Posts tagged agriculture
Posts tagged agriculture
A new idea in agribusiness: food that tastes good…is sustainable, where success is measured by the health of the local predators and serves to clean the environment. Yes, it is possible and more importantly, the only way to live.
The old agribusiness model is a model of liquidation, liquidation of our environmental capital. We need new agricultural models created by biologists that understand ecology and the relationships in nature. - chef Dan Farber
Some of the most healthful foods you can think of — blueberries, cranberries, apples, almonds and squash — would never get to your plate without the help of insects. No insects, no pollination. No pollination, no fruit.
A huge collaboration of bee researchers, from more than a dozen countries, looked at how pollination happens in dozens of different crops, including strawberries, coffee, buckwheat, cherries and watermelons. As they report in the journal Science, even when beekeepers installed plenty of hives in a field, yields usually got a boost when wild, native insects, such as bumblebees or carpenter bees, also showed up.
“The surprising message in all of this is that honeybees cannot carry the load. Honeybees need help from their cousins and relatives, the other wild bees,” says Marla Spivak, a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota. “So let’s do something to promote it, so that we can keep honeybees healthy and our wild bee populations healthy.”
Unfortunately, a second study, also released in Science this week, makes it clear that wild bees aren’t having an easy time of it.
That study essentially follows in the century-old footsteps of Charles Robertson, “one of America’s great scientists that nobody knows about,” says Laura Burkle, an ecologist at Montana State University.
Robertson taught biology and Greek at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., and he was fascinated by the close connection between insects and flowers. He spent years in the forests around Carlinville, carefully noting which insects visited which wild flowers at what time of year.
Burkle and Tiffany Knight, a colleague at Washington University in St. Louis, went back to Carlinville to see how much of the ecosystem that Robertson observed still exists today.
Much of the forested area around the town has been converted into fields of corn and soybeans — or suburbs. In the fragments of forest that remain, Burkle and Knight found all of the flowering plants that Robertson recorded in his notes a century ago. Of the 109 species of bees that Robertson saw, though, just over half seemed to have disappeared from that area.
“We don’t know why,” says Burkle.
One possibility might be a loss of nesting sites for these bees. But a changing climate may also play a role.
The bees that disappeared tended to be species that depended on just a few kinds of flowers for food. For those bees to survive, their preferred flowers have to be blooming when the bees start flying and need food. The warming trend might have thrown off that timing.
In fact, Burkle says, if you map the interactions between flowers and bees, they seem more tenuous now. Some flowers may get visited by just one or two kinds of bees, and maybe just for one week.
“I don’t know that these systems can take a lot more environmental change without something drastic happening,” she says.
Many bee researchers are trying to figure out how to help those native bees — and how to help farmers who benefit from them.
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.
The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It’s a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.
“But for the rest of the year, there’s nothing blooming,” she says.
That means there are no bees. “In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don’t find any native bees anymore,” Kremen says.
Planting other flowers in and around these almond groves, maybe as hedgerows, blooming all summer long, would help, she says.
Even better would be farms with smaller fields, and lots of different crops flowering at different times. Wild bees, Kremen says, need diversity.
What a perverse idea it is that corporate apologists offer, that my earnest desire and demand to simply know what is in my food is an action tantamount to an attack on Monsanto’s pristine reputation. If I eat Monsanto GMO’s and complain of stomach ache, can I be sued for defamation too? I am ridiculous, you say? What is ridiculously legal when it should be criminal is that if you are a farmer and Monsanto infects your fields with their GMO’s, they can sue you. How pathetic it is that our people have to bow to such a damnably criminal demand. And you fantasize that Osama bin Laden was bad. That Monsanto will use American legislatwhores and judiciwhores to take me and the American farmer hostage is truly equivalent to the death of democracy and a celebration of plutocracy. It’s like Monsanto won the American Revolution all by themselves, while the people ran cowed and hid. Monsanto would force farmers to pay Monsanto to grow Monsanto GMOs then force people to pay Monsanto to eat Monsanto GMOs, since there would be no way of knowing which foods have Monsanto GMO’s. Government transparency declines along with my right to know; such seems to be a trend these days. Inescapable corporate GMO’s in America must be a government orchestrated event: emptying the market of nothing but GMO’s and refusing to allow Americans information is the last piece creating a total monopoly for Monsanto and their friends. This extravaganza of corporate power eliminates the rights of people. Talk about being raped. I am forced to buy a product, farmers were forced to grow, along with Monsanto’s judgment that it is good for me? My right to know what is in my food is the only right that matters. Monsanto has no name that can be slandered, libeled or defamed. Monsanto is cancer, Monsanto is deceit and Monsanto has a monumental disregard for human life and health, their one hundred years of poisoning Americans proves it.
M H O’Neal
How do you keep consumers in the dark about the horrors of factory farms? By making it an “act of terrorism” for anyone to investigate animal cruelty, food safety or environmental violations on the corporate-controlled farms that produce the bulk of our meat, eggs and dairy products.
And who better to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, designed to protect Big Ag and Big Energy, than the lawyers on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force at the corporate-funded and infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
America: Owned By Big Business, Fuck Yea!
How does Monsanto keep moving in the face of this kind of opposition? They pay for it.
We The Cattle
Despite a fierce campaign to stop the measure, Iowa became the first state Friday to officially make it a crime to enter a farming operation with the intent to secretly videotape animal abuse. Undercover footage filmed by animal rights groups during the past several years have been instrumental in exposing cases of cruelty to farm animals.
It’s official: Gardeners and farmers can count on warmer weather. If that’s you, it might be a good time to rethink those flower and vegetable beds for this year’s growing season.
That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which released a new version of its “Plant Hardiness Zone Map” this week, the first update since 1990. The color-coded zones on this map of the United States are widely used as a guide for what perennial flowers will survive in a particular area, or when to plant your vegetables.
Now the zones have shifted northward. The new map shows that in much of the country, winters aren’t as cold as they used to be, and spring planting comes earlier.