A GM & Pesticide Free Rice Growing Revolution

Rice farmers have been growing their crop in the same way for hundreds of years and most people have assumed the most efficient way to grow rice has been figured out. That is until some farmers in India decided to change how they grow their bounty and now scientists have take note of their success.

What happened in Darveshpura has divided scientists and is exciting governments and development experts. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the “super yields” is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.

Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. The premise that “less is more” was taught by Rajiv Kumar, a young Bihar state government extension worker who had been trained in turn by Anil Verma of a small Indian NGO called Pran (Preservation and
Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature), which has introduced the SRI method to hundreds of villages in the past three years.

Read more here.

Soil Benefits from Organic Farming

The benefits of organic farming keep revealing themselves – it turns out that the soil itself benefits from farmers growing organic crops.

“Farmers interested in transitioning to organic production will be happy to see that with good management, yields can be the same, with potentially higher returns and better soil quality,” said Delate, who leads the project.

The U.S. organic ag industry continues to grow and was a $31 billion industry in 2011, Delate said. To market a crop as organic, it must be grown on land that has received no synthetic chemicals for three years prior to harvest.

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Thanks to @ThePeterKelly

Organic Farming is Better than Factory Farming for Carbon Capture

It turns out that not only is eating organic food better for you than processed foods, growing organic food is better for everyone. Organic farms (and likely home gardens) are better at capturing and retaining carbon than farms that are focused on mass production.

Last year, researchers reexamined all 74 studies that had looked at organic farming and carbon capture. After crunching the numbers from the results of these studies they concluded that, lo and behold, organic farms are carbon sponges.

Recently, a team of scientists decided to compare the microbes in organic and conventional plots (plus one “low intensity” field that was somewhere between organic and conventional) at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in Michigan. They noticed that there was a much lower diversity of microbes in the conventionally farmed plot [PDF]. Perhaps the more complex community is better at exchanging the carbon among themselves, rather than releasing it to the atmosphere.

Read more at Grist.

Bhutan to go 100% Organic

Bhutan is an amazing little country that has banned cigarettes and measures its success not through the backwards-looking GDP but by Gross National Happiness. In another step to be the one of the friendliest to the environment, the Asian nation has now pledged to produce and consume only organic food!

“We have developed a strategy that is step-by-step. We cannot go organic overnight,” Gyamtsho said, describing a policy and roadmap which were formally adopted by the government last year.

“We have identified crops for which we can go organic immediately and certain crops for which we will have to phase out the use of chemicals, for rice in certain valleys for example.”

Bhutan’s only competitor for the first “100 percent organic” title is the tiny self-governing island of Niue in the South Pacific, which has a population of only 1,300. It aims to reach its objective by 2015-2020.

Nadia Scialabba, a global specialist on organic farming at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, says the organic food market and its premium prices are attractive for small countries and territories.

“This is happening in very small countries who are not competitive on quantity, but they would like to be competitive in quality,” she told AFP.

The global organics market was estimated to be worth 44.5 billion euros (57 billion dollars) in 2010, according to figures from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

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Young, Urban, and Farming in Rural Ontario

In Ontario women from the city are defying stereotypes and running farms. Once the purview of the stereotypical old white farmer who hates cow-tippers, now women raised in cities are buying and operating farms in rural Ontario. These young and educated farmers are using organic process and community driven opportunities to run successful farms.

“I saw that something was wrong with the world, but I didn’t want to push paper around trying to change it,” she said. “When you work on a farm that respects the environment, you see your impact on the earth in a very real way.”

Now a proud owner of a 38-hectare vegetable farm in Neustadt, Ont., she finally feels she’s saving the earth from the ground up, caterpillars and all.

Both Young and Moskovits sell organic vegetables using a community-supported agriculture model. Local families buy in at the start of the season and receive farm-fresh fruits and vegetables every week.

“It’s a great feeling to sell directly to people that are eating your food,” said Moskovits. “Marketing locally also means you aren’t shipping great distances and wasting energy.”

It’s also a model that is relatively drought proof. Since members have already paid, they, too, bear the burden when harvests are low.

Read more at The Star.

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