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 →