Thursday, September 30, 2010
Barn swallows nest under a bridge in southern Manitoba. Might they be afffected, too?
Scientists say the increasingly early arrival of spring at breeding sites in Europe makes it harder for the birds to attract a mate or find food.
The researchers warn that the "increasing ecological mismatch" can lead to a decline in bird populations.
The findings appear in the journal Proceedings B of the Royal Society.
Cape May warbler, observed in southern MB, 2008 l.p. photos
"The study was based on a very large dataset of 117 migratory bird species that migrate from Africa or southern Europe to northern Europe, covering about 50 years," explained co-author Nicola Saino, from the University of Milan.
The international team of researchers, from Italy, Germany, Finland and Russia, wanted to see if the spring arrival time of the birds at their breeding sites had changed over the past half century.
To achieve this, they used the birds' average arrival days at a number of bird observatories in northern Europe.
The team then compared this information with the corresponding year's "degree days", which refers to the total of average daily temperatures above a threshold that will trigger natural cycles, such as plants coming into leaf or flower.
"We know that temperatures affect the progress of spring - the higher the temperatures in the first months of the year, the earlier spring arrives," Professor Saino told BBC News.
Earlier this year, researchers from the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology published a study that suggested that spring was arriving in the UK 11 days earlier than 30 years ago.
Professor Saino and the team found that spring was beginning earlier, which had a consequence for the migratory birds.
"The birds that have not kept track with the changes have declined more in northern Europe."
These were primarily species making long distance migrations from sub-Saharan areas, a diverse set including ducks, swallows and warblers.
"The most likely problem is that there is optimum time in spring for the birds to breed; and by arriving late, the birds are probably missing the best period in which to breed," he said.
"Peaks in food abundance, such as insects, are very narrow in northern latitudes; so if you arrive too late and miss the peak, then you miss the best opportunity to raise your offspring.
He added that this "ecological mismatch" was likely to be the main reason for the decline in the birds' populations.
The data show that the birds are reaching the breeding sites earlier, but not early enough to keep aligned with the advance of spring.
The long-term consequence could be that populations continue to decline, but Professor Saino cautioned that it was a complex issue.
"It also depends a lot on what is happening in the winter," he suggested.
"One of the reasons why they might not be able to keep track of the changes is that they are unable to shift their winter sites northwards.
"Or they may have to shift their wintering sites southwards, which will make their journey longer."
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
COMMENT: Construction on this questionable project is now well advanced in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Isn't it nice how our leaders wait for our permission before proceeding. Do da word "presumptuous" come to mind? l.p.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
CropLife Canada (CLC) has published its case for the continued use of pesticides...
Crop sprayer and pesticide container collection site. l.p. photos
The purest definition of that word came from the Bruntland Commission many years ago. "...living today in ways that do not undermine the ability of future generations to live."
Once again, the chemical industry has bastardized the word to suit its own purposes...i.e. pour more and more of our products on your crops, just so you can stay even with last year! l.p.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
F. Bukaty, File)
Torrential Rains Spawn An Epidemic of Vegetable Disease. Is Climate Change Already Taking a Toll on Prairie Food Supplies?
Roblin, Manitoba, CA Se.22 - '10.
Record rainfall and a disastrously wet season have already ruined millions of hectares of grain crops on the Canadian prairies this year.
A soggy, unharvested canola
field in western Manitoba. l.p.photo
Now, another scourge, also related to excess moisture, has emerged.
Gov't. of MB photos
A disease identified as “late blight” has decimated backyard vegetable crops, notably potatoes and tomatoes in Manitoba.
Widespread reports from vegetable gardeners tell of crops ruined by the blight, which is a highly-contagious pathogen. It can linger in the soil and even spread in the wind.
My wife & I lost our entire tomato crop this summer. l.p.
Mandy Lewick of Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) in Roblin, says wet weather, such as we have experienced this year, provides the kind of conditions the disease needs to thrive.
A vegetable specialist with MAFRI, J. Tom Gonsalves, says “late blight” cannot be absolutely confirmed until tests are completed.
But, he adds, “Anecdotally it has been reported in most all areas of the province where tomatoes are grown.
"These include tomato and potato gardens in the western, south central, interlake and eastern regions along with the city of Winnipeg."
(Other crops, like eggplant, can also be affected by late blight.)
It is too early to put a number on the losses. But they are obviously considerable.
There are no effective control measures available for late blight if it is confirmed in an organic crop.
A government advisory notes, “The disease affects all living tissue of susceptible plants, meaning all foliage as well as the potato tubers and tomatoes themselves are equally susceptible to infection. If the disease is confirmed in an organic field, destroying the crop is unfortunately the only way to prevent the disease from spreading."
Watch a video on this topic here.
More information on late blight can be found here.
Meanwhile, Gonsalves suggests we should be prepared for more of the same in the future. He adds, "Bottom line is that, if late blight is around in 2011, and the conditions are as good for it to thrive as they have been in most of 2010, the odds are that late blight will show up again in 2011."
Earlier this year, there were other reports of "early blight" in tomatoes, believed to have originated in seedlings from some major greenhouses. There has also been reference to tomato seedlings as the source of this recent "late blight" outbreak. In our own case, however, all of our tomatoes were started under lights, indoors, from seed only. As a layman, then, I can only assume the offending spores were carried into our garden on the wind.
So What's With the Reference to Climate Change?
Don't misunderstand. That is my reference and mine alone. As usual, no one in authority (including the media) is prepared to deal with this "elephant in the room" by uttering the term, even tho their mouths, as one might say, must be full of it!
As masses of evidence pile up around the globe of increasing incidents of catastrophic floods, droughts and hurricanes, (i.e. "extreme weather events") authorities continue to respond with weasle-words (i.e. "Sure is 'wacky weather' we're having!") or just a stony silence.
To do otherwise, I guess, would be to acknowledge that you, I and they are to blame. Climate change, after all, is caused by humans. So, if we are all contributing to it through our wasteful, gas-guzzling lifestyles, (as uncaring or downright negligent individuals, industries, governments and organizations), then such an admission would carry with it a commitment to actually do something about it!
And we can't have that, can we?
Meanwhile, masses of people, perhaps now the majority in North America, armed only with their coffee-shop wisdom, continue to think they are smarter than the planet's best climate scientists and deny or ignore the problem even as the evidence of its consequences piles up around us! l.p.
Larry, so nice to hear someone say what MUST be said and never is. (I personally am pretty good at busting up social events and "spoiling everyone's fun" by pointing out our complicity in ruined gardens here, burning forests there, torrential floods somewhere else. I've noticed I'm hardly invited out anymore. . .)
Do you subscribe to George Monbiot's columns by any chance? He's fighting the good fight like you but it has lately occurred to me that reason and facts will never prevail over the paralysis people seem to be experiencing now. We all know on a gut level things are changing fast, for the worse, and I think we are genuinely scared. But instead of rising up en mass and saying enough already, we are cowed and then manipulated by politicians and their media who love us in such weakened state. Trouble is, when we're weak, we're sitting ducks for fascism and hatemongering. What will it take to make large numbers of us stand up and demand change? This is what I'm asking my kids and their friends and the young people from Europe who have volunteered on my farm all summer (wwoofers). What is it going to take to make us rise up. Hunger? By then it truly will be too late.
Thanks for your work, Larry.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
of Google Images.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
A visitor enjoys the horses at Wagons West.
"Wagon's West" is a secluded spot northeast of Roblin. Leroy and Debbie Wandler raise and sell saddle horses, offer hay rides, weiner roasts, fishing and hunting expeditions in summer, along with sleigh rides & snowmobiling in the winter.
As Leroy watches (r.), Coltin and "Sir" take another guest (me) for a ride.
(Left and below) Leroy guides guests on a "slow tour."
Debbie desribes her operation while Adam and Lane (on "Winter") look on.
To reads Laura Rance's perspective on "Open Farm" day, just click here.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
A small group of Winnipeggers is trying to spice up this autumn's civic election campaign with an issue that is dear to us all, but seemingly bland fodder for duelling politicians. Food.
The Winnipeg Food Policy Working Group has released an election toolkit designed to help the electorate engage municipal leaders on food policy, an issue they've tended to ignore or simply dismiss.
For example, an effort by some Winnipeg residents to gain bylaw changes that would allow backyard poultry earlier this year was permanently put on hold. A request a few years ago for permission to grow vegetables on boulevards was written off as a potential law enforcement problem (people might steal potatoes).
The Food Policy Working Group wants to get sustainable food permanently on the planning agenda at city hall by establishing an advisory body similar to what already exists in other major Canadian cities. Toronto was first to step up to the plate with its food policy council formed 15 years ago. It just approved a policy paper based on "food systems thinking" called Cultivating Food Connections: Toward a Healthy and Sustainable Food System for Toronto.
"Food system thinking is a way of seeing the bigger picture, of developing solutions to food problems by seeing and leveraging their connections to other health, social, economic and environmental issues," it says.
This kind of thinking is behind a renaissance for urban agriculture across North America as cities look to revitalize inner-city neighbourhoods by replacing derelict buildings with productive green space.
Increasingly, urban food policy is seen as a means of building community, improving access to local food, reducing greenhouse gases, cutting transportation costs and yes -- fighting crime.
If this city's youth was nurtured by access to nutritious food and productive activities -- perhaps urban gardening clubs -- would gangs and stealing cars have less appeal?
Granted, the notion of fighting crime with urban agriculture sounds naive and unrealistic. But is it?
A 2001 study by two University of Illinois researchers used crime reports to explore the relationship between vegetation and crime around 98 inner-city apartment blocks. They found residents living in "greener" surroundings reported "lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities and less aggressive and violent behaviour."
"Results indicate that... the greener a building's surroundings were, the fewer crimes reported. Furthermore, this pattern held for both property crimes and violent crimes. The relationship of vegetation to crime held after the number of apartments per building, building height, vacancy rate and number of occupied units per building were accounted for."
Agriculture is seen as a rural issue in this province. With two-thirds of Manitoba's population living in Winnipeg, and 80 per cent of the province's agricultural production going for export, it doesn't typically factor into municipal election debates.
But the document Winnipeg Votes 2010, found online at: www.winnipegfoodpolicy.org, offers several reasons why city slickers should care enough to put their candidates on the spot.
For starters, at least one in eight jobs in Winnipeg is directly related to food and agriculture, not including the spinoff economic benefits of having all those people spending their salaries in the city.
Despite the abundance of food in this province, around 48,000 people use food banks each month. The number of people relying on food banks rose 18 per cent between 2008 and 2009. Half of food bank users are children.
Meanwhile, more than 600,000 Manitobans -- equivalent to the City of Winnipeg or about two-thirds of the province's total population -- are overweight or obese. A similar amount don't eat enough veggies and fruit to stay healthy.
And for all the money we spend on groceries every week -- a bill that keeps rising -- farmers are getting only about 27 per cent -- a share that keeps shrinking.
Not surprisingly, so does the number of farmers.
How policy makers choose to address -- or not -- those realities could fundamentally shape Winnipeg as a community.
The food policy proponents suggest numerous initiatives, such as policies encouraging the procurement of locally produced food, protecting prime agricultural land from development, encouraging urban gardening and farmers markets, creating community food hubs in the city that provide access to food processing and storage facilities.
They suggest urban community gardens become a fixture, just like city parks. They want the concept of "edible landscapes" entrenched in the city's bylaws, and liaisons forged with community groups to build food security awareness and knowledge.
Election debates tend to be dominated by single problems and linear solutions: Got crime? Hire more cops.
Food policy strikes at the core of such issues, but it is a far more complex discussion. Are Winnipeg's civic leaders up to the challenge?
Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.
She can be reached at 792-4382 or by email:
Friday, September 10, 2010
Environmentalists and citizens battling to protect air quality in parts of the Swan valley of western Manitoba have suffered a setback.
“Paths Less Travelled” has just learned, Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission is recommending that Louisiana Pacific Canada Limited’s wood products plant near Minitonas, be allowed to continue to operate without the use of pollution control devices.
For complete report, go to
and click on "results," then "PDF."
Opponents of LP’s application to keep those controls (known as regenerative thermal oxidizers) shut down permanently, have yet to comment on the recommendations, which were just made public today.
Groups such as “Concerned Citizens of the Valley” had been strongly opposing the shutdown, claiming it would lead to sharply increased releases of toxic substances from the plant, into the air.
Manitoba’s Minister of the Environment, Bill Blaikie, must now review the recommendations and make a final decision on them.
Please also read "The Great Debate Over Air Quality in the Swan Valley Reaches a Climax,"
Thursday, September 9, 2010
NASA Satellites Reveal Connection Between Mountain Pine Beetles and Wild Fires - But Not One You Might Expect!
Mountain pine beetles…
Organic Strawberries Have Better Taste & Nutrition Than Conventional & Better For Soil Too: New Study
from Alberta's tar sands.
Courtesy of the Tarnished Earth Gallery.