Biodiversity for better nutrition and environmental health.
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Being aware of our environmental impact is important to our health. The dependence on "cash crops" corn, wheat, and soy in the United States lead to the deforestation and the near complete loss of the our prairie lands. The biodiversity of the United States has been greatly reduced which puts everyone at risk.
Why is biodiversity important in farming?
The United States has a variable climate pattern that cycles between draughts and a rainy seasons frequently. Most native plants have adapted to this every changing dynamics however corn, soy, wheat and most of are "cash crops" have not. So they demand a certain amount of water, light and soil condition at all times. IF the climate changes, water becomes scarce or famers are unable to fertilize the soil in their field the crops suffer. If the crops suffer too long, they become prone to disease and blight. Blights can wipe out entire crops and lead to famines. Everyone has heard of the Potato famine. No this is where biodiversity shines, if we were less dependent and had a more diverse plant consumption then having a smaller yield of one crop would not be felt as deeply. More options the less likely that there would be a widespread famine affecting all the crops, because some have heat tolerance, drought tolerance and some do well in heavy rains.
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Why is biodiversity important for your health?
Eating a variety of foods allows for a more diverse consumption of minerals , vitamins and antioxidants. Each plant is unique in its composition of nutrients. Having diverse food options also limit how much of an impact a food allergy has on people. If all of our foods had a base or are composed of the same 3 crops corn, soy ,wheat, than those that have problems digesting these foods struggle. however more options were available without these ingredients than it becomes easier. There are even studies that show that constant exposure to foods might be leading to sensitivities to these foods. The most common food allergies are eggs, dairy, soy, and corn. Nut allergies are also becoming more common. Finding products that are void of one of these ingredients let alone all is challenging. This is a problem that stems for a lack of diversity in our consumption of plants. An other thing to consider is being able to develop new medicines as most of our medicine is derived from the natural world. Aspirin was developed from willow bark, many blood thinners were developed from snake or insect venom. There are more naturally derived medicines that have later been synthetically produced than not and without biodiversity we are limiting our ability to continue to develop cures and treatments for disease.
As consumers we can drive change. Organic farming is growing because of consumer demand. The same can be done for asking farmers and demanding more diverse vegetable and fruit crops at supermarkets.
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What plants are native to this region and are edible?
There is a wide variety of edible plants in the united states most of which we call weeds in our yards, however they pack a high dose of nutrition if prepared properly.
Dandelion, parsnip, plantain, cully dock and redbud can all be harvested in early spring.
Asparagus, lambs quarter, nettles, purslane, amaranth, sorrel , jewel weed, bass wood , and clover can be harvested in spring. Juneberry, mulberry, black raspberry , blackberrys, chokeberries, gooseberry, can be harvested through the summer. In fall walnut, chestnut, hickory, and squash can be found. This by no means an exhaustive list of edible plants that can be found or even grown in your own front yard.
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Rewilding yards and organic farming.
There is a growing movement to leave behind expensive to maintain grass yards that offer no nutritional value and are detrimental to native bee populations. Many of the native edible plants will re-establish themselves, and they do not require watering, fertilizing or anything other than letting them grow and harvesting from time to time. Re-wilding your yard and home doesn't mean that it has to look unkempt.
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