An expert group gathers to discuss this elemental problem. The John Innes Centre’s Allan Downie reports on problems and progress.
What is the nitrogen crisis? It is clear that we have introduced major global shifts in production and use of reactive nitrogen without really knowing what happens to the ammonia and nitrogen oxides released to the environment.
The production of nitrogen fertiliser and combustion of fossil fuels doubles the amount of reactive N entering the nitrogen cycle annually.
Continue reading The nitrogen crisis: what are the solutions?
Training female farmers to get the best from their land can reap benefits. IFDC’s former president Amit Roy makes the case for fertilisers and other innovations.
By 2030, the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is predicted to become a US $1 trillion industry. Farming has long been hailed as the engine of the African economy, and over the next 15 years it is going to need a jump-start if it is to feed the rocketing population, particularly in urban areas. Many factors will fuel this growth, but fertilizer is going to be critical.
Currently, 65 percent of land in Africa is degraded and lacking in the essential nutrients crops need to grow. Yet much of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa. Replenishing undernourished soils is a unique opportunity for African agricultural growth.
Continue reading If agriculture is Africa’s engine, let’s add fuel
Peter Gregory from the University of Reading and Richard McDowell, Principal Scientist at AgResearch, introduce the new GFS-coordinated TempAg network.
The International Sustainable Temperate Agriculture (TempAg) Network was launched in April 2015 as an international research network that aims to deliver sustainable agricultural systems in temperate regions of the world. After four years of preparatory work, we are delighted that our international research programme is now underway and linking scientists in the temperate regions of the world.
Continue reading Temperate times: a new research collaboration
The United Nations has dedicated this year to a well-known substance that has incredible properties. The Soil Association’s Louise Payton digs deep.
It can support buildings, filter and store billions of tonnes of water, provides a home for a quarter (PDF) of all species on earth, and is used to produce around 95% of our food. It’s soil, and this is the International Year of Soils.
The reason for this grand title is the need for food security debates to better recognise soil. Soil isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about food security, but incredibly, 25% of agricultural soils (PDF) are severely degraded.
Continue reading The challenge of soil
Following World Water day, three new reports on water use are launched by the Global Food Security programme. GFS Science Writer Theresa Meacham pours over the results.
After land, water is the most important resource for farmers. Agriculture accounts for 75% of global fresh water extraction, yet it is often taken for granted. Irrigating land, mixing liquid fertilisers and sprays, providing drinking water for livestock, and washing down and cleaning equipment all require water.
Increasingly water is being recognised as a critical resource under threat.
Continue reading Facing the future: water and agriculture
In an audio slideshow special, food writer and consultant Geoff Tansey wonders what will happen to the ancient rice terraces of the Far East.
Will China build on its long-term sustainable farming systems, such as these famous rice terraces in Yunnan, or abandon them?
That’s the question I’ve found myself pondering about since my most recent visit to China.
As you can see in these pictures, for many visitors to China it’s the gleaming new city centres, glitzy shopping malls and swathes of high-rise apartments that seem to grow faster than their crops that impress.
Continue reading Photo diary: A story of sustainability in China
Scientists – and economists – should avoid being prisoners of present knowledge, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.
It is strange how many good ideas, when they are first advanced, are ridiculed and dismissed by the establishment but somehow eventually gain respectability and enter mainstream thinking.
Continue reading Going against the grain
The word ‘nexus’ seems to be cropping up everywhere, but what does it mean for food security? Global Food Security Champion Tim Benton explains.
Following Christmas, often an annual festival of demand and excess, maybe January is the time to think about demand-management. At the end of last year, I was involved in a flurry of meetings with the term ’nexus ‘ in the title. Nexus essentially means interconnectedness, or binding together.
Continue reading Nexology for the New Year
Now is the time to build food security capacity, and there are funds to do it. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Christina Owen reports.
On the Agricultural Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re working hard to put ourselves out of a job.
The primary way to ensure this happens is for individual countries to develop and own their own sustainable agricultural systems, and to make them work for their farmers.
But what does this sustainability look like?
Continue reading Pay dirt: Growing sustainable agricultural development systems
Did we really run over our fields at random in 30 ton farming vehicles? Agri-consultant Tim Chamen wants to stop it happening now.
Speak to any experienced garden vegetable grower about the acceptability of running a car over their vegetable plot and I guess they would look at you in horror!
And yet this is what farmers worldwide have done with their machines for many years because of the difficulty of doing otherwise. As the drive for improved production efficiency has risen together with labour costs (PDF, 41pp), farm machines have increased dramatically in size and crucially in weight.
Continue reading Saving soil with intelligent machine use