Is the Future of Sustainable Farming SCI “System of Crop Intensification”? Plus, More Agriculture News This Week.


Photo credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring. JAN 2012.

Below, is a selection of recent agriculture-related news.

AAA warns that E15 could be harmful to pre-2012 vehicles. Most of the major car companies have announced that using E15 will void warranties.

Timothy Wise over at Tufts wrote a good piece on why Olivier De Schutter of the UN is so adamantly opposed to biofuels.

The director of the national Council of Chain Restaurants wrote “A Mandate to Raise Food Prices – The cause of higher grocery bills isn’t the drought. It’s the failed federal ethanol policy” opinion piece for the WSJ. He says it’s time for it to stand on its own two feet by removing the mandate.

Finally, an article which addresses the crops that should be grown to feed people in a climate changed world. CGIAR scientists suggest that farmers raise millet, sorghum, barley, cassava, cowpea, chickpea and pigeon pea.

Farmers need clean water and clean soil to produce safe food and livestock for our consumption. This article in “The Nation” describes cattle dying in North Dakota shale country and other farm contamination problems related to hydro fracking.

See what’s in one cubic foot of an Iowa cornfield compared to other habitats. Hint: Not much.

This fairly long read by Chandran Nair at the Globalist is big picture writing about agriculture that explains very well how farming must change in the future and why today’s system has morphed into a give-away for big-ag. Recommended.

This article questions the logic of the military relying upon biofuels. Military demand alone will require the industry to produce at least 770 million gallons of advanced biofuels per year with the Navy and Air Force both planning to get 50 percent of their fuels from advanced biofuels by 2020.

In Iowa, DuPont has broken ground for the state’s second cellulosic ethanol plant. What will it use as feedstock? What else? The corn plant. Even so, the logistics of hauling and baling it don’t add up. Don’t even think about tallying the environmental costs into the equation.

At a Chicago Federal Reserve meeting, Jim Farrell was interviewed by Reuters and warned that the biggest risk to farmers today is high input costs. $2.2 trillion of farm assets today are in the farmland itself, farm debt is $266 billion in 2012, and 2012 farmer income is $114 billion. His company, Farmers National (Omaha), manages 2 million acres of farmland and is moving north into Canada for new row crop expansion as the climate changes.

Monsanto is undergoing a $100 million expansion in Nebraska, Iowa,and Indiana.

Qatar wants to produce 70 percent of its own food, up from only ten percent now, within the next decade. Part of the plan is to use solar powered desalinated water. Qatar is also working on an algae biofuel project for aviation fuel.

The wheat gene, which is five times as long as the human gene, has now been sequenced. This is potentially good news for the future of human food security.

The soybean police will be out in Iowa next summer because DuPont Pioneer wants to make sure farmers aren’t saving seeds.

This story is not new, but I expect it is rising significantly in importance and if you haven’t heard of it, you will. The System of Crop Intensification (SCI) accomplishes productivity gains simply by changing the ways that farmers manage their plants, soil, water and nutrients. Four to five million farmers around the world are using SRI methods with rice and have dramatically increased their yields. It can be used for other crops, not just rice. It “just” requires hand labor over industrial methods and inputs.

Farmland in Brazil has been appreciating by about 14 percent a year over this past decade and has quadrupled in value in a decade.

Is South Dakota’s pheasant hunting industry done for, due to less CRP land, and increased corn and soybean acreage? Perhaps. The next farm bill is critical.

This new site, Land Matrix, is interactive and allows you to see which countries have engaged in land agreements. Currently, Oxfam is urging the World Bank to stop funding these deals.

The farmers versus the frackers. Farmers want Mississippi River barge traffic for hauling corn and for reducing the price of fertilizer. Frackers want the water left in the reservoirs in the Northern Plains so they can access it.

Colorado State University has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to genetically modify plants for use as biofuel.

Could climate change result in the loss of agricultural production in California’s Central Valley from flooding?

Written and compiled by K. McDonald.

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