FAO: Global Food Price Index is Down Again.

A very reassuring new Food Outlook Report has just been released by the FAO.

If we were to go back over the past five years and review all of the sensationalist headlines proclaiming that food production in the world is headed downwards and far-more-than-that drama predicting assured gloom and doom, we would see that many fear-mongers got it very wrong.

The world on average has surpluses of food right now. Weather was quite good all around for the globe’s wheat crop so that 2014 will set a new high record. Strong prices pushed a rebound in corn production to make up for the recent large policy-induced demand for corn coming from the U.S. The Midwestern United States didn’t experience a multi-year drought as many predicted in 2012. And climate change is not as of yet affecting our global food supply in a significantly negative way.

The graphs below show us the remarkably positive state of the world for food and agricultural production.

Global food prices have fallen significantly over the past three years.

The decline in September marks the longest period of continuous falls in the value of the FAO’s Food Price Index since the late 1990s.

Only the meat commodity is up in the past two years. Sugar, dairy, cereals, and vegetable oils are all down. Today’s high meat prices are a result of the high feed prices from a couple year’s back, so that comes as no surprise.

Wheat: Based on latest forecasts for stocks and utilization, the world wheat stock-to-use ratio increases from 25.2 percent in 2013/14 to 26.9 percent in 2014/15, while the ratio of major wheat exporters’ closing stocks to their total disappearance rises from 14.1 percent to 15.6 percent, reflecting this season’s ample supply situation.

Coarse Grain: The anticipated increase in world inventories will result in the stock-to-use-ratio reaching 20.2 percent, a value not seen since 2001/02, and well above the historical low of 13.8 percent registered in 2012/13.

Rice: Based on the current estimates, the drop in world carryover stocks would reduce the world rice stock-to-use ratio from 36.2 percent in 2014 to 34.8 percent in 2015.

Cereals: The overall positive outlook, if realized, will result in the cereal stocks-to-use ratio increasing to 25.2 percent in 2014/15 from 23.5 percent in 2013/14, and the highest since 2001/02.




Leaf Illustrations and Charts to Help Diagnose Plant Nutrient Deficiencies

For the farmer or gardener, it is important to be able to read your plant. The seasoned grower develops an intuitive sense over time in response to plant signals of stress. The key is observing and being able to notice unhealthy leaves, and developing the ability to understand what the plant’s leaf is telling you. Something to note is that a young leaf’s message differs from an old leaf’s message. In this post, I have assembled a number of good graphics to help you do just that. While there is some overlap between the illustrations, they should be helpful as a whole in helping you figure out your specific problem.


Credit: Twitter @FarmerRaviVKV “Plants speak to us through their leaves what they want. Farmers must keenly understand the language of his plants.”


Credit: Twitter @trouttroller Day 2 of #canoLAB14. John Mayko with a great slide depicting location of nutrient deficiency symptoms.


Credit: Twitter @JSKProperty. Plant deficiency guide – Some possible problems because of nutrient deficiency or even too much of any one nutrient.


Credit: farmwifediary.blogspot


Credit: Atlantis Hydroponics.
For more charts showing the inter-relationships between nutrients (excess-induced deficiencies) see this PDF, also from Atlantis Hydroponics.


Credit: CANNA.






Credit: mjforum




Credit: Twitter @247Garden. Nutrient deficiency symptoms at a glance! #growing #gardening #hydroponics #green Courtesy of NATESC and IPCC.


Credit: Zapins at Aquatic Plant Central. Plant Deficiency Picture Diagram for aquatic plants.


Credit: Hawaii.edu. Plant Nutritional Deficiencies Symptoms chart.

If you have any links to other great graphics on this subject, please leave them in the comments.

South-North Water Scarcity Engineering Projects in China

Photo by Pimm @FlickrCC – August 2010 – Beijing

China’s South-North Water Diversion Projects
One of the regions of the world which has a worrisome level of water scarcity is northern China, including its capital city of Beijing, a city with a population of over 21 million people.

The World Bank’s definition of a water scarce region is 35,300 cubic feet of fresh water per person, per year. Each Beijing resident has about 15 percent of that amount and eleven of China’s thirty-one provinces are dryer than this.

Northern China has only a fifth of the country’s fresh water but two-thirds of its farmland. Seventy percent of northern China’s water is used for agriculture to produce crops such as corn and wheat. Groundwater levels are plummeting because of un-tariffed extraction by farmers and urbanites and groundwater is also becoming contaminated. Thousands of rivers have disappeared in the region due to overuse for grain production, and for highly inefficient use in industry. Much of the river water that is left is too polluted even for industrial use. A 2009 report revealed that half of the water in seven main Chinese rivers was unfit for human consumption.

Northern China is arid and southern China is water-rich, so the Chinese government’s “fix” attempt has been throwing tens of billions of dollars towards water engineering projects to get water moved from south to north across the country.

The first of three phases, the Eastern Route, was completed last year. In that project, China’s 1,400 year old Grand Canal was expanded with concrete to move water from the Yangzi river basin towards the port city of Tianjin.

Phase Two Will Be Complete October 31, 2014
By the end of this month, phase two, the Middle Route Project, is to be completed. This large, expensive, decade-long project will move water from the Danjiangkou Dam in the central province of Hubei to Beijing. Somewhere between 300,000-500,000 Chinese people were displaced for the project. This project will supply about a third of Beijing’s water needs, and even more to Tianjin.

Map credit: Brookings.edu

A third future project is even more controversial and challenging than the first two. A high altitude diversion from the headwaters of the Yangzi to the upper Yellow River would be moved across the Tibetan plateau. Some doubt that this could be done and worry about all of the unfortunate consequences from the project, such as ruining many hydropower plants.

Conclusion: Poor Policy and Questionable Food Security
Outsiders have been critical of China’s water policies for years, seeing all of these efforts as mere temporary fixes. They recommend that water needs to be priced appropriately to motivate conservation and wiser use. Some advocate that China should import grain rather than be obsessed with a national food security policy. Perhaps, in the future, they won’t have a choice in the matter.

Further reading:

1. http://www.economist.com/news/china/21620226-worlds-biggest-water-diversion-project-will-do-little-alleviate-water-scarcity-canal-too

2. http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/02/water-politics-china-moore

3. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/on_chinese_water_project_a_struggle_over_sound_science/2103/

Energy Expert Interview Series: Peak Oil

This posting is the first in what will be a series of Monday posts which are portions of an interview that I was privileged to do with Bill Reinert this past summer. Reinert has about the most wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of energy issues of anyone that I’ve ever come across. I also happen to think that he’s one of the most logical voices you’ll ever see on energy, transportation, fuels, and other important environmental issues. His views are firmly grounded in reality since his life’s work was spent trying to solve energy problems in the industrial world. Because of this, they can be rather unpopular with wishful-thinkers or Elon Musk worshiper-types.

The first part of the interview which covered car technology and fuels (including corn ethanol and more ideal octane boosters) was published over at Yale Environment 360 last week. I encourage you to read it.

Today’s question (below) is about the subject of “peak oil”, a critical issue for an energy engineer who was responsible for future car technology at Toyota.

But first, his bio…

Bill Reinert was national manager of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s advanced-technology group for the past 15 years prior to his retirement in 2013. In his 23 years with Toyota, he also traveled millions of miles for the company as a spokesperson. He was responsible for long-range product planning of all alternative-fueled Toyota vehicles. He co-led the U.S. product-planning team for the second-generation Prius, and, also worked on several advanced hybrid electric products, direct hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, and plug-in hybrid concepts. As an energy engineer, his career-long work in the area of renewable energies always centered around life-cycle analysis studies. A staunch environmentalist, he helped establish a global model for cleaner energy use in the Galapagos Islands in conjunction with the WWF. He has aerial-viewed the tar sands project in Canada and is concerned about water use in energy, believing that the clamor for energy security could eventually trump all environmental concerns worldwide. As a futurist, and a leading global expert on energy and transportation trends, he helped to found the annual “Meeting of the Minds” events which focus on future smart urban planning, transportation, and energy use, and at which he was an annual speaker from 2007 through 2012. He was in the Principal Voices Program with CNN, Fortune and Time, has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, the National Academy of Science, and he has chaired sub-groups of the National Petroleum Council’s Future Transportation Fuels and Vehicle Systems studies for the Department of Energy.

K.M.: Over the years, you have been a trusted expert on the subject of “peak oil”. But, then, two years ago you said, “Conceptually, peak oil is not an accurate description.” Could you expound on why the term “peak oil” doesn’t describe the current and future energy situation very well?

Reinert: The idea with peak oil is that there’s a finite amount of oil that’s extractable from the earth, and if you look strictly with blinders, that’s more or less true. Peak oil theorists tend to look at oil only from the supply side and consider demand will continue unabated. Therefore they always see a gap in the demand for oil and the amount of oil that can be extracted in the future. Other oil analysts only look at the demand side and assume that somehow supply will always increase to meet demand.

The truth is different. The price of oil is generally judged by the spare capacity. Any amount under two or three percent spare capacity results in big price rises.

We watched the price mechanism work in 2008, and the peak oil theorists really ought to take a look at that. They are going on the notion that oil is inelastic, that you have to use it, and if it’s not there then the price is going to shoot right up and you’ll have angry villagers in the street with pitchforks. This is not going to happen.

What happens is exactly what happened. The price went up, we had a recession, and we quit using oil as much. It was painful, but today we’re still using less oil and we’ve become more fuel efficient. So it’s a stair step ratcheting process and each time the prices get too high for the economy, then the demand for oil goes down.

I don’t really ever think you’re going to see a peak oil. I think that what happens is after time the cars become more efficient, society changes, and you move on.

May not be reprinted without permission.

Coming next Monday: Reinert will give us an overview of artificial photosynthesis.

UPDATE: Note to readers over at peakoil.com. Whoever runs peak oil.com took this post from my site without permission though it is clearly stated here that is not allowed. I emailed peakoil.com’s contact address immediately and asked them to remove it – which they did not. I also left the 1st comment at peakoil.com under the reposting asking them to remove it. Their moderator has posted other comments there since, while ignoring mine. Peakoil.com is an unethical site. They have done this a number of times to me in the past, as well. Sites like peakoil.com help give the internet a bad name, and help discourage those like myself who work very hard to get a post such as this accomplished.

The New Avant-Garde Markthal in Rotterdam

This month a cutting edge piece of prominent architecture has opened in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. A giant horseshoe arch which houses a food court market the size of a soccer field below, is made up of apartment dwellings with open air balconies above. The food market will be open seven days a week and there is a large amount of underground parking below.

For those who buy or rent the new apartments contained in the structure, they will have the ultimate opportunity to eat, shop, or work local with fantastic views of the city.

There will be 100 fresh produce units, 15 food shops, 8 restaurants, 228 apartments and 1,200 parking places included in this market hall concept.

The market is to sell “fresh and affordable fair products” arranged with bread and dairy in the hall’s center, fish and meat on one diagonal, and potatoes, vegetables, fruit and delicacies on the other diagonal. Four separate fresh produce units will be spread out across the floor for seasonal products or specials.

The arch is ten stories tall.

This fearless architecture food center is sure to become a huge tourist attraction in Rotterdam.

To learn more: http://markthalrotterdam.nl/en/