“Caring for the Planet from the Ground” is the theme of this year’s World Soil Day (#worldsoilday). World Soil Day (WSD) is an annual campaign aimed at raising awareness of the critical importance of healthy soils and advocating for the sustainable management of global soil resources. In June 2013, the FAO Conference endorsed WSD and requested for it to be officially adopted at the 68th UN General Assembly. As a result, 5 December 2014 was designated as the first official WSD. So why is soil so important and why should we care about the health of it?
A report published earlier this week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggests that improving co-operation between the forestry and agricultural sectors could help to improve food security as well as reducing deforestation, highlighting the successful efforts of Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Ghana, Vietnam, Tunisia and the Gambia. According to the FAO, integrating land-use planning is vital to balancing land uses, supported by suitable policy instruments to promote both sustainable agriculture and forests.
Would you eat a carrot with three roots or an overly curved cucumber? The contribution of "ugly" fruit and vegetables to food wastage is not a new problem but one that has moved in and out of the spotlight for several years. A new BBC production "Hugh’s War on Waste", fronted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, aims to reduce the amount of waste that Britain produces and is probably the first program in which a huge pile of parsnips made viewers very angry. In the Program, Hugh visited a family ran farm that supplied Parsnips to a major UK supermarket. The strict policies imposed by the supermarket on how the parsnips should look meant that up to 40% of the farm’s root veg, equating to 20 tonnes of parsnips -or enough to fill nearly 300 shopping trolleys -never made it to the shelves. That was just one week’s wastage.
How do you measure the impacts and their interactions at a local, national and international level on food security, land resources, water, greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, poverty, social development, sustainability…and try to remain impartial and objective?
The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework developed by FAO aims to address these issues by providing an analytical framework and set of tools which can be used to measure these impacts. Using a step-by-step methodology, the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their country and identify suitable policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks.
Another source of information is Recent developments in the world of biofuels, a critical analysis by CABI scientists of the latest research on the potential and realities of growing and processing jatropha, algae and biomass for biofuels or bioenergy – see Biofuels Information Exchange.
Land use and poverty alleviation issues in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India, China and Brazil are discussed as well as research into using problematic invasive aquatic weeds (water hyacinth – pictured above – is a favourite) for bioenergy. The pros and cons of algal biofuels, and the latest technology for concentrating biomass energy into a more energy-dense form which makes transport to a processing plant more feasible are discussed, and more…
BIE is an impartial site for exchanging information on biofuels research – the exchange on pests of jatropha has generated the longest running discussion over the last 2 years – and the site provides open access to documents on biofuels, including the peer-reviewed Land Use Change: Science and Policy Review (copublished with Hart Energy Consulting) and abstracts of the latest research on biofuels from the CAB Abstracts database.
For a comprehensive resource of published information on research into man’s impact on the environment see CABI’s Environmental Impact which has a special section on biofuels research information – abstracts, books, book chapters, reports, reviews.