Plague to Plenty

This Hands On programme explores how we can improve agricultural production. From innovative techniques such as hydroponics, spiritual approaches adopted from Steiner’s philosophy, to methods of tackling devasting crop pests and virus, the programme highlights some sustainable solutions.

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Bread Bugs – Syria and Turkey

Bread is a staple food for millions of people around the world, especially in West and Central Asia. But the wheat, from which most bread is made, can be affected by insects known as the Sunn Pest. Even a small infestation can render a harvest worthless and ruin farmers. Now research is examining the insect’s natural weaknesses to give the farmers a chance to fight back.

Natural Mystics – Sweden

In Sweden, where the trend is towards fewer and larger farms, consumers are becoming concerned about the environmental impact and the safety of food produced under this type of farming. They are turning towards biodynamic products that still retain their link with the land. Biodynamic agriculture is being enthusiastically practised, not just for its yields, but mainly because of the positive interaction with the surrounding environment and to make farming a fundamental part of a sustainable society.

Dried and Tested – India

Some crops, such as peanut (also known as groundnut), can be severely affected by fungus. One of the most common is aflatoxin, which can be lethal to humans and animals. If aflatoxin is detected in the crops they are rejected for sale, but if they are consumed the damage could be far greater. A cheap and convenient test to check for contamination has now been introduced, safeguarding farmers’ livelihoods and consumers’ health.

Mushroom to Grow – UK

Mushrooms have been a prized food since ancient times – not just as a food, but also as a medicine. With a growing demand various mushroom cultivation methods have been explored, but they are not the easiest of crops. Now a Welsh company has developed a technique that produces a steady supply of popular varieties.

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Leaving Earth Behind – UK

The traditional method of growing crops requires three fundamental elements: light, water and soil. But another method, hydroponics, eliminates the need for soil, while enabling plants to thrive. Doing without soil means you can grow crops anywhere, as long as other conditions are kept right.

Sweet Success – China

Shandong province, in the east of China, has the country’s highest levels of agricultural exports. Rice is the area’s most important crop but in the dry, infertile hills, where the poorest communities live, rice will not grow. These communities depend on sweet potato for their livelihood, but it is susceptible to an afflicting virus. Now new techniques are combating this. .