sustainable-farming

Polyester bees: Born in a plastic bag

The early March sun warms exposed soil, triggering the emergence of male polyester bees, which swarm the ground, waiting for females to dig to the surface. The half-inch bees — also known as plasterer bees — mate while rolling on the ground or while flying, joined to each other in midair.

Unlike social honeybees, polyester bees are solitary. After mating, males fly off to finish their short lives sipping from freshly opened tree blooms. Each female works alone on her own nest, a foot-and-a-half-deep tunnel as wide as a pencil, dug straight down into the ground. Eggs are laid in pockets, or brood cells, dug into the sides of the tunnel.

Every night, the female digs out a new brood cell and lines the cell with polyester secreted from her abdomen. “She spreads it on the cell wall with her paintbrush-shaped tongue,” says Suzanne W.T. Batra, a retired USDA entomologist, who began studying solitary bees in the 1960s.

 Deb Chachra in Concrete-Printing Bees And Other Living 3D Printers

A still-unknown agent — maybe something in the bee’s saliva — reacts with the polyester, causing it to harden into a flexible waterproof plastic resembling cellophane.” “During the day, the female collects nectar and pollen and packs it into the cell along with some glandular material. She lays an egg, suspended over the food, and seals the cell with more polyester. “Closes it like a zip-lock bag,” says Batra. The bee plugs the cell entrance with soil, packing it down with the tip of her abdomen before starting to dig another cell.

Some people might be alarmed to find polyester bees swarming the grounds of their property.

Fear not, says Batra. “The bees rarely sting. You’d have to sit on one to get it to sting you.” Her advice: “Wait a month and they’ll go away on their own.” By mid-April, any remaining bees will be limping about on tattered wings. They won’t be seen again until larvae go through metamorphosis and emerge late next winter.

Pollinator Conservation on Small Farms by Nancy Adamson

A native alternative to honeybees

North America has 4,000 species of bees. Many lead solitary lives similar to that of the polyester bee. “Some are much better pollinators than honeybees,” says Batra, “and native bees aren’t affected by the parasites and diseases that are killing honeybees.”

But modern agriculture, with its vast fields, pesticides and scarce natural areas, doesn’t encourage fertilization by native bees. “You would need undisturbed areas nearby,” says Batra, “so that the bees could nest and fly out to the fields to pollinate.”

Bee plastic

Unlike some synthetic plastics, bee plastic is biodegradable. Batra tested that by burying a bunch of brood-cell linings, which disintegrated after five years.

A research group at Olin College of Engineering has been studying polyester bee plastic for several years: “Bio-plastics are only in the early stages of development,” says student researcher Shannon Taylor. “Our goal is to understand [bee plastic] well enough to create something similar ourselves.”


Related: Save the Honeybee, Sterilise the Earth; Creating Insect Habitats; Beneficial Insect Habitats; Insect Hotels

#biomimicry #bees #pollinators #pollination #agriculture

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World

Image: eatdrinkbetter.com Nick Meyer | AltHealthWORKS

Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled“Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.

Keep reading

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Architect Vincent Callebaut’s take on vertical farming is as interesting to look at as it is beneficial.

About the project:

The cities are currently responsible for 75% of the worldwide consumption of energy and they reject 80% of worldwide emissions of CO2. The contemporary urban model is thus ultra-energy consuming and works on the importation of wealth and natural resources on the one hand, and on the exportation of the pollution and waste on the other hand. This loop of energetic flows can be avoided by repatriating the countryside and the farming production modes in the heart of the city by the creation of green lungs, farmscrapers in vertical storeys and by the implantation of wind and solar power stations. The production sites of food and energy resources will be thus reintegrated in the heart of the consumption sites ! The buildings with positive energies must become the norm and reduce the carbon print on the mid term.

Read more…

Medicinal Herb Garden: Cold and Flu

Grow a medicinal herb garden to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

By Dorie Byers

llustration by Beverly Duncan

The Worst Seafood You Could Eat Is…. Shrimp.

Shrimp is the #1 seafood in the USA. It is tasty, usually quite inexpensive, and is easily cooked and eaten. Unfortunately, such a craze for shrimp has created an environmental nightmare. 

Americans currently consume over one billion pounds of shrimp every year, and about 90% of that is imported from overseas. The primary producers of shrimp—namely China, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador—provide mostly farm-raised shrimp. American shrimp is almost always caught in the wild. Nevertheless, neither options are ideal or sustainable, and both have horrific consequences on the sea.

  • Shrimp farming affects human health

The majority of shrimp farms is comprised of open ponds with a small amount of water exchange. Shrimp farming is usually based in coastal areas, and can be destructive to both the ecological and human communities with which it comes into contact. When multiple intensive farming operations are concentrated around the same river, estuary, or bay, as they often are, the waste, uneaten feed and bacteria produced by the farms pollutes the surrounding waters, overwhelming the environment and harming other species. This waste also creates conditions that breed infections among the shrimp themselves.

To protect from the shrimp pathogens that inevitably spread, some farmers feed their shrimp chloramphenicol, a carcinogenic antibiotic which may be unsafe for human consumption. Shrimp may also be treated with sodium triple phosphate, a neuro-toxicant, to prevent it from drying out during shipping, and borax to preserve its pink color.

Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics.

(Shrimp farms in Borneo on the edge of mangroves. Photo by Marc Gunther)

  • Shrimp farming affects mangroves and local ecosystems

Scientists have found that shrimp farms have destroyed over 40% of the world’s mangroves, which are some of the most diverse, productive and necessary ecosystems on the planet. Mangroves indeed act as carbon sinks, and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis, while also providing a safe nursery habitats for many invertebrate, fish, and shark species.

A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.

  • Wild-caught shrimps, bottom trawling, and bycatch

Farmed shrimp have their problems, but wild-caught shrimp aren’t always a much better alternative. Fisherman catch wild shrimp using fine-meshed trawl nets pulled through the water. Worldwide, for one pound of shrimp, there can be 5 pounds of bycatch—other species that become trapped in the nets. Scientists have found that up to 90% of marine life in the nets brought onboard during shrimp harvesting is actually not shrimp! On top of fish that ultimately end up being dead or dying from being in the net, nets routinely pull up 9,000 endangered or threatened sea turtles annually, in addition to sharks, red snappers, and other animals. 

(Typical shrimp bycatch. Photo credit: Powered-by-produce.com)

The vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don’t clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space!

While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2% of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over 1/3rd of the world’s bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.

The truth is, not everyone is willing to give up eating shrimp. And you don’t necessarily have to. New, more sustainable production practices are being developed, but it’s up to the consumer to ask for them in supermarkets and restaurants.

What You Can Do!

  • Eat less shrimp! The Worldwatch Institute estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year.
  • Replace your industrial shrimp purchases with Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood (Ecofish’s retail brand) available at 3500 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Target Superstores.
  • Seek out the blue Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel, which indicates sustainable practices, when shopping or dining out. Here’s a list of stores and restaurants that stock MSC-certified products.
  • When buying wild-caught shrimp, look for varieties from the Pacific coast, particularly Oregon and British Columbia.
  • Ask your favorite restaurants and stores what kind of shrimp they are stocking, and if you’re not satisfied with their answer, let them know!

Vertical Farming Is Key to the Smart Cities of the Future | STATETECH

Smart cities could look very different from today’s urban centers. Streetlights could be communicating with bus stops, and subway trains could be solar powered. Population growth will force local government leaders to rethink more than just transportation and housing. As the population increases, the real estate needed to grow the food we eat will become increasingly scarce. Some experts have suggested that a new agricultural approach called vertical farming, also known as urban farming, could solve this problem. In a model that is already being tested in Singapore, crops are grown indoors in tall buildings. The benefits are extensive, the technology is powerful and the results are delicious.

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Living skyscraper concept is straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s dreams

Our greatest cities could see massive tree-like structures rising amidst their skyscrapers one day. Teeming with life, these vertical gardens could provide both food and a bit of green space for city folk. These enormous vertical farms could be the self-sustaining hearts of their host cities. They’ll scrub the air clean, purify local water and produce renewable energy. They’ll be so wonderful that it’ll almost be like living in Lothlorien.

http://www.dvice.com/2014-6-4/living-skyscraper-concept-straight-out-jrr-tolkiens-dreams

Watch: How Europe is greener now than 100 years ago

Within the last 100 years, Europe has experienced two World Wars, the end of communism, the emergence of the European Union and a series of other transformative political and economic developments. A team of scientists has now been able to visualize the impact of historical events in maps that show the growth and decline of settlements, forests and croplands.

The map, shown above, is the result of a research project led by Dutch scholar Richard Fuchs from the University of Wageningen. Besides regional political and economic trends, Europe’s landscape was shaped by several larger developments of the 20th century, according to Fuchs.

The following maps preview some of the affected regions which we will explain and show in detail throughout this post.

Read more —>

#maps #gif #land #Europe
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Chipotle ad

Talk about seeing the future of their own brand and their target market. Fantastic, heartwarming ad. Love it. (Could have done without the Coldplay song though…)

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Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.  

The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.   

Read more at A Growing Culture

Best Staple Crops for Building Food Self-Sufficiency

Fill your pantry and boost your food security by growing these 10 space-efficient, calorie-rich staple crops that return high yields and store easily sans fossil fuels.

By Cindy Conner 

Photo By Jason Houston