued the USDA, arguing the current regulations violate the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

Town dedicates 1,000 acres for organic farming

Town dedicates 1,000 acres for organic farming:
Associated Press -- 2005

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. -- The town of Rockingham and the Bellows Falls Power Company are dedicating one-thousand acres of land to organic farming.

The land is along the Connecticut River, north of the Bellows Falls hydro dam. Eight hundred acres are across the river in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Another parcel of land is in the Upper Meadows, near one of the first settlements in Rockingham.

University Research Center Would Apply High Tech to Organic Farming

roanoke.com - Va. Tech may host organic farming center:
by Andrew Kantor -- The Roanoke Times -- June 30, 2005

Almost $1 million in federal dollars are slated to come to a Virginia Tech organic-farming program, through the efforts of some local organizations.

The money, if approved by Congress, will fund a Biodesign and Processing Research Center that will research organic solutions to things like fertilizers and pesticides, as well as act as an extension to help farmers take advantage of the new technologies...

'What we started to see was a growing demand in
the organic food market,' Melnick said. 'You've got a marketplace that is moving away from a cottage industry. The demand has taken off. ... You walk into Kroger these days ... and they've got a big section devoted to organic produce.'

The problem for farmers is keeping up with demand. Low supply has meant higher prices. Jerry Cain, owner of the Rabbit Patch Cafe in downtown Roanoke, said he has pretty much stopped buying organic food for his restaurant.

'Overall,' he said, 'it was just too expensive.'
Increasing organic production means turning, counterintuitively, to technology. Organic doesn't mean low tech, Zeigler said. 'The development of bio-based fertilizers, bioremediation of poultry waste - now you're talking technology. Now you're talking chemistry, life sciences.'