Climate change is affecting crop yields and reducing global food supplies

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Posted by admin | Posted in Agri Knowledge, Climate Change, Food Security | Posted on 10-07-2019

Farm land near Holly Bluff, Miss., covered with backwater flooding, May 23, 2019. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Deepak Ray, University of Minnesota

Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall patterns, as in this year’s unusually cool and wet spring in the central U.S. In a recently published study, I worked with other scientists to see whether climate change was measurably affecting crop productivity and global food security.

To analyze these questions, a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment spent four years collecting information on crop productivity from around the world. We focused on the top 10 global crops that provide the bulk of consumable food calories: Maize (corn), rice, wheat, soybeans, oil palm, sugarcane, barley, rapeseed (canola), cassava and sorghum. Roughly 83 percent of consumable food calories come from just these 10 sources. Other than cassava and oil palm, all are important U.S. crops. Read the rest of this entry »

Synchronizing food production can have disastrous effects

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Posted by admin | Posted in Agri Knowledge, Climate Change, Food Security | Posted on 03-05-2019

Global synchronization of food production negatively impacts food security. Shutterstock

Zia Mehrabi, University of British Columbia and Navin Ramankutty, University of British Columbia

Crop failures are an important cause of food price spikes, conflict and food insecurity. The likelihood of local crop failures being catastrophic at the global level is exacerbated when they happen at the same time — that is, when our agricultural systems become more synchronized.

In a paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution, we show that while some crops such as maize and soybean have become less synchronized in recent decades (a seemingly good news story), the synchronization of production between crops increased overall. This has, in turn, destabilized our total global calorie supply.

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Why developing countries should boost the ways of small-scale farming

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Posted by admin | Posted in Agri Extension, Agri Knowledge, Climate Change, Food Security | Posted on 02-09-2018

A diversity of seeds on sale in Nanyuki market, Kenya. K Dekeyser

Rachel Wynberg, University of Cape Town and Laura Pereira, Stellenbosch University

Industrial agriculture – farming that involves the intensive production of livestock, poultry, fish and crops – is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of land use. It depends on mechanisation and on inputs like synthetic fertiliser and harmful pesticides and herbicides and has led to widespread contamination of soil and water. It also relies on just a few major crops like wheat, maize, soybean and rice, the seeds of which are owned by a mere handful of companies.

A different approach to agriculture is sorely needed. This should, ideally, deliver household food security, ensure sustainable livelihoods and produce quality nutrition in a rapidly changing climate.

Developing countries that are industrialising at a pace are uniquely placed to avoid developing a dependency on one type of technological innovation at the expense of others. This is what is known as technological lock-in, with industrial agriculture being one form of lock-in. Such countries are also well placed to establish alternative ways to grow food that maximise livelihoods and sustainable food production. Read the rest of this entry »

Healthy soil is the real key to feeding the world

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Posted by admin | Posted in Agri Knowledge, Farming, Food Security | Posted on 03-04-2018

 Planting a diverse blend of crops and cover crops, and not tilling, helps promote soil health.
Catherine Ulitsky, USDA/Flickr, CC BY

David R. Montgomery, University of Washington

One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides. Read the rest of this entry »

Cereal Killer: Wheat Blast Haunts the Global Dinner Table

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Posted by admin | Posted in Agri Knowledge, Farming, Food Security | Posted on 07-08-2017

A deadly fungus jumped two oceans, from South America to Bangladesh. India and China could be next, and U.S. scientists are on guard.

August 1, 2017 by Aaron Levin

Alone in a field of deep green, the bleached yellow head of a single winter wheat plant jarred the experienced eye of an agronomist walking through a test plot in Princeton, Kentucky in May 2011.

DNA testing at the University of Kentucky confirmed the bad news: The plant had wheat blast, a disease that can drastically reduce a farmer’s yield, and for which little natural resistance is known. Magnaporthe oryzae, the fungus that causes it, had never been seen on wheat in the United States outside of a biosafety-level 3 lab. Read the rest of this entry »