Chalk up another win for native plants. Australian sheep farmers have discovered, much to their fiscal joy, I imagine, that scrappy, rugged native plants—when paired up properly to provide all the essential vitamins—make better grazing material for their livestock than traditionally cultivated clover and grasses alone.
Local plants like saltbush, blue bush, and goosefoot were proven to boost production and profitability by 24%, but it wasn’t all about the bottom line; sheep that fed on these plants also showed a marked decrease in methane emissions. Yes, sheep farts, as with other mass livestock “emissions,” have been pegged as a likely contributor to global warming.
Better yet, these native plants, when introduced to grazing areas, reduced ground soil erosion and thrived on limited rainfall. And the benefits don’t stop there. Makes me wonder how a finding like this might help out farmers on other continents. More info through the link. —MN
July 11, 2013
Locavores rejoice! Er, not for New York’s actual ranking as far as locavore-friendly states go—we’re still pulling a failing grade on that front, sadly. But, we are on the up and up, in part thanks to that most wondrous of beverages: beer.
While it’s been common for U.S. breweries to import farm-grown ingredients from Europe and elsewhere, the forward march of craft brew know-how brings with it a regional pride that demands something grown a little closer to home. The NYBG and The Bronx Brewery took a step in the right direction last year when we started growing hops in our Family Garden, hops that are being used by our brewery friends to make unique local beers.
Now, Brooklyn Brewery is making waves on the wheat and barley front, using grains grown as near as upstate Watertown, NY. At a run of 6,000 bottles, “Greenmarket Wheat” is a small step, but an important one. In time, greater demand for local beer ingredients could be the push U.S. farmers need to grow more wheat, barley, and hops. Click through for more, then schedule a beer distributor detour on the way home from work tonight. —MN
June 25, 2013
You learn something new everyday! My Yukon potato plants have berries.
Potato begets potato begets potato. The life cycle of this tuber is fascinating, and made more complicated by centuries of selective breeding by farmers. But many don’t realize that potato plants produce flowers, berries, and seeds.
Most people familiar with the potato farming process understand that the lumpy things you buy from the supermarket are commonly grown from seed potatoes, or the growing eyes of an existing potato. But you can also grow them from seed (a confusing process in itself). Unfortunately, you can’t eat the seed-containing berries because they’re highly toxic; the potato plant is just one of those deadly nightshade relatives that happened to inherit its most antisocial quality: nasty glycoalkaloids.
Even though the berries are usually too bitter for anyone to eat enough for a toxic dose, it’s best to keep them out of reach of children and pets—or adopt a policy of trimming off flowers and/or the resultant berries as soon as possible. —MN
March 9, 2013
Diversity, it seems, really is everything. In this very interesting article from The Economist reporting on a study featuring the work of 50 researchers and published in Science, the researchers have found that if you want more flowers and fruit, you need to increase the diversity of your pollinator population. The researchers looked at a wide range of crops, 41 in total with a diversity of flower shapes and sizes. Those crops pollinated by managed hives of honeybees had smaller fruit and later fruit set, while those pollinated by a diversity of insects including bees, beetles, and butterflies got better yields, up to twice as much! The researchers think that the difference in shapes and sizes of the insects help spread the pollen more effectively and increase cross-pollination. Just another case of monocultures in agriculture being a not-so-good thing. Variety, it seems, is indeed the spice of life, even for plants. ~AR
(via Pollinators: Variety is the spice of life | The Economist)
December 5, 2012
Earth with its Living Skin Pulled Away
At first glance, these may seem like unique oases formed in the desert—and they are. But not necessarily by nature alone. While even the deserts of Algeria can support vegetative life with underground water, these “plant bowls” are an attempt by man to make the most of the land surrounding.
If you squint, you can make out small pump stations bringing up the water from the table nearly 20 meters below the sand’s surface. And the sharp edges defining each bowl are actually sand fences created to keep the windswept dunes from overtaking the gardens inside. The plants you see are produce, vegetables grown to support nearby towns.
Not every farm operation is a patchwork of perfect squares and rectangles seen from an airplane. —MN
September 3, 2012
This short article is packed full of awesome agricultural stats:
- New York State is the second largest producer of wine after California.
- New York produces the most cottage cheese and sour cream of any of the fifty states.
- The average New York farm is less than 200 acres. The national average is twice that.
- Pumpkins were the 18th-largest commodity in 2010 with sales of $35 million.
And that’s just the start. The next time you run into a farmer, thank them. They do a lot of hard work and have a huge economic impact on our great state. So raise a toast to New York’s farmers the next time you sip a glass of Long Island Meritage or dig into a pot of Greek yogurt! ~AR
(via NYS: Suffolk tops in flowers, pumpkins, sod)
August 7, 2012
Anna Laurent is a longtime friend of the Garden and a very talented woman. She is a plant-focused photographer, writer, and film producer. ArtPlantae Today has this excellent Q&A with her. ~AR
(via Art, Botany & Society: Plants in the Limelight « ArtPlantae Today)
July 20, 2012
Saving Surplus: Gleaned Foods Make it to the Grocery Shelf
In a perfect world, every cucumber and carrot would find its way onto someone’s plate, but, in reality, many farmers can face up to a 50% turn-under rate in a bad market. “Turning under,” for the uninitiated, is the process of working unsold produce back into the fields as fertilizer for the next crop. Good for the plants, maybe not so great for those who made the effort to grow them. That’s where (at least for the west coast) Larry Bain steps in.
It’s early days yet, but Bain—an established Bay Area hot dog guru—is hoping to find a home for those unsold vegetables with a profit for everyone involved. And he aims to do it with pickling. It’s a time-tested method for preserving surplus food, so why not? Click through for the whole story. —MN
January 7, 2012
Here’s something I never knew: When it’s going to be icy cold in Florida, fruit growers spay their plants with water to encase them in ice in order to protect them. The ice insulates the fruits and flowers and keeps them from being damaged. It’s a fascinating world out there! ~AR