Note that I think the lower part showing land areas is especially interesting…
Above: May 2011 flood on the Mississippi River. USDA Photo.
A little while back there was an announcement that anyone who could solve the world’s dead zone problems like we have in the Gulf of Mexico here in the U.S., could win a million dollars. Instantly, I thought my ship had come in, because I knew the answers to the challenge right off the top of my head. It would take me five minutes to do an outline, an hour to write it up, then, bang, a million bucks and I’ve bought my way into New Zealand. But then I caught the clincher “solutions must meet a suite of simultaneous and sometimes conflicting needs – from protecting water resources and near-shore ecosystems to ensuring the capacity and vitality of agricultural productivity” — at which point I gave up without trying. Appropriately, the contest comes out of Tulane University, based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
For starters, how I’d love to see a minimum natural area bordering all waterways, scaled to the size of the waterway. But, why is it that when something makes such obvious sense, then, it just cannot happen? Look at this from George Monbiot excerpted from his lengthy rant against corporate agriculture yesterday over at The Guardian:
Fifty metres is only 164 feet. Along the mighty Mississippi, we should have at least 2-5 miles of natural forest and prairie land — so George is being really conservative in his baby step plan.
There is good news today in industrial farming practices as they relate to the Dead Zone. There is less overuse of fertilizers, and precision agriculture and cover crops are helping.
But we need a wiser long-term vision, a vision which would bring back a healthy biodiversity to the Midwest. I’d like a lot of shelter belts to return to farming areas, “agroforestry” if you will; and, wildlife corridors which would run up and down the former prairie lands which would be available to the public for enjoyment and help to attract a vibrant younger population back to the Midwest; and let’s throw in a minimum percentage of taxpayer-funded natural land, or buffer strips, on every farm, too. By removing tiling from beneath buffer strips, those areas could actually catch fertilizer run-off. Finally, we could turn more of corn country into grasslands on which to raise large herbivores, and other livestock. All of these things could really help to reduce the Dead Zone… but what will NOT reduce the Dead Zone is the monoculture crop status quo.
The U.S. Midwestern industrial agriculture farmer ails economically today from the monoculture commodity oversupply problem. We have not gained export market share of our major three commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) in fourteen years (see graph). This land which is polluting the Dead Zone due to fertilizer runoff is not, unfortunately, feeding the world. No, it is feeding our cars and the end-points of crony capitalism.
Are these things feasible? Yes, anything is feasible given the right policy support… over time.
Unfarming. Now that’s a word for this century.
Sebastião Salgado, born on a remote farm in the rain forest of Brazil in 1944, reflects upon humanity and how we are treating the Earth in his interesting life’s story which he shares with us in this TED talk. After working globally in the world of Economics, his obsession with photography and work in Rwanda led him to lose faith in our very own species.
When his parents died and he returned to the farm on which he grew up, he began a rainforest restoration project which became a successful model and the foundation of an organization.
During the years that he did photography, he published the following books documenting human stories through black and white photographs:
- Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age
- Migrations (the staggering phenomenon of mass migration)
- Genesis (his eight-year expedition to rediscover the mountains, deserts and oceans, the animals and peoples that have so far escaped the imprint of modern society)
Salgado credits his photographic work for his insights and the evolution of his introspective life journey.
Please note that this is the fourth of a special four-part series here at Big Picture Agriculture listing and describing methods for producing more crop per drop in farming. This Part 4 post lists methods 26 through 35.
(End of Part 4.)
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● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 1.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 2.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 3.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 4.
Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key…. Topics covered include forest gardens, peak oil and agriculture, food security, carbon emissions, sustainability and permaculture.