Friday, August 5, 2016

Biomimicry: Streamlining Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products

Bio-mimicry @ Polyface Farms

"In this interview with Joel Salatin, Joel talks about how the regeneration of his family farm utilized the patterns discovered from observing natural grazing and migration of wild animals in native plant communities. This discussion unlocks the secrets of Nature to create a system of pasture based agriculture that actually builds soil, diversity and interdependent relationships between farming and God. In respecting the natural process of Nature, Joel and his family have built a thriving  farm business, while restoring ecological integrity to the land. This method of farm management creates community amongst its workers and consumers and provides a spiritual connection to the land and its inhabitants." 
By Karen Rybold-Chin
Here are a couple other video links from the Mother Earth News fair, West Bend, Wisconsin and videos featuring Joel Salatin who continues on about biomimicry of Nature as opposed to working against Nature. 
Joel Salatin, Sacrifice and Sacredness of food
Joel Salatin: Synergy between Nature, Science and Technology
More examples of biomimicry of nature regarding agriculture. Industrial agriculture's worldview is about feeding crop plants with unnatural synthetic fertilizers. Natures way of feeding the plant is rather feeding the microbiome which in turn feeds the plant. There is no money in this for the Industrial Agricultural business model, hence their vicious resistence. Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures down in Georgia, tells us about his movement away from industrial agriculture to regenerative farmer. 
VIMEO: One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts
Nice video interviews and stories on Biomimicry with Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Swoop, Virginia which was released yesterday and this comes off the heals of a newly released research paper published entitled:
Industrial Research Institute: Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products
Overview: "Biomimicry, defined as innovation through the emulation of biological forms, processes, patterns, and systems, is particularly valuable for its focus on solution discovery, as opposed to solution validation. GOJO Industries, Inc., used biomimicry to drive environmentally sustainable product innovation. The approach proved both efficient and effective: in comparison to a historical new product development project with a similar objective and scope, the biomimicry-driven project produced double the intellectual property and, based on a preliminary assessment of lead product concepts, at least double the energy savings for just one-sixth the resource commitment. Biomimicry also showed potential to increase the overall speed of front-end innovation. This case study suggests that biomimicry may be a highly promising approach for driving innovation, and particularly environmentally sustainable innovation, but further investigation is needed to validate the conclusions of this single case study. The authors will discuss their study in more detail at an IRI-sponsored webinar, October 7, 2016, 12–1 pm EST. For more information, visit;
Brown Bag - Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products

Heart-inspired double-acting bladder pump
Other Designs in Nature for Inspirations in Technological  Innovation
Nature-Inspired Biomimicry from the Sea!
image - Treehugger

 Mercedes-Benz looked towards the boxfish for their bionic car concept. Noting the aerodynamics and efficiency of the boxfish's shape, the engineers decided to apply the characteristics of the fish to a car. The result is a very streamlined vehicle with a 65% lower drag coefficient than other compact cars out at the time (2005).
How to Biomimic Desert Plants to stay COOL!

Saguaro Cactus stays cool by having ribs that provide shade and enhance heat radiation
"The same applies to the intricate structural designs of cacti, which are exposed to a great deal of heat pressure in the desert. Their heat-reflecting capacity is low, since their surface is greatly reduced so as to cut down on evaporation. Nature has solved the problem by equipping many cacti with cooling ribs. These shade the cactus's surface against the scorching sun and simultaneously improve heat radiation. The alternating planes of light and shade of the vertical cooling ribs of the torch thistle produce rising and falling air currents, which improve heat radiation. And when the sun reaches its highest position, it hits the torch thistle from above, where it presents its smallest surface. A botanist discovered that torch thistles perish of burns when they are placed horizontally in the sun."
Kingfisher - Bullet Trains & Tunnel Speed
Image - 500 Series Shinkansen / Sam Doshi

Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist 
Excerpt: "[W]e had another challenge that we pursued to the test run phase. Half of the entire Sanyo Shinkansen Line (from Osaka to Hakata) is made up of tunnel sections. When a train rushes into a narrow tunnel at high speed, this generates atmospheric pressure waves that gradually grow into waves like tidal waves. These reach the tunnel exit at the speed of sound, generating low-frequency waves that produce a large boom and aerodynamic vibration so intense that residents 400 meters away have registered complaints. For this reason, we gave up doing test runs at over 350 km/h.

"Then, one of our young engineers told me that when the train rushes into a tunnel, he felt as if the train had shrunk. This must be due to a sudden change in air resistance, I thought. The question the occurred to me - is there some living thing that manages sudden changes in air resistance as a part of daily life?"

"Yes, there is, the kingfisher. To catch its prey, a kingfisher dives from the air, which has low resistance, into high-resistance water, and moreover does this without splashing. I wondered if this is possible because of the keen edge and streamlined shape of its beak. The beak of kingfishers allows splashless entry into water due to the wedge shape it makes with the head that is round in cross section. 

"So we conducted tests to measure pressure waves arising from shooting bullets of various shapes into a pipe and a thorough series of simulation tests of running the trains in tunnels, using a space research super-computer system. Data analysis showed that the ideal shape for this Shinkansen is almost identical to a kingfisher's beak.  

"I was once again experiencing what it is to learn from Nature, seeing first hand that a solution obtained through large-scale tests and analysis by a state-of-the-art super-computer turned out to be very similar to a shape developed by a living creature in the natural world. The nose of our new 500-Series Shinkansens has a streamline shape that is 15m in length and almost round in cross section. - Beak Provides Streamlining: Common Kingfisher
Read more about the bioinspiration behind the Shinkansen Train in Zygote Quarterly

Animated Illustration - Artist: Emily Harrington

Take about 15 minutes here and watch Janine Benyus talk about biomimicry of designs found out in Nature. It's a 17 minute TED Talk where Janine Benyus provides a message for inventors. When solving a design problem, look to nature first. There you'll find inspired designs for making things waterproof, aerodynamic, solar-powered and more. Here she reveals dozens of new products that take their cue from nature with spectacular results.
TEDGlobal 2009: Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action
This video above is great as far as an explanation of why we should copy designs found out in Nature first. For exampe, one presenter named Janine Benyus who I commend for her work and efforts, makes an excellent point. She reference the idea that medicines from the Rain Forests and she clarifies this by saying it's not so much identifying some molecule for a cure, but rather an 'idea' for the cure. But the problem here is, ideas as we know them only come from an intelligent Mind, not blind unguided forces without purpose or goals. With that in mind there's a caveat or warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations that come with such a statement. What Janine Benyus is saying is in direct conflict with the Theory of Evolution proponents who have for decades pushed the "Argument from Poor Design" strategy to pimp a worldview. The problem is that it's Nature who's been given the shaft, not the rightwinger fundies they are attempting they are targeting in debates. I appreciate many ToE followers here won't like this, but this biased religious outlook goes back all the way to Darwin and his writings which are loaded with metaphysical religious assumptions and asserted that, "If their were a God he never would have created things in such and such a way." Take note, I find this viewpoint question to be a legitimate one to ask, but it has nothing to do with Science. Science cannot answer what an intelligent entity it's believers say doesn't exist in the first place would or wouldn't do in any given situation. I mean seriously, what repeatable experiment have they offered thus far ? None! This doesn't mean that we can't practice biomimicry, because we can. But irrespective of how anybody on this planet thinks or believes how life's origins came about, the harmonious way life in all ecosystems operates is in no way flawed or badly designed as this world's elites have shoved down people's throats and coerced them to believe. What has resulted is the degraded natureal world we all live in now. Climate Change ? It's easy to blame humans as many scientists do, but maybe they should start pointing fingers first at their fellow bought and paid for corporate scientist brothers who have developed irresponsible technology which has brought natural systems to it's knees. 

Scientific American
Ponder for a moment how much eco-friendly sustainable technological innovation has been held back because a Scientific Orthodoxy (mirro of Christendom Ecclesiastical Hierachical Structure] with power and authority has controlled for 100+ years how mankind should view our natural world ? Take these present Biotechnology and Agro-Chemical Companies. Their worldview of Nature is that it's flawed, inept, inefficient and badly designed and the only way the world will be saved is through the superior genius of their guiding hand. Did you know, most of their geneticists generally have no clue as to how whole plant systems work in cooperation with other plants within any ecosystem outside the Lab ? Their belief about the informational content of DNA is that it's not information as we know it at all, but rather nothing more than copying errors, random meaningless patterns, most of which they insist is nothing more than Junk. But the latest scientific research is now proving otherwise. Take the findings of ENCODE. And there have always been other science disciplines which have revealed the truth, but they haven't always had the powerful backing and financial resources to move forward against the tidal wave of Industrial Science.

Responsible Scientific researchers have shown that Mycorrhizal Fungi and Beneficial Bacteria and a host of other critters living in the soil have been perfectly maintaining the natural world's soils for possibly countless milleniums of time. We really don't know for how long, other than the usual blind faith speculations of deep time thrown in for eye candy in a research paper. Those in power and authority and with a financial stake in keeping the status quo are bent on keeping things as they are. But their actions are in direct conflict with Science disciplines like mycology, ecology, entomology, soil science, etc, etc, etc. This creates conflict of loyalties for many environmental activists who are immersed in this culture of science, but fear to criticize industrial science because of being labeled an Anti-Science Luddite. At least biomimicry or biomimetics separates and defines itself. Take this graphic below. The historical pattern timeline shows us when the well known Biotechnology companies and Agro-Chemical corporations actually took power and control over food production in the early 1990s when they manipulated politicians and directly wrote the book on regulations of their genetically modifying organisms to work in conjunction with industrially produced synthetics which work directly against ecosystem designs found out in Nature. Now take a look at how far the superweed problem has become as a result of increased pesticide usage. This is wasn't supposed to have happened given all the public relations and damage control propaganda they spewed into the Media and it's all worldview driven folks.

Graph from Iowa State University

People are going to have to start making responsible personal decisions soon. Who's side on the issue of universal soverignty are you going to choose ? Science claims that life on Earth has been around for over 100 millions years and that's fine. But an article dealing with important research on the stability of all earthwide ecosystems showed that during  all those millions of years life the natural systems were always stable. But it references human beings creating agriculture 6,000 years ago and from that point on as people spread out across the planet taking thier agriculture with them, they have been making bad decisions ever since and all life has been greatly effected in a negative way. And horrifically, it has been the past 100+ years of this imaginary enlightenment and free thought that has brought our world climate change, various forms of pollution and species extinction to the point of where many experts say it is irreversible. Unfortunately most of those "Culture of Science" people don't want to admit this flaw in the past few decades of Scientific thinking and practice. Keep watch, the latest phrase in many science journals being used more often now is "Beyond the Point of no Return." Take a look at the graph here below. This isn't my made up invention or research, this came from Scientists who are being forced to admit the flaw of a 20th century which has championed free thought and critical thinking. 

Graphic from Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine: Humans Caused a Major Shift in Earth's Ecosystems 6,000 Years Ago

None of the clearly negative effects of human leadership and present consequences should prevent any reader here from practicng biomimicry within their own personal sphere of endeavours with regards to habitat restoration, agriculture, urban landscaping and home gardening. Everybody has a choice. The main problem is everyone on the planet has to do this.
References & Links on Biomimetics

Clarification on the differences between Science and Corporations in creating intellectual property in the form of patented products for obscene profit.
Very little of what is being discussed with regards to the biotechnology industry is actually "Sciences" or even "one of the sciences". What we're really talking about isn't any of the sciences at all, but rather technology or to be more specific using their own words, engineering. Most all true sciences are about studying things out in the natural world and figuring out how they work. The "scientific method" deals with how we successively refine our understanding of natural phenomena. It does not say anything about how this knowledge can, could, or should be applied. The sciences are essentially analytic in nature.
It's our world's corporations who along with their lawyers have created this idea of intellectual property based on the scientific work of others. Their research engineers were more interested in creating products to be patented. Yet their work was all based on the information provided by researchers funded by Academia.  Their researchers may even use scientific methods in obtaining their goals, but they are not so much interested in the discovery of knowledge and the wisdom in using that knowledge as they are in focussing attention on creating something for profit.
In the process of misusing abd abusing ´this scientific knowledge, our natural world has been introduce to genetically modified organisms, , Nuclear Weapons, BPA in drinking water. We now have climate change, destruction of the Ozone, melting Arctic & Antarctic glaciers, Chernobyl, Thalidomide, Fukashima, plastic pollution in the oceans and dead zones, etc. All of these symptoms and negative consequences are the result of various irresponsible  technological innovation brought to us by modern industrial engineering. Yes, they used information obtained from science, but they cannot lay the fault at the feet of science which was always  about discovery and wonder. Science simply enabled these efforts by providing the basic knowledge needed, but the downside from what they created has produced unforeseen and unintended consequences in their various attempts to use that knowledge to satify this economic thing called consumerism. Biomimicry is really not all that expensive. In many cases it's a matter of changing one's practices and management without purchasing products and that is what nakes biomimetics unattractive to corporations.

Remember the movie Jurassic Park and that lunch room debate scene where actor Jeff Goldblum plays this highly articulate four-eyed genius (Dr Ian Malcolm) who tries to warn everyone about the dangers of playing God ? Of all the scenes in that movie, this one sticks with me the most because it is so accurate in it's content and reflective of today's reality. The Jurassic Park Technicians did not actually research all the science behind the genetics, but they did they misuse and abuse the discoveries of others for creating intellectual property and patented products (Dinosaurs). Biotechs are the same, they engineer product for profit. If they actually cared about feeding mankind and becoming proper custodians of the Earth, they would have pursued more of a mirror of how Nature accomplishes this through biomimicry. Instead, they are infected with the ideological doctrine that Nature is flawed, imperfect and poorly designed. Only they can fix it and anyone who tries to get in their way is an Anti-Science Luddite. It matters not that these people in opposition to their business model are indeed interested in other responsible sciences like Mycology, Soil Biology, etc, etc, etc. Here's the story line below. See if you recognize it better now.
Dr Ian Malcolm: "Don't you see the danger, John, inherent in what you're doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet's ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that's found his dad's gun."
The Jurassic Park Lawyer, Donald Gennaro:  "It's hardly appropriate to start hurling generalizations..."
Dr Ian Malcolm: "If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you wanna sell it." 
Jurassic Park Owner/CEO, John Hammond: "I don't think you're giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody's ever done before . . " 
Dr Ian Malcolm: "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." 

Pausing here for a moment to fast forward. After trying to justify his technology by saying he could bring back California Condors and hearing Dr Ian Malcolm's continued resistence to the Jurassic Park's genetic modification technology, CEO John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), uses the same identical cowardly strategy often employed by most biotech apologists against the opponents of their technology. 
CEO John Hammond: "I simply don't understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?"  

Dr Ian Malcolm: "What's so great about discovery? It's a violent penetrating act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world."
 (Jurassic Park Lunch Debate - 3:55 minutes)

Image - Oregon State University
I read one article recently by a major GMO apologist, Henry L. Miller, who was championing GM technology for Climate Change and creating drought resistant crops. Hence the need to genetically manipulate crop plant genomes to better withstand heat and drought. Monsanto for example has already done this with their Drought Guard patented crop seeds. This is not biomimicry. Biomimicry would be utilizing Nature's toolkit which has existed for 1000s of years. Mycorrhizal fungi act as an extension of a plant's root system and increase water and nutrient uptake anywhere from 200% to 800%. And it costs far less, often if managed properly after the initial soil inoculation, it's free. And ultimately that is the major reason for the major stumbling block and why the Biotechs and Agrochemical Corporations refuse to go down that road. Opportunities for biomimicry are all around everyone in the natural world. The problem is that they are not opportunities for most of this world's giant corporations and the governments that support them. Their geneticists know very little about how whole plant systems work outside their Lab. There is still very little these biotechs and their engineers know about the very organism, Agrobacterium, they have in the past used to infect target crop genomes with the transgenes. There have been some concerns with their use of the Agrobacterium which is a naturally occcuring soil organism. In fact take note of what one research paper said about our scientific understanding of Agrobacterium:
"Many of the blockbuster discoveries on Agrobacterium-plant interaction have been cited briefly in this narrative. However, much remains to be learned. The chemical signaling between Agrobacterium and plants in the natural environment of the plant’s rhizosphere has yet to be fully explored. In addition, the trafficking of the T-strand from the inception of the transfer process to the plant cell nucleus provides an area of fruitful research opportunities for interdisciplinary investigations. The full potential of using Agrobacterium as a mutagen and a transfer system for genes into an ever expanding number of eukaryotic cells has yet to be realized. After 100 years, the tale of Agrobacterium is not yet finished."
Agrobacterium: The Natural Genetic Engineer 100 Years Later
So apparently after all this time, there is still so much they do not know about this organism, but they're using it anyway. But wait, this version of the technology has to be regulated and it's really imperfect because they really have no clue where the information of the transgene will end up within the genome. In other words, in what context of other genes does this gene end up working with ? No problem they say, CRISPR will save the day. It's promoted as more precise and accurate and because the biotechs will only be editing and deleting genes instead of introducing foreign genes by means of a viral facilitator, they've now convinced the government it has no need of regulation. This ignorant worldview of the meaninglessness of informational content within DNA even extends here as well. Take the issue of deleting the gene which causes browning in the common white button mushrooms. Read the warning on this potentially irresponsible act by Mycologist Paul Stamets on how this fungi will be effected by not having this anti-viral gene and the consequences if this specific genome gets out into the wild.

Supporters of giant corporate entites need to stop pretending that Biotechs are all about Science, when their true objective is mainly politics, economics and promoting a worldview after their own image. Their hands are dirty in political advocacy. Their writings only have value if they are discussing observable, repeatable, testable facts about natural phenomena. That's how real science is defined. Even then, you have to watch closely the materials and methods being used here, and see if the conclusions logically follow from the data. A true scientist ceases to be a scientist when he leaves off the original ideals that science was built upon. The understanding of the cause-and-effect structure of the natural world according to testable hypotheses. Biomimicry on the other hand is the practice of science that takes rigor, integrity, and humility. It views nature as having great vakue in it's designs which in turn should be replicated, rather than being put out there for promoting a profit. They have always had a problem with bioethics. They actually work very hard towards preventing people from having the ability to know the truth about our natural world and food we eat  and that ultimately is the true Anti-Science.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Distant Volcano eruptions help Saguaro Nursery baby booms ?

The Ideal Baby Saguaro Cacti Tree Nursery
Image - Kathleen Ferris - City of Phoenix, Arizona

John & Heidi @ StatusGo
The prime nursery habitat for growth and development of a baby Saguaro is supposed to be under a Palo Verde or Mesquite tree. Although as you can see here in the photo at right, a small saguaro can be found nestled under a bursage nursery plant. This one here is supposed to be 25 years old, though it's certainly small for that age. There appears to be a number of ecological & climatic variables which can either help  or hinder in the development of a baby Saguaro. I miss the deserts southwest and yes, I still freak people out here in Scandinavia when I mention missing deserts. Their opinion of deserts is that nothing if anything good lives there, it's hot & hostile with a plethora of things which will stick you, stab you and bite you. Nurse Tree facilitation is an important ecological process whereby these woody plant protégé species (mentors like Palo Verde & Mesquite) enhance the growth and survival of their understory apprentice species. Without this relationship, the Saguaros would almost never exist on their own in many areas. But then this is true of most life on Earth which thrives by means of mutualism. And yet there appear to be acceptions to this rule as a new study references volcanes with extremely huge eruption events which can trigger a temporary global cooling trend coupled with heavier than normal rainfall years. More on that later. First let's understand how those baby Saguaros [which at germination look like helpless miniature succulents] make a go of it under harsh desert conditions. 

Image - Mine (June 2016)

Image - Mine (June 2016)
My wife and I visited the Tucson-Sonora Desert Museum this past June 2016. We were fortunate enough to see all of the Saguaros in most of Arizona actually in bloom. Not only still blooming, but also ripening fruits which were split open and being fed upon by Doves, Cactus Wrens, Sparrows, etc. Even Arizona Cardinals. Now after all that dining and given the usual rapid digestion birds have, it is clear they would be flying from shrub to shrub and desert tree to desert tree and as they do, they'd take a poop. That poop would contain all the Saguaro seeds which would hit the ground and later be triggered to germinate once the first monsoonal thunderstorms move in north from Mexico. 100s, maybe 1000s of seed germinate with only a handful of them being able to survive. Take note below of the many different bird species which love the Saguaro Cacti fruits. Also take note that many of them also love the Saguaro flowers as did many insects we saw at the Museum. Apparently it's not only the Mexican Fruit Bat that pollenize them. Another etched in stone paradigm regarding insistence of how some plants replicate and spread themselves bites the dust. The scientific consensus as approved by the prevailing Orthodoxy won't like this.

Image - Margarethe Brummermann (June 2014)

The obvious result would be years later a few of the Saguaros seedlings would be successful enough to make it on their own, eventually to outlive the mother tree Blue Palo Verde which may only live 50 or 60 years. Easy for a 150+ year old Saguaro to outlast.

Image - Saguaro National Park

Image - James Brooks
Of course the obvious conclusion here is that not long after all manner of desert birds dine on the juicy ripe and luscious Saguaro fruits, they need to go poop later. They generally do so within a tree or shrub's canopy. As is evident from the Palo Verde Nurse tree example above, a couple decades back some bird or birds used this tree as a roost and did their business. The immediate result was these little tiny ice plant looking things popped up by the 100s all over the place and then it was a simple numbers game for survival after that. Incredibly, it takes only a couple of days for germination to occur. I have also found this to be the same thing with regards other desert trees of the pea family like Palo Verde, Mesquite, Ironwood etc which often germinate during the wet monsoon season and develop rapidly thereafter. This is important that their genetic programming has such instructions for rapid development because in their preferred harsh environment there is only a small window of time before conditions change to one in which they could otherwise become toast.

Animation by KanyonKris

Facilitation or Competition - Which ?

Image - Gila Bend Shell Station
I've used this same animated illustration above many time before to illustrates the play of Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution. So it's logical that given desert trees like Mesquite, Paloverde & Ironwood perform the task of hydraulic life and redistribution of deep underground water to shallower rooted shrubs and perennial plants, it would be easy to assert the same benefit would apply to these young newly emerged Saguaro seedlings. This same pattern would also clearly help many to establish themselves over a period of years. Like one of my latest posts on Biomimicry on replication of companion planting found in nature, these trees are programmed to mutually cooperate for each other's success. Ignorance of this behavior or phenomena has done major harm in land management over the past 100+ years. The package at right I picked up at a Gila Bend Shell Truck Stop to plant back home here in Sweden. I'll keep things up to date on that. I've used this same long time Souvenir gift pack brand before and their seeds  germinate extremely well in the vermiculite mix provided. But on the fact about shaded light, when I first planted some of these back in the late 1980s, they looked identical to the seedling emergence you see a couple photo up on the right. After a month I thought that  perhaps desert plants instead of being in the shade and protection of my livingroom, just might enjoy life on the porch railing for about an hour in sunshine. It was morning and not at all hot. After an hour I brought them back inside and the next day I saw they had all been fried. Lost every single one of them. So I understood the Nurse plant protection thingy concept, but not out in far western Arizona where I saw Saguaros along Interstate 8 growing straight up out of bare desert varnish rock and lava fields. No mother trees or nurse plants, just barren high intense heat environment. So how does that work ? Take a look at the gallery landscape below of what I'm talking about.

Image - World Heritage Commitee - NordEnergiThe 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee made the decision to make the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico the latest site to achieve World Heritage Status.

Image - Feargus Cooney
See, I can understand and relate to Nurse Plants or Mother Trees. Aside from the obvious shade factor provided for such a tender delicate Nursery for baby Saguaros from intense Summer heat, there is also the mechanisms of  "Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution" which provides valuable moisture brought up from subterranean sources, redistributes it through lateral roots further connected to an elaborate mycorrhial grid network no doubt plugged into the lateral root systems of young Saguaros. But in clearly moonscaped surface environments like the Pinacate Volcanic Lava fields which mostly lack pronounced Nurse Trees/Shrubs, how does establishment take place here ? I get the fact that seed germination happens anywhere  under good monsoonal rainfall events, germination is a matter of two days. But it's that critical three years of good luck and beyond that is the puzzle. This far western Arizona landscape is not the vibrant green living desert of of Tucson which is also strategically located right smack in the middle of the Monsoonal moisture superhighway. Look below at a few other examples of large Saguaro Cacti in areas far removed from the ideal Tucson Mesquite and Palo Verde forests and see that they actually thrive there. 

Photo by Leonora Torres

Saguaros in Lava fields of the 
Gila-Pinacate Biosphere Reserve

Image - Taly Drezner

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge - Yuma county, Arizona

Saguaro cacti are the tallest things standing at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, near Yuma, Arizona. The cultural icon is a keystone species of the Sonoran Desert, serving as perch, nesting site, shelter, thermal refuge, and food for the birds and other animals in the desert ecosystem. So how do they establish themselves beyond the germination period ?

Image by Geologist Dan Lynch

Tecolote Volcano - Pinacate Volcanic Field
How Saguaro seed germination and establishment take place in areas where very little Nurse Trees & Shrubs are found and in a landscape that is basically volcanic fields with Desert Varnish. Remember, they start out life as an Iceplant mimic!

US Fish & Wildlife Serivce - Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Here is a paragraph from the research done by Taly Drezner about the perfect location for the study of Saguaro seed germination and establishment within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. It was the perfect place to study Saguaro survival under extreme conditions.
"To investigate her hunch, Drezner went to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge near Yuma, Arizona, where limited water pushes the physiological limits of the saguaro, to sample the age structure of the local cacti. Rainfall at Kofa is a third of other locations in the Sonoran. Cacti do not have rings, like trees, that make age simple to gauge. Drezner estimated the ages of 250 cacti based on meticulous calculations of local growth rates using a model she pioneered. She added data from 30 locations in the Northern Sonoran Desert and compared the generational cohorts of the cacti to climate datasets for the region and the annual Weighted Historical Dust Veil Index, an indicator of volcanism."
So the idea here is that volcanic events, like the eruption of the Mexican volcano, El Chichón in 1982, have a major impact on global climate cooling. Hences delicate Saguaro seedling survival in hotter areas without nurse plants or trees like western Arizona's Kofa Wildlife Refuge require something uniquely different as far as climatic circumstances. 

Now think in terms of  large  historical Volcanic eruption events ? 

Photo by 
So these volcanic eruption events tie in to Saguaro establishment successes ? Remember the 1982 eruption of El Chichón, the largest volcanic disaster in modern Mexican history. ? That powerful 1982 explosive eruption of high-sulfur and other particulates high into the upper atmosphere effected the global climate. The total volume of material from the El Chichón eruption was much smaller than the other infamous eruption of Pinatubo of the Philippines in 1991. That powerful eruption pumped enormous volumes of ash injecting significant quantities of aerosols and dust into the stratosphere. Sulfur dioxide oxidized in the atmosphere to produce a haze of sulfuric acid droplets, which gradually spread throughout the stratosphere over the year following the eruption. I remember how you could see these high atmospheric ring anomalies around both the sun and moon for two or three years. The effect was a cooling trend, hence references today by global leaders on geo-engineering projects to replicate what these volcanoes did to climate past, instead of actually stopping what cause the climate change. The Mexican Volcanic eruption coincided with an El Nino weather pattern we had in the early 1980s in the southwest which gave massive amounts of rainfall and flooding. I also remember the monsoonal thunderstorm events where stronger and more completely widespread as opposed to the usual isolated incidents common with Southwestern monsoons in Summer. So it's not under the realm of possibility that Saguaro establishment success was positive during a two or three year window period. Too bad this info was not available back then to research those years in the Kofa Mountain area. Here is what Taly Drezner further says on the subject:

"In the year after Krakatoa, summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere fell 1.2⁰C below average. The eruption violently disgorged tons of ash and sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. Dust particles and sulfuric acid droplets rode winds through the upper atmosphere, conspiring in a haze that reflected sunshine and lowered global temperatures. Though not as disruptive as the “year without a summer” that followed the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815, Krakatoa’s influence was seen and felt around the globe in vivid sunsets and stormy weather.  Southern California experienced a “water year” of record rainfall. Sulfate aerosols in particular can hang out in the atmosphere for years, and Krakatoa released an unusual abundance of sulfur. Typical temperature and weather patterns did not recover for years. For the saguaro, the perturbations appear to have amounted to a collection of “just right” conditions for new growth."   
"I started noticing that these saguaro age cohorts followed notable volcanic eruptions,” said Drezner. “I knew that volcanoes drive milder summers and winters, and typically more rainfall for an extended period—two to three years after the event, which is a perfect window of time for the saguaro to get established and have a chance to survive."  
 My own personal concluding comments
Image - Mine (2011)

Image - Mine (2012)
I enjoyed the article on possible potential for notable large volcanic events spewing tonnes of ash, aerosols, etc into the upper Stratosphere and effecting global climate by means of a cooling trend over a period of three years. It certainly seems logical. My own experience with a 12" tall Saguaro brought to me by friends in Tucson from a Nursery (complete with offical Arizona State legal paperwork of ownership) I planted on Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon would seem to confirm the idea that Saguaro baby booms come with more favourable weather. The weather in El Cajon just a little ways east from San Diego & the Pacific Ocean definitely is a radical change from Arizona. I planted the little Saguaro on a south facing slope which was remote and where no one ever ventured. I never once watered it. Planting a Saguaro and watering can lead to root rot. Just place it in the soil and leave it alone. There is enough energy & water within the cacti to trigger root growth into the soil without the need for any extra outside water. Once the root system infrastructure is established, they will quickly suck up any water and refill the plant's lost storage capacity. From my own observation every year for seven years after planting, the plant grew a little over a six more inches that first year after rains came and over a foot a year thereafter. At it largest height, the Saguaro was almost seven foot tall. Then some idiots with guns decided to target practice. The cactus died back to the ground and formed a large healed scab even with the soil. Much to my surprise the cacti resprouted with two new competing central leaders the following year and the above picture my friend took of me standing next to it in 2011. I haven't been back there since, so I am not even sure it is still there given the fact that below that point the Sky Ranch Housing development people used chainsaws and destroyed some 30' tall Torrey Pines which were planted at the same time as the Saguaro. Still, the change in climate proved beneficial to Saguaro growth and it's later development. Aisde from more target practice, it's real danger now is fire. I mean it is located in coastal sage-scrub. But Saguaros are not the only mystery of Cacti establishment in full blown baking desert Sun without Nurse plants. This Anza Borrego Desert barrel cactus in the photo at right  is yet another example of success under extreme southern exposure conditions down in the Anza Borrego Desert where Summertime Temps are often 110+ Fahrenheit (40+ celsius).

Animated Illustration - Rockland Saguaros
The illustration above is a good guesstimate of probably how the average Saguaro grows under normal growing conditions in the Sonoran Desert. But there are clearly variables which break that rule. Some smaller Saguaros in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge in far western Arizona under less favourable growing conditions may well be as old as some towering 45' giants around Tucson. Still, as the National Park Service photo below reveals, there are clearly strategies for successes where no Nurse Tree is available.

Image - Saguaro National Monument
Interesting Reading References: Distant volcanic eruptions foster saguaro cacti baby booms
James Brooks: Arizona Saguaro Cactus - Sustainable, Seed-Grown Plants 
 AZGeology: Pinacate in stereo by Dan Lynch
Perhaps something else could have factored in the changes in the Southwest - maybe local Volcanism around the year 1000 C.E. - give or take a few hundred years or so either way ??? Okay, that's another post.
Time out for some Saguaro Cactus Humor!
Photo - Saguaro National Monument

Prickly Pear Cactus emerges from the top of a Saguaro Cactus

Anyone remember the comedy Sci-Fi film, "Men in Black" ? There was a scene in the Cafe where an alien contact was killed by this enemy Cockroach Alien and his body mistakenly went to the City Morgue before the MIB guys could clean up the incident. Field agent 'J' (Will Smith) and Forensics Lab Laurel (Linda Fiorentino) watch as the dead corpse's head opens to reveals a tiny alien creature with a dire warning, and 'K' (Tommy Lee Jones) has to erase Laurel's memory. Remeber "Orion's Belt" ??? This is the first thing I thought of when I saw this over at the Saguaro National Monument pages. Clearly this is another bird pooping incident out there in the wild somewhere, only this time Prickly Pear tunas.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dryland Farming, Vineyards & why Plants prefer Subterranean Water Sources

This is a further continuation on the subject of vineyards and underground root networks which fits nicely this blog's purposed intent 
Consider this another resource page
Image - Modern Farmer

Turning Water into Wine ???

When I first saw the animation above, it immediately brought to mind why all Viticulturalists [installers & maintainers] should create an ecological environment in which vineyards could and should be weaned off the conventional science-based way of farming and one which perfectly biomimics Nature. The centuries old method of dryland farming which has been successful without major problems should be brought back and even improved with a few miner innovation adjustments for no other reason than we now know so much more about the biological machinery which operates all of the Earth's ecosystems successfully. I previously wrote a post about the Groasis Waterboxx which is being used to encourage and force deeper root systems with grapevines. More than anything else, the above animation clearly illustrates the purposed goal of the Waterboxx Cocoon. The illustration appeared in the journal Modern Farmer. The article carried another animated graphic of rainfall totals in various lands where the lowest rainfall areas actually dryland farm, while one of the highest annual rainfall totals was in the Willemette Valley where back in the 1990s, organic wine producers Russ Raney and John Paul discovered that several of their wine-producing peers in were installing drip-irrigation systems in their vineyards. The oddball thing is, this valley receives an average of 42 inches of rain a year which would seem like the last place you’d need to add more water. The dryland farmed countries of Greece and Spain were 14" & 16" of rain. Something doesn't make sense.

Animated Illustrations - Jason  Holley

Well, looking back in history to pre-1970s, much of California vineyards were dryland farmed. But then giant beverage corporations realized the massive amounts of money they could make and so then they started buying up many of the wineries. Like everything else about Earth destroying industrial agriculture, these corporate owned wineries demanded higher yields. From that point on it was miles and miles of black pcv tubing infrastructure throughout most all the big vineyards from the central valley floor to the mountain foothills. Which brings us down to the present water crisis in California's mega-drought. Incredibly however, these high yield plump grape bunches do not provide the best tasting wines. Of course for the volume drinker who cares only for quantity jug or box wine [or even $2 Chuck], this is not an issue. But that higher yield is all that Industrial Ag cares about these days. Flavour ? What about flavour ? That's why industrial Ag is obsessed in fulfilling government monoculture mandates with regards to Corn/Maize for massive amounts of  "High Fructose Corn Syrup", which makes modern day cardboard tasting agricultural produce palletable and addictive for the consumers.

Image -
“We started to reduce the use of water in the vineyard [and] we got to amazing results. 1.) The vine can live with less water of what most of the people think, 2.) when you used less water, the size of the cluster and berries decrease, so finally you get more concentration and equilibrium in your wines.”
Aurelio Montes, explaining high skin ratio grapes producing higher quality concentration for superior quality wines
So what exactly do Plant Community Ecosystems really want and what has not-for-profit Scientific Research Groups revealed ?
Leaving the grape vineyard subject for the moment and concentrating on how many ecosystems work, function and maintain themselves, you'd be surprised to find out that most mature trees, shrubs, vines etc prefer deeper subterranean moisture for the majority of their water hydrating uptake needs. This brings me back to the subject of Professor Todd Dawson's laboratory and study of hydraulic lift and redistribution of deeper subsoil layers. He is incredibly one of the few researchers to actually research the subject of Riparian streamside trees which hydrate themselves not from available surface waters, but rather much deeper subterranean sources. An article about this was titled: 
"Streamside Trees that do not use Streamside Water"
"A LONG-STANDING axiom is that plant distribution is strongly influenced by soil moisture content. While it has been shown that plant taxa inhabiting streamside communities receive or use more water, it is assumed that this water is obtained from the stream adjacent to where they are found growing. Here we show, using hydrogen isotope ratio analyses at natural abundance levels, that mature streamside trees growing in or directly next to a perennial stream used little or none of the surface stream water. The deuterium to hydrogen content of both source and xylem waters indicated that mature trees were using waters from deeper strata. Although adult trees may have roots distributed continuously throughout a soil profile, it seemed that the most active sites of water absorbtion were limited to deeper soil layers. In contrast, small streamside individuals appeared to use stream water, whereas small non-streamside individuals used recent precipitation as their primary water source."
So basically Dawson and team were curious as to the origin of the waters which hydrated streamside trees. The obvious conclusion was surface waters which were abundantly available in the riparian habitat. Whereas the young trees in youth required the surface moisture for growth and initial establishement, the older trees did not require surface waters any longer and preferred the moisture in deeper subterranean layers of the soil. There clearly are some sort of epigenetic triggers at play here in response to environmental cues as the trees age. But the crazy thing is that much of Dawson's work with these types of studies happened mainly in the early 1990s. So what have world researchers been doing all this time since then, since such valuable information and understanding has huge practical application with regards agricultural techniques  potential. The middle of the research paper is basically how they went about the science of determining what sources through isotope studies and how they arrived at conclusions. It's mostly boring as is true with most research papers, but here is the last remarks at the end of the paper's report:
"Several ecological implications arise from these results. First, during establishment, these tree species [most likely riparian] depend on these waters in the upper soil layers. Because these isotopic signatures of summer precipitation (non-streamside sites) and surface stream waters (streamside sites) are different, we can distinguish between the sources. Second, once established trees from streamside sites as well as from adjacent non-streamside sites use a deeper prehaps more constant water source, abandoning the water sources on which they were dependent during establishment. By no longer using upper-soil-layer water sources,, these tree species may be able to avoid interspecific competition with more shallow rooted shrub and herb species that inhabit the same sites."
Source: University of Utah -"Streamside Trees that do not use Streamside Water" 
Stopping here to interject some thoughts. I've written about this previously in my own personal research of Bajada (Alluval Fan) sites and Floodpalin sites and how large trees in waterless regions establish and maintain themselves within large rocky waterless boulder strewn river rock floodplains. The only other point of note here about shallow rooted shrubs is that Dawson did this study long before much information was done on root structure of chaparral and his later focus on hydraulic lift and redistribution which hydrates shallower plants within any ecosystem through an interconnected biodiverse mycorrhizal fungal grid or network. There is a long held traditional blind faith religious concept we know as, "Survival of the Fittest" which has been championed and continually misapplied by it's inventors for decades. This concept has caused vast amounts of misunderstanding about our natural world which has in turn held back real viable advancement in technological innovation. This in turn has damaged most all of Earth's present day ecosystems. But that failed religious dogma has now given way to the more responsible understanding of a superior concept that most of the honest researchers now see as Survival of the Mutually Cooperative. In 1994 Cornell University published a report on Dawson's Lab work on Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution by extremely deeply rooted Sugar Maples which hydrated the various other ecosystem plant community neighbours around their sphere of influence. Here towards the end of the article the author makes an observation of how knowledge of such hydrological phenomena and rooting infrastructure can be applied to modern technological innovation and practice within Agriculture.
"I think Professor Dawson's research has amazing potential for agriculture," Hernandez-Mora said. "We know some trees are beneficial because they provide nutrients from their leaves that fall to the ground. Now we know they are also recycling water. I see hydraulic lift as a recycling system. The rainwater that eventually ends up deep within the ground comes back up through the tree's roots and can be used in the shallow soil by surrounding crops." She feels that the system can be used to regenerate dry lands and improve farming in developing countries that do not have access to fertilizers and advanced irrigation pumps."
Cornell University: Mother Nature's Irrigators - 'Plants Share Water With Their Neighbors'
Unfortunately, the concept of biomimicry or biomimetics in Agriculture that was hoped for by the author from Cornell University back in 1994 when this statement was first made has not come to be realized. It's incredible, it's been 25 years and our planet is worse off now more than ever before. Some attention has been paid regarding this subject by a few, but still ignored by the majority. Certainly not on the commercial scale hoped for. What hnders that ? Industrial Agriculture and all the various components which make it up like Biotechs, AgroChemical Companies, Irrigation Districts, etc all have a vested interest in smokescreening and deflecting such findings and keeping up a propaganda campaign that insists the world cannot survive without their direction and oversight. But still more and more research is finding out and revealing why Nature has been able to function and thrive for 10s of 1000s of years prior to the past 100+ years of  imaginary enlightenment.  Take a look below here. Science has discovered other interesting things about the programming inside of plant DNA which provides a mechanism for sensing water and creating a specific root architecture in obtaining that moisture.

Wissenschaft – Design – Animation
"Stanford, CA—Soil is a microscopic maze of nooks and crannies that hosts a wide array of life. Plants explore this environment by developing a complex branched network of roots that tap into scarce resources such as water and nutrients. How roots sense which regions of soil contain water and what effect this moisture has on the architecture of the root system has been unclear."
Really ? The soil beneath out feet is really a maze of microscopic nooks and crannies ? And notice they said that plants explore this environment by means of a branching root development programming that seeks out and searches for water ? As they stated, how the plants accomplish this has been a mystery, but the average person doesn't have to know every single scientific detail in order to accept that plants have an extraordinary water sensory system for moisture detection. In my last few posts, I've referenced the Groasis Waterboxx which is precisely designed to facilitate water movement downwards deep into the subsoil layers which encourages the plant's sensing mechanisms to track and follow. Take note again of the illustration below. These nooks and cranies are the exact capillary water movement action Pieter Hoff has been continually speaking about and taking advantage of in his device.

Continuing on with the research paper, they found that the informational content within a plant's DNA will instruct and create a hydropatterning blueprint. The signaling pathways they are speaking of are epigenetic signaling and sensing which will help build the root network infrastructure as the water is forced down deep into the subsoil which is our ultimate goal here. Again, You DO NOT have to be a rocket scientist to grasp this. But merely appreciating that most all plants will perform this task smoothly and efficiently if you facilitate all the right practices in providing what plants are programmed to thrive is all you need to know.
"The team named the new phenomenon hydropatterning and they observed it in several plant species, including the important crop plants maize and rice. The process is controlled by signaling pathways in the plant that are distinct from previously characterized drought responses suggesting that hydropatterning could be important for regulating root branching under non-stressful growth conditions."
Carnegie Institution for Science: Water found to provide blueprints for root architecture
Other Important Factors that both Hinder & Promote Rooting development Infrastructure
It's always been important to follow exactly the pattern found and observed in Nature when it comes to various forms of land management practices, irrespective of the endeavour pursued. Mankind for the most part has not done this and hence we now have a planet in crisis. There was some research done back in 2013 by Hairong Wei, Yordan Yordanov and Victor Busov which was published by the international journal New Phytologist. The article's title was, "Nitrogen deprivation promotes Populus root growth through global transcriptome reprogramming and activation of hierarchical genetic networks." Basically what they found was that the conventional recommendation by most science-based Agro-Chemical companies in application of their synthetic junk at time of planting actually hindered plant root development. Why ? Because like water, if you welfare the plants on an artificial life-support system, they will always depend on the entitlement program you've arranged for them and they will never mature towards self-sufficiency. Here is what they found.
"Contemporary nitrogen fertilization practices are not environmentally or economically smart,"  says Busov, who studies the functional genomics of plant development  
"Only 30 percent is used by the plants. The rest goes into the ground water. It changes the soil and causes increases in algal blooms, greenhouse gases and insects like mosquitoes that carry disease."
Now notice in the article what they found out regarding the effects of that nitrogen had on plant root system growth development and  overall infrastructure blueprinting. And the effect on rootstructure development from the lack of nitrogen.
"Nobody knew the mechanisms of how low nitrogen affects plant roots."
In their laboratory at Michigan Tech, Busov and Yordanov planted Poplar seedlings under normal nitrogen levels. Then they transplanted them to a medium that contained almost no nitrogen. What happened? 
"Surprisingly, the roots got larger and longer,"  says Yordanov. "We think that the roots were looking for nitrogen," Busov suggests. "But what is the genetic machinery behind this growth?" 
These researchers were experimenting with Poplar plants for possible biofuels potential. They made reference to there being  tens of thousands of genes in the poplar genome. So their huge challenge here was how to determine which gene/s were doing what, how they affect each other and how they work together to regulate root growth under low nitrogen conditions. Basically what they were looking at was the regulatory mechanisms of epigenetic gene expression with it's on and off switches. Researcher, Hairong Wei, who is a molecular biologist has extensive knowledge of computer science applied his knowledge to large biological data sets. His goal here was to untangle the interactions of more than 61,000 genes by searching for a "high hierarchical regulator," or what he labled as the "boss" gene. When they identified this boss or control gene, they tweaked this gene and the entire network responded which caused the roots to grow 58% more. Take a look at what they found and how it was described.
"Imagine a manufacturer. At the bottom of the hierarchy, you find the laborers. They answer to a foreman who reports to a manager, and so on until you get to the president. If you want multiple laborers to do a complicated job, you start with the president, who will pass the instructions down. The process can be likened to the functioning of a machine. There is a master switch that turns on the engine. The engine activates other switches that make all the little cogs and gears in the machine do what they are supposed to do."
Michigan Technological University: Getting to the root of the matter
The original intention of the research was not necessarily the pursuit of biomimicry in Nature. It's all about tweaking the organism's genetic makeup either by gene editing or some other genetic manipulation. But in the process they discovered some amazing things about what triggers root infrastructure development. This was a study of certain specific plants which would best be biofuel material candidates. If they could find a gene to genetically engineer, etc, then these plants could be cloned and/or bred for the biofuels industry. First you should understand that in conventional industrial science-based worldview ways of looking at things, in the back of many a scientist's minds, Nature is almost invariably viewed as inherently flawed and badly designed. Hence the collective genius of intellectual human scientists are assumed to be the answer to correcting where nature is inept at design. However that is not what they found here. Industrial Agriculture and the corporations which run the Big Ag World want to sell products. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, etc are just few of their prized flagship products. But nature also has after market add-ons which enhance performance. The majority of these after market add-ons are mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria to name a few. But now getting back to dryland farmed vineyards, there are other beneficial reasons for deep root promoting techniques.

Encouraging Deeper Root Infrastructure & Mycorrhizal Colonization can combat Pathogens common to Vineyards 

Photo - Coenie Snyman, Rust & Vrede

Source - Wingerdbou in Suid Afrika
The successful dryland farmed Vineyard requires a rootstock with a healthy branched root system and vigor that can penetrate deep subsoil layers. One of the biggest problems for vineyard grape rootstocks is a historical disease caused by a pathogen called phylloxera of which there are several varieties. As an example of what happens to the grapevine roots, you can see the difference of Phytophthora on the roots on the right side of the photo to the right and healthy roots on the left. This pathenogen is normally associated with shallow, wet soils that become saturated during the winter months under heavy rainfall [not exactly a California problem] or over irrigation, and then the soil drains slowly during the Spring. This is where conventional science-based commercial irrigated vineyards have the problems and dryland farmed organic vineyards have the advantage. When the phylloxera swept over the vineyards, some vintners saw the connection to irrigated fields, which discourage vine depth (the vines won't go deep if water is always avaialble near the surface) and therefore the disease more easily spreads. Phylloxera cannot reach the deeper roots, but it will devastate the shallow ones. The Organic dryland farming growers with deeper rooted vines survived the epidemic. The other plus was the organically managed vineyards have a better chance of healthier microbial community which help fight off the bad pathogens by forming a shield around the root system. The fungi also send chemical messages up into the plant's stems triggering an epigenetic switch for the immune system to be turned on into high gear. Most conventional commercial growers who heavily irrigated and synthetically fertilized were forced to replant.

Image -
Here is an interesting interview I read from a blog called "Organic Wines Uncorked" with organic vineyard & winemaker John Williams of Frog's Leap Winery of Rutherford California. He actually get's into the science of how his practice of what the industry calls, "terroir" which takes into consideration the geographical locations, the soil type, the regional climate, and the specific farming techniques utilized by people which are optimal for a particular set of environmental circumstances to an area. Basically, John Williams is describing an interesting phenomena called epigenetics which is becoming more and more researched as a clearer understanding of DNA is discovered with program studies like ENCODE. Science has been held back for decades because of an ignorance about this fascinating biological function for all life which has been opposed by a powerful ruling Scientific Orthodoxy who for decades have insisted upon on it's own mystic version of consensus settled science. Take a look at the interview and Frog's Leap Vineyard owner, John Williams' practice of Biomimicry in maintaining his vineyards:
"We get beautiful flavors, dead right - for two reasons -  one, the vines are fully hydrated and they've regulated their own growth. The other thing is, from a winemaking point of view, you've got a smart grapevine."  
"The grape roots are where all the information is, in these last two or three root cells. They run the hormonal cycles of grapes."  Growth and ripening and other aspects of development are both regulated by these cells."  
"That message comes from the roots. If your roots are constricted or living in a false environment of fertilizer and water, they don't know to send the message to the grapevine saying, 'Let's go, the soil is drying, the temperature of the soil is warming up. Now's the time to ripen our fruit. Now's the time to produce flavor. Now's the time to produce color.'"
Take close note of what he is describing here above. He's talking about epigenetic responses to environmental cues. Although I'm not even sure if he actually understands what epigenetics is. Most people do not. These grapevines are living biological machinery interconnected with the programmed machinery of other biological lifeforms within the soil profile. There are no copying errors or random mutations, no dumb luck, no Junk DNA or a blind unguided tinker bell [natural selection] making fortuitous choices with it's magic wand based on some Dice Theory nonsense. These are living biological machines following their genetic programming through sensory mechanisms and responding to the stable or unstable environment around them. Also, when it comes to these disease attacks like that of the Phylloxera virus wreaking havoc on California vineyards and other parts of the globe, John Williams places the blame squarely on the irrigation practices (and synthetic fertilizers) for making grapevines dumb. The vines become dumb because of the welfare program of artifical life-support system [irrigation/synthetics] recommended by industrial agriculture bent on keeping the status quo in hopes of keeping their own business model in power and authority. And he continues:
"If you have dumb grape vines - and we believe that's what get a grapevine that has no idea what time of year it is, what the temperature of the soil is, what the moisture content of the soil is, what the pheromones and the fungi in the soil are saying…it has no idea of what's going on."  
"It's not just about hydration and fertility and vigor management. It's this knowledge that comes from the deep connection to the soil - and the hormonal cycles that come out of that."
Again, he is speaking about and describing the incredible engineering performed by those epigenetic on and off switches within genes of a lifeform's DNA which guides and regulates based on environmental input sensing. This is the same thing I've obsevered for years when I collected the same type or kind of plant specimens from different elevations and environments. Only after planting them side by side, could I see first hand that the higher elevation specimens had a later bud break compared to lower elevations specimens whose buds would emerge two months earlier. Yet they [Alnus rhombifolia or the common White Alder] looked identically the same in appearance. Cleary having an understanding of whole plant systems and how they work and function is an important part of what the wine industry calls, Terroir. Terroir (French pronunciation: from terre, "land") is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop's epigenetic qualities, unique environment contexts and farming practices, when the crop is grown in a specific habitat. With industrial science-based agricultural practices the terroir doesn't matter as it is their belief you can force anything in the pursuit of that precious goal known as "Higher Yields." That's what is killing this planet. Below is a great page from Frog's Leap Winery which attempts to explain how vines think and what they want so to speak.

Image - Frog's Leap Winery

Frog's Leap Winery: Thinking Like a Vine
Sustainability means taking good care and concern for the welfare of your Employees year round

This is a side point away from the techniques and science behind Dryland farming, but it's an important one for making the entire system work. I found John Williams care for his employees to be a good business model for others to follow
Treehugger: Frog's Leap Winery: Saves 10 Million Gallons of Water a Year with Dry-Farming
Below is another great documentary which came out some time ago which is called, "Symphony of the Soil", which attempts to explain the harmonious balance within the soil which farmers and other land managers practice in what is known as biomimetics as opposed to forcing imperfect human goals on the system for higher yields. The documentary features scientists,  farmers and ranchers and offers a glimpse of the possibilities that healthy biodiverse microbial soil creates for healthy plants. The film also includes a portrait of the biomimetic techniques practiced by the winemaker John Williams of Frog’s Leap Vineyards in Rutherford, California, where organically managed dry-farmed grape vineyards make ideally healthy soil and award-winning wine. There is also a great review of the documentary over on the IMDb film review pages.
"This documentary takes us through the formation, use, and history of soil and makes a compelling case for organic farming and for forgetting technological fixes that ignore the reality of the biology of soils. This is not information that agribusiness wants people to know, since their business model relies on heavy machinery, genetic engineering, and chemical-intensive methods." 
"Most compelling is that many answers to the problems of food production, pollution, environmental degradation, and disease are already here and in use, if only people would listen, become informed, and buy wisely. I had some idea, but not to the extent shown in the film, of soil's importance. I really had no idea that the solutions to our problems lie well within our grasp if only we can change our ways.  
"Somewhat explored in the documentary are the ideas that a tremendous amount of inertia lies in current practices, both in terms of government regulation which favors agribusiness, and in terms of perception resulting from public relations campaigns and advertising these multinationals use to preserve their profitable business model." 
"However, the film does not come off as a political diatribe, but only as the accumulated wisdom of many experts in the field, both academic and working organic farmers. The film serves more as an open-ended exploration of these points of view, tying perceptions into scientific fact and common sense."
(Source - llbreaux)
I love towards the end his review where he makes special note to the fact that this film "does not come off as a political diatribe." That's important because so many environmental organizations, movements, activists, their followers, etc who claim to champion Nature are more often than not filled with hatred for others blaming their opposing political ideology for the world's problems. The effect is to turn many people off to their message. I understand why they do this. Mostly non-profit ecology organizations irrespective of the cause have to keep their followers angry and stirred up. If they are happy and content, the leadership loses their power in the movement and donations stop rolling in. Those donations are extremely important and unfortunately, like todays various news outlets, only negative news sells and attracts. You'll find very few truly viable solutions offered other than total elimination of the opposing side. The Eco-Activist political organizations while championing Nature, are often hesitant to even critize the modern Biotechnology and Agro-Chemical Industry. Mainly because they fear backlash from their followers who may assign to them the label of Anti-Science. We live today in this culture of science  which will question nothing that comes from Science or a Scientist. To criticize or point out the major flaws of such hallowed institutions is considered almost a religious heresy of sorts and doctrinal sacrilege. Below here I'll provide the Soil documentary's website and a couple of good trailer links on Vimeo.
Here are three good trailer link for the Documentary:

Symphony of the Soil - “Beginning of the Film” (Clip)

Symphony of the Soil - “A Place Full of Life” (Clip)

Portrait of a Winemaker: John Williams of Frog’s Leap
Some concluding comments on Deep Pipe Irrigation to supplement Dryland Farming shackled by Climate Change ?
Image - Mine 2012

These meter long gray drainage pipes in the photo above I purchased from one of the two Swedish Home Improvement stores. Bau Haus or Hornbach over here in Gothenburg which are German owned companies. I've often used this simple illustration at right here of a very simple type of deep pipe irrigation, but my feeling is that someone who is creative enough could build a far less expensive system on their own if they have an inventive know how. I have also referenced the design of the one from Hunter Industries product which is a deep root zone watering system. My only difference would be to have a pipe without the various holes down the sides or even a perforated mesh or screen full length down the sides. I want the water placed at least one meter deep into the soil. This in my opinion would be better for the vineyards if you have trained the root systems to grow straight downwards with a advanced technological device like the Groasis Waterboxx which has already proven to accomplish this many times over. I would drill a hole into the soil a little bigger diameter than the pipe and perhaps four feet down. Then place crushed gravel at the bottom of the hole to help water settle and percolate. The illustration below from the well known company Rainbird shows almost similar design as Hunter Industries, but the fittings and other small companents could be purchased separately and incorporated into your purchase PVC Pipe. Their scheme is to have hydration throughout the soil profile. Mine would be a simple straight solid (no holes] meter long pipe where water only percolates at the bottom into the crushed rock at about a meter down with the top end of the pipe at the surface with an end cap which allows air flow as in the illustration. I would further put a fine screen or mesh on the underside of the cap to prevent further fine debris from entering the pipe.

Courtesy of Rain Bird

Image - Mine 2012
In 2012 I had this so-called bright idea of creating a far different growing container system for desert plants in the pea family like Cat'sclaw Acacia, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Desert Ironwood, etc. I had strips of burlap that I would sew together using the white PCV pipe above as a guiding mould of sorts for creating a burlap planting tube. These burlap tubes are a meter in length and in remote planting sites you would have needed  to drill holes about a meter to accomodate the seedling burlap tube. The idea was that such a design would better facilitate the very long tap root which is the main rooting structure of such desert plants. I've experimented in the past with Mesquite, Palo Verde & Cat'sclaw Acacia seeds and in a mere 2 or 3 weeks the taproot would grow between two to three foot long. The taproot is a major component of desert plant survival success. But since the seed develops so quickly, I realized it would have been a waste of time and material to use the burlap containers. Also, with the new introduction of the Groasis-Waterboxx , this incredible device and technology renders the burlap tube sock idea worthless. The point with the deep pipe irrigation system on a mostly dryland farmed vineyard is to be as a backup to an undependable climate change scenario around the globe.

Image - Penn State University - Wine & Grapes

The image above from Penn State is not an example of installation of deep pipe irrigation, but rather the taking of soil cores to measure nutrient concentrations down to one meter deep. However it does beautifully illustrate just how you could use an auger to create the deep pipe irrigation holes to install the meter pipe sleeves. Preferably this should be done beetween the grapevines and prior to actual planting if possible. One wouldn't necessarily have to water in summer, but simply water to supplement less than adequate rainfall season totals, if that makes sense. (especially since such events are gone to be more and more common in the future) But also if necessary, deep water for adequate moisture levels if vines are stressed. The other advantage is less moisture on the soil surface means no weeds and no herbicides. The future is unpredictable with these coming uncertain changes. And even if a vineyard does want to irrigate  anyway, they would not have to waste as much water and painstakingly maintain a tedious drip system which easily clogs and subject to wildlife damage. These were just a few of my thoughts and ideas regarding irrigation and also research which has helped me about the science of what plants in the wild prefer as far as hydration and practicing biomimetics as a way to replicate nature in the designing process. Farmers, landscapers and home gardeners need major deprogramming on conventional industrial science-based techniques and re-educate themselves on how nature truly operates. Once people learn it's all about feeding and watering the soils properly, the underground ecosystem will take care of the plants above the ground.
Update August 2nd 2016
An analysis of 74,000 blind taste-tests by professional wine reviewers shows that Eco-Certified Wines get higher ratings than regular wines. 
Inage - Neville Nel/Flickr
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Image Animation - BrayBrookGroup
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