The BHU Future Farming Centre

Information - The FFC Bulletin - 2017 V1 January

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FAO Agroecology Knowledge Hub

By Charles Merfield

As a contrast to the more technical “Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security” report the FAO have a new Agroecology Knowledge Hub website www.fao.org/agroecology aimed at a more general audience including farmers and growers and those just starting out in agroecology to those who have been working with agroecology for years.  There is practical information, links to events and courses, and lots of practical examples and profiles of producers.  Another in a growing range of valuable practical resources from the FAO. 



The BHU Future Farming Centre

Information - The FFC Bulletin - 2017 V1 January

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The State of Food and Agriculture Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security FAO

By Charles Merfield

The new FAO State of Food and Agriculture report that focuses on the relationship between climate change and food security has a pretty blunt message: that it “will require a profound transformation of food and agriculture systems world wide” to solve the issues humanity faces.  The concerns raised by the FAO are starting to make the idea of a mere agrarian revolution woefully insufficient. 

It also highlights the double bind farming finds itself in: first that agriculture has to do its part in reducing civilisations impact on the climate, while second, also putting up with multiple negative impacts as climate shifts.  As many of those impacts are weather events that can have a profound impact on farming, such as floods, and droughts, it highlights the enormity of the task ahead. 

What I find increasingly striking is the increasing divergence between international agricultural policy, i.e., the FAO, which is calling for a paradigm shift in agriculture and what is happening an a national policy level.  Even in regions that are actively pursuing sustainable agriculture, such as the European Union, policy, and on the ground activity, is a fraction of what the FAO and other international perspectives are calling for, and for most countries, agricultural policy appears largely unchanged since the 1990s. 

Download the full report from the FAO (6 MB).



The BHU Future Farming Centre

Information - The FFC Bulletin - 2017 V1 January

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Obsalim® livestock health cards

By Charles Merfield

Animal heath is critical to the performance and profitability of livestock systems, but, going beyond the good herdsmanship of being able to spot an animal that is out of sorts, often involves the vet and associated cost.  The new Obsalim® system from France has been developed to allow farmers, vets and other involved in livestock production to diagnose animal health issues related to feeding and to then change feed to resolve the problems and get animal health and performance back on track.  There are a set of pictorial cards and software that diagnose the animal through observation of eyes, hooves, skin, hide, dung, urine and other indicators and which covers cattle, sheep and goats.

There have been a number of reviews and trials of the system by farmer groups and organisations in the EU, and they have all been positive about the system.  Many have gained valuable new understanding of animal health and nutrition coupled with behavioural aspects, such as giving animals specific rumination times.

The main caveat is that the system is more suited to feeding rather than grazing systems, as, the options for changing feed in a grazing system, especially extensive ones, is limited, as is the opportunity to assess all the observations, while in confined systems producers are always close to the stock making observations easier, and, there is complete control over the diet.  Even so, those farmers on pasture systems said Obsalim® was still valuable and worth the effort. 

www.obsalim.com



The BHU Future Farming Centre

Information - The FFC Bulletin - 2017 V1 January

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Soil Health - Growing Resilient Efficient And Thriving (GREAT) Soils

By Charles Merfield

Another great project from the home of the tormented acronym (the EU) is “Growing Resilient Efficient And Thriving (GREAT) Soils”.  Beyond the acronym, the core of this project is focused on soil health, what it is, and how to measure it, i.e., it is focused on practical information for farmers and growers, not, academics. 

It has now put out its first reports, and, in my view one of the most valuable aspects of the work is comparisons of the many different soil assessment methods, such as standard chemical lab tests, Visual Soil Assessment (VSA), soil pits / profiles and more controversial tests such as Soil Foodweb Inc. and Albrecht.   The two reports, one an annual report and the other a literature review, are not final version extension material, but, they still contain a wealth of information on soil heath in a highly accessible form for producers.  Well worth a read and keeping an eye out for future outputs. 

Webpage https://horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/project/growing-resilient-efficient-and-thriving-soils-great-soils

Direct download of the annual report  and Literature Review

The BHU Future Farming Centre

Information - The FFC Bulletin - 2017 V3 July

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Sprouted seeds for chickens and tractor tyre app

By Charles Merfield

Sprouted seeds for chickens

An interesting study as part of the innovativefarmers.org field labs.  Groups of hens were fed their usual ration for six weeks and then a mixture of 50% sprouted barley and 50% layers pellets for a second six week period. The birds were fed the same weight of food over the whole trial, but the water content of the sprouts meant there was a big difference in dry matter intake. When on the diet of sprouted seeds, the hens were receiving 25% less dry matter, without affecting their weight or production. In fact, egg production was actually higher when the hens were fed on sprouted seeds.  Unfortunately the trial design is rather flawed as half the groups of hens should of been on dry grain and the other half on the sprouted grain, but, as there is a big difference in dry matter, which should result in commensurate big drop in production, so that production was maintained is very interesting.  A clear case of more research required, but, its the kind of trial that would be easy to do on your own chickens / poultry.  https://innovativefarmers.org/news/2016/december/19/sprouted-seeds-for-reduced-feed-bills/

Tractor tyre pressure app

And for something completely different. Soil compaction from machinery is an ongoing bug-bear for soil scientists who keep going on and on at producers about it, because, after incorrect soil nutrient levels, compaction is the biggest killer of crop yield and soil health, yet compaction management is often less than ideal as it is hard to avoid.  So a tractor tyre pressure app from Firestone for android and iPhone aims to help farmers get the right pressure, especially for modern radial tyres which can have a big bulge at the bottom that looks like under-inflation.  If the pressure is too high, it not only increases compaction, but also reduces tyre life, i.e., costs money.  So, a nice example of a win-win.