Reducing carbon: a bacterial approach

images (1)
April 20, 2015 | By:  Daniel Kramer

Happy Earth week to everyone! In honor of such an occasion, I would like to present some work by researchers trying to clean up our atmosphere.

There is a host of literature that says the abundance of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is caused by humans, and it is responsible for climate change. It is up to us then to offset our addition of gases into the atmosphere. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have recently presented a progressive technology that converts carbon dioxide into biofuels. To do this, they are taking some hints from nature and using photosynthesis.

Plants make photosynthesis look easy. Normally it is very difficult to mimic photosynthesis because it takes far more energy for us to reduce carbon dioxide than it does for a plant. A plant uses its energy efficiently to turn carbon dioxide into many complex molecules by using a lot of intermediates. It is far harder for us to create and store these intermediates than the organisms that do it naturally.

Continue reading………………………….



Figure 1: Photosynthetic plants synthesize carbon-based energy molecules from the energy in sunlight. Consequently, they provide an abundance of energy for other organisms.  Figure detail:

What Is Photosynthesis? Why Is it Important?

 Most living things depend on photosynthetic cells to manufacture the complex organic molecules they require as a source of energy. Photosynthetic cells are quite diverse and include cells found in green plants, phytoplankton, and cyanobacteria. During the process of photosynthesis, cells use carbon dioxide and energy from the Sun to make sugar molecules and oxygen. These sugar molecules are the basis for more complex molecules made by the photosynthetic cell, such as glucose. Then, via respiration processes, cells use oxygen and glucose to synthesize energy-rich carrier molecules, such as ATP, and carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product. Therefore, the synthesis of glucose and its breakdown by cells are opposing processes.

Photosynthetic Cells

 Cells get nutrients from their environment, but where do those nutrients come from? Virtually all organic material on Earth has been produced by cells that convert energy from the Sun into energy-containing macromolecules. This process, called photosynthesis, is essential to the global carbon cycle and organisms that conduct photosynthesis represent the lowest level in most food chains (Figure 1).

Read on…………..


This page appears in the following eBook:

HarvestPlus is Using ‘Good Old Fashioned Plant Breeding’ to Reduce Hidden Hunger

Most people know that the world is still facing a global hunger problem, with 20 million people on the brink of famine today. But perhaps they aren’t as aware of another global epidemic: hidden hunger.

Hidden hunger affects roughly 2 billion people around the world and can result in serious health problems like stunting, diarrhoeal disease, auto-immune deficiency, blindness, and early child mortality.

“One of the biggest global problems in our time is malnutrition, particularly hidden hunger, which is a type of malnutrition where people are getting enough to eat, but not enough nutrition for good health, life, or growth,”

Read on………..



Quick decision-making might seem bold, but the agony of indecision is your brain’s way of making a better choice.

Whether lingering too long over the menu at a restaurant, or abrupt U-turns by politicians, flip-flopping does not have a good reputation. By contrast, quick, decisive responses are associated with competency: they command respect. Acting on gut feelings without agonising over alternative courses of action has been given scientific credibility by popular books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (2005), in which the author tries to convince us of ‘a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately’. But what if the allure of decisiveness were leading us astray? What if flip-flopping were adaptive and useful in certain scenarios, shepherding us away from decisions that the devotees of Blink might end up regretting? Might a little indecision actually be a useful thing?

Read on…………

The Influence of Soils on Human Health

By: Eric C. Brevik, Ph.D. (Department of Natural Sciences, Dickinson State University) & Lynn C. Burgess, Ph.D. (Department of Natural Sciences, Dickinson State University) © 2014 Nature Education

Citation: Brevik, E. C. & Burgess, L. C. (2014) The Influence of Soils on Human Health. Nature Education Knowledge 5(12):1


Brevik Banner


Soils are important for human health in a number of ways. Approximately 78% of the average per capita calorie consumption worldwide comes from crops grown directly in soil, and another nearly 20% comes from terrestrial food sources that rely indirectly on soil (Brevik 2013a). Soils are also a major source of nutrients, and they act as natural filters to remove contaminants from water. However, soils may contain heavy metals, chemicals, or pathogens that have the potential to negatively impact human health. This article will summarize some of the more important and direct relationships between soils and human health.

Quality Food Production and Food Security

Quality food production and food security have several components, including the production of sufficient amounts of food, adequate nutrient content in the food products, and the exclusion of potentially toxic compounds from the food products (Hubert et al. 2010). Soils play a major role in all of these areas of quality food production and security.

Influence of Soils on Crop Yield and Food Security

Food security is achieved when all people have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2003). Food security is central to human health (Brevik 2009a; Carvalho 2006), and the ability to produce nutritious crops in sufficient amounts depends on soil properties and conditions. In particular, soils that have well-developed structure, sufficient organic matter, and other physical and chemical properties conducive to promoting crop growth lead to strong yields and are thus important for food security (Reicosky et al. 2011; Brevik 2009b). Soil degradation, which includes soil erosion and loss of soil structure and nutrient content, decreases crop production and threatens food security (Brevik 2013b; Pimentel & Burgess 2013; Lal 2009) (Figure 1). Soils that contain substances such as heavy metals, which may be toxic to humans, can pass those substances on to humans through crop uptake, leading to unsafe foods that compromise food security (Hubert et al. 2010; Brevik 2009a).

Soil degradation along the top of the hill has left the soils unable to support strong plant growth. Soil degradation over large areas may threaten food security.

Figure 1: Soil degradation along the top of the hill has left the soils unable to support strong plant growth. Soil degradation over large areas may threaten food security.

Photo by Gene Alexander, USDA NRCS

Read on………


Soil: The Foundation of Agriculture

Throughout human history, our relationship with the soil has affected our ability to cultivate crops and influenced the success of civilizations. This relationship between humans, the earth, and food sources affirms soil as the foundation of agriculture.

Human society has developed through utilization of our planet’s resources in amazingly unique, creative, and productive ways that have furthered human evolution and sustained global societies. Of these resources, soil and water have provided humans with the ability to produce food, through agriculture, for our sustenance. In exploring the link between soil and agriculture, this article will highlight 1) our transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies; 2) the major soil properties that contribute to fertile soils; 3) the impacts of intensive agriculture on soil degradation; and 4) the basic concepts of sustainable agriculture and soil management. These topics will be discussed to demonstrate the vital role that soils play in our agriculturally-dependent society.

Agriculture and Human Society

Human use and management of soil and water resources have shaped the development, persistence, decline, and regeneration of human civilizations that are sustained by agriculture (Harlan 1992, Hillel 1992). Soil and water are essential natural resources for our domesticated animal- and plant-based food production systems. Although of fundamental importance today, agriculture is a relatively recent human innovation that spread rapidly across the globe only 10,000 to 12,000 years ago (Diamond 1999, Montgomery 2007, Price & Gebauer 1995, Smith 1995), during the Agricultural Revolution. This short, yet highly significant period of time, represents less than 0.3 % of the more than four million years of human evolution as bipedal hominids and ultimately Homo sapiens. In agriculturally-based societies during the last ten millennia, humans have developed complex, urban civilizations that have cycled through periods of increasing complexity, awe-inspiring intellectual achievement, persistence for millennia, and, in some instances, perplexing decline (Trigger 2003). In many cases, stressed, declining civilizations adapted, or reemerged, into new or similar complex cultures (Schwartz & Nichols 2006). Through such fluctuations, we have remained dependent on a relatively small number of crop and animal species for food, and on integrated soil-water systems that are essential for their production. There is no doubt that our modern human society has developed to the point that we cannot exist without agriculture.

It is clear that agriculture sustains and defines our modern lives, but it is often disruptive of natural ecosystems. This is especially true for plant communities, animal populations, soil systems, and water resources. Understanding, evaluating, and balancing detrimental and beneficial agricultural disturbances of soil and water resources are essential tasks in human efforts to sustain and improve human well-being. Such knowledge influences our emerging ethics of sustainability and responsibility to human populations and ecosystems of the future.

Although agriculture is essential for human food and the stability of complex societies, almost all of our evolution has taken place in small, mobile, kin-based social groups, such as bands and tribes (Diamond 1999, Johanson & Edgar 2006). Before we became sedentary people dependent on agriculture, we were largely dependent on wild plant and animal foods, without managing soil and water resources for food production. Our social evolution has accelerated since the Agricultural Revolution and taken place synergistically with human biological evolution, as we have become dependent on domesticated plants and animals grown purposefully in highly managed, soil-water systems.

Read On:…………

Organic Growing with Worms

Organic Growing with Worms






Come with David Murphy while he takes you through the influence worms had on human migration in times long past, how worms can make or break civilizations, how smart farmers like David Davidson who uses worms to double the carrying capacity of his land, or Bert Farquahar who could write out a cheque for $10,000,000 to buy another farm because of the canny way he used worms.

See how David Murphy is able to take what the worms produce – on its own, a super plant booster – and quadruple its plant growth value by very simple means and how to blend it with rock dust to make the complete low impact but effective biological fertiliser for a few dollars only per tonne.

Find out why worms ain’t worms, but then add David Murphy’s extraordinary knowledge and you have the key to super prosperity by a sustainable means.


The Sections

Worms for Everyone
Worms for Gardeners
Worms for Farmers
Worms for Worm Farmers
Worms for Greenhouse
Worms for Waste Managers

A word from the Author

We live in a crucially important time. We are told to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gas, yet the demand for coal-based energy increases at light speed. We can change light bulbs to LED, install solar panels on our houses – we can strive to do our bit – but at the same time China commissions a new coal-fired power station almost weekly.

Our individual efforts just go out the window. For every wind farm we build there has to be a backup (coal, diesel or gas) generating capacity to step in instantly the wind stops – as it does, often. Nobody mentions the biggest emitter of CO2 – the soil of the earth. From there, more CO2 than every other source combined ! Mark that ! Every other source combined ! Reverse soil emissions and the problem is better than solved ! Professor Alessandro Piccolo (Università Frederico !!, Naples) stated (in personal conversation) that if we raised the organic matter in soil from less than the current 1% world average (it used to be minimum 20%) to 5% to plough depth, 150 billion tonnes of CO2 would be locked into the soil.

It may sound absurd but we can do this with simple, humble, worms ! More in the book 

Serious Praise

Here’s a line from what Peter Cundall wrote “This is an amazing and a very motivating book” and from Dr. Peter Ellyard “David Murphy is passionate about returning the earthworm to its rightful position. His approach is the horticultural equivalent of a doctor who works to heal using homeo-pathic or natural means. This book is part of his “mission”, and I am sure it will find readership amongst the growing number of people who want to work with nature rather than against it”. More in the book …

A word from the Worms………

Worm Farm Waste Systems

March 15 at 11:24am ·

“I must recommend this great book ‘Organic Growing with Worms’ by David Murphy to all our followers. It is full of extremely interesting and valuable info on these amazing little creatures”

Alex Blythe

General Manager

Worm Farm Waste Systems

What Others Say

 There have been a lot of books written about worms, but, ORGANIC GROWING WITH WORMS is the best without question!! There is just so much valuable info in it. I use it all the time on the family farm and in the garden at home. I wouldn’t be without it. Its a great and easy read – Peter Cundall was right when he said ‘… this book is amazing and inspiring’. My new bible, thank you !”

    Robert Watt, Farmer (Ret’d) Hampton.

 Greetings David and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family ! This is my second copy of your wonderful book. I loaned my original to a friend who has taken off with it, lol. As it is my bible on all things worms I decided, just in case it never returns, to treat myself to a spare. Thank you for the effort and work to get such a marvelous book out to the public. Kindest regards

   Ruby Harris

“From my very early days in Vermiculture, David Murphy’s book has been my “bible”. Not only for the scope of information, but also the readability. I have read many books and articles on worms since, but it is still head and shoulders above the others. The sub-title says it all…A handbook for a better environment.

    David Davidson. President Australian Wormgrowers Association. Vermiculture Inc.

“Over many year’s David’Murphy’s book has been a best seller in our store. It is a great resource and we believe it should be on every grower’s bookshelf. We are thrilled with his revised edition ! It is proving even more invaluable for home gardeners and large scale farmers alike”.

    Farming Secrets (Hugo & Helen Disler)

  I have been in regular contact with David Murphy since 2006. Our inexperienced group approached him then to help us learn more about vermiculture, as we had been immensely impressed with his book Earthworms in Australia. He has since written a much more extensive book, Organic Growing with Worms, which is widely used by many of our 2000 members.

    Ken Reid, Founder and National Coordinator of the Earthworm Interest Group of Southern Africa

 “Thanks David ! This is my second copy of your fabulous book.  I lent my first copy to a “friend” and he never returned it.  Eventually I had to get another one.  I need that book within easy reach!  Thanks for writing it.”

  Kindest regards, Christene Sanders



Within the Falkland Islands Government, there is now the requirement for an Agricultural Adviser – Sheep Management to work fulltime on a 2 year contract.  Reporting to the Senior Agricultural Advisor, you will join the team of agricultural advisers (agronomist, animal nutritionist) and associated staff providing advice to farmers and industry.

Green Paper: Providing a roadmap for food and agriculture

green paper

Green Paper: Providing a roadmap for food and agriculture



Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, outlines how the Green Paper process is helping to build bridges between farmers and consumers

Healthy food and nutrition is a very immediate and personal part of our lives, and it is our agricultural sector that lays the foundation for this.

Our agricultural, horticultural, viticultural and forestry sectors also shape our homeland and landscapes. Since time immemorial, three aspects food agriculture and homeland have been inextricably linked. However, our post-industrial, globalised societies, which rely heavily on the division of labour, have led to many people losing sight of this natural connection

What I learned about agtech from 3 hours with 35 farmers

What I learned about agtech from 3 hours with 35 farmers

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours this week with the 35 farmers in Rabobank’s Executive Development Program. The group, Rabo’s 20th iteration of the program, ranged across ages, farm types, geographies, and technology literacy (and skepticism) levels. With increasing concerns from the tech world about farmer adoption and lack of exits, it was great to dig in to the realities vs. hype of the sector with the real experts. Here’s what I learned.

Three common challenges

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about the way technology works on your farm, what would you pick? I asked the room this question, and, not surprisingly, heard various versions of, “I wish all of my devices and data sources would just talk to each other”

Data silos are a huge issue for both agtech companies seeking to leverage the power of big data sets from multiple sources, and farmers seeking value from the decision making support such information could provide.

But then when you talk about all of the data living in one place, ownership and security concerns arise immediately. For example, the farmers in the room expressed concern over the power that retailers have to sell more products when they also own the data sets that “supposedly tell them exactly what we need to buy: more.”

The third most common challenge I heard is another that is also often discussed, but too often overlooked, in the startup world: usability and serviceability. One farmer explained his frustration: “when a computer product stops working, and I have no idea how to fix it, and neither does anyone around that I could call, what am I supposed to do?”

Agtech companies like Observant and Arable provide good examples of products that solve this problem: they were built with the operational environment in mind, they’re easy to use right out of the box, and they provide simple diagnostics to help when something goes wrong (e.g. a blue light on or off to indicate connectivity). Putting the customer user experience first will continue to be a differentiator, especially for hardware products.

What about connectivity?

You can’t go to an agtech conference or workshop in Australia without talking about connectivity. And it indeed is an issue. But farmers and local small businesses are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.

What are they doing with ubiquitous internet? Some are setting up cross-site monitoring systems for equipment and animals. Others are tracking their employees with Find My Friends, or building up their followers on Twitter in between tasks. And many are using their smartphones to get information right when they need it, from weather to prices to quick answers from Google.

The other thing that connectivity provides is the ability to use apps that most city dwellers take for granted, like the suite of basic business apps from Google: spreadsheets, calendars, and documents.

Spreadsheets are King

I asked the room to come up with a list of technology they are using right now on farm. The number one most common response: a spreadsheet. One of the younger farmers in the room explained, “with a spreadsheet, I know exactly what’s happening and why the results are what they are. With an app, I just have to trust that what it’s telling me is true, but I really have no idea how it got to the answer it’s giving me.”

The price, flexibility, customizability, and transferability (many farmers talked about using Google Sheets or Docs to share information with their staff or accountants) of simple spreadsheets is a hard value proposition to beat for new entrants. Software providers that build trust with their users, for example by letting them tweak parameters and explore how algorithms work, will have a better chance of getting over this hurdle.

The ag and agtech divide

The farmers that I met this week have self-selected as innovative: they are forward-thinking, and clearly willing to invest in their businesses and themselves. I heard examples of apps they built, businesses they’ve sold, and profitable investments they’ve made. When we did a quick poll to ask about sensor adoption, 90% of the room raised their hands. And 90% of those kept their hands up when we asked if their sensors were making them more profitable. This well above the industry average data that I’ve seen. Similarly, almost everyone in the room is using a cloud-based accounting software package.

But there’s still a gap between the agtech world of startups, venture capital, and emerging technologies, and the agriculture world of farms, soil, and animals. I got only one hand raised when I asked if they had heard of agtech regulars like AgFunder News, Farmers Business Network, or SproutX.

There’s still a lot of work to be done to bridge this divide and help connect farmers and agtech companies in ways that add value to both sides. I have lots of ideas for how to do this, and will continue to work on it at AgThentic. If you have any suggestions or want to help, please reach out!

Melbourne Sikh family challenge ‘inclusive’ Christian school’s ban on boy’s turban – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Sidhak Arora  wears a patka, a youth version of a turban.PHOTO: The college is accused of refusing to enrol the boy in prep because he wears a turban. (Supplied)

MAP: Melbourne 3000

A Melbourne family has launched legal action against a Christian school for banning their son from wearing his traditional Sikh patka, a turban worn by children.

Sidhak Singh Arora, 5, was due to start prep at Melton Christian College, in Melbourne’s north-west, this year.

But his patka does not comply with the school’s uniform policy which prohibits students from wearing any type of religious head covering.

Sagardeep Singh Arora looks at the camera.PHOTO: Sagardeep Singh Arora believes his son should be allowed to wear their article of faith. (Supplied)

His family have taken their fight to VCAT, claiming the school had breached the state’s Equal Opportunity Act by discriminating against their son on religious grounds.

Outside court, the boy’s father Sagardeep Singh Arora said he was surprised the school would not make an exemption for his son.

“I was very surprised in an advanced country like Australia, they are still not allowing us to wear patka in the school,” he said.

“On the basis of that they are not giving enrolment in the school.

“I believe students should be allowed to practice their religion and should be allowed to wear their article of faith.”