Author Archives: Golden Growers

Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply Part 2

“Climate change has an effect, as well, especially in the case of bumblebees in North America and Europe”, said Sir Robert Watson, vice chairman of the group and director of strategic development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

A warming world changes the territories of plants and pollinators, and changes the plants’ time of flowering, as well, leading to a troubling question, posed by Dr. Watson: “Will the pollinators be there when the flowers need them?”

The group issuing the report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is made up of 124 countries, including the United States, and was formed through the United Nations in 2012. It resembles in some ways the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a focus on providing analysis and policy proposals to promote biodiversity.

The group did not conduct new research, but synthesized current studies and analysis to reach its conclusions.

The assessment, developed with the help of 80 experts, does not take a conclusive position on two issues that environmental activists have focused on intensely.

The report states that the contribution of controversial chemicals known as neonicotinoids “is currently unresolved.” Recent research suggests that even when the pesticides are present at levels that do not have lethal effects on individual insects, concentrations in the hive may have long-term effects on colonies of wild and managed bees.

The passionate opposition to these pesticides from many environmental activists, however, “has almost hijacked the whole question of what’s causing the declines,” said Simon Potts, a co-chairman of the assessment and deputy director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at Reading University. The report lays out many contributing factors beyond insecticides to the pressures on pollinators, and notes that they “can combine in their effects.”

The report also notes that the effects on pollinators of genetically modified organisms, including crops that are resistant to insects or tolerant of insecticides, is not settled. “That’s a very clear knowledge gap,” Dr. Potts said. “We’re brutally honest with the science.”

A scientist at Bayer, a producer of neonicotinoids, applauded the report. Dr. Christian Maus, global pollinator safety manager for the company and one of the experts who contributed to the report, said that it confirmed “the overwhelming majority of the scientific opinion” on pollinator health — “that this is a complex issue affected by many factors.”

Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership, a group whose officials contributed expertise to the report, called the report a milestone that would “make a practical and effective contribution to finding solutions to pollinator’s challenges.”

The assessment is not structured to support advocacy, but to give governments, policy makers and organizations a sense of the current state of science and the options to address problems, the authors said.

“The messages here are clear,” Dr. Watson said. “If you want to protect pollinators, this is the suite of options you should consider — or, could consider.”

Resources from:

SCHWARTZ, J. (2016, Feb 26). Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/science/decline-of-species-that-pollinate-poses-a-threat-to-global-food-supply-report-warns.html.


Beekeepers using a smoker to calm colonies before transferring them to another crop near Columbia Falls, Me. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. Credit Adrees Latif/Reuters

Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply Part 1

The birds and the bees need help. Also, the butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and bats. Without an international effort, a new report warns, increasing numbers of species that promote the growth of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food each year face extinction.

The first global assessment of the threats to creatures that pollinate the world’s plants was released by a group affiliated with the United Nations on Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The summary will be posted online Monday.

Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. The agricultural system, for which pollinators play a key role, creates millions of jobs worldwide.

Many pollinator species are threatened with extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document. Hummingbirds and some 2,000 avian species that feed on nectar spread pollen as they move from flower to flower. Extinction risk for insects is not as well defined, the report notes, but it warned of “high levels of threat” for some bees and butterflies, with at least 9 percent of bee and butterfly species at risk.

The causes of the pressure on these creatures intertwine: aggressive agricultural practices that grow crops on every available acre eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops that provide food for pollinators. Farming also exposes the creatures to pesticides, and bees are under attack from parasites and pathogens, as well.

Resources from:

SCHWARTZ, J. (2016, Feb 26). Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/science/decline-of-species-that-pollinate-poses-a-threat-to-global-food-supply-report-warns.html.


Mild Weather Means Early Gardening Season!

With the recent weather being mild, it looks like we can finally put winter behind us. That means we can finally jumpstart our gardening season! Although right now might not be the best time to start planting outdoors but they’re definitely ways to start preparing.

Here are 5 helpful tips to a successful gardening season:

Tip 1: You can start by cleaning up your gardening area. Get rid of all the stuff that has accumulated in your garden since the summer and start off with a clean slate.

Tip 2: The best plants to put in the ground this time of year are pansies and violas. They can take a little bit of frost and they give a nice color too! Other crops that can also be planted during the cool season are lettuce, cabbage, kale and broccoli.

Tip 3: If you can’t plant outside right now that doesn’t mean you can’t start indoors! Some crops like tomatoes and peppers should be started indoors around the third or fourth week of March (that’s now!)

Tip 4: Do a soil test! Soil is the primary source of water and nutrients for plants, so its condition has a profound effect on the health and growth of your plants. Usually the results provide information on soil pH and fertility. If your lawns pH is in between 5.5 – 7.5 you are A-OK.

Tip 5: Patience. Your garden isn’t going to become a tropical forest in one night! So enjoy the journey, start now and continue through out the season. The ending will be the best part.


Pollination

With spring coming right around the corner, the season is known for one major process, pollination! Pollination occurs when insects capable of transporting pollen visits vegetation to help them reproduce. Many plants cannot reproduce without the help of pollinators..

Pollination is an important process for gardens, more specifically for urban gardens. It is important to realize that pollinators are critical for the survival of plants. Many challenges that pollinators face in urban gardens is habitat loss, which leads to the lack of food sources. When gardening, be sure to include some plants for pollinators!

Here are some common plants that pollinators love:

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Fennel
  • Oregano
  • Sunflower
  • Lavender

Next time you see a pollinator, bee excited!


Local Food Movement Goes National

Apparently, local food is going national in Canada, according to the Globe and Mail.

Driving the movement is Lori Stahlbrand, a journalist-turned-food-advocate who has spent the last six years and several million donor dollars animating her dream of creating an alternative food system that stars environmentally- and animal-friendly Canadian farmers.

Ms. Stahlbrand’s first building block was creating Local Food Plus, a non-profit that issues its private certification to progressive farmers who conform to the tough set of sustainability and production standards written for the agency by a crack team of agricultural and environmental experts. The agency then helps link certified farmers with local buyers who would not have made the connections alone, providing critical strength to the local and regional supply chain.

“We were losing our ability to feed ourselves,” Ms. Stahlbrand said. “What we’re trying to do is build a different kind of food system. We’ve built the flywheel. Now it’s starting to turn.”

Using Ontario as a pilot ground, LFP has become one of the most powerful engines behind local food’s strong foothold in the province. Strengthening the local food economies of British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec is next on the agency’s list as it launches its first phase of a national expansion, funded by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, a Montreal-based philanthropy group.

Local food advocates are working to counter this not because they have romantic notions of Canadian agriculture, but because they believe the nation’s food security requires a healthy co-mingling of large and small or regional producers. LFP’s success in moving the needle is proof that re-establishing balance in the system doesn’t necessarily require big government intervention.

“Launching into a program like this is one very demonstrable way to show we do care about the ingredients and where food comes from,” said Anne Macdonald, director of ancillary services at the University of Toronto, which began requiring its food suppliers to use a proportion of LFP-certified products in 2006. “University food services suffer a lot from a bad rap with respect to perceptions about the quality of food.”


Seed Bombs: Fight Back with Nature

Now it might sound silly, but seed bombs are actually a thing. They are magical lumps of clay, compost, and any seeds you choose that can grow a garden with little to no care on your part, which is what makes them so great for guerilla gardening or revamping vacant land.

The idea of seed bombs came up when some environmental activists wanted to spruce up empty vacant land that was either fenced in or somewhat inaccessible for them to go in and plant flowers or other plants to make the space lovely again. Usually this land was private land or land that was not theirs to do anything with, but guerilla gardeners use gardening as their own form of nature rebellion and do things often without asking permission first. So the seed bomb was born!

They made up these great little hand-held balls that had the power to create a garden wherever they were thrown and used them to spruce up these ugly vacant plots by throwing these seed bombs over the fence and letting nature tend to them. The compost would feed the growing plant, the clay would keep the seeds protected from birds until they had time to germinate and start growing, and the seeds can be customised to grow anything from flowers to vegetables!

When we get this program completely up and running, be sure to check back and attend a workshop we will be running on how to make your own seed bombs! Make the world better, one flower at a time!


Home Gardening

Ever wanted to start gardening, but didn’t know where to begin? Check out Home Gardening for Beginners! It’s a great website that gives you lots of tips, helpful explanations, and even has answers and tutorials to things you might not have even thought of – like worm farming (vermiculture) or hydroponic gardening. We will definitely be utilizing some of the growing methods and lessons this website has to offer and we hope it inspires you to do so as well. Gardening is as easy or hard as you want it to be, so this spring, whether if is just planting a few seeds or creating your home garden oasis, be sure to check out Home Gardening for Beginners to help you get started!

Check back every Tuesday for updates and interesting articles from Golden Growers!


The Niagara Farm Project

This is a very interesting take on part of what Golden Growers hopes to achieve. The Niagara Farm Project has 80 acres of land and a collaborative network of students, volunteers and farmers who sow seeds and raise livestock across the region. The purpose of this project is to increase Niagara’s food source self-sufficiency and reduce their dependency on imported foods; the result is less expensive foods for local residents. This program not only facilitates learning, but also promotes a healthier lifestyle and involvement in the local food system! This is a great model for Golden Growers, where we hope to accomplish similar results, albeit on a smaller scale.

Check back every Tuesday for updates and interesting articles from Golden Growers!


Something new is growing over at Enactus Laurier!

We are proud to introduce our new program, Golden Growers, to you. Golden Growers is a community based initiative that uses volunteers to tend food producing rooftop gardens. We will sell our grown produce on campus through the Laurier Food Bank, the Laurier Farmer’s Market, and donate a portion of our produce to food banks and community supporting initiatives in the KW Region.

Check back every Tuesday for updates and interesting articles from Golden Growers! We can’t wait to get this program up and running!