Tag Archives: sustainable agriculture

Considering Nopales for Arid Land Specialty Crops

Nopales, or Prickly Pear cactus, include numerous species of the genus Opuntia which thrive in poor soils and arid lands. These cacti can be grown and harvested for their tunas, or fruit, and for their pads.  They thrive in deeper, well drained soils, and can tolerate pH levels as high as 7.8.   California researchers have investigated the use of Nopales as ...

Read More »

Can Global Warming Reduce Nutrition?

According to a recent report in Science Advances (summarized in the Vox) increased atmospheric CO2, a key feature in global warming, can result in reduced crop nutrition.  They demonstrated this effect using rice, a staple crop that feeds much of the world.  This would seem threatening, since poor crop nutrition impacts food webs all the way from the soil to the plate.  Human ...

Read More »

Why Is Living Soil a Disruptive Innovation?

We know soil is alive.  Why do we treat it like dirt? The first lesson in the first soils class I ever took covered what soil is made of.  We learned soil contains minerals, air, water, organic matter, and “critters”.  Yes.  That’s right.  Critters.  All those little squirmy, wiggly things that live underground.  Bacteria.  Fungi.  Worms.  Insects. Those living things ...

Read More »

The Johnson-Su Bioreactor Enriches Beneficial Soil Fungi

Stop Turning Your Compost Composting offers a terrific way to culture native microbes that benefit your soil. However, there is more to a good compost than simply building a pile of manure or and yard waste. Proper aeration is important to prevent overheating and to ensure that aerobic microbes dominate the mixture. This is why many large scale composting facilities ...

Read More »

On Solar Powered Nitrogen Factories

  Recently, I was invited into a discussion on the potential for “solar powered nitrogen factories”. The dialog dealt with using legumes and grasses as cover crops to increase soil fertility. This is of course, a great strategy which farmers are adopting at large scales. As the cover crops grow, they release sugars that feed soil microbes, nitrogen rich amino ...

Read More »

Water Retention in a Wood Chip Garden

Few characters I dealt with in my years as as a researcher were as colorful as Chuck Redman.  Chuck was a retired solar energy technician who had dedicated many lab hours during his career to exploring the movement of adsorbed water.   After retirement, Chuck had become fascinated with the hypothesis that significant amounts of water in trees could move ...

Read More »