Open Source Automated Farming

Graphically design your farm by dragging and dropping plants into the map. The game-like interface is learned in just a few minutes so you’ll be growing in no time. Plants are automatically spaced and growing regimens can be applied upon planting.

Build complete regimens for taking care of a plant throughout its lifetime by scheduling sequences to run when a plant is a certain age.

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Sources: FarmBot and FarmBot Genesis

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Small Scale Livestock, Llamas, and Highland Cattle

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There’s the hardy, adaptable highland cattle of Scotland…

The Highland breed of cattle has lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands. The extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed.

…But also the camelid llamas and alpaca of South America.

In South America today the Llama is used for packing, fiber for clothing, meat and its dung is used
for fuel. The Alpaca is raised mainly for fiber production and it is also a fuel source, with its dung.
Llamas live in Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

They live at heights of 14,000 ft to the lower elevations.
They are browsers and much of what they eat is considered scrub plants. The peoples of South
America do not brand their llamas as we might, but they use tassels of different colors to identify
their herds.

Sources:
University of Kentucky
4H
Living the Country Life

Processing Pasture

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How many hours of machine time your clearing job will take depends on a lot of variables including the size of the timber, the slope of the terrain, and the rockiness of the ground, but you should probably count on it taking approximately twice as long as you expect. Using machinery, you can go from dense forest to pasture or garden soil, in about two years time. If you’re clearing the land for pasture, after tree-shearing you can now keep it cleared either with a bush-hog or maybe even goats, but if you’re looking for soil to garden or farm, tree-shearing just isn’t the solution you need because of the roots left behind.

Turning forest into pasture is a lot more complicated than may be evident. Clearing tree cover is just the beginning; then there’s the roots themselves, seeding coverage. Essentially, you’re escalating a process that nature takes years to do – starting with fire.

Sources:
homestead.org
Oregon State University

Aquaculture and Agricultural Hybrid Farm

Aquaponics_with_catfish20,000 Pounds of Fish & 70,000 Pounds of Vegetables on a 1/4 Acre?

Combining the two methods of food production is a clever way of reducing some of the costs of each.

As food production by necessity begins to benefit from increased localization, things like this offer potential shortcuts.

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water only), in a carefully designed, hyper-productive closed-loop system. There is no pesticide, no fungicide, no fertilizer, no watering the garden, no bending down to weed the garden, and you produce food year round, no matter the climate or soil conditions. This can work in the Sahara Desert or in Antarctica.

Using this system, each 25 SF of grow space can feed one adult 25% of their protein and all of their table vegetables, year round, forever! On-site local food production is the ultimate form of food storage.

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Source: RealFarmacy

Improving Soil Structure

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Most gardens have soil that provides something less than the ideal environment for many garden plants. Perhaps it’s rocky or scraped bare from new construction; perhaps it’s too claylike or too sandy to suit the plants you want to grow. While changing a soil’s basic texture is very difficult, you can improve its structure–making clay more porous, sand more water retentive–by adding amendments.

The best amendment for soil of any texture is organic matter, the decaying remains of plants and animals. As it decomposes, organic matter releases nutrients that are absorbed by soil-dwelling microorganisms and bacteria. The combination of these creatures’ waste products and their remains, called humus, binds with soil particles. In clay, it forces the tightly packed particles apart; drainage is improved, and the soil is easier for plant roots to penetrate. In sand, it lodges in the large pore spaces and acts as a sponge, slowing drainage so the soil stays moist longer.

Among available organic amendments are compost, well-rotted manure, and soil conditioners (composed of several ingredients); these and others are sold in bags at many full-service nurseries, or in bulk (by the cubic yard) at supply centers. Byproducts of local industries, such as rice hulls, cocoa bean hulls, or mushroom compost, may also be available.

Finely ground tree trimmings (wood chips) and sawdust are also used, but because they are “fresh” (“green”) amendments, they’ll use nitrogen as they decompose, taking it from the soil. To make sure your plants aren’t deprived of the nitrogen they need, add a fast-acting nitrogen source such as ammonium sulfate along with the amendment (use about 1 pound for each 1-inch layer of wood chips or sawdust spread over 100 square feet of ground).

In beds earmarked for vegetables and annual flowers, amend the soil before each new crop is planted. Compost and well-rotted manure are preferred by most gardeners, since they dramatically improve the soil’s structure, making it hospitable to the fine, tiny roots of seedlings. Unamended soil may dry into hard clods that small roots cannot penetrate, and plants may grow slowly, be stunted, or die as a result. Manure and compost break down rapidly–manure in a few weeks, compost in several months–so be sure to replenish these amendments before you plant each crop.

To add amendments to unplanted beds like those just discussed, spread the material evenly over the soil, then work it in by hand or with a rototiller to a depth of about 9 inches. If your soil is mostly clay or sand, spread 4 to 5 inches of amendment over it; once this is worked in, the top 9 inches of soil will be about half original soil, half amendment. If the soil is loamy or has been regularly amended each season, add just a 2- to 3-inch layer of amendment; you’ll have a top 9-inch layer of about three-quarters original soil, one-quarter amendment.

Via Sunset.

Growing Dandelions from Seed

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You can grow this perennial herb, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9 in the garden in spring and summer, or year-round indoors.

Evenly spread 2 to 3 inches of compost over the bed, then dig it into the top 9 inches of the soil.

Grow dandelions in full sun — six hours or more per day — to get a strong, abundant crop.

Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in the spring as soon as the soil warms up to at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. [D]andelion seeds germinate in about two weeks.

Keep the soil moist during germination and through the growing season by watering when the top of the soil starts to feel dry.

Fertilize twice a month with general purpose granular fertilizer. Look for one that lists greens and vegetables on the label. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil between the dandelion greens but avoid getting it on the leaves. Use 3/4 cups for every 10 square feet of garden area.

Keep weeds down by gently pulling them by hand throughout the growing season.

You can start harvesting gourmet dandelion greens at 2 inches tall. At this stage they are technically micro-greens. Pick one to two leaves from each plant without dislodging the roots for a continued harvest. You can pick and eat dandelion greens at any stage, but they get progressively tough and bitter as the summer progresses.

After dandelions flower they produce puffy white seed heads that have the potential to scatter widely on the wind. This can cause an unpopular dandelion invasion. The best way to prevent this is to till the plants under or dig them up before they start to produce flowers.

With enough light, you can grow them year-round indoors. Select a 10-inch-diameter or larger pot filled with standard potting soil. Set the pot in a sunny window and use a grow light for dark winter days. Use a standard 125-watt grow light hung 6 inches above the seed tray. As the seeds germinate and start growing, raise the light to maintain the 6-inch space. Provide light for 14 hours each day.

Water when the soil feels dry under your fingers, and fertilize once a week with standard fertilizer. Use 1 1/2 tablespoons for a 10-inch-pot of dandelion greens.

Via eHow.

Peak Phosphorus

Tasseled out corn crop, northwest Iowa, July 2013.

Tasseled out corn crop, northwest Iowa, July 2013.

Phosphorus (P) is a chemical element and exists almost entirely in the form of phosphate (PO4 3-).

For millennia, geology has allowed phosphate to slowly accumulate in ancient seabed formations in just a few lucky locations around the world. P is essential to all life, including plants—such as agricultural crops. So, without phosphate, the breadbasket of America would be empty.

The Green Revolution, the major mid-20th-century expansion of global food production, relies in large part on fertilizer, to the tune of approximately 20 million metric tons of P in fertilizers applied in 2012 worldwide. Without it, agricultural productivity would have to get by with phosphorus that gets into soil by natural weathering of P from Earth’s rocks, which would only yield about 10 percent of what’s currently used—and would be wholly incapable of supporting our current population, much less the 2 billion to 4 billion additional humans expected for 2050.

Where does all this phosphorus for fertilizer come from? From mining operations focused mostly on ancient P-rich geological deposits that are concentrated in just a handful of countries, with Morocco having the lion’s share—about 75 percent at last report. China, in second place, has only 5.5 percent, and the United States trails in seventh with about 2 percent.

The best opportunity for lowering our demand for mined P is to recover and reuse P from agricultural and human wastes.

Animal manures, food-processing wastes, and human sewage constitute about half of the P on the conveyor belt to the environment. These waste streams offer the most immediate route to recovery and reuse because most of the P is in slurries of organic solids that also contain high amounts of energy. Anaerobic digestion, in which specialized microbes chew up organic matter in the absence of oxygen while producing methane gas, or microbial electrolysis cells, in which bacteria generate an electrical current that leads to hydrogen gas, are excellent means to convert the organic materials into highly valuable energy outputs. These microbial processes release the P as phosphate, which can be captured in clean, concentrated, and convenient forms for reuse in agriculture. Using microorganisms this way would give us three valuable things: renewable energy, concentrated P, and water with most of its pollution removed.

Via Slate.