Second call from Soil Association ‘field labs’ seeks food growers with innovative ideas to test. Tom MacMillan reports.
Back in April on this blog, I made the case that public funding for agricultural R&D should do more to support innovation by farmers.
The past few years have already seen welcome steps to help farmers become more vocal ‘research clients’, with the industry’s priorities increasingly reflected in the research agenda. But farmers are so much more than just clients, buying and using the bright ideas and technology that scientists have come up with. They have their own ideas; they develop and adapt techniques and technology, and many trial new approaches informally before they adopt them fully across their business.
Continue reading Farmers can be researchers too
Why add nutrients to food all the time? Why not add them to the soil itself asks Esin Mete.
As global leaders come together to discuss a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, that expire in 2015, the role of food security and nutrition is key in underpinning the development agenda’s future success.
It has been well documented that growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential (see p. 6) of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank.
Continue reading Fortifying fertilizers can fortify food
What will next generation livestock farms look like? Mick Watson examines scenarios and what we should do to get there.
Farmer Jane opened the gate and walked along the track that meandered along the side of her cattle barn. Chuckling to herself, she was old enough to remember how disease surveillance used to be done. It was so much easier now. Inside the barn, she approached the first of the ten cattle that had been randomly isolated, reached into her bag and took out the first of her SeqPensTM. Removing the protective lid, she briefly pressed the steel nib to the neck of the first animal then stood back to wait for the lights to change.
Continue reading Food, fantasies and the future
In a special photo-travelogue, Geoff Tansey explores China’s problems and solutions as a powerhouse of agricultural production.
Astounding 1600-year-old rice terraces, rapidly expanding cities, surprising labour shortages, huge organic vegetable production, small village plots, and much recent research science on soils, water and roots: my two trips to China had some of what I expected and much more that I didn’t.
In this video blog post, Evan Fraser sets out his solutions to global food problems.
Thanks to 2012’s terrible drought, food prices have shot up again across the globe. This was the third time in five years that bad weather (amongst other factors) has upended commodity markets, and thrust tens of millions into poverty.
While food prices today remain just below the critical threshold that many think will trigger riots, it will only take a small uptick in prices – say a continuation of the US drought into this year’s growing season – for things to become very dire indeed.
Continue reading Want to feed nine billion?
The SEAT project is aiming for major gains in fish and shellfish farming, says Dave Little.
Feeding people requires a lot of energy. Production, distribution and consumption of food accounts for 20-25% of the energy consumption in developed countries. The largest energy investments are made in the production of protein-rich produce, such as meat and fish. In beef production (PDF), for example, energy used (per kilo of whole animal produced) ranges from 38-48 MJ/kg-1 compared to meat derived from pigs (PDF) at 16-18MJ/kg-1.
Continue reading Aquaculture, protein production and efficiency
A natural virus could control devastating pest outbreaks and improve food security for thousands of farmers. In a special video diary, Ken Wilson reports on a long weekend in Zambia.
“We have arranged for you to meet the Vice President at 10am on Sunday. Is this OK?”. That was it, my trip to Zambia was definitely on and I had just a few hours to prepare for my field visit and meet one of the country’s top politicians who was leading their efforts to manage a food security crisis.
But as you can see in the video below (which you can also watch on YouTube, or in a shorter 03:50 video feature), this visit turned out to be rather different from the rest.
Continue reading Video blog: The hunt for African armyworm
We need to stop pests eating our food. Richard Pywell and Ben Woodcock argue that supporting native wildlife on farms is part of the answer.
Farmers have always been in a running battle with pests. We estimate using Defra statistics that in 2010, UK crops worth £715M were lost to insect pests. Chemical pesticides are crucial to controlling them, but the development of pest resistance, and key products being withdrawn amid fears about human and environmental health mean that alternative methods are increasingly important.
One solution is to promote native biodiversity that will kill pests within crops. Many native species have the potential to increase crop yields, so supporting biodiversity on farmland has more to offer than simply beautifying the countryside. For example, bees pollinate crops and predatory beetles eat pest aphids. In any case, the UK has signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires that “by 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity”.
Continue reading Protecting nature’s harvest
Agroforestry can lead to the sustainable intensification of tropical agriculture. Roger Leakey reports.
Numerous international reports (PDF) have concluded that ‘business as usual is not an option for agriculture’, but there seems to be no clear path forwards. Indeed there is a highly polarized debate in which biotechnology (GM) and organic agriculture are the two opposing candidates for most people’s affections and attention.
Continue reading Three steps to bridging the yield gap
A new programme could mitigate climate change and adapt food production for the future. Tracy Gerstle reports.
Climate change is at the top of the United Nations agenda from 26 Nov to 7 Dec in negotiations at the Eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP18) in Doha, Qatar. Since 1995, the annual climate talks of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have served as an important platform to focus global attention on identifying and starting to address the causes and impacts of climate change.
Continue reading Putting agriculture on the map at COP18