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Articles tagged with: ECOLOGY

What is organic farming?



The origin of the term organic farming dates back to 1939, when Lord Northbourne first used it in his book Look to the Land, published in 1940, where he described a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming, contrary to the already emerging artificial farming [1] that relied in non-natural chemicals that would artificially promote plant growth and rapidly increase farmers benefits.

In order to be considered organic, foods need to be free of artificial food additives, chemicals, pesticides and the like. It goes without saying that Genetically Modified Organisms fall out of the scope of organic food description.


Your new tyres may be made of dandelion rubber


Around 25 million tonnes of rubber is produced each year to cover the world needs of that substance [1]. Approximately 42 percent of this amount corresponds to natural rubber [1], being the rest synthetic rubber.

Now a group of scientists and researchers seem to have found a solution for it in dandelion. Image: See credits under ref. [5] below. 


Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Taraxacum

Common name: Russian dandelion

From fossil fuels to poplars



I can't believe how did we manage to survive so long depending on fossil fuels. Crude oil, petrol, has been our main source of energy since the industrial revolution and about 90% of our vehicles nowadays use it as the main source of energy, however, this won't last long, or at least not long enough.

Other sources are needed and governments are desperately looking for other ones, some as the wind energy are already playing a big role in this migration towards renewable energies. Some countries are already meeting a big percentage of their daily needs using a combination of the wind and solar energies, but those ones alone won't be able to meet our current and future needs, others as bio-fuel are being investigated.

Within these new options, some as algae, have been identified as a potential source for the replacement of petrol. Within this line, a new source of energy, poplars, has also been identified recently researchers of Michigan State University as another possible option towards the creation of future biofuels. Image: Morguefile.


Family: Salicaceae

Genus: Populus

Common name: Poplar


Green and yellow straw from oilseed, another viable source of biofuel?



Rapeseed (Brassica napus), also known as oilseed, is cultivated mainly for its oil-rich seeds [1]. However, seeds are not the only part of this plant that has raised the interest of scientists and researchers. A group of researchers at the Institute of Food Research are currently looking at how to turn straw from oilseed rape into viable bio-fuel.

Only in the UK, a total of 12 million tonnes of straw are produced every year [2], this can give you an idea of the potential that this plant has. The process of producing bio-ethanol is simple, the different types of sugars found on the straw after being pre-treated and made accessible to enzymes are converted by these ones into bio-ethanol.

The biofuels widely available today are predominantly sugar- and starch-based bio-ethanol, and oilseed- and waste oil-based biodiesel [3]. Image: See credits below under reference 


Family: Brassicaceae

Genus: Brassica

Common name: rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed [1].


High-resolution interactive map of the World's deforestation



According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, the overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture [1,2], in fact, tropical forests are diminishing in extent due primarily to the rapid expansion of agriculture [4]. In a general perspective:

  • Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of Deforestation
  • commercial agriculture is responsible for 32% of deforestation;
  • logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation and
  • fuel wood removals make up 5% of deforestation [1,2].

The problem didn't go unnoticed by the United Nation's Program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), who built an ambitious plan aiming to reduce the 20% contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases from the forest sector, offering a financial value of the carbon stored in forests as an incentive for local communities. Image: Deforestation by crustmania under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).