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Home arrow Blog arrow Science examines alarmimg trends in agriculture

Science examines alarmimg trends in agriculture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gary Scott   
Friday, 18 November 2011
There is growing concern among scientists that the impacts of climate change may have catastraphic effects on the worlds staple food supply. Increased use of micro farming can help on a local level...
Numerous local messages and individuals have looked at micro business opportunities in farming.

I was thinking about the value of having a micro business in agriculture when the trip tickets from our orange grove recently arrived.  These tickets are the receipts that truckers provide when picking up oranges harvested from the grove for delivery to the packing house.

My thinking ran along the lines of  ”We can earn more and make a difference to health and the environment in small but important ways”.

We first took out under-producing trees, and older palms tat were taking valuable space

We sprayed the remaining orange trees with the totally bio degradable Bio Wash once in the 2010-201 year. (Use of Bio Wash acts like a plant booster and can help reduce the need for fertilizers and insecticides so the crop can become pesticide free.)

The Trip Tickets showed our harvest rising to 2,484… despite still having only 2/3rds as many trees as in 2009-2010.

In other words yield per tree doubled!

“Is this a fluke?” we asked.

Our grove manager is one of the largest in Florida.  Farmers are conservative so our dinky 12 acres will have to do more than this to make them look at this seriously.

So we asked them to spray with Bio Wash twice in 2011-2012. We did and now the harvest is in with … trip tickets for 3,394 boxes… though we still only have 2/3rd as many producing trees as 2009-2010.  Production is up from one box a tree in 2009-2010 to 2.83 boxes this year.  With strong citrus prices I expect to have tripled the grove’s profit… while making the grove more environmentally friendly and perhaps letting the big boys in this business at least take a glance.

Now the grove managers are listening a bit more and we’ll spray with Bio Wash four times this year.

Earning income is always important…. even more so in today’s economically tough regime. Being able to earn while improving the world’s food supply and helping the environment is even more important.

An excerpt from a June 4th 2011 New York Times article “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself” by Justin Gillis helps explain the importance of a micro food revolution when it says says:  CIUDAD OBREGÓN, Mexico — The dun wheat field spreading out at Ravi P. Singh’s feet offered a possible clue to human destiny. Baked by a desert sun and deliberately starved of water, the plants were parched and nearly dead.


The excerpt continues: The rapid growth in farm output that defined the late 20th century has slowed to the point that it is failing to keep up with the demand for food, driven by population increases and rising affluence in once-poor countries.

Consumption of the four staples that supply most human calories — wheat, rice, corn and soybeans — has outstripped production for much of the past decade, drawing once-large stockpiles down to worrisome levels. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in two huge spikes in international grain prices since 2007, with some grains more than doubling in cost.

Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system: climate change.

Temperatures are rising rapidly during the growing season in some of the most important agricultural countries, and a paper published several weeks ago found that this had shaved several percentage points off potential yields, adding to the price gyrations.

For nearly two decades, scientists had predicted that climate change would be relatively manageable for agriculture, suggesting that even under worst-case assumptions, it would probably take until 2080 for food prices to double.

In part, they were counting on a counterintuitive ace in the hole: that rising carbon dioxide levels, the primary contributor to global warming, would act as a powerful plant fertilizer and offset many of the ill effects of climate change.

Until a few years ago, these assumptions went largely unchallenged. But lately, the destabilization of the food system and the soaring prices have rattled many leading scientists.

A scramble is on to figure out whether climate science has been too sanguine about the risks. Some researchers, analyzing computer forecasts that are used to advise governments on future crop prospects, are pointing out what they consider to be gaping holes. These include a failure to consider the effects of extreme weather, like the floods and the heat waves that are increasing as the earth warms.

A rising unease about the future of the world’s food supply came through during interviews this year with more than 50 agricultural experts working in nine countries.

These experts say that in coming decades, farmers need to withstand whatever climate shocks come their way while roughly doubling the amount of food they produce to meet rising demand. And they need to do it while reducing the considerable environmental damage caused by the business of agriculture.

Agronomists emphasize that the situation is far from hopeless. Examples are already available, from the deserts of Mexico to the rice paddies of India, to show that it may be possible to make agriculture more productive and more resilient in the face of climate change. Farmers have achieved huge gains in output in the past, and rising prices are a powerful incentive to do so again.

But new crop varieties and new techniques are required, far beyond those available now, scientists said. Despite the urgent need, they added, promised financing has been slow to materialize, much of the necessary work has yet to begin and, once it does, it is likely to take decades to bear results.

“There’s just such a tremendous disconnect, with people not understanding the highly dangerous situation we are in,” said Marianne Bänziger, deputy chief of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, a leading research institute in Mexico.

“What a horrible world it will be if food really becomes short from one year to the next,” he said. “What will that do to society?”

Anyone interested in earning through agriculture can make a difference.  None of us in micro businesses will make a big noise.  Our 12 acres of oranges is so tiny but the story even when the successes are as small as ours… when combined with many other small achievements… can add an important overall picture.

Investing in the environment and investing in agriculture simply makes sense in these stagflationary times.  When such investments also help the environment and natural health, the return on investment goes way beyond a good bottom line.

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