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The FFC Bulletin 2023 V2 April

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DIY soil health tests

Directly download the report as a PDF.

This Bulletin’s main FFC extension report is ‘DIY Soil Health Tests V1’. These are a range of soil health tests that farmers, growers and gardeners can do themselves (DIY) with minimal equipment and no training. While, none of the tests are new, indeed if you know what you are looking for there is a wealth of information online and in old school sources such as books, however, to our knowledge they have never been put into one publication along with the background info on soil health squarely written for farmers and growers. So, what are you waiting for? Go test your soil health. Read more…

A range of new weed management articles and resources

Dr Charles Merfield, Head of the FFC recently published a journal paper titled ‘Could the dawn of Level 4 robotic weeders facilitate a revolution in ecological weed management?’ on the massive advances in robotic weeders that point to a future where crop and non-crop plants are managed individually opening up techniques, such as plant level intercropping and ecological weed management. Read an open access (but read only) version of the paper.

IWMPraise (Integrated Weed Management: PRActical Implementation and Solutions for Europe) is a large European Union (EU) Project on integrated weed management (IWM). They have published a wide range of IWM resources for farmers and growers. Read more…

Getting your head around soil carbon storage

A recent paper has reviewed the many and often conflicting even controversial concepts, arguments and debate around storing organic carbon in soils. It is a ‘science grade’ paper so does require a reasonable level of understanding of soil science, and is pretty detailed and dense. If your up for it, it is a very valuable overview and pros and cons of all the different arguments. Current controversies on mechanisms controlling soil carbon storage: implications for interactions with practitioners and policy-makers. A

Getting your head around the role of livestock and alternatives in diets and farming

Along with soil carbon, another current debate / controversy (depending on your point of view) in agriculture is the role of livestock and livestock alternatives in human diets and farming.  Two papers aim to help the reader understand the different arguments and presents their pros and cons in as neutral way as possible.  The first from ‘Table Debates‘ “Meat, metrics and mindsets:  Exploring debates on the role of livestock and alternatives in diets and farming“. FFC copy. and the second from International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)  “The Politics of Protein: Examining claims about livestock, fish, ‘alternative proteins’ and sustainability’’

BIOFRUITNET – Boosting Innovation in ORGANIC FRUIT production through stronger networks

BioFruitNet Is another EU project this time on organic top fruit production – though it applies just as much to any grower wanting to reduce their agrichemical inputs / move to a more agroecological approach. BIOFRUITNET is building up a wide range of grower support materials including a newsletter.

MIXED – Multi-actor and transdisciplinary development of efficient and resilient MIXED farming and agroforestry systems

The second and this time livestock focused link to an EU project is MIXED (Multi-actor and transdisciplinary development of efficient and resilient MIXED farming and agroforestry systems)  which is focused on helping farmers developed mixed farming and agroforestry systems with an aim of optimising efficiency and resource use, reduce GHG emissions, and show greater resilience to climate change. It also has a range of resources and a newsletter.

Agroecology & digitalisation: Traps and opportunities to transform the food system.

As a counterpoint to the above somewhat technical utopia of Level 4 robotic weeders, IFOAM EU has published “Agroecology & digitalisation: Traps and opportunities to transform the food system IFOAM” about why digitalization, precision agriculture and technological should not be only seen as the only fix to the current input-intensive agriculture model. Digitalization and agroecology often appear in the debate over the future of farming as two dominating and conflicting narratives. This report analyses the intersection of agroecology and digitization and what it may mean for both.  FFC cached copy of the report.

Growing Tagasaste / tree lucerene (Cytisus proliferus) in New Zealand

A clearly Aotearoa New Zealand centric report, though the information is sufficiently general to apply much more widely.  Originating in the Canary Islands, tagasaste thrives in dryer climates and can be used as a nurse crop for tree planting as it is very quick growing and fixes nitrogen, makes great stock food, especially emergency food, and is amazing fire wood.  Download a copy from AgResearch or the FFC.

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