Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime

Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime : The Salt : NPR

By Gretchen Cuda Kroen (NPR) Pouring water into clear plastic bottles and placing them in the sun can kill disease causing organisms in about six hours. It’s a simple and cheap method that’s been around forever, and it helps. (Who says sun tea isn’t safe?)

But there’s a hitch – the water has to be clear enough for the sun’s rays to penetrate – and much of the world’s water supply is murky from the clay soils in riverbeds and lake bottoms that mix with the water. Enter the scientists.

“Basically, you need to be able to read a newspaper through it. That means it’s clear enough for the UV radiation to penetrate and kill the pathogens. If you can’t see through it, it just won’t work,” explains Joshua Pierce, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Tech.

Pierce and his colleagues discovered that by adding a little table salt to this murky water, they could get the particles of clay to stick together and settle to the bottom, making the water clear enough to purify using the solar disinfection method. They also found that the addition of salt works best for certain kinds of clay soils, namely bentonite, and not so well with others. But when they added a little bentonite along with salt to water that contained other types of clay soils, it worked just as well.

via Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime : The Salt : NPR.

Organic strawberries better pollinated

(PhysOrg) Organic cultivation methods not only benefit biodiversity; they also appear to have a positive effect on the ecosystem service pollination. In a study of strawberry plants in Skåne, the proportion of fully pollinated flowers was significantly higher on organic farms. This is shown in new research from Lund University in Sweden.

The study is based on studies of strawberry plants on twelve farms in the county of Skåne, Sweden. On the farms with KRAV organic certification, where neither pesticides nor non-organic fertiliser are used, 45 per cent of the strawberry flowers were fully pollinated. On the conventional farms, the corresponding figure was 17 per cent.

“The results show that the pollination service is benefited by organic cultivation methods, which is an important factor in the development of sustainable agriculture”, says Georg Andersson, a doctoral student in environmental science at Lund University.

The research also shows that the positive effects of organic cultivation are evident within 2-4 years of the farm receiving KRAV certification.The research results have been published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031599

via Organic strawberries better pollinated.

‘Bee Roads’: UK creating network of wildflowers to boost declining bees

By Meera Selva (HuffingtonPost) Farmers and landowners are being asked to plant rows of wildflowers along the edges of England’s fields to create a network of “bee roads” to boost declining numbers.

Conservationists said Tuesday they hope the wildflowers will provide food and shelter for wild bees, honeybees and butterflies, which play a crucial role in pollinating crops.

As part of the initiative, wildlife charity Buglife and The Co-operative grocery store chain are donating seeds, such as knapweed and red clover, to farmers and landowners in the Northern English county of Yorkshire, and asking them to plant them in rows along the edge of their fields.

Britain has 250 species of bees, but – as in other countries – most are in decline. Scientists say pesticides, disappearing habitat, wet weather and a parasite called the varroa mite are among the culprits.

via ‘Bee Roads’: UK Creating Network Of Wildflowers To Boost Declining Bee Population.

Down on the Farm, an Endless Cycle of Waste

GUSTINE, Tex. — Day and night, a huge contraption prowls the grounds at Frank Volleman’s dairy in Central Texas. It has a 3,000-gallon tank, a heavy-duty vacuum pump and hoses and, underneath, adjustable blades that scrape the surface as it passes along.

In function it is something like a Zamboni, but one that has crossed over to the dark side. This is no hockey rink, and it’s not loose ice being scraped up. It’s cow manure.

Lots of cow manure. A typical lactating Holstein produces about 150 pounds of waste — by weight, about two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine — each day. Mr. Volleman has 3,000 lactating Holsteins and another 1,000 that are temporarily “dry.” Do the math: his Wildcat Dairy produces about 200 million pounds of manure every year.

Proper handling of this material is one of the most important tasks faced by a dairy operator, or by a cattle feedlot owner, hog producer or other farmer with large numbers of livestock. Manure has to be handled in an environmentally acceptable way and at an acceptable cost. In most cases, that means using it, fresh or composted, as fertilizer. “It’s a great resource, if used properly,” said Saqib Mukhtar, an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Texas A & M University and an expert on what is politely called manure management.

To read complete article article by Henry Fountain go to NYTimes.com

Organic food is healthier and safer, four-year EU investigation shows

By Emily Dugan

A £12m EU-funded investigation into the difference between organic and ordinary farming has shown that organic foods have far more nutritional value.

Up to 40 per cent more antioxidants, which scientists believe can cut the risk of heart disease and cancer, could be found in organic fruit and vegetables than in those conventionally farmed.

In the four-year Quality Low Input Food project, the biggest of its kind to date, a farm in north-east England grew conventional produce alongside organic varieties. Cattle were also farmed on the 725-acre plot, where it has been discovered that organic milk contains 60 per cent more antioxidants and desirable fatty acids than ordinary milk.

via Organic food is healthier and safer, four-year EU investigation shows – Green Living, Environment – The Independent.