Organic Farming Isn't Always Sustainable; Another Threat to Bees

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Discovered in Green: Organic farming isn't always sustainable, another thing that's hurting the honey-bees, warming oceans are melting glaciers, and some trees grow better in dirty cities. 

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    Organic farming isn't always sustainable. Though well meaning, eating organic only works on a small scale. When scaled up certain crops, like cereal, would take up a lot of resources. "Our study indicates that organically fertilized systems might require higher nitrogen inputs to achieve high yields as organic nitrogen is less readily available to crops. In some cases, organic farmers may therefore benefit by making limited use of chemical fertilizers instead of relying only on manure to supply nitrogen to their crops," explains researcher Verena Seufert. This doesn't mean the foodies should give up and stock up on high fructose corn syrup-rich products, however. What the world needs is a hybrid system. "To achieve sustainable food security we will likely need many different techniques – including organic, conventional, and possible 'hybrid' systems – to produce more food at affordable prices, ensure livelihoods to farmers, and reduce the environmental costs of agriculture," continues Seufert. [Nature]
  • Another human made thing that's hurting honey bees. At least three studies have proven that pesticides have caused that scary bee death phenomenon. But, now science has found another culprit: Selenium. The stuff shows up in soil near coal power plants and bees cannot handle it in this higher concentration. "Nature has not equipped bees to avoid selenium," explains researcher John Trumble. "Unless the rates of concentrations of selenium were extremely high in our experiments, the bees did not appear to respond to its presence," he explained, meaning that bees would not avoid it in nature, even though it harms them. This research, though it did show selenium has harmful effects, did not prove it has anything to do with Colony Collapse Disorder. Yet. "The consequences of their inability to avoid selenium could be substantial," Trumble added. "We must emphasize that our data do not show that large losses of honey bees are currently occurring or that there is any relationship with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Field studies need to be conducted to determine if honey bees collect enough selenium from contaminated plants to cause significant effects on learning, behavior and adult or larval survival," he continued. You heard the man, get on it. [PLoS One]
  • Warmer oceans mean meltier glaciers. This sounds obvious, but it's actually much scarier and important than that. "What's really interesting is just how sensitive these glaciers seem to be," explains researcher Hamish Pritchard. "Some ice shelves are thinning by a few metres a year and, in response, the glaciers drain billions of tons of ice into the sea ... It means that we can lose an awful lot of ice to the sea without ever having summers warm enough to make the snow on top of the glaciers melt - the oceans can do all the work from below," he continues. You say interesting, we say terrifying. [Nature]
  • Some trees actually grow better in dirty cities. A little counterintuitive bit of information from science this afternoon. "Some organisms may thrive on urban conditions," explains researcher Kevin Griffin. It has something to do with the faux tropical climate we've created with all of our body heat and smog and cars and buildings. These things also might be bad for trees, too. But, when the researchers planted fetus-trees in Central Park, they noted the summer nights helped them grow better than the same seedlings planted in the fresh-air catskills. Bizarre, right? [The Earth Institute at Columbia University]

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