Urban bees: yards and gardens help

Research also identifies pollinators’ favourite flowers, including brambles, buttercups, dandelions, lavender and borage.

bees

Yards, weedy corners and fancy gardens are all urban havens for bees and other pollinators, a study has found.

The widespread decline of bees resulting from the loss of wild areas and pesticide use has caused great concern in recent years, but towns and cities have been suggested as potential sanctuaries.

The first research to examine all types of land use in cities has identified pollinators’ favorite places and flowers, many of which are often considered weeds. A team of more than 50 people spent two years examining pollinators and plants in Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading.

The results enabled them to work out the best ways to support a rich mix of pollinator species that will be resilient to climate change and other challenges. The best strategy is increasing the number of allotments, the report says. Planting preferred flowers in gardens also helps, as does mowing grass in public parks less frequently, allowing flowers to bloom.

Yards are particularly good places for pollinators because they provide a mix of fruit and vegetable flowers, plus weedy corners full of native plants. “Yards are incredibly important at a city level, despite their small area,” said Katherine Baldock at the University of Bristol, who led the research. “They are a good place for pollinators to hang out and provide a win-win situation, as they are also good for food growing and for people’s health.”

The research, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, found allotments and gardens often had 10 times more bees than parks, cemeteries and urban nature reserves. Baldock said nature reserves were important for other wildlife but were often less suitable for pollinators, being dominated by trees rather than meadows.

The scientists also identified the flowers most visited by bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. Native favourites included brambles, buttercups, dandelions, creeping thistle, common hogweed and ox-eye daisies. “People tend to think of these as weeds, but they are really important for pollinators,” said Baldock.

She said gardeners had an important role to play in pollinator conservation, with the non-native plants that attracted the most pollinators being lavender, borage, butterfly bushes and common marigolds. Hydrangeas and forget-me-nots were among the least favourite. The researchers found that gardens in more affluent neighbourhoods harboured more pollinators, thanks to there being more flowers and a richer variety of plants.

Stephanie Bird, of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “This new paper shows that gardens are a hugely important resource for pollinators in urban areas. We would encourage the UK’s 27 million gardeners to pack in a variety of plants, as not all pollinators can access the nectar of each plant, and consider introducing plants to bloom across all seasons.” The RHS is now working with the University of Bristol to find which plants produce the most nectar.

Gardens cover between a quarter and a third of cities, far more than allotments, which cover less than 1%. But increasing the area of allotments gives the biggest boost to pollinators per unit area, the study found.

“It would be great if government made an effort to free up more land for allotments,” said Prof Dave Goulson, of the University of Sussex. “Currently there are about 90,000 people on waiting lists to get one. Given that these areas also produce healthy fruit and veg for local, zero-food-miles consumption, and get people out in the open air taking exercise, it would seem that allotments perform vital roles in our cities.”

Bee-harming pesticides have been banned from farm fields across the EU but some are still sold to gardeners. “If we really want to maximise the value of urban areas for wildlife, we would do well to stop using pesticides in our gardens and parks,” Goulson said.

Urban pollinators have been less studied than those in rural areas, so the importance of cities and towns to their survival is only now being worked out. The most comprehensive study to date found little difference in their abundance, perhaps because both are poor habitats, with many rural areas dominated by farmland and cities dominated by concrete and tarmac.

“Perhaps we could come to see our cities as giant nature reserves, places where man and nature can live side by side,” said Goulson.

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Report suggests food systems change

FRANCE — In the report, the World Resources institute suggests ways of feeding almost 10 billion people by 2050. Food demand is set to rise by over 50%, with demand for animal-based food products (meat, dairy and eggs) likely to grow by almost 70%. Hundreds of millions of people already go hungry, Farming uses around half the world’s green areas and generates a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Unsurprisingly, the report says that there is no silver bullet. However, it does offer a Continue reading Report suggests food systems change

Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows

Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows
UMass Food for All network handed out free vegetables and educated people about food security at UMass while other students sold their original work at UMass’ second to...

UMass Food for All network handed out free vegetables and educated people about food security at UMass while other students sold their original work at UMass’ second to last “Food For All Farmers Market,” a market which has grown this season.

“By eating this, you are reducing food waste,” said Dan Bensonof as he served market-goers paper cups of sweet potato & peanut butter soup– the sweet potatoes in the soup were gleaned by his students at Czajkowski Farm in Hadley. Bensonof, who just started working for UMass this June, helps organize the Farmer’s Market, is teaching the practicum class, Permaculture Gardening, as well as coordinating the Permaculture Continue reading Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows

UMass Stockbridge School Launches Student-Run Vineyard on Campus

Grapes
November 7, 2018
Contact: Elsa Petit 413/545-5217

AMHERST, Mass. – Fall may not seem like a good time for planting, but cool temperatures and ample soil moisture can help plants settle in, says viticulture expert Elsa Petit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture have been busy this fall planting dozens of cold-tolerant grapes at the campus’s first student-run vineyard.

Continue reading UMass Stockbridge School Launches Student-Run Vineyard on Campus

Everything you wanted to know about what’s happening in farming this month!

agriculture

The following list of topics and articles was published as a public service by Grow Calgary, the largest urban community farm in Canada.   Jenny’s Food and Ag Update is published once a month by Jenny Huston of Farm to Table Food Services in Oakland, CA.  To be added to the mailing list, contact Jenny at chefjennyhuston@yahoo.com.

November Update on Food and Ag

  • How activists forced FDA to blacklist “carcinogenic” flavor chemicals the agency says are safe (The New Food Economy) https://bit.ly/2J9s0NS
  • ‘’It’s not fair, not right’: how America treats its black farmers (The Guardian) https://bit.ly/2P5ZmU2                                                  Sugarcane farmers can’t survive without large crop loans. For the Provosts, who say they suffered decades of discrimination, this could be the end of the line

Continue reading Everything you wanted to know about what’s happening in farming this month!

Small farms are important for biodiversity

diversified
The Benzinger Family Winery is a diversified vineyard in Sonoma County. (Corey Luthringer)

Bringing the wild back into our working lands may help prevent mass extinction

BERKELEY, Calif. — With a body the size of a fist and wings that span more than a foot, the big brown bat must gorge on 6,000 to 8,000 bugs a night to maintain its stature. This mighty appetite can be a boon to farmers battling crop-eating pests.

But few types of bats live on American farms. That’s because the current practice of monoculture – dedicating large swathes of land to a single crop – doesn’t give the bats many places to land or to nest.

Diversifying working lands – including farmland, rangeland and forests – may be key to preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, says a new review paper published this week in Science by conservation biologists at the University of California, Berkeley. Continue reading Small farms are important for biodiversity

Organic farming with gene editing?

tomaot
Collaborative problem-solving by organic (and conventional) growers, specialists in sustainable agriculture, biotechnologists and policymakers will yield greater progress than individual groups acting alone and dismissing each other,” states Rebecca Mackelprang, University of California, Berkeley. (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain)

The question of what do we mean by organic agriculture is tested here.  Is it “food grown without synthetic biotoxins and fertilizers?”   Or does organic agriculture include a commitment to family farms and social justice?  What do you think? 

October 10, 2018

BERKELEY, Calif. (THE CONVERSATION) — A University of California, Berkeley professor stands at the front of the room, delivering her invited talk about the potential of genetic engineering. Her audience, full of organic farming advocates, listens uneasily. She notices a man get up from his seat and move toward the front of the room. Confused, the speaker pauses mid-sentence as she watches him bend over, reach for the power cord, and unplug the projector. The room darkens and silence falls. So much for listening to the ideas of others.

Many organic advocates claim that genetically engineered crops are harmful to human Continue reading Organic farming with gene editing?