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
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
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
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
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
A very interesting look at the politics and economics behind your favorite beer from our friends over at Civil Eats.
We typically think of forestland and farmland as being mutually exclusive. But many indigenous people around the world traditionally have cultivated crops right alongside trees and shrubs, and some sustainable-development advocates believe it’s time to bring back and update these “agroforestry” practices. Read more …
NYBG photography instructor and all around nice guy Rich Pomerantz has started a new photography series devoted to the Northeast’s new generation of farmers. First up: Tyson Averill, the tenth generation to farm his family’s land in Washington, Conn. at Averill Farm.
Urban farmer and author Novella Carpenter was fined $2,500 for growing chard in her Oakland garden. If you’re an urban gardener, you should be aware of these sorts of problems. Make sure your garden is legal by checking this zoning laws map from Grown in the City.
Matthew Moore returned to his 1,000 acre family farm outside of Phoenix to find suburbia encroaching. Rather than hastening the (seemingly) inevitable act of selling the farm to a developer, Moore decided to fight back with … time-lapse photography! Moore setup a series of solar-powered time lapse cameras to document the developmental stages of his produce which he then edited into a short film called Lifecycles. Learn more about Moore’s endeavors in this great piece over on GOOD.