Biodiversity

Biostimulants Boost Plant Growth in Brackish Water

Brackish Water is Toxic To Most Crop Plants About 97% of the fresh water on the earth is considered too brackish (too salty) for either agricultural use.  Desalination, or purification, is of course possible.  Mechanical desalination processes are widely known. But making desalination cost effective and environmentally friendly can be challenging. The National Acadamies tell us that desalination research is ...

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Food Security Begins with a Mindset

Few of us stop to think about food security (access to enough safe, nutritious food to live a healthy life) as the driving force behind a thriving economy.  Yet leaders throughout history have recognized that food shortages spell disaster for any nation.  In today’s rapidly expanding global population, food security is key to prosperity.  This is why nations invest in ...

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Healthy Plants Keep Pests at Bay

If you are wondering how to keep pests off your tomato plants this summer, it is worth knowing that plants have numerous built in defense systems that keep insects and disease organisms in check.  In fact, when insects are nibbling on your garden vegetables, it is likely that improper irrigation, poor soil quality, or missing nutrients have compromised the plant’s ...

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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 ...

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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 and yard waste. Proper aeration is important to prevent overheating and to ensure that aerobic bacteria-bacteria that consume oxygen, dominate the mixture.  While there are exceptions to every ...

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Fungal Rich Compost Supports Vigorous Plant Growth

Fungal superhighways operate underground to decompose minerals and nutrients from soil and deliver them to plants.  For this reason, fungi are powerful, yet too often overlooked additions to plant production.  Many industrial agricultural techniques damage these fungal communities, resulting in less than optimal crop yields, reduced crop nutrition, and increased need for agrochemicals.  As a result, many organic farmers, and even ...

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Education for Sustainable Living

What is Sustainable Living? Sustainable living refers to the adoption of lifestyles or cultures that support healthy and prosperous communities and healthy ecosystems for present and future generations.  Lifestyles are shaped through education.  Education that allows students to interact with their environment and experience healthy, prosperous living is more likely to produce sustainable cultures.  This essay compares educational trends observed in the 1980’s and today, highlighting ...

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What Exactly is a Biological Soil Crust?

Soil Crusts are Tiny Communities that Can Help You Build Healthy Soil Did you ever walk out in the desert following a rainstorm?  If so, you may have noticed a thin black or green layer  on the surface of the soil.   Of course. you may have noticed a sprinkling of dry, black powder on the soil surface on a sunny day too, ...

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Remembering the Past With Yerba de Alonso Garcia

 Did Native Americans Name Good Plants after Good People? My friend Andrea once told me that early Americans, like the Navajo and the Apache, named plants with beneficial properties after people they liked. It was sort of a way to compliment the good people in their lives.  She added that snakes, flies, and mosquitoes might be named after people they disliked. ...

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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 ...

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