Powering Food Sovereignty with Microbes

. Key takeaways from the 2021 International Nature Farming Convergence What does a jungle that produces vegetables with rock dust and a weed-laden garden have in common? They both host a vast world of microbes that can save humanity from itself. With the secret to food sovereignty lying right underneath our feet, agriculturalists need to get out of the clouds of technology and back into the dirt to unearth its potential. In the past 20 years, the agricultural industry has created a rich and costly market of garden tech meant to fix any problem encountered in the field. ...

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Book Review: A World Without Soil

The book cover of A World Without Soil, and a photo of author Jo Handelsman
A review of: A World Without Soil: The past, present, and precarious future of the earth beneath our feet by Jo Handelsman, 2021, Yale University Press   This book is a good, clearly written, popular introduction to how quickly we are losing the topsoil that feeds us, and how politicians treat soil like dirt. The author, a plant pathologist, is Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at University of Wisconsin–Madison, and was Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to President Obama.  She focuses ...

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IV Congresso Brasileiro de Rochagem: Highlights from the Presentations in Portuguese

(Clockwise from top right) Dr. Magda Bergmann, Prof. Suzi Huff Theodoro, and Dr. Antonio N. Zamunér Filho. “I was converted,” confessed agronomist Antônio Bizão. Listening to Bizão’s skepticism of stonemeal was the highlight of the IV Congresso Brasileiro de Rochagem (which translates to “IV Brazilian Congress of Stonemeal”). Bizão talked of his intention, years ago, to denounce professionals who defended the use of silicate rocks for agriculture, before conducting experiments himself and obtaining replicable positive results. We were listening to a ...

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IV Congresso Brasileiro de Rochagem: Highlights from the Presentations in English

Photo mosaic of the speakers who presented in English at the IV Congresso de Rochagem: Peter van Straaten, David Manning, and Philipp Swoboda
Since September 2009 Brazil has held a conference on rochagem (rock dust) every 3 years. The Brazilian Conference on Rochagem highlights Brazil’s role as a leader in scientific research and policy creation around the use of rock dust as a sustainable fertilizer. The Congress creates a forum for researchers, the general public and private interests to discuss the scientific advances, effective policies and future rock dust potential. Past conferences have steadily advanced the importance of rock dust as a fertilizer to enhance food security and promote environmental ...

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Tomatoes, Orchards, and Forests: Studying Reforestation and Remineralization in China

Hills in China showing signs of terraced afforestation.
Carbon reduction in China For China, carbon-reduction efforts remain rooted in reforestation and afforestation efforts, as the country keeps planting trees through to 2025.[4] In addition to these efforts, researchers in the People’s Republic have turned their attention increasingly towards enhanced weathering and rock dust application, studying reforestation and remineralization. China has decades of experience with major tree planting projects, for example, in 1978 initiating the so-called “Great Green Wall” project (official name: the Three-North Shelter Forest ...

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Make Climate Goals Attainable: Remineralize croplands

A truck spreading rock dust on a field. Photo by Ilsa Kantola, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Paris Climate Agreement metrics are just out of reach As of July 2021, the top 10 fossil carbon emitting nations are failing to meet their 2030 green-house gas (GHG) reduction goals, as pledged under the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement defines a hard warming limit to 2°C, but current status quo climate initiatives – even if met – will lead to a global warming of 2.6 - 3.1°C. Heating of this magnitude could set forth a cascade of irreversible effects. The ...

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Murky Waters: How Sediments Impact Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheets

A river of sediment-laden water running through a glacier in Greenland
Image caption: The sediment-rich meltwater river originating from Leverett Glacier in southwest Greenland, pictured in June 2012. Photo credit: Jon Hawkings Few consequences of global climate change are as notorious as melting ice sheets. However, the process responsible for this phenomenon is not as straightforward, or as well-understood, as might be imagined.  Ice sheets are masses of glacial ice that form over land, covering a minimum of 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) [1]. During Earth’s most recent ice ages, ice sheets stretching into the Arctic ...

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The Threat of Thawing Permafrost: Further impetus to remineralize the Earth

Photo by Sergey Dolya, sergeydolya.livejournal.com A subterranean threat  A new study, published by a team of geologists at the University of Bonn, has presented scientists with a new worry: thawing permafrost. In the past year, the Taymyr Peninsula in Northern Siberia recorded its hottest summer to date. From May 2020 to March 2021, arctic temperatures rose a whopping 6°C above the typical 1967-2000 baseline. While this rising temperature alone is cause for concern, the deeper issue lies below the Earth’s surface. The Taymyr Peninsula is coated with an imperme...

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Peter Jackson on Natural Farming, Ecological Resilience, and the Magic of Minerals and Microbes

Over a span of nearly two decades, self-taught natural farmer Peter Jackson has transformed a plot of rural Washington land into a thriving, bountiful forest garden.  When his family first arrived on the land nearly twenty years ago, it contained only a few food-bearing plants: old heirloom apple trees, sickly pear trees, and Chinese plum trees with cherry-sized fruits. Today, the property is home to approximately three hundred fruit and nut trees, as well as assorted berry bushes, and Jackson isn’t finished yet. “I’m trying to get up to about 500 trees on the four ...

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Remineralization Goes Mainstream: Major media outlets recognize the power of rock dust

Application of silicate material to cropland. Beerling et al. demonstrate that enhanced rock weathering, achieved by adding crushed basalt or other silicate material to soil, is an effective strategy for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Photo by: Ilsa B Kantola break Last year, the journal Nature published an immensely-popular study on remineralization. With more than 20,000 views, this article may be the most widely-read paper on enhanced weathering to date, and several major media outlets have picked up on it as well. In The Washington Post, Lindsay ...

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