There are certain requirements that agriculture must meet to produce food and to keep producing food. We should view them as a hierarchy, such that if the top requirement is not attained, the lower requirements do not mean much, but once the top requirement has been met, we can move to the next one, provided that how we do it does not threaten any of the requirements above it. Each component is required, but not sufficient; all of them are needed.
As rents rise and independent businesses in Minneapolis lose their leases to large national chains, a first-of-its-kind co-op found a solution. They created the economic space for a cooperative brewery and brewpub and other co-ops in their neighborhood.
There are tremendous opportunities to increase yields throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing yields through new farming practices could triple maize production in sub-Saharan Africa and increase wheat and rice production in South Asia by about 50 percent. Gains on this scale could dramatically reduce hunger and food insecurity in some of the most vulnerable nations in the world.
It’s been a good winter for drought-stricken California. Record-breaking precipitation in January has raised reservoir levels and added to the essential Sierra Nevada snowpack. It will take many years of consistent, above-average rainfall to fully recover from the drought, and that seems unlikely given the variable nature of the state’s climate. California’s water problems are not only the result of historically scant rainfall. Convoluted water policies, patchwork regulations and burdensome water politics perpetuate the problems, causing imbalances in the way water is managed.
“In all, the impact of adopting slow growing birds is a 34% increase in feed per lb prime meat, a 40% increase in gallons of water and a 53% increase in the manure per bird marketed, and a 49% increase in costs per bird marketed.”
And to what end is this big step backwards in terms of sustainability being undertaken? Theoretically for animal welfare. But what is absent in this discussion is – why slower growing = better welfare?
How have the farm animals of today been shaped by centuries of domestication and selective breeding? Sujata Gupta investigates.
. . . The Pig Adventure, housing 3,000 sows and producing 80,000 piglets per year, sits alongside a 36,000-cow Dairy Adventure, with murmurings of further adventures for fish and chickens. This is “agro-Disneyland”, a place where rides have been replaced by adorable pink piglets and 72-cow robotic milking parlours (or cow “merry-go-rounds” as our guide calls them).
If nature has not been optimized by any process that we know of, and therefore consists of mostly random mixes of species dictated primarily by natural disturbances, then there is no reason to “follow nature’s lead.” But if we don’t, what are we left with?
We are left with an agriculture based on human ingenuity.
New research has revealed that Tanzania’s official statistics on irrigation often don’t include initiatives set up and run by individual farmers. This is either because they’re not aware of it, or because they don’t consider it to have much potential.
Compared to formally engineered projects, this ‘farmer-led’ irrigation is often small-scale and interspersed among non-irrigated fields. This makes it harder to record. It also takes diverse forms. These range from watering via pumps, wells, flooded valley bottoms, or even via stream diversions or small dams.
Joe Maxwell of the Organization for Competitive Markets explains why changes to the GIPSA rules are important to protect farmers and ensure dynamic, responsive markets in the livestock and poultry industries.
Microbes can unlock phosphorus and other micronutrients so that plants can use them. We developed a combination of four bacteria that are exceptionally good at making phosphorus available to plants, leading to bigger, healthier plants. They do this by releasing specialized molecules that break the bonds between phosphorus and soil particles. To get this technology into the hands of farmers who can use it, we launched a startup company called Growcentia and started selling our first product, which is called Mammoth P.
Uganadan farmer Richard Namunyu discusses the World Agroforestry Centre’s project – Trees for Food Security: Improving sustainable productivity in farming systems and enhanced livelihoods through adoption of Evergreen agriculture in eastern Africa
Just about every decision made on a farm will send ripple effects throughout the entire system; these decisions will influence the cost/benefit ratio of many future decisions. This complexity makes it difficult to make rapid changes, and is a major reason why many farmers tend to be pretty conservative in their farming decisions. Even if a farmer wants to try something new (a new technology, or a new crop, for example), that option may be precluded by decisions that were made last year, or even many years ago.
Behind many efforts to make agriculture more sustainable is the idea that our farming systems need to be more like nature. in addition to being false, the whole idea of the “balance of nature” is misleading. From it has come the view that ecosystems are a highly complex, integrated system of interactions between species, complexity that is beyond our understanding. The evidence, however, points to different conclusions.
Eager to replace fossil fuels with greener alternatives, the European Union and others have earmarked palm oil as a source of biodiesel. Under the EU’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation policy, biodiesel must save 35% in emissions compared to fossil fuels. However, to supply large quantities of biodiesel would also mean intensifying by increasing the use of nitrogen fertilizer.
You know that greenhouse gases are changing the climate. You probably know drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce, and that we’re living through a mass extinction.
But when did you last worry about phosphorus?
To explain the occurrence of rural resentment, we need to consider empirically how rural lives and places have been changing, and how rural people make sense of these changes. For this purpose, I’ll use Sweden as an example to provide empirical detail that is needed.
Just as with the recent US election, population density – not income, education, or employment – is currently the best predictor of political preference in Sweden. The countryside is vast and a home to farmers, small entrepreneurs, workers in the mineral industries and forestry, and fishers. The latter will be used as an example here to highlight how and why Swedish rural dwellers can feel resentful.
Researchers have identified set of genes that could improve the efficiency of photosynthesis in staple crops. An increase in yields up to 40% for cassava could mean substantial increases in food security for Africa and greatly improved incomes for subsistence farmers.
Giles-Eric Séralini has a new paper out. This one is even worse than the ones that came before. Alison Van Eenennaam explains the how and why.
Claudio Zucca is Senior Soil Conservation and Land Management Specialist at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). On the occasion of the World Soil Day we interviewed him about his experience as a soil scientist and about the challenges and importance of preserving soils in drylands.
The Obama administration White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released an intriguing report on how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 while continuing economic growth. The report gives a starring role in this job to agricultural lands.
“Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” outlines a 3-pronged strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent while accelerating job-creating innovation. Calling each strategy “critical,” CEQ first lists the familiar call to transition to renewable and low carbon forms of energy.
The second key strategy, however, is less often discussed: the potential of cropland and grassland soils, as well as forests, to store and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. The report – informed by decades of scientific research – describes the opportunities to explore in this area.