Saturday, March 9, 2013

Study: Biodiversity from Polyculture Outperforms Industrial Farming Chemicals

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

With the increasing population recently breaching the 7 billion mark, and no sign of slowing, you may have heard some UN-supported scientists claim that certain foods will need to double production to keep up with rising demand.

This - along with massive support from Big Agri for GMOs and factory farming - seem to indicate that further industrialization of the food industry is all that can save the world from starvation. Not exactly.

While major food production and research companies are pouring millions into advancing their biotech methods, resistance in the forms of support for biodiversity, permaculture and other sustainable methods is growing.

Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?

A study by the University of California, Berkeley, presented exhaustive alternatives to current practices. One section of the paper cited research pointing to the positive effects of biodiversity on the numbers of herbivore pests, finding that polycultural planting led to reduction of pest populations by up to 64%. Later, combined results of hundreds of comparisons also favored biologically diverse farms with a 54% increase in pest mortality and damage to crops dropping by almost 25%. The introduction of more diverse insects also promoted increased pollination and healthier crops.(source ecology and society)

A 9-year study conducted by researchers from the USDA, University of Minnesota and Iowa State University proved that in more complex systems, yield AND profits were both enhanced. When paired against the conventional corn/soy rotation, less fertilizer was used. This difference actually increased over the course of the study, indicating the quality of the soil was improving over time, instead of experiencing the depletion of common practices. (source Union of Concerned Scientists)

So the USDA knows this eye-opening evidence, yet it continues to give tens of billions in subsidies to keep current industry.

Soil management is a key long-term investment for farmers, many of whom are not presented with viable alternatives to the current practice by the tightly controlled agriculture landscape. Biodiverse practices have been shown repeatedly to not only balance soil nutrition, but lead to a healthier array of forage choices for livestock, more nutrition and a more long-term, sustainable balance with local ecosystems. 

A diversified farming system has been defined as "A system of agricultural production that, through a range of practice, incorporates agrobiodiversity across multiple spatial and/or temporal scales." Basically, that breaks down to growing different things, in different areas, at different times. 

Does that practice seem familiar? Maybe it's how nature was meant to be. Managed but not manipulated or modified. And only by returning to the concepts provided to us by nature, will we manage to recreate the same sustainable environs that we were responsible for destroying in the first place. 

Marsden researchers said in their groundbreaking paper, that "there has been an interest in reintegrating crop and livestock systems as a strategy for reducing reliance on fossil fuels, minimizing the use of increasingly expensive fertilizers, and limiting water pollution by nutrients, pathogens, and antibiotics."

Karen Perry Stillerman of the Union of Concerned Scientists put it perfectly:
It's important to remember who has that interest....and who doesn't.
Other sources for this article include:

Image credit: Andrew Holder (Xerces Society)

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Anonymous said...

Dear Heather Callaghan,

"With the increasing population recently breaching the 7 billion mark, and no sign of slowing"

So the population is in decline, "thanks" to the population control agenda, what you have missed
somehow to notice.

Anonymous said...

It's no different then the Casinos.
When the game is rigged, the only winning move is to not play.

Heather Callaghan said...

Hi anonymous, you are correct about a population control agenda, but that is not what this article is about - that's a big scope for this topic. I suppose I could have added a note to that effect.

It's the UN scientists who love to cry about the population growth as a way to promote GMOS & big agri. It's their touchstone. If the population is left alone - naturally - it will grow. It grows an average of 1% to 1.5% each year including this one.

Just to clarify for everyone wasn't bemoaning population growth, I was showing how they use that to push their agenda for methods that will harm us and the environment. I was hoping to show that it is possible to feed a growing population with biodiversity. And you are right about that agenda working counter to what they say. Peace, Heather Callaghan

Anonymous said...

Dear Heather Callaghan,

Now I have watched the video and that is a great one.

MY only excuse is (not watching it at first) this sentence.

"With the increasing population recently breaching the 7 billion mark, and no sign of slowing"

Sorry but there are too much of info and impossible to watch all of them, and the starting
point should be better than the 7 billion people,
I'm a human only.

But the video is great and thanks for that.
I wish I could eat real food in England.

Anonymous said...

Kudos Heather!

Anonymous said...

Who says and properly confirms (by headcount!!) that there are
7 billion humans living on this planet??, can anyboby give some clue on this!!?

Heather Callaghan said...

Hi last anonymous - about the 7 billion people. There was a lot of buzz about it last year, many articles. Look up one on Activist Post called 7 Billion Beautiful People. Not exactly sure how the UN got the figures but if they used nothing but census I suppose there could be more or less. I suppose they could have lied and there are only 6 bill, 5 bill, 4 bill - the number wasn't important. It was a starting point that what the UN says is reason to grow Big GMO Agri is the very same reason we need biodiversity to undo the damage and feed the population whether it's growing or declining. The number of people isn't important - food sources are.

I'm really glad this is bringing up discussion - thanks for the comments! Peace, HC

Heather Callaghan said...

Dear original England Anonymous - Thank you so much for coming back and commenting! I'm so glad you watched the video - it really does explain it well doesn't it? I think the death rate is creeping up alarmingly and we know depopulation efforts are going full force. And even if the population is declining - and maybe it is by some counts - it still isn't changing the fact that people need to eat and our food industrial complex is starting to topple. So the article is really trying to show studies that prove biodiversity and polyculture could change that for the better. And we need studies like that so that people like me don't just write complaining articles :)

I know that the EU supplement ban hit England hard and I think they are now clamping down on raw milk. If you find good food sources or a way to eat healthy there, let us know at submissions at activist post dot com. Or just let us know what it's like.

FunCoTech said...

Simply eliminating waste of food could easily feed a few extra billions.
I think PermaCulture is the real, long term solution. I can imagine a future where we live in park like food forests in real Comunity...
We just have to hang a LOT of psychopaths (mostly bankers and CEO's) and rethink social relations. We have the knowledge necessary - its just the will and resolve required.
The greatest revolution ever considered is before us - are You brave enough?

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
I would like to thank you for the insight that you have provided me. As a fishery biologist, I studied the viability of aquaculture/ permaculture/ polyculture systems in school and this is way to possibly feed the population in the future! I live in the NW part of the United States and often pondered how to design a system that is sustainable and uses minimal resources. The cold and constant rain have foiled my plans to build a small scale model.

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