Episode 172. Why Regeneration?

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 10th of June 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Today we’re going to discuss regeneration in particular regeneration of the soil and ecosystems. Over the last 50 to 75 years, basically since the second world war we’ve gone through a period of destruction. In effect a faustian bargain in which we gave up 1% of our topsoil every year in return for production returns. Continue reading “Episode 172. Why Regeneration?”

170. Hunter Gathers, Organic Workloads and a Change Worth Making.

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 27th of May 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

The project I spoke about last week is coming along nicely and I’ll have lots more to tell you soon.
Today I need to dive back into my personal history. Fear not, I won’t be over sharing.
Whilst at university I studied archaeology. This discipline only deals with humans so no dinosaurs just humans. The greater part of human existence was spent by us in the gentle arts of the fisher-hunter-gatherer. Now this was sold to me as lifestyle not worth the effort during my school days. You know the story. Civilisation arose in the Fertile Crescent, China and Mesoamerica and slowly at first but then with increasing rapidity, the bright lights of civilisation were brought to the whole world. What caused me to question this assumption, apart from the Mongols but that’s another podcast, was the interface of two opposing food systems.
The gardening based cultures of Papua New Guinea and the fisher-hunter-gathers (FGH) of Far North Queensland. A well developed garden culture involving a carb staple of taro or yams with pigs and chickens feeding people reasonably well. The alternative was an equally well developed, even older culture of fishing, hunting and gathering. The question I had was this: If the gardening culture was so much better, it was a stage leading to civilisation, after all, why did the good denizens of Far North Queensland not adopt the gardening system?
At the time, the first half of the 1990s, the argument was the FNQ people didn’t see the benefits of changing. Now all this is the long way round to our first article this week from Ars Technica entitled: Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming
Quote:
A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour explores how this shift affects the time budgets of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, finding that women who participate more in agricultural work have less leisure time—around half the leisure time of women who prioritize foraging.
End Quote
Leisure time is not time designed to be spent on playstations or smartphones but in conversation with other humans, listening to sounds of Nature and so on. Indeed it seems FGH spent as little four hours a day in the actual process of not just procuring food but processing and consuming it.
The point I am eventually getting to is that somewhere we missed a trick. In the industrialised world, thanks to pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers et al we spent between 6 and 10% of our incomes on food. Now if we use money as a proxy for time, FGH spent about 17% of their time/income on food. Yet in less developed places people spend between 40 and 57% of their income on food.
We got a bad deal as a species.
Of course the small percentages in industrialised nations don’t cover the true cost of the food. Health costs, top soil, polluted waters and on and on all push that percentage higher.
My thought back in the last millennium was, What if we could live like FGHs but with the the range of foods available to us now?
Always drawn to organic methods since I first met John Seymour through his Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency, the thing I really didn’t like was the physical labour involved.
Our second article from Salon entitled: Organic food is booming, but it’s grinding field laborers into the dirt confirms this.
Quote:
Synthetic pesticides and genetically modified crops are effective—by choosing not to use them, organic agriculture requires more manually-intensive labor—sometimes as much as 35 percent more. Herbicides used in organic farming are often less effective at eradicating weeds, requiring more physical weeding. Because organic farms don’t use as much fertilizer, cover crops are needed to enhance soil nitrogen levels—which in turn increases the amount of labor time invested in each field.
End Quote
This is, of course, the industrial argument against organic farming. And it also fails to take into account the changes over the past two decades. Regenerative practices require far less labour. They, in essence, mimic the FGH model using agriculturally selected species. They require data managers rather than technicians. I’m not disparaging the farmers who have toiled to tame Nature, I saying we now have ways that work with Nature and therefore require far less effort. Using the systems evolved over 4.6 billion years rather than attacking those systems, attempting to smash the “weeds” by industrial methods, will and do make our lives easier.
We can do this from the suburban garden outwards. Let’s run a thought experiment. How many lawns are there in a suburb? How much fuel is used to keep it cut? How much glyphosate is sprayed on edges? How much is used by local councils and bushland regenerators? Now see those same inputs replaced by systems using the succession of plants. See a tiny start. 10% of back yards converted from lawn to no-dig vegetable and flower gardens, fruit trees planted on property boundaries, chooks, rabbits and even guinea pigs used to edge and graze areas of grass and clover. The benefits from a human health perspective are reasons enough. The bonus of turning a tenth of suburbia into a carbon sink only adds to positives.
My position on organic farming reaches the same conclusion as the cited quoted but from a different starting point. I have observed a registered organic farm at work and the levels of labour involved are quite staggering. This place was run on a John Seymour basis. Basically chemical agriculture without the chemical inputs and the use of compost. Huge amounts of diesel, soil turned three times before planting and so on. This, obviously, led to the need for extensive weeding and a large labour force, mostly unpaid students and volunteers.  
So the poorer parts of the world are filling people’s lives with the need to spend around half their incomes on food, the industrial ag of the richer parts is destroying the biosphere and the “organic” solution has carbon effects not dreamt of by John Seymour and those who follow “return to the land” organic systems.
We have moved since my moment of questioning in the early 1990s through a series of ideas. The organic example, the sustainability paradigm to the regenerative model.
Forcing people to labour for half their lives to feed themselves or outsourcing  human labour to fossil fuels are not sustainable ideas. The wonderful thing about natural system is their ability to bounce back to different levels of equilibrium. A forest burnt in a wildfire will, with sufficient time and rainfall return to a similar state to the pre fire state. It will be different but substantially the same forest in a state of equilibrium.
An even more hopeful example is what happens when a glacier retreats. We can reconstruct the ecological succession of plants from pollen evidence. The exposed soils of today can be rehabilitated, quickly, using the same successions. This too can be applied to soils decimated by chemical applications. The key to basically all soil problems is the building of biological activity.
We have around us many examples of people have mimicked nature and managed to grow both food and soil. They have been the subject of numerous episodes of this podcast: Masanobu Fukuoka, Zero Budget Natural Farming, Biodynamics and Permaculture to name few.
We have all the data we need to get this revolution started. Imagine a world where the soil is covered, never leaks CO2, increases in biological complexity and cleans the waters of the world. Clean, decarbonised air, towns and cities quiet through the use of electric vehicles, rivers flushed clean of toxins, the seas cleaned of plastics.
Imagine a world fit to live in.
And damn it, it’s not that difficult to achieve!
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming
https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/adopting-agriculture-means-less-leisure-time-for-women/?amp=1
Which countries spend the most on food? This map will show you
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/this-map-shows-how-much-each-country-spends-on-food/
John Seymour
Organic food is booming, but it’s grinding field laborers into the dirt
https://www.salon.com/2019/05/25/organic-food-is-booming-but-its-grinding-field-laborers-into-the-dirt_partner/

168. The Revolution Takes Shape!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 13th of May 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

As you may recall I finished last week’s episode in a bit of a frustrated funk. We know we have to do, we have the techniques to do it but our political classes are still fighting battles from 15 years ago.

So this past week has been one of deep contemplation, discussion with peers and a moment of satori, a moment of enlightened clarity.
Let me explain. Looking at the “big” things that have changed parts of society in this millennium I came to a conclusion. Single use plastic bags from supermarkets being banned, incandescent bulbs being withdrawn from sale and the wonders of separating household waste for collection all have a few things in common.
They are virtuous. They do not make our lives easier and they make very little difference to GHG accumulations. That those plastic bags are called single use is a misnomer to begin with. We always used ours for more than just bringing home shopping. As we know by now plastic can be made from renewable sources that are biodegradable but we have to have the virtuous effects to make change worth while, apparently. Most people I have observed have just replaced thin, single use plastic bags with heavy duty plastic bags. I’ve also observed that many people still use these as they used to use the “single use” bags. So that the organisations pushing for the change can feel warm and fuzzy but the “on the ground” effects are negligible.
With the loss of incandescent bulbs we have lost a simple way to keep chicks warm in a brooder but that’s not a big market segment, I’ll concede. What we do have is lighting that’s inferior to what went before and a huge increase in the consumption of mercury and it’s release when these things are not disposed of “properly”.
It also turns out that much of the separated household waste ends up in the same tip or dump if that’s your word where you live. Clearly this is a resource going to waste. Waste in the Bill Mollison sense of a resource in the wrong place.
But what to do?
Our federal election next Saturday does not provide much hope. The left of centre parties are stuck in the decarbonise the air part of this show’s tagline but no one I could find was thinking about the soil.
Google searches revealed a few things. There is plenty of info, organisation and advocacy for regenerative techniques for agriculture. A plus in my mind. There is very little on how these things can be brought to bare on the greatest consumers of water, glyphosate, pesticides and fungicides: the suburban and urban regions of the world. And to make matters worse some 68% of humanity will be living in these areas by 2050 according to a UN report, link in the show notes.
At about the same time my other favourite Bill Mollison quote kept tapping on the inside of my skull:
Quote:
The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.
End Quote.
And other more annoying quote of who’s origin I have no idea also joined in:
Quote:
Be the change you want to see.”
End Quote.
So to that end, wheels were set in motion, ideas were brainstormed and any other metaphor you care to insert here. I have joined with my co-host from the Permaculture Plus podcast to create an online seminar/conference set for the 16th to the 21st of September. These will run annually but the inaugural event Living Soils 2019 will be focusing on permaculture zones one and two (Link in the show notes) and how we can create regenerative gardens.
We are contacting specialists to present at the event. Biodynamics, biochar, permaculture and if any of my obviously good looking and deeply thoughtful listeners have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them. email me at redocean112@gmail.com. There is a link in the show notes.
We are in the planning stage so more will be revealed as we lock things in. The effect changing ten percent of suburbia from consumption to production in a regenerative form is mind blowing. In the same way suburbia has become a renewable engine of massive proportions with the falling price of PV cells, I’m sure we can turn this same part of the land surface of the earth into a carbon sink powerhouse.
From window boxes to McMansions to smallholders and even huge agricultural affairs, people live in dwellings and this is where we need to start. From every front and back door we can roll out the regen revolution.
And unlike the virtuous ideas, this actually makes our lives and the climate situation better and you end up with food. Food that doesn’t need to be purchased from elsewhere. This actually saves you money, reduces food kilometerage, mileage if you’re on the old money, and is still a benefit for the biosphere.
So next week I’ll return to use usual form of the podcast with news from around the world but I’ll also add a “What’s Happening” section for the Living Soils 2019 online conference or whatever we end up calling it.
And on that no longer frustrated but actually hopeful note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
permaculture zones one and two
UN: 68 percent of world population will live in urban areas by 2050
https://m.phys.org/news/2018-05-percent-world-population-urban-areas.html

167. Time For A Revolution Run By Gardeners!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 6th of May 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

I came across a quote somewhere in my travels lately that just won’t leave my mind. I suspect it was from Charles Massie of Call of the Reed Warbler fame. (Link in the show notes.) The words were something like: Sustainability isn’t enough anymore we need to regenerate. This immediately put me mind of a Bill Mollison quote.
Quote:
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
End Quote
And clearly we are in a position where we need a revolution. Not the violent sort but a broad based, grassroots revolution in food production. We face the current effort, in Star Wars terms, of the Empire Striking Back is the EPA confirming Glyphosate as safe. From the reuters report: U.S. environment agency says glyphosate weed killer is not a carcinogen.
Quote:
May 1
CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting decisions by U.S. juries that found it caused cancer in people.
End Quote
Now the “science” this is based upon was provided by Monsanto. So no problem there really. The science, as it is, is very old in this IT world. Since the original approval of glyphosate, some newer research has occurred. The argument from Monsanto is based upon the notion that glyphosate attacks plants through the Shikimate pathway which is peculiar to plants but does not exist in animals, ergo glyphosate is safe to use around animals. Ta dah! As we’ve explored on this podcast and elsewhere, there’s a plethora of other beasties lurking on and within us, literally, within.
From the Journal Nature: The Human Microbiome Project
Quote:
Before the Human Genome Project was completed, some researchers predicted that ∼100,000 genes would be found. So, many were surprised and perhaps humbled by the announcement that the human genome contains only ∼20,000 protein-coding genes, not much different from the fruit fly genome. However, if the view of what constitutes a human is extended, then it is clear that 100,000 genes is probably an underestimate. The microorganisms that live inside and on humans (known as the microbiota) are estimated to outnumber human somatic and germ cells by a factor of ten. Together, the genomes of these microbial symbionts (collectively defined as the microbiome) provide traits that humans did not need to evolve on their own 1.
End Quote.
The paper goes on to explain there is a connection between these will beasties and our own immune systems. Now this is the clincher, There is a growing body of evidence that glyphosate does affect the microbiome. I quote a paper out of the University of Texas, Austen a while back on the effect of glyphosate on the ability of bees the withstand infections. Now the legal actions currently and subject to appeal refer to individuals suffering non hodgkins lymphoma. Given the growing knowledge of the microbiome, our immune systems and the consequences of glyphosate exposure I would not be surprised if more diseases are able to be related to glyphosate exposure.
The point I am trying to get to is the inertia of the system. That courts have decided in favour of individuals bringing prosecutions against glyphosate manufacturers is fairly remarkable but a sign of things changing. The EPA deciding to reaffirm the safety of glyphosate is a sign of that inertia. Good science takes time but science will self correct its own errors, eventually. From 1912 it took till 1953 to fully overthrow the Piltdown hoax.
While Piltdown was just a matter of clownish attempts to show the first human was English, even if that England was 500,000 years ago, other matters need to be cleaned up more quickly.
The glyphosate situation is one such.
And glyphosate is but the tip of the iceberg of industrial agriculture. The canary in the coal mine, I’m running out of metaphors. The point is, glyphosate is part of a suite of activities which destroy soil life, require the application of greenhouse gas intensive fertilisers which destroys even more soil life and requires even more fertiliser, you get the picture. The vast store of soil life, read fertility, which has accumulated through physical, chemical AND biological actions is being slowly bled dry.
From a Guardian article back in 2017 entitled: UK is 30-40 years away from ‘eradication of soil fertility’, warns Gove
Quote:
The UK is 30 to 40 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country, the environment secretary Michael Gove has warned.
“We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth,” Gove told the parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA). “Countries can withstand coups d’état, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility.
End Quote
And to overcome this soil destroying culture we need a root and branch, grassroots, overgrow the system approach to rolling back industrial agriculture. Whilst we on the front lines, custodians of land, can make a difference we need to change the incentives within the current system. If the true costs of production were included in the sale price of foods, we would see a fairly quick realignment from the incentives implied in such  pricing structure.
To do this requires tearing down the lobbying structures inherent in the democracies of the world. In a more command and control political system change relies upon the mindset of the “supreme leader” or whatever title they use. Now as to how we destroy the lobbying industry I have no idea and little hope. Maybe we need to infiltrate and subvert it but I know not how.
Hammering our local politicians, complaining loudly until they are forced to change might work. I really am at a loss. And that’s where I see the EPA coming out in support of glyphosate when the growing evidence says otherwise.
And on that frustrating note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
Call of the Reed Warbler
U.S. environment agency says glyphosate weed killer is not a carcinogen
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-glyphosate/epa-says-popular-weed-killer-glyphosate-is-not-a-carcinogen-idUSKCN1S62SU
The Human Microbiome Project
https://www.nature.com/articles/nature06244
Piltdown hoax
UK is 30-40 years away from ‘eradication of soil fertility’, warns Gove
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/24/uk-30-40-years-away-eradication-soil-fertility-warns-michael-gove
 

166. Mycorrhizal Communities and How to Keep Them Alive.

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 29th of April 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

I’m back to the usual format this week. I’m glad so many people enjoyed last week’s diversion with myself being interviewed for the Permaculture Plus Podcast about what we are doing here in Highclere as we run regenerative experiments on small plots.
This week’s first post is from with The Applied Ecologist’s Blog entitled: How to keep the mycorrhizae? The more hosts you leave, the more symbionts you get.
We haven’t looked at this area for some time so let’s dive in.
Quote:
One of the most important above-below ground interactions is that between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. Acting as symbionts, mycorrhizal fungi are involved in plants’ nutrient uptake and water acquisition as well as protection against pathogens. They also take part in processes at a broader ecological scale: they contribute to plant diversity and community assembly, affect nutrient cycling and are fundamental at ecosystem functioning. Due to their key position at the plant-soil interface, mycorrhizae can be highly affected (both positively and negatively) by any human introduced change in environments.
End Quote.
The depths and extent of the mycorrhizal communities is beyond comprehension, some days. That we have managed to still produce food whilst ripping these apart is quite amazing. The biodiversity effects and community assembly do need a little thought. If we destroy the mycorrhizal communities through, say, clear felling. What pioneer species do we encourage? Are they more fire tolerant or less? Are they the species that thrive in fire affected niches and are therefore happy to burn as part of their propagation strategy? We know so little of these things. If the precautionary principle were applied, I think we would see some long term value.
Of course a cubic metre of wood chips has a value immediately. So to do the mycorrhizal communities. The wood chips’ value can be expressed in dollar terms, the mycorrhizal communities, not yet. It would appear that despite the greenwash of the triple bottom line, it is only ever the dollar value that will be accounted for. After all you can’t tax, yet, implied improvement in biodiversity by not clear felling a forest.
But there are opportunities. The post goes on to talk about retention forestry.
Quote:
Retention forestry, a practice that has been implemented in forest management since just a few decades ago, is an alternative to clearcutting, by which a portion of the original stand is left unlogged to maintain the continuity of structural and compositional diversity. Human-introduced disturbance provoked by forestry can greatly differ from natural disturbance in terms of effects on the ecosystem. Retention forestry has emerged as a response to the rapid ongoing modification and simplification of forest ecosystems. It is therefore recognized, not only as a way to conserve the structural, functional and compositional diversity of forest ecosystems, but also as a useful tool for the restoration of impoverished or degraded forests. Mycorrhizal fungi are within the organisms that benefit the most from tree retention ( see Rosenvald & Lohmus, 2008).
End Quote.
In much the same way as no fishing zones allow for the rejuvenation of fish numbers so too retention forestry maintains an oasis of underground life intact. It is easier for these underground resources to strike out to repair when they are supported by a strong above ground community. And vice versa for that matter. We separate the above ground from the below but remember they are just one ecosystem. It is for our convenience that we who live above the soil surface and are not plant based make this distinction.
I heard an analogy the other day that seems appropriate at this point. If we accept the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, give or take and we convert that into 46 hours because we can understand that more easily. Then in the last thirty seconds of that 46 hours we humans have removed 50% of the world’s forest cover.
Now this is bad enough but with our growing understanding of the mycorrhizal communities we have also wiped out 50% of this balancing structure within the soils. On the most used soils we see North Africa, once the breadbasket of the Romans Republic and Empire, is now a desert for all intents and purposes. The fertile crescent and the desert lands of Iran and Iraq, once grain producing behemoths now desert.
Could it be that the tree cover removal is not the cause of desertification but that tree cover removal is cause of mycorrhizal death and it is that death which leads to desertification? Of course both explanations require the removal of tree cover. The point I’m attempting to make is that we may have a little more time up our sleeves. If we can re-establish the tree cover quickly, the mycorrhizal communities, especially if there was some retention forestry going on, those underground powerhouses of plant production may be restored and extended into desert areas over time. We need to draw a line. The Chinese have been attempting to stop the expansion of the Gobi, the green wall of Africa is a similar attempt to stop the southern expansion of the Sahara. Once stabilised, I’m certain we can then focus not so much on the tree cover which has been the focus since last century but on the underground resources. For it is here that I think we can affect permanent change.
A forest is not a static thing. Individual trees come and go. The make changes as fire events and rainfall variations occur through time but the forest remains. That 50% loss of tree cover mentioned above has been playing on my mind ever since I read it. It is both quite depressing but equally hopeful. There are any number of ways to produce food from trees. I discussed the 1 million hazelnut project in the US of A a few episodes back. Just about any oil would be better than palm oil with its tendency to cut down rainforest to grow a mono crop but it is in the temperate regions that most deforestation has occurred. And it is in these areas where tree planting will have massive impacts.
Not every tree will need to produce human food but I think a permaculture type approach where each tree provides at least three benefits would be a good place to start. So an Oak tree would provide: shade, mulch, acorns for pig feed and eventually timber. We can extend this out into other areas but the principle is straight forward enough.
Replacing as much of that 50% we have removed and converting the remaining agricultural land to regenerative models will have us well on the way to reversing the build up in the atmosphere of too much CO2 too quickly. Toss in the continually falling prices of solar PV and wind generation and we are heading towards a situation where we will be decarbonsing the air and recarbonising the soil.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
How to keep the mycorrhizae? The more hosts you leave, the more symbionts you get.
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2ki
 

165. The Highclere Regenerative Smallholding

165. The Highclere Regenerative Smallholding: Your host is interviewed by Permaculture Plus Podcast
So no show notes this week but here’s a link to the original podcast: https://permacultureplus.com.au/2019/04/15/ep-8-the-highclere-regen-farm-interview/
LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
 
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus: http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks

164. Five Organic Acres & Ten Trillion Cut From Mitigation Costs

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 15th of April 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Five Acres in Tipperary

We start this week with a look at an organic farm in Tipperary. Five acres of production set in 13.5. Now I think we can all agree this is sufficient, with the right soil, water and mindset to produce a good income. The rule of thumb seems to be: the smaller the block the more likely the income will be derived from plants. I understand there are 10,000 acre wheat farms but as a rule with smaller places up to say 50 acres, I think this rule holds.
So the piece is entitled: Growing an organic vegetable enterprise on 5ac and comes from the site Agriland.
Quote:
Having grown up on a hilly farm near Keeper Hill, close to Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Liam Ryan always had a passion for good food and is now growing an array of organic produce on just 5ac.
While he initially studied contemporary media practice in London as he was interested in making documentaries, he ended up being drawn back into the story for his love of quality food.
That journey brought Liam and his Japanese wife Yuki Kobayashi to a total of 13.5ac at Moyleabbey near the historic Quaker village of Ballitore, Co. Kildare.
“I met Yuki in a London restaurant at a birthday party. We shared food. It’s always about food. We lived in England for 13 years. The last two years of my time there I did a two-year apprenticeship in organic farming in east Sussex,” said Liam.
“We then decided to move back to Ireland together for simplicity – less travelling – we only had to travel to Japan then and not Ireland too. Yuki came to work in Dublin and I came back to try to get a start in growing here.
“I worked for a year at the organic farm in the Dominican Convent in Wicklow, and then I went to set up my own place in Ballitore,” he said.
End Quote
This quote is instructive. Liam grew up n a farm and went off to study media. There are many pathways to gardening, market gardening and/or the smallholding. Gardening and market gardening, even the organic versions tend not to integrate animals as the smallholding does. The journey for Liam though was through another producer to learn the methodology. The point I’m making, in a very roundabout way even for me, is that any background is suitable for individuals who want to produce food. We all eat so we have our likes and dislikes. Growing from these to other things is a good way to start.
I remember way back in the dim dark days of the early 1970s growing wheat from my neighbours chook food in about one square metre because I loved bread. It didn’t work and I had an understanding crop failures but not the hunger they could cause. The point is you are more likely to be successful with foods you love than things you think will create an income, at least until you have some experience.
Again from the piece:
Quote:
All the produce is grown in a 5ac field. “What we are not actively growing on is kept in green manure ley and we rotate our crops.
“At the moment we are growing leeks; purple sprouting broccoli; spinach; garlic; scallions; mixed salad leaves; and kale. But so much more will be coming in the summer. We are particularly well known for our delicious strawberries.”
They sell at their home farm shop every Friday from 12:00pm to 7:00pm and every Saturday at Carlow Farmers’ Market from 9:00am to 2:00pm. They also sell a small amount of wholesale to other growers but this has reduced as direct sales have flourished.
End Quote
This is also a clue for beginners and for those of us into the process for a number of years. For beginners, start small, for the more long in the tooth, remember why we started and that diversifying our end markets is a thing that will need to happen as our consumers change over time.

WWOOFers

The other thing that occurs on this farm is the WWOOFing.
Quote:
“It’s a great opportunity for people who want to become growers themselves to earn and learn. We work with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) volunteers throughout the year and currently have two WWOOF volunteers from France working with us.
“We provide accommodation, food and education in organic farming and living. In return, WWOOFers help us by working on the farm, as a hands-on way of learning and experiencing life as a farmer.
“We like to enjoy good quality food together and very much enjoy the social side of eating together and sharing different cultural experiences.”
End Quote
Now I have issues with some of the WWOOFing setups and their near slave labour approach. I’ve WWOOFed myself and it was a very agreeable process. I’m not sure what the setup is at Moyleabbey and I have no reason to suspect they are anything but great hosts. If you are going to follow this path to learning, be careful. The general rule of thumb is four to five hours work a day, two days off a week, all found and keep.
Where we were was little different but four hours was still a thing and I enjoyed it even if it wasn’t how I’d garden. Live and learn. We were housed in and were running an hostel. It was the slower end of the year so not to arduous but great for meeting new people. If you want a great experience, read the reviews before you commit. Some people expect eight and half hour days, six days a week which isn’t in the general WWOOFing terms and conditions so know what you’re up for.

Renewable Energy

Our next piece: Cheap Renewables Shave $10 Trillion off the cost of mitigation! from Bloomberg is from a hard nosed economic journal of record. That might tell you something when renewable costs (think price signals) are part of the dominant culture not the just the hippy fringe.
Quote:
The cost of reaching global climate goals is falling rapidly as wind and solar prices plummet and policy makers push electrification as the main tool to cut pollution, the International Renewable Energy Agency said.
The group known as Irena revised down its estimates for global investments needed by 2050 in clean energy to meet targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Abu Dhabi-based group now says $115 trillion is needed, down from $125 trillion a year ago, reflecting lower costs to build wind and solar farms.
End Quote.
As I’ve stated previously, price signals are great ways to get people moving. Less expensive solar panels has them sprouting on roofs across the globe. This particular piece points to the overall cost of decarbonising the air. From what I understand, they do not calculate the cost savings to this figure from recarbonising the soil. Too often the world is focused on just half the problem. We have a federal election here in May. A quick look at the climate change policies on offer all refer to decarbonising the air. It really is disappointing but the work goes on.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
5 Organic Acres in Tipp.
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2jj
 
Cheap Renewables Shave $10 Trillion of the cost of mitigation!
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2jn

163. Pumped Hydro and a Hazelnut Driven Food System

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 8th of April 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

More good news this week on the “decarbonise the air” part of the tag line. As ever, just because something can be done, doesn’t mean that it will be. So to the article from Science Alert: Huge Global Study Just Smashed One of The Last Major Arguments Against Renewables.
So that’s all good then.
Quote:
We just got some massive news in the ongoing drive to switch to renewable energy: scientists have identified 530,000 sites worldwide suitable for pumped-hydro energy storage, capable of storing more than enough energy to power the entire planet.
Pumped-hydro is one of the best technologies we have for storing intermittent renewable energy, such as solar power, which means these sites could act as giant batteries, helping to support cheap, fully renewable power grids.
As of now the sites have only been identified by an algorithm, so further on-the-ground research needs to be done. But it was previously assumed there were only limited suitable sites around the world, and that we wouldn’t be able to store enough renewable energy for high-demand times – which this study shows isn’t the case at all.
End Quote.
Pumped hydro has been a theme for sometime on this podcast. As I’ve stated elsewhere, it is based on tried and tested technologies. The mechanics of hydro power generation are well known. Running the generators “backwards” or perhaps, in reverse, would be more accurate, turns them into pumps. So when the intermittent energy generation of solar, wind, wave or whatever else turns up in the future, the excess produced over that consumed is used to pump water uphill.
And here it sits until the demand for power results in the water flowing back down hill, turning the turbines and generating electricity. Earlier episodes discussed the availability of such sites in Australia. This piece of research shows that the globe is covered with appropriate sites.
So we have the knowledge, the technical ability but do we have the political will? Given the National Party in Queensland is pushing for, of all things, a coal fired power station before the next election,  we can only hope this will be the last of these sorts of follies.
Now we move to an aspect of the second part of the tagline: “Recarbonise the soil”.
From the blog, Deep Agroecology comes the post: The Marvelous Million Hazelnut Campaign.
Quote:
Imagine the vast GMO-glyphosate soybean fields of America’s Heartland transformed into a perennial forest with swarms of hazelnut trees, deeply-rooted and thick as lilac bushes, fourteen feet tall, and laden heavy with oil-rich nuts that have a 101 uses.
Imagine the annual harvest of hazelnuts fulfilling a cornucopia of needs: for animal feed, for cooking oil, for fuel, for human food – and for many of the purposes and functions now fulfilled by soy.
How different the landscape. How changed the land itself, and all the creatures which share life upon the land. How profoundly different the environmental impact.
End Quote
This particular food source is something I’d looked into in another life about fifteen years ago. The research then was fascinating. For some reason the humble hazelnut popped into my mind earlier this week and then this article arrived in my field of vision.
Now these nuts are truly amazing and highly undervalued. I read somewhere this week, half of the world’s production is used by Nutella and their imitators.
These nuts produce about 1000 kgs per acre. If we take half of this as shell then we have 500 kgs of nut meat. Oil percentages vary but when I looked back in the day, work was being done to select for higher oil cultivars. Say 40% oil would provide 200 l of oil per acre and 300 kilos of feed or food depending upon where this meal ends up. All this is great productivity and you can run grazing animals under the trees during the year so even more production. In more arable country they could be grown in spirals to allow tractors to run in and out of a field that still produces grain, if you must and hazels.
But wait, there’s more. No, not steak knives, but remember those nut shells I passed over a little while back? They can be used as mulch, if needed but I think they have an even better use. Burning them in a pyrolytic furnace to create two products. One: biochar and Two: heat. Let’s start with heat. Heat can be used to boil water for dairies, or milking parlours and so on. The other main use of heat is the creation of electricity.
When we combine this function with the hazelnut oil currently selling at around $100 a litre, food grade, we could power a small family, small farm and their motor vehicles if diesel or electric from a few acres of hazelnuts. At $100 a litre that equates to $15,800 a barrel equivalent in oil terms. It may be more economic to convert all vehicles to electric and use the oil for other things.
Returning to the The Marvelous Million Hazelnut Campaign, these trees are getting some attention not just from the more enlightened types. The author of this piece, Steven McFadden spoke with Chris Gamer a spokesperson for the Million Hazelnuts Campaign.
Quote:
Gamer told me had recently returned from a conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, sponsored by the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative, a project affiliated with the University of Wisconsin. He learned a great deal by participating. “There’s lots of interesting things happening,” he said. “Big Ag is interested in hazelnuts, and they are doing cloning. They are looking to be active. Behind them, you should note, are large investors who are looking at the prospect of dominating the hazelnut industry.”
Gamer said that the cloning approach to hazelnut trees is a concern for him. Clones have only the limited genetic history of the plant from which they have been cloned, and are not adapting in real time. But hazelnuts grown from seed have all of the history of that tree and its ancestors though all its genetic lineage back to the beginning, and do also adapt as change is ongoing. So those trees will be more resilient as we face the consequences of climate change.“Where I’m at, the scale that I and others are working on,” Gamer told me, “is to propagate from seeds, and from a diversity of growers. We do breeding along the pathways pioneered by Luther Burbank, using selective breeding to increase nut size, volume, and quality.
End Quote.
I have some issues with the cloning/seed raised dichotomy discussed in the quote.
We have a couple of hazelnuts on site and I’ll be taking cuttings from them this winter, cloning them in effect. What grows here will be replicated. I understand the concern of expanding cloned across great swathes of land. If the million trees were all the same tree, they are way open to a disease that could wipe out that genetic expression of the hazelnut.
In the same way the blight hit Ireland’s potatoes in the 1840s and 1850s but had little effect in the Andes because of the genetic variation in those mountains and the single or at most three varieties in Ireland. Cloned Hazelnuts could be susceptible to a similar effect.
I think a balance between expanding micro climate adapted cultivars and exploring improved varieties through scientific breeding would make for the best outcome. These things can be sorted. The key problem being faced is the annual production of soy and replacing it with a perennial production system. On balance I’d go with the perennial most times.
So a world powered by renewable energy sources with demand balanced through pumped hydro batteries and that same world fed through the use of perennial food production systems would be a world worth living in and one I think we should all be striving for.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
Pumped Hydro the battery for renewables.
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2iK
The Marvelous Million Hazelnut Campaign
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2iS