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Archive | April, 2014

Organic Farms Support Richer Biodiversity

usda-organic-sealOn average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms, according to research by Oxford University scientists published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Researchers examined data going back 30 years and found that this effect has remained stable over time and shows no signs of decreasing. “Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study. For pollinators such as bees, the number of different species was 50 percent higher on organic farms, although it is important to note that the study only looked at species richness. “Species richness tells us how many different species there are but does not say anything about the total number of organisms,” said Tuck. Reported in the April 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Start Your Own Sweet Slips

Sweet potato rooting

Rooted sweet potato with young slips almost ready to harvest.

Learning how to grow sweet potatoes is important. Not only are they an ancient food crop, a staple that has sustained and nourished mankind for thousands of years, but they are also highly nutritious. Sweet potatoes are the seventh most important food crop in the world.

Throughout the ages these sweet, orange, red, golden and sometimes white roots were valued so highly by early man, that they were often used as a form of currency and as a token of friendship between cultures. Today, this weirdly-shaped “potato” is making a comeback with gardeners — and for good reason.

Starting to Grow Sweet Potatoes

To begin at the beginning one must first make note of the fact that sweet potatoes are not Irish potatoes, nor are they yams. Irish potatoes are actually fleshy underground stems (aka tuberous stems) that belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants. Other garden nightshades include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Yams are a type of tuberous perennial liana belonging to the Dioscoreaceae family. Yams are by far the most notable member of this family. The starchy tubers are the only edible portion of the plant. Raw yams contain measurable amounts of saponins, which can be slightly toxic when eaten in large amounts. Continue Reading →

Cattle Bloating Can Be Prevented with Diet

friendly cattles on green granzing land are trusty

You must wait two hours until the frost is off before putting animals onto legume pasture.

Cattle bloating can be prevented with a good diet.

With grazing season starting again, please keep in mind that legume pastures (clover and alfalfa) tend to cause bloating problems at any time of the grazing year, but especially when frosts are still happening. Pasture bloat is entirely preventable, but unfortunately every year I hear of a few farmers that have lost a handful of animals.

How can it be prevented? In short, make sure there is effective dry fiber in the cows’ bellies prior to putting out to lush pure stands of legume pasture. Realize that it takes a few days for the same group of animals to be on the same legume pasture stand (rotating through it onto lush growth) before any problem will be noticed.

Generally, bloating will be seen by day 4 or day 5 of animals on heavy legume stands. This is especially true if the animals are fed very little if any forage in the barn during milking times. Granted, the animals want to eat the fresh feed compared to the preserved feeds they’ve been eating all winter, but they must be persuaded to eat some effective dry fiber in the barn area about a half hour before going out to pasture. Putting molasses or some other tasty type feed on (or in) the forage will work. Otherwise they will pig out on the lush pasture offered. Continue Reading →