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soil & fertility

It’s not just about the bees – earthworms need love, too

From The Guardian: A recent scientific study has found that 42% of fields in Britain surveyed by farmers were seriously deficient in earthworms; in some fields they were missing altogether. Particularly hard-hit were deep-burrowing worms, which are valuable in helping soil collect and store rainwater, but were absent from 16% of fields in the study. Jules

P. Sainath: How a patch of Anantapur came to be a desert

From The Wire: This specific patch of some 1,000 acres near Dargah Honnur village in Anantapur district –once covered by millet cultivation– has over many decades become more and more a desert. That has been driven by often paradoxical factors –and created the kind of space that filmmakers send out location scouts to look for.

Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life

David R. Montgomery writes: Conventional wisdom says that fertile soil is not renewable. That’s not really true. Fertility can be improved quickly through cover cropping and returning organic matter to the land. Soil-building is about getting the biology, mineral availability, and organic-matter balance right, rolling with the wheel of life instead of pushing against it.

Modi govt is building the world’s tallest dam – in earthquake-prone Himalayas!

Pancheshwar Dam, kingpin of the river-linking project, will be the Himalayas’ largest reservoir. It’ll be located in one of india’s most seismically active areas, yet the project has been marred by shockingly poor environment appraisal. With little chances of it being economically viable, the project is nothing but a lucrative, contractor-friendly pipedream, writes Himanshu Thakkar.

Polavaram: The pointless mega dam that will displace 4,00,000

Dam’ned, a documentary by filmmaker Saraswati Kavula, takes a closer look at how the Polavaram Dam project affects the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, with dubious benefits expected. Despite increasing evidence of the destructive consequences of big dams across the world, why do our governments keep pushing for these mega projects, she asks.

The price of development: Gujarat’s dams are now drowning the state

Sneha Vakharia reports: Gujarat’s chronic floods, underreported and devastating, tell the story of Narendra Modi’s failure to deliver the state from water scarcity, and the onset of a new kind of problem, with crucial political implications. Since the state began its battle to control its water, increasingly and unforgivingly, the water has started fighting back.

Illegal GMOs and the criminal plan to alter the genetic core of India’s food system

Colin Todhunter writes: Despite four high level government reports that have advised against adopting Genetically Modified crops in India, there are alarming reports of GM okra, soyabean & brinjal being cultivated illegally in thousands of acres. The industry’s strategy is to flood the country with illegal GMOs so that there’s nothing you can do about it.

At the heart of India’s raging tribal insurgency is a simple thing: respect

Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.

Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of

From The Guardian: Cities are expanding at a pace and scale far greater than at any time in history. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand–the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. In the past few years, China alone has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century.

How to grow a food forest that will feed you everyday

From Down to Earth Magazine: What does it take to design a permaculture kitchen garden? In this video, permaculture practitioners Rosie and Peter Fernandes, based in Assagaon, Goa, recount their experience of growing a food forest designed to meet their cooking needs round the year. They are now taking their model to the wider community.

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.

Microbes will feed the world, or why real farmers grow soil, not crops

From Modern Farmer: On the horizon of agriculture’s future, a 40,000-strong army is marching towards a shimmering goal. They see the potential for a global food system where pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are but relics of a faded age. A peek into a treasure trove of latest research released by The American Society of Microbiologists.

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.

India has an ammonia problem but no policy to deal with it

The Wire reports: Using satellite data of the last 14 years, researchers have shown that a thick blanket of toxic ammonia lies over the world’s major agricultural areas, with India being the worst affected. It’s emitted mainly by fertilisers as well as poorly managed animal waste. However, India has no policy to regulate ammonia emissions.

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.

How to steal a river: New York Times on India’s rampant sand mining

The hundreds of millions of Indians migrating from villages to cities require up to a billion square yards of new real estate development annually. Current construction already draws more than 800 million tons of sand every year, mostly from India’s waterways. All the people I spoke to assumed that much of it is taken illegally.

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.

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.

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