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 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
Utilising satellites as insurance loss adjusters could help to some of the poorest farmers in Africa. Michael Baron is watching.
Things happen, and sometimes bad things happen, like my house catching fire.
About 4000 years ago, people invented the concept of insurance, to share risks so no one lost everything when a bad thing happened. But my house catching fire is preventable – the things that are most important to insure against are the unpreventable bad things, such as extreme weather.
Continue reading From insecurity to food security
Fresh from the Rio+20 conference, Tim Benton ponders the paradox of producing more with less.
In the last weeks, I have attended an unsustainable flurry of meetings and discussions about sustainable intensification, sustainable agriculture or sustainable development (or all three together).
So what does “sustainable” mean, in the context of environment?
Agriculture, the world’s biggest industry, is rightly seen as the engine of development. It also generates the fuel, literally, that we all require.
Continue reading Sense and sustainability
Improving post-harvest technologies will enhance food security and health, says Asgar Ali.
In the midst of a perpetual population boom and conscious awareness of the limited and diminishing resources such as land, fertilizers and water availability, how will governments, organizations and people respond? And how should they respond?
Significant effort has been dedicated at increasing agricultural productivity. But is it time to focus more on protetcing these gains from post-harvest losses?
Continue reading Grow not waste not