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“Agricultural Disaster” – Frost Blast Decimates French Vineyards, May Slash Total Wine Output By Third 

“Agricultural Disaster” – Frost Blast Decimates French Vineyards, May Slash Total Wine Output By Third 

Earlier this month, French farmers fought mother nature in their attempt to prevent frost from wiping out their crops. It appears their attempts have failed as the damage is extensive and could wipe out nearly a third of French wine output for the year.

In early April, French farmers scrambled to light-controlled fires across their vineyards to stave off frost. Euronews document these efforts in a series of stunning photographs.

A farmer burns a bale of straw in his vineyard to protect grapevines from frost. This picture was taken on April 7 at the heart of the Vouvray vineyard in Touraine, France.

Winegrowers from the Domaine Daniel Etienne Defaix vineyard in Chablis lit fires across their fields.

Smoke rises across multiple vineyards in Touraine, France.

As reported by The Guardian, the French government declared the frost an “agricultural disaster” and planned to provide financial support to farmers.

Several thousand hectares of farming land, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhône Valley, were heavily impacted by the frost.

Jérôme Despey, the secretary-general of the FNSEA farming union, said this year’s frost could be one of the worst in decades. He said it might be more damaging than the ones experienced in 1991, 1997, and 2003.

Agriculture minister Julien Denormandie said the frost blast was a “completely exceptional situation,” resulting in “substantial losses.”

Exact losses are unknown at this time. But fresh estimates this week by the farm office FranceAgriMer warns at least a third of the country’s 2021 wine production could be affected, reported Reuters.

Ygor Gibelind of FranceAgriMer said frost damages would be more apparent by the end of the month. He estimates wine output could decrease by 28% to 32% below average volumes of recent years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

Nearly two-thirds  of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says
Nearly two-thirds of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says

A third of the planet’s agricultural land is at “high risk” of pesticide pollution from the lingering residue of chemical ingredients that can leach into water supplies and threaten biodiversity, according to research published Monday.

The  has soared globally as  has expanded, prompting growing fears over  and calls to cut hazardous chemical use.

Researchers in Australia modelled pollution risk across 168 countries with data on the usage of 92 active pesticide ingredients and found “widespread global  risk”.

They highlighted several acutely vulnerable ecosystems in South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina, at the nexus of high pollution risk, high water scarcity and high biodiversity.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, found that overall 64 percent of global  —approximately 24.5 million square kilometres (9.4 million sq miles)—was at risk of pesticide pollution from more than one active ingredient, and 31 percent is at high risk.

“It is significant because the potential pollution is widespread and some regions at risk also bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity,” said lead author Fiona Tang, of the University of Sydney’s School of Civil Engineering.

Tang said there were a number of factors that would contribute to a region becoming a potential contamination hotspot, including using excessive amounts of pesticides or those containing highly toxic substances.

Some environmental factors may also slow the breakdown of the pesticides into non-toxic substances, like cold temperatures or low soil carbon, while heavy rainfall might also cause high levels of run-off.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kelly MacNamara, phys.org, pesticides, agriculture, industrial agriculture, modern agriculture, food production, food, pollution

Permaculture

Permaculture

A design system that offers a radical reimagination of the possible

Permaculture is a design system that mimics the patterns of flourishing ecosystems to create ecologically regenerative human societies.  First developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, permaculture takes inspiration from Indigenous and ‘traditional’ agrarian practices. Mollison and Holmgren created a philosophy and a set of principles for producing diverse and dynamic ecosystems in which humans play a positive role.

Permaculture is strongly associated with specific practices, such as planting perennial polycultures. However, its most distinctive aspect is a focus on ecological design that is based on careful observation and deep interconnection. Through this design process, permaculturalists co-create, with non-human nature, spaces and lives that restore soil, build biodiversity, and allow for the flourishing of multiple species, including humans.

Permaculture emphasises that the Earth is full of abundance, not in commodities, but in energy from the sun, wind, water, food, and life itself. According to permaculture ethics, this abundance should be shared with other people, non-human animals, and the Earth. Permaculturalists do not view humans as inherently destructive or greedy. Within healthy ecosystems, animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria form cooperative, rather than competitive relationships, and humans can be an integral part of these ecosystems. As a system based on cooperation and solidarity among humans and non-human nature, permaculture offers a radical reimagination of the possible.

As a system based on cooperation and solidarity among humans and non-human nature, permaculture offers a radical reimagination of the possible

Permaculture has spread from Australia throughout the world and been interpreted in a variety of ways. This has led to some important debates within the international permaculture movement. Some proponents of permaculture aim to keep it de-politicized and professionalized as a system of ecological design only, while others seek to align with other social justice movements…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

permaculture, uneven earth, food production, agriculture, food, rebecca ellis

Is Farming the Problem?

Is Farming the Problem?

Here is a story that we tell ourselves. From The Good Ancestor: “Consider the immense legacy left by our ancestors: those who sowed the first seeds in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago, who cleared the land, built the waterways and founded the cities where we now live, who made the scientific discoveries, won the political struggles and created the great works of art that have been passed down to us.”

We don’t question this narrative. We simply accept it as “the way things happened”. But read it again with your critical brain engaged. To begin with, this ancestral narrative begins in Mesopotamia. This is not accurate. A few people in the Mesopotamian river basins started writing down what they were doing (mostly with regard to how much grain and gold were passing through their hands), but our cultural story begins long before Mesopotamia and in many different parts of the world, and ultimately, the human story begins in Africa, not the Middle East.

Farming did not begin with sowing seeds. This is a classic chicken egg of an assertion. What seeds? Where did they come from? How did humans even know to put them in the ground and expect to harvest something humans could eat? We’ll come back to this because this is the focus of this essay.

Let’s consider the assertion that humans built waterways. Yes, there are some canals, some irrigation projects, a few long-distance pipes and aqueducts. These are not generally waterways in terms of transport, which is I believe what is being referenced. Humans have not, in any case, built most of the bodies of water we use. Waterways are part of this planet, a priori; humans have done more to break rivers, lakes and oceans than to build them…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Are glyphosate-based herbicides poisoning us and the environment?

A new study, published on 27th January in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, conducted by an international team of scientists led by Dr Michael Antoniou of Kings College London, found that exposure to glyphosate and its commercial Roundup formulation, can disrupt the function of gut microbiome (bacteria and fungi) and internal body systems with potentially serious effects on human health.

In controlled laboratory animal experiments, glyphosate was found to alter the composition and more importantly the biochemical function of the gut microbiome by the same mechanism through which the chemical acts to kill weeds (inhibition of the shikimate biochemical pathway), even at doses claimed to be safe by the regulators. Roundup was also shown to be more toxic than glyphosate alone, underpinning existing evidence that the additional substances present in commercial products, collectively known as “adjuvants”, are not “inert” as claimed by its manufacturers and regulators but highly toxic in their own right.

In-depth biochemical analysis of both the gut and the blood of the test animals showed that they were put under “oxidative stress”, a highly damaging process, by glyphosate and to a greater degree by Roundup.

From my reading, this research appears to go a long way towards vindicating the conclusions of the many organisations and individuals throughout the world who were convinced from the very beginning that it would be unlikely in the extreme that this herbicide, an agricultural poison which has the capacity to kill all green plant material except that which has been genetically modified to be tolerant to it, would not have adverse effects on the human health.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Zero Input Agriculture

Zero Input Agriculture

On Tuesday afternoon, 24th November, Evita and I ventured to meet Shane at his 40 acres near Pomona. I first heard Shane on an Abundant Edge podcast in July 2020. It was his first podcast and it was incredible to hear him talk about growing food without using inputs such as irrigation, fertiliser, and imported nutrients. It’s the first podcast I have heard in the permaculture space where this approach has been seriously taken and where results are very encouraging. I messaged Shane after checking out his blog enquiring about getting some of his seeds to try. While we are in a cool temperate climate about 400km away and he is the subtropics I was keen to try seeds from plants grown without irrigation as water is often our limiting factor. Shane was very responsive to my message and we communicated many times about seed saving, plant breeding, and goats. He did send me some seeds and cuttings and I promised to return the exchange by gathering and sending our local bunya nuts in February to contribute diversity to his breeding program. So, it was somewhat serendipitous that we were able to have a holiday nearby and visit in person.

A smiley Shane greeted us and we enthusiastically went for a walk within minutes. Shane’s philosophy of zero input is immediately evident as there are weeds everywhere. “The weeds are repairing the paddocks from decades of cattle overgrazing and cutting them or removing them
around trees will make little real difference in their long life.” “It’s just not worth the time and effort. If the weeds do outcompete the tree for light, water, nutrients, then so be it, we want strong trees.” So Shane has various widely spaced rows of trees that are densely planted with as many genetics of each type as possible…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Running Out Of Soybeans?

Several factors are conspiring to weaken the reliability of our food production systems, warns Christian Westbrook, publisher of the website IceAgeFarmer.com

We’re seeing a shortening of the growing season for important crops due to weather trends and changes in the solar cycle.

Our food production system, which is highly dependent on chemical inputs and fossil fuels, is becoming increasingly brittle.

And we have more vulnerability due to the global nature of modern food supply chains. Crop shortages/failures in one part of the world impact all markets now.

For example, soybean supply is tightening as bad weather in South America and increased buying by China are hitting at a time when global stocks are already low.

As the world population grows, climate instability continues, and more countries are able to economically compete for resources, experts foresee future demand that may prove overwhelming vs supply:

What if several of the world’s biggest food crops failed at the same time?

In the past several decades, many of the world’s major breadbaskets have experienced shocks – events that caused large, rapid drops in food production. For example, regional droughts and heat waves in the Ukraine and Russia in 2007 and then again in 2009 damaged wheat crops and caused global wheat prices to spike by substantial amounts in both years. In 2012 heat and drought in the United States slashed national corn, soybean and other crop yields by up to 27 percent. And yields of important food crops are low and stagnating in many countries due to factors including plant diseases, poor soil quality, poor management practices and damage from air pollution.

At the same time, many experts assert that world food production may have to double by 2050 to feed a growing population and satisfy rising demand for meat, poultry and dairy products in developing countries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the Climate Change Committee have got it wrong on land, food and farming

Last week I spent what I must admit to have been two rather depressing sessions participating in a zoom conference convened by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in order to share their vision and strategy for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, with a particular focus on the role of land use and agriculture.

Outside of food and farming, much of what the CCC are proposing seems eminently reasonable. It’s the kind of thing one would imagine – a massive and rapid move towards renewable energy generation, moving away from internal combustion engines, improving building insulation to reduce energy loss, reduction in car travel and slowing of demand for flights. But when it comes to land use, farming and food, in my opinion they’ve got it completely wrong.

A rather crude summary of what they’re envisaging includes the following – a very significant increase in agricultural biofuel production; 10% of the farmed area planted with trees; an increase in afforestation rates to at least 30,000 hectares per year across the U.K. by 2025 and an average of 40,000 hectares per year in the 2030s, plus a “land sparing” agenda including dramatic increase in yields from arable crops, a significant reduction in livestock including ruminants, and no presumption of any increase in soil carbon.

To add insult to injury, on the diet side, they propose a significant switch towards plant-based diets without making any differentiation between livestock which are part of the problem (intensive chickens, pig and dairy units) and those which are absolutely a necessary part of the solution (grass fed and mainly grass-fed beef, lamb and dairy cows).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

250 Million Protestors in India – Almost the Population of the United States

For centuries, India was the source of the spice trade. Christopher Columbus thought he discovered a shortcut to India but bumped into America. The various spices in India have been used also for practices such as yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda. They are deeply rooted in Indian and South Asian culture. Today, as it has been for thousands of years, these herbs commonly used for these practices, such as turmeric, ginger, and ashwagandha, are exported from India and Modi has pulled another fast one on the people.

Indian farmers are currently protesting against unfair new agriculture laws and this has seen 250 million people joining the protest against the tyranny of the Modi government which has set controversial new agricultural laws. The Indian government set three new agricultural laws in September 2020. Previously, the government fixed prices for a variety of crops, meaning the farmers were guaranteed minimum profits for their work. However, under these new laws. Modi has directed farmers to sell directly to companies and sellers, meaning the farmers are no longer guaranteed the same minimum profits. Now they must negotiate for themselves when it comes to finding buyers.

For the past two weeks, Indian crop farmers have led more than 250 million protestors against these new agricultural laws in the Indian capital city New Delhi, according to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Many protesters have also ignored the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The protests have shut down major highways, shops, markets, and more (see The Guardian). The participants say they will not cease their protests until the government listens, (see India Times).

Transforming life on our home planet, perennially

book coverEd. note: This piece is the first contribution in the new book The Perennial Turn: Contemporary Essays from the Field, ed. by Bill Vitek and published as a free ebook by New Perennials Publishing. 

For those who are willing to face the multiple, cascading crises that humans have created, one task is analysis: How did we get here? In the 200,000 years of Homo sapiens, what have been key thresholds of systemic change?

A good case can be made for agriculture, which the polymath scientist Jared Diamond (1987) called “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.” Three decades later, historian Yuval Noah Harari (2015, p. 77) called the Agricultural Revolution “history’s biggest fraud.” When we started taking control of animals’ lives and breaking the soil to produce energy-rich grain, we intervened in ecosystems in ways we could not predict or control, to the detriment of many organisms, including humans.

With nearly eight billion people on the planet, we aren’t going back to hunting and gathering. But around the world, often under the banner of agroecology, people are using modern science and traditional knowledge to develop ways of farming that are less ecologically and socially destructive.

Over the past four decades, one of the most promising projects in sustainable agriculture has been Natural Systems Agriculture (perennial grains grown in mixtures rather than annuals grown in monocultures) at The Land Institute. The institute’s Ecosphere Studies program nurtures and explores this perennial thinking through research and education based in an ecological worldview that challenges the dominant industrial model defining contemporary ways of feeding bodies and minds. This essay outlines our approach, including a diagnosis of our agricultural past and present in a broader ecospheric context, which resonates with other ecocentric projects while building on the lessons learned on the Kansas prairie that is home to The Land Institute.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

India’s One-Day General Strike Largest in History

India’s One-Day General Strike Largest in History

If those who struck on Nov. 26 formed a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world after China, India, the United States and Indonesia, writes Vijay Prashad.

India’s general strike on Nov. 26, 2020. (IndustriALL Global Union, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Farmers and agricultural workers from northern India marched along various national highways toward India’s capital of New Delhi as part of the general strike on Nov. 26.

They carried placards with slogans against the anti-farmer, pro-corporate laws that were passed by India’s Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) in September, and then pushed through the Rajya Sabha (upper house) with only a voice vote.

The striking agricultural workers and farmers carried flags that indicated their affiliation with a range of organizations, from the communist movement to a broad front of farmers’ organizations. They marched against the privatization of agriculture, which they argue undermines India’s food sovereignty and erodes their ability to remain agriculturalists.

Roughly two-thirds of India’s workforce derives its income from agriculture, which contributes to roughly 18 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP). The three anti-farmer bills passed in September undermine the minimum support price buying schemes of the government, put 85 percent of the farmers who own less than 2 hectares of land at the mercy of bargaining with monopoly wholesalers, and will lead to the destruction of a system that has till now maintained agricultural production despite erratic prices for food produce.

One hundred and fifty farmer organizations came together for their march on New Delhi. They pledge to stay in the city indefinitely.

India’s general strike on Nov. 26, 2020. (IndustriALL Global Union, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A global movement for localised food and farming: The beginning of agriculture in Europe

Image: Kelly Reed, Reconstructed Neolithic house at Sopot, Croatia

Image: Kelly Reed, Reconstructed Neolithic house at Sopot, Croatia

The world we inhabit today has changed dramatically since we first began farming thousands of years ago. Yet the challenge to provide food security to all is not new and has been a common struggle throughout our past. By looking back, we can see how things have developed and use our knowledge to think in different ways and open up new possibilities for the future of our food system.

This blog starts at the beginning, when early immigrant farmers moved into Europe from southwest Asia, gradually replacing and assimilating mobile hunter-gatherers who lived in this region. A new sedentary farming lifestyle provided greater control and stability over food supplies, which in turn allowed people to have more children and join together in larger, denser communities. This global movement allowed for demographic expansion of people across the globe, the formation of denser villages and eventually cities, and ultimately the accumulation of wealth and the formation of political and craft specialties. These features enabled the development of early states and empires, which engaged in increasingly more complex food procurement activities at varying scales across the globe.

How did the advent of farming change the scale of food production in Europe?

Agriculture originated in several small hubs around the world. The earliest started in the Fertile Crescent, a region of southwest Asia that includes parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. The factors that drove people to first settle in one place and then more intensively focus on a few wild resources is widely debated, but between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago early Natufian people started to adopt a handful of key behaviours, notably sickle harvesting, grain grinding, seed saving, seed sowing, and tilling (e.g. Arranz-Otaegui et al. 2018)…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Both hands now – an introduction to ‘A Small Farm Future’

Today I’m going to begin my cycle of posts commenting on, expanding and perhaps occasionally qualifying the analyses in my book A Small Farm Future.

You have bought your copy by now, right? Ah well … far be it from me to tell you what to do with your hard-earned cash. Suffice to say that I’m not planning to summarise or repackage what’s in the book, so if you haven’t read it or aren’t an old hand on this blog, some of these posts may be a little mystifying in places. Others, though, should work as standalone pieces. One way or another, I hope you’ll find something of interest and perhaps some things worthy of debate within them.

Another way of putting this, following on from my previous post, is that after only death and taxes (in fact, before taxes), a certainty in life is trade-offs. Arguing this puts me in the company of mainstream economists, whose discipline proceeds largely from the concept of opportunity cost or decision-making in circumstances of scarcity. There are those – often on the political left, my own political home turf – who insist that such notions are a conceit of our capitalist economic system, which manufactures an artificial scarcity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

Image: Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

(Natural News) Researchers have determined that the nation’s farmland is now 48 times more toxic to insects than it was just 25 years ago, and much of this rise in toxicity is being blamed on the widespread use of a dangerous category of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

The study, which was published in the PLOS ONE journal, provided a thorough assessment of the use of pesticides in America and was the first study to determine just how dangerous our fields have grown for insects in recent years. The role of pesticides was dramatic; the scientists found that neonicotinoids were responsible for a remarkable 92 percent of the rise in toxicity.

Part of the problem is that neonicotinoids create a cumulative toxic burden because they are far more persistent within the environment than other types of commonly used insecticides, which is why the burden today is so much higher than it was a quarter century ago and is likely to grow even higher.

Study co-author Kendra Klein, Ph.D., said: “It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades. We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.”

She also called for a shift from our food system’s dependence on dangerous pesticides toward organic methods of farming that work in harmony with nature instead of destroying it.

Will there be any insects left on our planet in the decades to come?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Building Bioregional Food Systems Post-COVID 19: The Northeast Healthy Soil Network & the power of regional food system reform consortium work

COVID-19 has reminded us, perhaps as never before, that we need an overhaul, not only of our health care system, but our food system as well. [1]  As a steady stream of studies and articles point out, a priority of future] food system policy should be to support the emergence of local and regional, diversified, healthy food and farming systems, derived from fertile, carbon-rich soils.

Over the course of 2019, I helped to coordinate a network of food system stakeholders in the Northeast, as a researcher at the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute.[2] This network, now called the Northeast Healthy Soil Network (NEHSN), held a symposium in late February, right before the coronavirus pandemic put an end to most public gatherings in the US. This growing network of Northeast farmers, farm organizations, food system nonprofits, agricultural research labs and state governments has come together to discuss how we can channel badly needed funds and resources to regenerative farmers in the Northeast region who are promoting biodiversity, holistic livestock management, and other healthy soil management[3] practices on their farms.


The agricultural policy strategies proposed by NEHSN members[4] parallel those of many other farmers across the nation’s various regions. They are aimed at agricultural subsidy reform, proposing that our food system should incentivize not a small handful of specific crops, but rather the production of a wider variety of foods and crops, which would not only feed greater numbers of Americans with affordable, nutritious food, but also engender healthy ecosystem services such as soil erosion prevention, water conservation, watershed cleanup, and biodiversity. An incentive payment system for healthy soil farm management could become the first government-backed fund stream for this healthier system of farming.[5]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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