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Ecological food production

Bio-diversity V’s Synthetics

Ive been growing heritage wheat on a farm scale for four years. I started because of a talk given by John Letts during my course on Sustainable agriculture. The talk resonated with me on these fronts: Wheat was a staple food source I was not used to growing which, potentially, for my family meant greater nutrition, growing Heritage varieties represent a better way to grow wheat; shorter more digestible gluten strains, plants that outgrow unwanted plants (weeds) negating the need to spray synthetics to KILL them, plants that mine nutrients better; they have a much increased root system as compared to modern wheat. Lastly growing populations – many varieties of wheat grown together – meant resilience against spreading pathogens. This all resulted in, as I was later to see at Johns Lett’s farm, fields of wheat with various personalities. To bring this to life Im going to describe how I felt sitting in the field of wheat during my first year (2014). Sitting there, listening to the bees fly past my head, filling it with warm busy vibrations, of a creature purposefully looking after its fellows, i noticed the adjoining field. This field was also occupied by wheat. At that moment I thought of the scenes on TV, I had witnesses as a boy in the 80’s, of a Russian army parading past the Kremlin. All neat, regimented, copies, drones (not the type we now know). The wheat in the adjacent field looked ready to march as if waiting in the wings to be given their orders ‘off you go, quick march’. My wheat on the other hand – to continue the analogy – was rabble, something like Kelly’s Hero’s. A rabble with attitude and an element of coolness.

So a few years later….. I moved to a field that had been synthetically controlled, Russian army style, for 30 plus years. The first year I had the field planted, as you may of read, with lots of complementary seeds that would improve the soil and habitat. I also tried to plant wheat. I say tried but what I mean to say is I feed the animals on the field some wheat. The slugs and snails the rabbits, the mice etc. This is the crux of this piece of writing and our whole lifetimes desire of sustainability. If there is NO balance, NO bio-diversity and no control (synthetics) your crops will become food for the creatures. Obviously – unless you have been brainwashed by corporations – we cannot revert to synthetics. Research shows, and no doubt this is the thin end of the wedge, that adding synthetics to the soil gives us cancer, kills everything in the soil making it purely an aggregate, makes weeds bigger… and so on. Achieving balance cannot happen in one field and its surrounding woodland. Balance comes from keystone species; Wolves, Eagles, Bears. In the UK we are still trying to kill off all non-human species, Badgers in particular, but we are nearly there. Give us a few more years and total wipeout will be ours!!! 

Bio-diversity seams to be the answer. Build that and the creatures devouring the wheat will have to look over their shoulders a lot more. Instead of the mice calmly waltzing their way up the wheat stems or pea pots, there will be scurrying mice darting up steams before being swopped on by Sparrows hawks. Rabbits foe will be Polecats and Buzzards. Slugs will be eaten by beetles and Leopard slugs. Wood pigeons by foxes. In order to achieve this gorgeous picture, that exists in my mind but is also emerging on the field, there must be no barriers or fences, little plastic, NO synthetic sprays or soil additives of any description. Large parts, about 1/3, of the field must remain untouched and undisturbed. I feel the need to work with, not against, the creatures of the field for I am one of them. I will then find a balance of nutrition and life that will fill us all with flavour, nutrition and wellbeing.

The photos at the start of this blog show the field being readied for fruit bushes. The soil is so bad, recovering from 30 plus years of abuse, that it will not grow fruit well. The trail bushes I planted last year went through a period of difficulty, some went bright yellow and keeled over, overs contorted from the gnawing of Rabbits teeth on the bark and then fell over. Others struggled through, all of them did a good impression of an under nourished kid. Maybe this will generate tasty fruit, as with some wine – Priorat from the north eastern highlands of Spain for example; deep, red in colour and in minerality, luscious and full of body. Cherries and blackberries in taste. Maybe my fruit will express the hardships of depleted soil through concentrated flavours? I am betting that soil with bacteria, mycelia, worms – creatures of all sorts – organic material and deep dark colours will imbue the fruit with more flavour and therefore nutrition. The piles of sawdust and compost in the pictures will be covered in the dark soil you also see. I’m really looking forward to the fruit harvest, along with the birds and bees and rabbits and dear, over the next few years.

Why would you not….

Annual wheat is grown on more acres than any other grain crop, at 548 million acres worldwide, followed by corn at 445 million acres and rice at 399 million acres. It accounts for 20% of human food calories and more protein calories than any other grain.

So why would you not.. be interested in how its grown, processed and made into products?

Our grainortruth.org project is working to bring the process back to peoples consciousness. We are growing (the third year) heritage wheat, grown prior to 1870 – because its better for us, It has 2-genomes instead of the 6-genomes of modern bloated wheats. We are NOT using synthetics. Our wheat doesn’t need them. They mine nutrients much more effectively – they are not bloated and being drip fed. They outgrow other plants in the field (weeds?) so the other plants don’t need to be poisoned (Conventional farming). We also grow the heritage wheat as populations, a mixture of many types of wheat, that builds resistance and resilience and negates the need for pesticides (conventional farming). This project is just as much about increasing bio-diversity as it is growing wheat. The next few years will determine how far we can go towards food security without the need for interventions (shooting, spraying, killing, dominating).

Our aim is to build soil quality and develop wheat terrior.

Taking back control

I’m preparing my field for winter and spring wheat planting – Its taking a lot longer than I had planned – I’d only planned one day which was a complete under estimation. In this battered, mind and body, state I am lucky to be reminded of the importance of my task; to grow, process and make bread and/ or pasta from heritage wheat.

Wheat is the most traded (billions of dollars made by traders in global merry-go-round) product on the globe and for its physiochemical properties its added to many food stuffs. Its identity is ripped from it during this trade and manipulation. It no longer has a connection to anything – white flour is inert – let alone a connection to the earth, culture or the body. The journey that wheat undertakes from soil to inert product additive or even from soil to gorgeous sourdough loaf is mystical to most of us.

We should all be striving to understand the life of wheat after all its one of the worlds most important foods. As a seed it had, before plant breeders, beginning with Norman Borlaug, tore its heart out, Vitamin E, B11, B12, proteins and amino acids (See for more detail http://www.acs.chtf.stuba.sk/papers/acs_0041.pdf). My project is set to understand how high quality (heritage) wheat can be grown and processed in locally (South Devon) and how this product, flour, then bread or/ and pasta can demonstrate commercial viability knowing that, in this current dominate paradigm, it is traded at a global level.

Come and join me in a voyage to discover how wheat is connected to the soil and our bodies – come and help out in growing and making. Email me if you fancy trying your hand.

Polytunnel and grain in Devon

The Toms and Melons in the poly tunnel are thriving. The filed feels like it has lots of potential, but five years might not be enough.

From this:

IMG_1600
Lots of beneficial seeds ready to sprout and help the soil

 

To this five months later:

Self-made Polytunnel.

Further to may last post about building a polytunnel with NO money.

 

 

The path is saw duct from a local wood mill and the soil in the side beds is from the Mare and Foul sanctuary. The wood, for the ribs, ends and doors is from the next door housing development. The temperature is reaching 40 degrees with high levels of humidity. The Tomatoes, Aubergines love it and I hope the soon to planted Melons will too. All seeds for from the http://www.reelseeds.co.uk.

Self made Polytunnel

How to make a poly tunnel with NO money:

Lengths of plastic piping – cut to the same length… or guess like I did. I’ll add here that the pipe was left on my field by the next door housing development. Id never buy it.

Metal rods to bang into soil – bang them in until they are solid. I used metal strengthening rods. Slip the plastic over the rods at 5 actual feet, the ones in your boots, lengths apart

2×2 wood to make ends and doors – cut to size and screw to pipe (oh yeah you need loads of screws long enough to go through the wood and into the piping.

Plastic to cover

Good soil to plant into – I’ve acquired mine from the local Mare and Foal sanctuary

IMG_1417.JPG

Plants – Toms, Peppers and Melons – (I bought some seeds from Reel seeds)

Planting day

IMG_2001.jpgThe first day of of realising the co-op. Thank you to Al, Eloise, Hayley and Saskatoon, Tom, Faze and ‘the Oracle’ for making it all happen…..

 

 

Fruit bush planting day 15th March

Hello,

This is the first community planting day – Sawmills orchard, shinners bridge. The field next to the new mini round-a-bout adjacent to the new housing.

The grain and food project is NOT about just food but also about the systems that create, distribute and trade our food. Human relationships embroiled in this are the most significant factor and I hope this day TUESDAY 15TH MARCH will start us on a journey to exploring this factor.

Anyone welcome – we have about 50 bushes to plant and a few KG of heritage grain.

Please pass on. Mail me if you have questions.

Meat or not to meat – is that the question?

What are the environmental impacts of the manufacture and consumption of protein in the UK?

 Introduction.

The livestock sector is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, according to the IPCC (2000). Whilst the sector provides high value food and many other economic and social functions, its resource use implications are large. Although the land area it uses in Western Europe has stabilised in the years 1961 – 2002 at 1,838 (Mha) it has increased in other parts of the world, through grazing and the use of feed crops, by an average of 18% (IPCC, 2000). Total agricultural land has increased in area by 10% from 4,562 (Mha) to 5,023 (IPCC, 2005). 75 per cent of this land and 23 per cent of the arable part of this land is used to raise animals, through growing crops for animal feed and through the use of pastures as grazing land (Chatham House, 2014). Putting it simply, cropland and pasture land account for 50% of the worlds ice free land (Clarke, M & Tillman, D, 2014). Numbers of livestock have also increased in the last 12 years; cattle numbers up 23%, sheep numbers are almost static, pigs up 13% and chicken numbers increased by a staggering 106% (Meat stats 9, 2014)

Million livestock 2012 Global EU UK
Cattle 1,458.2 86.6 9.7
Sheep 1,169 86.2 22
Pigs 966.2 148.6 4.3
Chickens 21,867 1,259 149
Total 25,460.4 1,580.4 185

Fig 1. MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Between 1963 and 2014, meat production rose from 78 million tons to more than 300 million tons – a fourfold increase (Purcell, C. 2016). What is going on with our livestock numbers?

Our diets have also developed. According to the IPCC (2007) global calorie intake increased by 31% from 1961-70 (2,032) to 2001-2 (2,657) and animal sourced protein, as part of this diet, from 18% to 30% a 67% increase. UK diets, according to the UK government, currently stand at an average of 3,450 calories a day and protein at 70.6g a day (132% of RDI, of which 23% is from animal sources). The consumption of beef according to the FAO has increased 28% from 1961 – 2008/10.

We are using more land for livestock agriculture, and this increase is not confined to land that is unsuitable for growing food for human consumption (uplands, scrub lands etc) adding to the complexity of deforestation. Simon Fairlie in ‘Meat The Benign Extravagance’ puts this mainly down to land speculation, others put it down to growing soya and then more still to cattle grazing. I would argue also that the political situation in South America – as that’s the area we think of when we talk about deforestation in the main – and global industries’ exploitation of this has a part to play. Namely that there are land grabs by both socialist governments and global mining companies to grab resources from the region in the form of metals and minerals. Soya and cattle are merely a precursor to this process. We are also cultivating too many animals and producing too much meat. Consequently or even concurrently we are eating too much food, in the form of calories, meat and protein from livestock (eggs and dairy).

As a consequence, global livestock production and associated activities, including land-use change, are estimated to account for 7.1 Gt CO2e per annum or 10 – 20% of global anthropogenic emissions (Steinfeld et al., 2006. J. Vermeulen, et al,. Smith et al., Smith P., M et al,.,2014I). Methane emissions account for 2.2 Gt or, 30% of these emissions, similar to the relative contribution of N2O, while land use and land-use change, together with deforestation related to provision of grazing, account for 2.7 Gt (38%) (Bruce, J, P1996 & IPCC, 1996). These emissions have increased by nearly 17% from 1990 to 2005, an average annual emission increase of about 60 MtCO2 -eq/yr (IPCC, 2007). The report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, 2014. puts the numbers like this:

 

Together, field-level practices represent approximately 15 per cent of total human-made greenhouse gas emissions, in the form of nitrous oxide (N2O) from the use of organic and inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, methane (CH4 ) from flooded rice fields and livestock, and carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the loss of soil organic carbon in croplands and, due to intensified grazing, on pastures. In addition, the production of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, the tillage, irrigation and fertilization, and the transport, packaging and conservation of food require considerable amounts of energy, resulting in an additional 15 to 17 per cent of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions attributable to food systems.

 

 

The chart below illustrates a broad analysis of numbers quoting CO2e figures from various scientific reports of recent years:

Fig 2. CO2e released from agriculture

 

Report Agricultural total – Meat and Dairy Direct (livestock) emissions N2O, CH4 Indirect emissions Agricultural Land use
IPCC 2005 10 -12% 5 – 6% – methane 3.3%. Nitrous Oxide 2.8% 40% – 50% of worlds total land
IPCC 2007 13%
Chatham House 14.5%
J. Vermeulen, et al,. 15 – 25%
Worldwatch 51% 18%

from the report ‘livestocks long shadow’

33% – breathing CO2, Land change, livestock numbers increase over time, cooling, cooking, disposal, production,

marine activity and waste in all parts of the chain

8%
Smith et al,. 10-12% 15% – deforestation 37% of earths terrestrial surface
Barker et al. 14% 14%
Van der Werf et al,. 12% – deforestation
FCRN (UK) 19% 7%
Livestock dialogue.org 14.5%

 

Fig 2: A review of reports relating to GWP (global warming potential) for agriculture, livestock and land use and their contribution to CO2e per year. Researchers own, 2016.

 

The GLEAM 1.0 – Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential gives us some great graphics to illustrate and bring to life the research we are trying to undertake here.

gleam figure 3

Fig 3. Global significance of sector’s emissions. GHG emissions values are computed in GLEAM for 2005, while IPCC estimates are for 2004. GLEAM emissions estimate includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services.

Emissions by species

Cattle are the main contributor to the sector’s emissions with about 4.6 gigatonnes CO2-eq, which represents about 65 percent of sector’s emissions, see figure 4. Beef and dairy cattle generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases, see figure 4. Pigs, poultry, buffaloes and small ruminants have much lower emissions, representing between 7 and 10 percent of sector’s emissions. (see figure 5).

gleam figure 4

Fig 4. Global estimates of emissions by species. It includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services, such as draught power and wool. Beef cattle produce meat and non-edible outputs. Dairy cattle produce milk and meat as well as non-edible outputs.

 

gleam figure 5

Fig 5. . Global emission intensities by commodity. All commodities are expressed in a per protein basis. Averages are calculated at global scale and represent an aggregated value across different production systems and agro-ecological zones.

More specifically according to recent peer reviewed journals, protein supply (as this is what we are really trying to analyse in this report) – shown in fig 6. – shows enormous variation, but again, cattle CO2e per KG of protein delivered, according to the majority of reports, is the main contributor. This is backed up by fig 5 (above), which also emphasizes the enormous variations in emissions figures. This I would surmise is down to variations in the system the animal is part of, but we must mindful; there is not a direct relationship between the broad ‘type’ of system and the amount of Kg of CO2e it emits. The relationship is more complex and diverse that this ham fisted attempt at labeling. Further studies would have to undertaken to give credence to this line of thought.

 

CO2e Kg emissions per kg of protein

 

Type * CO2e KG per Kg LCA ** CO2e kg per kg of protein FAO *** CO2e kg from the production of commodities in the UK, the rest of Europe and the rest of the world for direct UK consumption. **** CO2e KG per KG of livestock protein eaten LCA ***** CO2e kg per kg of body weight ****** CO2e kg per kg food UK shipped to Sweden all energy
Cattle 342.00 56.40 24.00 5.45 23.00
Milk 1.19 1.10
Cheese – soft 2.00
Cheese – hard 6.10 12.00 8.80
Lamb 112 – 165 14.61 36.00 9.45 24.00
Pigs <100 10.10 8.00 3.97 9.20
Poultry <100 16.00 13.00 3.25 6.60
Eggs 3.80 5.50
Butter 8.10

Fig 6. CO2e emissions from a range of recent peer reviewed reports compiled by the researcher, 2016.

* Flysjö, Anna (2014)

** http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

*** http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/how_low_report_1.pdf

**** http://tinyurl.com/cerrtef

***** Zervas, G (2012)

****** Gonzalez, A, et al,. 2011

LCA – Life cycle assessment. This type of assessment seems to be the industry standard for understanding total on farm and post farm gate emissions.

NB. There are large differences in kg CO2e emissions because of the models and methodologies used. For example cattle 6.5kg of CO2e emissions for 1kg of protein – dead weight; cattle 23kg of CO2e emissions per kg of protein including all energy uses post farm.

NB. The results are pulled together from various sources and represent a spectrum of opinion, therefore there is variation.

The next table illustrates how the our diets compare when looking at CO2e kg and how this converts to travel and emissions, as this is something we seem to understand to a greater degree.

Table 3. Six diet variations showing kg of CO2e emitted per day and for a year.
(kgCO2e/day) (kgCO2e/year)
High meat eaters (>= 100g/d) 7.19 2624
Medium meat eaters (50-99g/d) 4.67 1705
Low meat eaters (<50g/d) 3.91 1427
Fish eaters 3.81 1391
Vegetarians 3.81 1391
Vegan 2.89 1055

Fig 7. Scarborough, P, et al,. 2014. Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegans and vegetarians in the UK.

 

  • A flight from London to Melbourne Australia uses 1,300kg CO2e. A change in diet from high meat eater (>= 100g/d) to vegetarian would mitigate this.
  • A flight from London to New York (960kg CO2e) could be mitigated by changing from high meat eater to low meat eater.
  • A family running a 10yr old car for 6k miles has a carbon footprint of 2,440 kgCO2e – roughly the same as moving two adults from high meat eaters to vegetarian diets. www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

 

Animal proteins large scale production by means of factory farming is a major driver of biodiversity loss, according to E. O. Wilson this may be the biggest depravity our generation leaves behind. A diet transition back to less animal protein could make a difference Aiking, H (2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix:

 

Fig 1. MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Fig 2: A review of reports relating to GWP for agriculture, livestock and land use and their contribution to CO2e per year. Researchers own, 2016.

 

Fig 3. Global significance of sector’s emissions. GHG emissions values are computed in GLEAM for 2005, while IPCC estimates are for 2004. GLEAM emissions estimate includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

 

Fig 4. Global estimates of emissions by species. It includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services, such as draught power and wool. Beef cattle produce meat and non-edible outputs. Dairy cattle produce milk and meat as well as non-edible outputs. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

Fig 5. Global emission intensities by commodity. All commodities are expressed in a per protein basis. Averages are calculated at global scale and represent an aggregated value across different production systems and agro-ecological zones. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

Fig 6. Fig 6. CO2e emissions from a range of recent peer reviewed reports compiled by the researcher, 2016.

Fig 7. Scarborough, P, et al,. 2014. Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegans and vegetarians in the UK.

Aiking, Harry. “Protein production: planet, profit, plus people?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100.Supplement 1 (2014): 483S-489S.

 

Baily, Rob, Antony Froggatt, and Laura Wellesley. “Livestock–Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption.” (2014) PDF

 

Bruce, James P., Hoe-sŏng Yi, and Erik F. Haites. Climate change 1995: Economic and social dimensions of climate change: Contribution of Working Group III to the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

 

De Schutter, O. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. Final report: The transformative potential of the right to food.”Human Rights Council of the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www. srfood. org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20140310_finalreport_en. pdf(2014).

 

Fairlie, Simon. Meat: a benign extravagance. Chelsea green publishing, 2010.

 

Flysjö, Anna, Mikkel Thrane, and John E. Hermansen. “Method to assess the carbon footprint at product level in the dairy industry.” International Dairy Journal 34.1 (2014): 86-92.

 

GLEAM, (2016), GLEAM 1.0 – Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential. Accessed online at: http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/ Last viewed 1st Feb 2016.

 

 

González, Alejandro D., Björn Frostell, and Annika Carlsson-Kanyama. “Protein efficiency per unit energy and per unit greenhouse gas emissions: potential contribution of diet choices to climate change mitigation.” Food Policy 36.5 (2011): 562-570.

 

IPCC, 2000: Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

 

MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 

Scarborough, Peter, et al. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climatic change125.2 (2014): 179-192.

 

Smith, Pete, et al. “Policy and technological constraints to implementation of greenhouse gas mitigation options in agriculture.” Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 118.1 (2007): 6-28.

 

Smith P., M. Bustamante, H. Ahammad, H. Clark, H. Dong, E.A. Elsiddig, H. Haberl, R. Harper, J. House, M. Jafari, O. Masera, C. Mbow, N.H. Ravindranath, C.W. Rice, C. Robledo Abad, A. Romanovskaya, F. Sperling, and F. Tubiello, 2014: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU). In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

 

Steinfeld, Henning, et al. Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options. Food & Agriculture Org., 2006.

 

Tilman, David, and Michael Clark. “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health.” Nature 515.7528 (2014): 518-522.

 

Zervas, G., and E. Tsiplakou. “An assessment of GHG emissions from small ruminants in comparison with GHG emissions from large ruminants and monogastric livestock.” Atmospheric Environment 49 (2012): 13-23.

 

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