Friday, September 23, 2011

The Climate on the Farm Is Changing

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve which is one of ...                           Image via Wikipediaby Keith Goetzman, UTNE Reader - The Best of The Alternative Press:

Farmers are often among the first people to notice a shift in the climate.

So while I rely on scientists for my big-picture information about climate change, I also take seriously the cumulative daily - and yearly - field research of a trusted source: My local CSA (community supported agriculture) farmers, Michael Racette and Patty Wright of Spring Hill Community Farm in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin. They are keen observers of wind, water, air, and soil, living so close to the land that they literally sink their hands into it every day.

Farming has of course always been an uncertain business, due to the naturally variable whims of weather, but lately it’s more uncertain than ever - some would even call it wildly unpredictable. Here’s what’s happening in the furrows as reported by Patty in this season’s Spring Hill newsletters:

July 19

Sometimes rain is a lovely thing, sometimes it’s not. Last Friday we had about half an inch of rain. It made harvest not very pleasant or pretty, but we appreciated it knowing we were in for a blast of heat over the next week.

Then there was Saturday morning. Very early Saturday morning we woke up to thunder and lightning and heavy, heavy rains. When we went out to take a look there was over four inches of rain in the gauge. Our little stream had become something of a river and we were unable to cross it.

Our plan to pick peas with the members who were to arrive shortly was curtailed when we sank up to our ankles in mud. Plans to pick cilantro were changed to basil from the hoophouse when we saw the flattened cilantro.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Are the Causes of Global Warming?

The Keeling Curve of atmospheric CO 2 concentr...Image via WikipediaBy Trevor Miller

The main causes of global warming have been well documented and covered in the media, however, this is at a basic surface-level, if you want to find out the true causes of global warming, you have to look beyond the obvious and below the surface.

I will, however, be firstly explaining to you what "global warming" is; Global warming is the current rise in the average temperature of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere. It is also the increase of the Earth's average surface temperature.

The main causes of global warming are due to the effect of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to create electricity. Fossil fuels are made of dead plants and animals. Some examples of fossil fuels are oil and petroleum.

Many pollutants are sent into the air when fossil fuels are burned. Some of these chemicals are called greenhouse gasses. Other forms of greenhouse gases are, water vapour, nitrous oxide and methane. Greenhouse gases trap heat and light from the sun in the Earth's atmosphere, which increases the temperature.

Another cause of global warming, is deforestation, or the cutting down or burning of forests. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and trap heat that would otherwise escape from Earth. This is a type of greenhouse effect.

Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the CO2 they store escapes back into the air. Between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year - 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - is caused by deforestation. The most important direct causes of deforestation include logging, the conversion of forested lands for agriculture and cattle-raising, urbanization, mining and oil exploitation, acid rain and fire.

Now that I have mentioned the main causes of global warming, I will tell you the true causes of global warming; and this is caused by the greed of opportunity seekers, constantly on the lookout for any opportunities to exploit.

The constant need for energy to satisfy first-world countries and the Earth's growing human population has provided a huge opportunity for the above to exploit whatever, whoever and wherever they can, in order to profit.

The greed and lack of conscience of "opportunity seekers", leads them to exploit people and/or the Earth's natural resources, in order that they may profit.

The exploitation of the Earth's natural resources by "opportunity seekers" has been one of the major causes in the upset of the balance of nature and in effect, of "global warming".

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Research Looks at Land Use, Farming and Protecting Biodiversity

Nature's PlaceImage by David Cornwell via FlickrBy Ali Withers

New research has prompted debate on how best to use land for farming and to preserve biodiversity. A study by researchers at the UK's Cambridge University was carried out in Ghana and India to assess the diversity of birds and trees on land being farmed in a variety of ways as well as land that was left natural. The study also looked at the amount of food being produced.

The researchers do say that more work needs to be done in other locations to allow for factors like climate, land quality and different ecosystems, the area of land involved and whether, for example, several smaller but separated areas interfere with the hunting or migratory patterns of the animals within them.

The findings from this first piece of research showed that farmland with some retained natural vegetation had more species of birds and trees than high-yielding monocultures of oil palm, rice or wheat but produced far less food energy and profit per hectare. However, farms that were supposedly nature friendly did not provide enough good habitat for either trees or birds in the two regions studied.

The preliminary decuction is that the best option for ensuring diversity is to leave some land untouched and to farm on separate areas.

This suggests that farming will need to concentrate on improving yields on cultivated land while at the same time preserving its quality in order to continue to be able to use it sustainably and to meet the projected increasing amount of food that will be required for a growing global population.

Planting some ground cover in between a crop, crop rotation rather than monoculture and using more natural pest management and yield enhancement products could all be part of this effort.

One thing that is crucial to using farmland with maximum efficiency and sustainability is minimising the waste including the loss of crops due to pests and diseases. Farmers will need effective alternatives as the older generation of chemical-based pesticides and fertilisers are being taken off the market in response to consumer demand for healthier and more natural food.

This will include the new low-chem agricultural products increasingly being devised by the biopesticides developers from natural sources. They already include a range of biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers.

However, it can be a costly and lengthy process to get each product from development through trial, testing and regulation and in many cases this can take up to eight years. This is something that needs greater harmonisation between governments, many of which have their own individual rules and regulations and the process needs to be accelerated to provide easily accessible alternatives for farmers all over the world.

Biodiversity may be best maintained by leaving some land entirely natural while farming on other land according to new research. Farmers may need to adopt sustainable techniques to protect their land and minimise waste to get maximum yield and low-chem agricultural products can help. By Ali Withers.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Benefits of Living a Green Life

Spraying pesticide in CaliforniaToxic Pesticide Spraying - Image via WikipediaBy Joann J Carlisle

The benefits of going green extend far beyond saving the environment. Simple changes towards living a greener, more eco-friendly life also positively affects personal health and finances. It can also contribute to a positive change in the nation-wide economy and political climate.

The health benefits of eating organic produce over pre-packaged foods are immediate. Organic foods have lower levels of sodium, sugar, and fat, as well as fewer calories and none of the pesticides and herbicides used in commercial farming.

These pesticides pollute water sources by increasing algae and bacterial content, and have been linked to increased risks of cancers and neurological disorders. Organic produce is cheaper to grow by using only natural compost as fertilizer and poses none of the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides.

Using green products and energy sources in the home is also healthier. Homes built with green resources reduce occupants' incidences of allergic reactions (asthma, migraines, etc.) as well as the risk of developing cancer.

These "green" homes often use cotton insulation as opposed to fiberglass, exposure to which can cause skin infections and the growth of scar tissue and tumors inside the lungs. Many green houses also use paint with little to no VOC's (volatile organic compounds), which pose the same health risks as the pesticides found in commercial produce.

Despite common misconceptions, going green does not have to be expensive, but can actually save money. Energy Star appliances and programmable thermostats use less electricity, which can drastically reduce energy costs. Solar panels can almost completely eliminate a home's need for electricity and natural gas, eliminating energy bills after the initial investment.

Walking, biking, and carpooling are greener methods of transportation, save money, and can greatly benefit personal health. With fewer health hazards present in the everyday environment, the need for intermittent and long-term healthcare is also reduced, thus reducing medical bills and other expenses associated with health maintenance.

When these changes are applied on a larger scale throughout the country, the nationwide economy can benefit. The reduction in energy, transportation, and healthcare costs is not limited to certain demographics, and can id government spending. In addition, going green will reduce national dependency on foreign oil, which can save millions of dollars per year and the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilian workers sent into high-risk combat areas for oil drilling.

The benefits of green living don't just apply to the environment. They are direct, tangible benefits to health, the economy, and overall quality of life. For any citizen, the benefits of going green far outweigh the costs or effort of switching.

Joann Carlisle is a writer who looks forward to sharing her knowledge and advice with readers. For more on going green, Frugally Green offers readers tips for how to make green cleaning supplies.

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