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Lack of Wild Bees Causes Crop Shortage, Could Lead to Food Security Issues

Lack of Wild Bees Causes Crop Shortage, Could Lead to Food Security Issues

Bees are responsible for pollinating key crops like apples, and their decline now threatens crop yields. Pikist

Without bees, future generations may not be able to identify with adages like, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

Crop yields for key crops like apples, cherries and blueberries are down across the U.S. because of a lack of bees in agricultural areas, a Rutgers University-led study published Wednesday in The Royal Society found. This could have “serious ramifications” for global food security, reported The Guardian.

The scientists wanted to understand the degree to which insect pollination, or lack thereof, actually limits current crop production. Surveying 131 locations across major crop-producing areas of the U.S., they found that five out of seven crops showed evidence of “pollinator limitation” and that yields could be boosted with full pollination, the study said.

“The crops that got more bees got significantly more crop production,” said Rachael Winfree, an ecologist and pollination expert and the senior author of the paper, reported The Guardian. “I was surprised, I didn’t expect they would be limited to this extent.”

The research further noted that pollinator declines could “translate directly” to decreased production of most of the crops studied and that wild bees “contribute substantially” to the pollination of most studied crops.

Declines in both managed honeybees and wild bees raise serious concerns about global food security, the study said, because most of the world’s crops rely on pollinators.

Bees and other pollinators like bats and birds underpin the global food system, but their populations are dwindling due to human activity including settlement building, pesticide use, monoculture farming and climate change. This is part of what many are calling the “insect apocalypse,” a precipitous decline in insects across the globe.

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Chain Reaction


Laurie King shares insights from the Shetland Islands.

Photograph courtesy of Polycrub www.polycrub.co.uk
Photograph courtesy of Polycrub www.polycrub.co.uk

People across the UK have been growing more vegetables this year. Seed producers have reported a large increase in sales since the appearance of Covid-19. This is not only a consequence of people having more time to invest in their gardens and allotments, but also, judging by the amount of stockpiling that took hold across many countries, a concern that they are going to have to provide for themselves as the crisis bites.

Food security has become a hot topic. But in the Shetland Islands, one of the most remote places to live in the UK, local people have been concerned about it for a while. Global pandemics aside, many Shetlanders are worried about the impacts of climate change on global food supply chains. They are at the end of the chain, as their food supplies are shipped in from the UK mainland more than 100 miles away – peppers from Spain have to travel an extra 12 hours to make it to the Shetland shops.

The Shetland economy relies heavily on its seafood exports and on global imports, which find their way to the shop and supermarket shelves. This is a symptom of the current global trade system, and adjustments would need to be made for Shetland to become more self-sufficient.

“If systems were in place, there could be enough local fish, dairy, meat and probably eggs in Shetland to feed the population,” explains Marian Armitage, chair of Shetland Food & Drink Association, which supports local food and drink producers. At some points in the year there is even a surplus of local milk. To avoid wastage, a local company has a new venture to make ice cream to support Shetland Farm Dairies.

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Should No-Till Farming Be Adopted by All to Help the Earth?

Should No-Till Farming Be Adopted by All to Help the Earth?

Farmers around the world are looking for innovative methods to save water, reduce costs and produce higher yields. No-till farming is a popular practice to improve soil quality and reduce soil erosion. Instead of using a plow to disturb soil before planning, it employs a drill or alternative equipment to grow crops without breaking the ground.

Is no-till growing as great as it’s made out to be? Should it be adopted by all to help the Earth? The answer is yes and no. What it really comes down to is the type of no-till farming, and whether it is being used in collaboration with other environmental conservation practices.

In the United States, most no-till cultivation is conventional and uses a drill to plant monocultures like corn and soybeans. This method actually requires more herbicides than regular tillage.

However, there is another type of no-till farming that depends more on supporting the natural ecosystem and minimizing disruption to the soil. Regenerative agriculture is all about returning carbon to the ground instead of farming it out.

Excessive tilling harms soil and causes all sorts of issues, including waterway pollution, nutrient loss and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. If more farmers instituted no-till growing in conjunction with other erosion control methods, the environmental impact of agriculture would be much less.

What Is Tillage?

In conventional agriculture, farmers use a plow to break up soil 8-12 inches down to prepare the land for planting. If you compare this practice to how you ready raised beds for a garden, you might think breaking up the soil would make it easier to plant crops, including vegetables and grains. However, this releases large amounts of carbon, disrupts vital microorganisms in the ground and causes soil erosion.

How No-Till Works

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Urban Gardening – The Food Revolution

Urban Gardening – The Food Revolution

the future of our food system?

Where does your food come from? If you live in a city, like me, you probably rely on farmers near and far to produce your food. But have you ever thought about what would happen if the food chain suddenly broke down? If, say, a natural disaster hit or transportation of food was unavailable for some time? Even with the current Corona-virus outbreak, some people are facing anxieties of food shortages. Are we, as urban inhabitants, able to supply ourselves, even if everything turns against us? It can be scary to think about it. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Even if we don’t have gardens of our own, there is an array of ways to grow food right in our cities! This concept is called urban gardening or urban farming. And it’s got a surprisingly rich & interesting history… Could urban gardening, along with community supported agriculture, be the next food revolution?

Where my inspirational trip started…

Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and quite a lively place to explore, to live and to work in. From modern libraries to extravagant art galleries, from excellent cycling paths to an array of beautiful cafés and restaurants: there is something for everybody’s taste. Much to my delight, Malmö is quite a green city, too. Many parks, lawns and gardens provide space for sitting and reading, chatting or just relaxing in nature.

In the very heart of the city, on the fortress island behind the castle of Malmö, I spotted a vibrant oasis of life: Slottsträdgården. This is an urban gardening project that was established back in in 1997 by an association called “The Friend’s Association”. It operates entirely on organic principles.

Malmö's urban gardening area. Photo by Naomi Bosch
Malmö’s urban gardening area. Photo by Naomi Bosch

Green city

Here, members can rent one of the 60 small city allotments of around 6-8 sqm. One of the fields is solely for use as a school garden for Malmö’s schoolchildren.

Besides the gardening allotments, Slottsträdgården includes various educational allotments, like a perennial garden, a garden with plants adapted to dry climate, and one with plants that could become more relevant for food production with climate change.

Different educational gardens in Malmö. Photos by Naomi Bosch

Little paths lead to the allotments and create opportunity for exploring, admiring the lush plants and photographing. Furthermore, the air vibrating with these tiny, flying creatures, the garden is a true haven for insectsbirds and butterflies. This place is truly a treasure in the midst of a busy city.

But, as if things couldn’t get better, the Association also runs a lovely café. More precisely, it consists of a sunny terrace and tables in a secluded greenhouse beautifully decorated with colourful pillows, a grapevine and other plants hanging from the ceiling. As a relaxed end for a tiring workday or as a fresh start into a city-tour, this is just the perfect spot for sipping coffee and enjoying some freshly baked cake.

The Friends’ Associations’s garden style café. Photos by Naomi Bosch

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Food sovereignty now and beyond COVID-19

Food sovereignty now and beyond COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed daily realities in nearly every corner of the world. But for millions of people, fears about access to food have made the crisis even worse. Recently the UN warned of disruption to food supplies and further loss of incomes and livelihoods – up to 1.6 billion workers affected in the formal economy alone. Food banks and community organisations are doing their best to help those in immediate need. But as the pandemic collides with inequality and climate emergency, it’s clear we need major changes in our approach to food and agriculture. 

Ecological Farmer in Kenya © Cheryl-Samantha Owen / Greenpeace
Farmers in Kenya are effectively applying ecological farming practices that are increasing their ability to build resilience to and cope with climate change.

The food system was broken long before coronavirus came along. The current crisis has exposed the fault-lines and renewed urgency to tackle root causes. This means asking hard questions and digging deeper for solutions. How is it that 30% of food is wasted globally and unhealthy food is fuelling obesity and diabetes, while 820 million people don’t have enough to eat? Why are millions being “forced to choose between hunger or COVID-19”? 

The industrial and commodity-based food system has failed to adequately feed many people in this world. This isn’t due to a lack of food but to the conditions of extreme inequality, and the wrong type of food being produced, traded or promoted by powerful corporate interests that control the food and agriculture sectors. COVID-19 has once again shown us just how risky it is to let corporations be in charge of feeding people. 

Ecological Produce at Farmers Market in Paris. © Peter Caton / Greenpeace
Shopping at Raspail Market in central Paris. Raspail is one of the largest ecological markets in Paris. © Peter Caton / Greenpeace

Changing our food system

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The 100-Mile Diet, 15 Years Later

The 100-Mile Diet, 15 Years Later

Authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon on asparagus season, a more just local food system, and pandemic gardens of hope. First in a week-long series.

Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon in the book jacket photo for The 100-Mile Diet, published in 2007 by Random House after the couple launched the concept with a 2005 series in The Tyee. All this week J.B. MacKinnon will guest edit related special coverage. Photo: Random House.

Fifteen years ago, The Tyee launched a series called The 100-Mile Diet written — and lived — by Alisa Smith and James (J.B.) MacKinnon. The idea was simple. Alisa and James were trying to live a year eating only locally-sourced food. The first I heard about it was standing around my barbecue on a sunny day in June 2005, Alisa and James looking on as I grilled some salmon.

They were attending a small backyard party I was hosting for the fledgling Tyee team. Alisa had written the Tyee’s very first cover story on how the BC Liberal government’s weakened child labour laws put kids at risk; James, her partner, was already a well-regarded freelance journalist, too. The two of them listened as I bragged about the Copper River salmon from Alaska I’d procured. I explained I’d paid a premium for those beauties, but I’d probably go to heaven for it because eating sustainably-managed wild salmon was so much better ecologically than farmed salmon. They looked at each other and laughed.

When I asked why, they pointed out that here in B.C. we have our fair share of wild salmon — and it doesn’t have to be flown 2,500 kilometres to land on our plates. They patiently explained that moving food around the globe consumes prodigious amounts of energy and serves to weaken local food security. And that was why lately they’d committed to living only on food grown close to home.

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Why Every Person In America Needs To Become A Prepper During The Second Half Of 2020

Why Every Person In America Needs To Become A Prepper During The Second Half Of 2020

It has been on my heart to write this article for a few days, but I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to write.  2020 has already been one of the worst years in modern U.S. history, and it looks like the next six months are going to be extremely challenging as well.  But even though most Americans are expecting that things will return to “normal” in 2021 and beyond, the truth is that the “perfect storm” that we are witnessing is only in the very early stages.  All of the old cycles are ending, all of the bubbles are bursting, and we are starting to experience the consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.  So even though the remaining months of 2020 will be chaotic, the truth is that things are going to get progressively worse as the years move along.  That means that you should use this period of time to prepare for what is ahead of us, because at some point the window of opportunity to prepare will be closed for good.

COVID-19 should have been a wake up call for all of us.  Lockdowns were implemented very suddenly once the virus started to spread in the U.S., and shortages of key items began to happen.  To this day, many retailers are still limiting the number of items that you can buy in certain categories.  Hopefully this has helped people to understand that if you have not stocked up in advance, you may not be able to go out and get what you need when a major crisis strikes.

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Investing in a Good Food Future

Investing in a Good Food Future

As we look ahead to re-open the country post-COVID, we also have the chance to re-work our public relationship to our food system, and mend its broken aspects in a way that will better meet community needs and values in our “new normal” future. Highlighted during this time is the food insecurity of much of our population, and the fragile aspects of the food supply chain.

The shutdown of food service has left many farmers and food processors dangling with an estimated $689 million decline in sales, imperiling livelihoods. Food products from a hyper-efficient and vertically integrated supply chain are also more vulnerable than before, as shown by the threat to commodity meat supply due to virus outbreaks in the small number of packing plants remaining, a consequence of extreme market consolidation.

We‘ve already seen how local governments have been the command centers of the frontline responses to the public health crisis and its economic fallout. They’ve also been immersed in food distribution through school food and food banks, and are learning how to match unused restaurant capacity with the growing community need for meal support, as with the model of the World Central Kitchen.

Local governments can take the lessons learned from their impressive crisis coordination efforts to address the underlying distortions in the food system revealed in this pandemic. Pre-COVID, there was increasing recognition that long, globalized supply chains (local food is at an average of 10% per region) and the bloated production of commodity crops created paradoxes of poverty in the midst of plenty. The largest agricultural regions had the worst food access problems, and the highest rates of poverty, diet-related disease, air and water pollution.

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Integrated Pest Management – Part 1

Integrated Pest Management
 Image by Melani Marfeld from Pixabay

Integrated Pest Management – Part 1

What is it and how can we do it as part of a balanced system?

In these times of global uncertainty and transition, where the globalised food system has become halted or reduced1, there is a wonderful opportunity to begin practicing food sovereignty on a personal basis2. This seems to be being put into practice in many places as growing one’s own food becomes more popular around the world3.

Being able to harvest and consume something which you have cultivated in the soil can be a very satisfying experience, from a practical point of view, as well as looking at it from the perspective of spiritual and mental well-being4. We can be seen as directly participating in the cycles of nature when we care for plants, especially if we choose to do so without the use of chemicals. Yet what if the beautiful vegetables we have so lovingly brought up are threatened by other creatures who also find them delicious to eat?

Permaculture practitioners have an answer to this: to intentionally include elements (whether plants or animals) in your garden which provides predators for those animals who would otherwise make your crop their prey. This technique, known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM)6, can be exercised in a number of ways, and there appear to be some important factors to remember when applying it with your crops, in order for it to be successful. This article will explore how IPM works, and how we can use it as part of a holistic design, while part 2 will give some practical examples to help with your own pest management on any scale; whether you are planting a few herbs on your balcony or have a large piece of land.

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If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

Veggie Garden
 Photograph by João Jesus (Pexels)

If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

If you took to growing veggies in the coronavirus pandemic, then keep it up when lockdown ends

The COVID-19 pandemic produced a run on the things people need to produce their own food at home, including vegetable seedlings, seeds and chooks.

This turn to self-provisioning was prompted in part by the high price rises for produce – including A$10 cauliflowers and broccoli for A$13 a kilo – and empty veggie shelves in some supermarkets.

As well as hitting the garden centres people looked online for information on growing food. Google searches for “how to grow vegetables” hit an all-time worldwide high in April. Hobart outfit Good Life Permaculture’s video on Crisis Gardening – Fresh Food Fast racked up over 80,000 views in a month. Facebook kitchen garden groups, such as Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, sought to share information and inspiration.

The Good Life

Given the many benefits of productive gardening, this interest in increased self-sufficiency was an intelligent response to the pandemic situation.

Experienced gardeners can produce enough fruit and vegetables year-round to supply two people from a small suburban backyard.

Productive gardening improves health by providing contact with nature, physical activity and a healthier diet. Contact with good soil bacteria also has positive health effects.

While Australians have traditionally valued the feeling of independence imparted by a degree of self-sufficiency, psychological benefits arise from the social connectedness encouraged by many forms of productive gardening.

Amid COVID-19, gardeners gathered online and community gardens around the world brought people together through gardening and food. In some areas, community gardens were declared essential because of their contribution to food security. Although Australian community gardens paused their public programs, most remained open for gardening adhering to social distancing regulations.

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The Argument over Where to Put ‘Agri-Tech’ Zones

The Argument over Where to Put ‘Agri-Tech’ Zones

In the name of food security, BC proposes whittling away Agricultural Land Reserve farmland. Opposition is sprouting.

‘What are the bottlenecks for agri-tech or ag-industrial? What is agri-tech and ag-industrial? I think we need to define it,’ says Agricultural Land Commission chair Jennifer Dyson. She and husband Russell pose with water buffaloes at their farm in Port Alberni. Photo: supplied.

The province is working to carve out new industrial zones for agricultural technology, saying the goal is better food security. But farmers, land-use experts and former NDP ministers are all raising concerns over the proposed location — on the arable soil of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Last month, deputy minister of agriculture Wes Shoemaker was appointed head of a new effort to establish agri-industrial zones, “as recommended by” the BC NDP government’s Food Security Task Force, said an internal email obtained by The Tyee.

The recommendation, one of four in a new report titled “The Future of B.C.’s Food System,” is to convert up to 0.25 per cent of the Agricultural Land Reserve into agri-industrial zones.

Population growth and climate change may make agri-tech — which supports the production, processing and distribution of food — increasingly necessary. But proponents of the ALR warn about eliminating soil-based food production on 11,500 hectares of land. That’s the size of Vancouver.

The ALR was established in 1973 to protect B.C. farmland from overdevelopment. At a time when the province was losing as much as 6,000 hectares of land every year to urban sprawl, the NDP government under Dave Barrett placed the five per cent — or 4.7 million hectares — of the province that’s farmable into a reserve based on a soil-climate classification.

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Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture

Living in a city or out in the suburbs one might not think too much about what it takes to produce the food we eat and why healthy agriculture is so important.  But conventional farming is unsustainable: substantial  amounts of topsoil are being lost by erosion. Arable land is being degraded and lost.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has protested that “we must stop soil erosion to save our future”. Conventional farming methods also cause significant emissions of greenhouse gases–which contributes to climate change. A 2016 OECD report estimates that 17% of global emissions come directly from agriculture, while an additional 7 to 14% of emissions are caused by land-use practices such as clearing forests for farming.

Agriculture is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss and the largest consumer of increasingly limited freshwater resources—consumption that will increase over the next few decades. Conventional farming methods have led to financial hardship for many farmers due to the costs of inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Moreover, food production contributes significantly to diseases such as COVID 19. The future of agriculture lies in tackling these problems while at the same time increasing yields to feed a growing global population.

Enhance and regenerate

Regenerative agriculture (RA) is farming which goes beyond just doing no harm to the environment–like sustainable agriculture. It enhances and regenerates the natural environment. A good definition of RA from the consultancy Terra Genesis International is: “a system of farming principles and practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, restore watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services”, and which helps “reverse current global trends of atmospheric accumulation of carbon, offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities.”

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Dirt Cheap: The Best Frugal Gardening Ideas on the Internet

Dirt Cheap: The Best Frugal Gardening Ideas on the Internet

With the price of healthful groceries going no place but up, lots of thrifty folks are starting a garden to save money on their bills this year. But what about the money to start a garden? It can be a very expensive undertaking, especially if you’ve never gardened before in your particular location.

I’ve been researching ways to start my own garden as inexpensively as possible and thought, “HEY!!! I know some other folks who would absolutely love frugal gardening ideas!” So…here they are.

Step One: What Kind of Garden Are You Going to Grow?

Of course, the very first thing to decide is what type of garden will work best for your situation. This will depend a lot on your soil, your climate, your skillset, and what you have easy and inexpensive access to. Following are some articles and books that will help you make your decision.

Pallet Gardens: Simple, Easy, Free

Straw Bale Gardens Complete

Create an Instant Garden with Sheet Mulching

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!

DIY Super Easy Raised Garden Bed for Under $30

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed for $12

For those who aren’t build-y: Big Bag Fabric Raised Beds (I have used these with great success for veggies with shallow roots and as a bonus, you can use them on concrete if you’re gardening on a patio.)

Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space

15 Fruits and Veggies You Can Grow in a Bucket Garden

PVC Drip Irrigation System for Your Garden

How to Save BIG on Lumber Supplies for Your Square Foot Garden

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How To Start A Fruit Orchard!

How To Start A Fruit Orchard!

Nothing is more freeing than growing your own food. If you’ve already started growing vegetables in a garden, you know how good it is for your health and mental wellness, so why not try a fruit orchard?

How To Start A Fruit Orchard!

Nothing is more freeing than growing your own food. If you’ve already started growing vegetables in a garden, you know how good it is for your health and mental wellness, so why not try a fruit orchard?

A home orchard can supply you with delicious, low-cost fresh fruit, attract pollinators, and provide shade and beauty to your property. It requires a relatively small investment of money but a large investment of time and patience. The time and patience that you put in are more than worth it, however.

Being more self-reliant can change your life! It will offer a wonderful source of freedom and help you save some money in the long run.

How To Choose Trees

Not all fruit will grow well in all areas, but the same is true of vegetables.  You should visit USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn what agricultural zone you’re in and talk to those at greenhouses or nurseries to get a better idea of what will row well.  Nurseries should be able to provide you with information about the zones where their plants will grow. For example, we live in zone 4, and that means red and golden delicious apples are some of the best to grow in that climate. If you live in a colder climate, apple trees might be a great choice in general because they are hearty.  Cherry and plum trees will also be able to withstand some brutal cold, but you should make sure before you start to plant them.

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Best Vegetables to Grow in a Greenhouse

Best Vegetables to Grow in a Greenhouse

I am always leery of any list that starts off with the word “best.” The reason being is that “best” is a subjective term that may or may not apply to the unique situation that we each face. As such, the word “best” in this blog is applied based on circumstance. Let’s get started.

Best Vegetables to Grow in a Greenhouse

The Role of a Greenhouse

A greenhouse is a tool. How you use that tool determines what kinds of foods will grow the best inside of it. Many of use our greenhouse to:

  • Start seeds before the last frost-free day
  • Grow and develop seedlings until they are ready to harvest
  • Shelter fragile plants that need a specialized environment
  • Extend harvest of plants that would either not survive the turn of the season from summer to autumn or from autumn to winter.

What your growing goals are is the first hurdle we come to when determining which types of plants are best for your greenhouse.

Growing Goals and Growing Obstacles

Around my house, the garden’s growing goals are all about food production and those range from starting seeds to extending harvests. I practice successive planting which is a little gardening trick many gardeners use to get the most production out of a plot of land.

It works by making sure that there is a viable crop ready to go into the ground as soon you harvest whatever is growing. Successive gardening is a practice that cuts down on the days-to-harvest and makes a perfect example of how I use my greenhouse.

So, time is one obstacle others usually include:

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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