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Soil/Fertility

Module 4: Soil Fertility & Food Security

Ecologise has consistently driven home that humanity needs to prepare for unprecedented environmental, economic and socio-political upheaval and uncertainty in the 21st century. In this new series, we showcase free short-duration online courses that focus on these various emerging crises and possible responses. Created by the world’s leading universities, they offer a good starting point to explore these complex challenges.

Interview: Subhash Palekar and the holy cows of natural farming

From The Wire: Spurred by his firsthand observation of the havoc wrought by chemical fertilisers and pesticides, Subhash Palekar developed his own alternative method of farming, dubbed ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’. The widely influential Padma Shri awardee tells Manas Roshan about his methods and the agrarian crisis, also expressing his controversial views on cow slaughter.

How a holy hill got its groves back

From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.

Why meat eaters should think much more about soil

John Sauven writes in The Guardian: Farm animals that are raised intensively require a staggering amount of animal feed and water. Livestock production occupies the vast majority of agricultural land and is the main reason why nearly 50% of the wildlife we share our planet with has disappeared since the start of the industrial revolution.

Debal Deb: ‘We have more hardy, nutritious grains than GM can offer’

From India Water Portal: Records show there were 1.10 lakh varieties of rice in India in 1965. After the Green Revolution, which pushed for hybrid varieties, less than 7,000 remain. Debal Deb, who has conserved 1,200 climate-resilient rice varieties, speaks on the need to conserve traditional seeds and why we don’t need genetically modified ones.

Soil building, soil amendments and rain barrels: A primer

From Robinson Love Plants: Regular soil building and correct use of soil amendments will give us nutrient rich soils which help vastly improve food security for future generations, while water wastage can be combated by installing an effective rain barrel system. These methods are time-consuming but relatively inexpensive, and yield many passive benefits over time.

Learning from the past: A new protocol for agricultural education and research in India

We scientists, each one of us, should ask ourselves what the agricultural establishment needs to do in order effectively to address our current agricultural crisis. Given our present mechanistic scientific paradigm, we are part of the problem, and thus cannot, be part of its solution. Our first task, therefore, is to change our outlook fundamentally.

UN experts bust ‘myth’ that pesticides are necessary to feed the world

The Guardian reports: It’s a myth that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population, according to UN food and pollution experts. Their new report is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments to obstruct reforms.

This company is helping 50,000 farmers across 11 states grow and sell pesticide-free food

Safe Harvest is a conglomeration of eight civil society organisations that have been working towards and promoting non-pesticide management (NPM) practices among some of India’s poorest and most disenfranchised communities. Today, they work with a farmer base of close to 50,000 across 11 states, many of whom have seen a 20% rise in their income.

Bookshelf: Tending Our Land – A New Story

In ‘Tending Our Land’, authors M.G. Jackson and Nyla Coelho present a vivid, historical account of the great human enterprise of food production, an entirely new story– one that reinstates an ancient but eminently relevant imperative for our times. It makes essential reading for policy makers, academia and the budding bold generation of land tenders.

Pablo Tittonell: Feeding the world with Agroecology

Pablo Tittonell is professor ‘Farming Systems Ecology’ at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most well known experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. In this TED Talk, he advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds constantly growing demand for food.

Watch: “Good nutrition begins in healthy soils”

There’s no such thing as ‘healthy food’ if it’s not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent ‘Food: The Forgotten Medicine’ conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there’s a huge job to be done to restore depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of seeds and crops.

Mushrooms can save the world (and put Monsanto out of business)

EcoSnippets reports: According to Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists, his patented ‘smart pesticides’ can provide a safe and nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms. In fact, pesticide industry executives have called it “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.”

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