Tag: farming

Don’t write off organics

More sustainable food production can be high yielding and will prepare us for an uncertain future, says Richard Jacobs.

Richard Jacobs

As we hurtle towards a world of peak oil production and phosphate depletion it’s easy to assume we have only technology, specifically genetic modification, to turn to in our efforts to ensure food security.

The numbers of people in the world who take seriously the notion that organic farming is part of the answer are certainly not in the majority.
Continue reading Don’t write off organics

Achieving food security in Africa

A committed effort in every agricultural sector and discipline will reap real benefits for the continent, says Lindiwe Majele Sibanda.

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

Next week, over 200 farmers, policymakers, agricultural researchers, agrodealers and non-governmental organisations from across Africa and around the world will be gathering in Namibia for the annual FANRPAN Policy Dialogue to discuss the state of food security in sub-Saharan Africa and future priorities for continuing progress.
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African livestock for Africa

Let’s understand, utilise and conserve the indigenous cattle breeds, says Oliver Hanotte.

Olivier Hanotte

Livestock is and has been intertwined with African societies for centuries. They provide nutrition, labour, transport and fulfil major socio-cultural roles. It is estimated that 70% of Africa’s rural poor keep livestock and some 200M people rely on these animals for their livelihoods. Indigenous livestock are not only adapted to diverse African agro-ecological production systems – they are also unique and responsive genotypes shaped by the needs of African farmers.
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What is ‘natural’ food?

When it comes to food and farming, Mother Nature does not always know best, says Ottoline Leyser.

Ottoline Leyser
© The University of York

No one says to their children, “Go into the woods and eat anything you can find. It is all natural, so it must be good for you.” But for some reason when we walk into the supermarket ‘natural’ is a key selling point for all kinds of foods.

My favourite example is a sweetcorn you can buy that claims to be ‘naturally sweet’. This is an absurd idea.
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Maurizio Vurro

Tracking plant pathogens is a vital part of agro-economic development, says Maurizio Vurro.  

As with human and animal diseases, the emergence or re-emergence of plant diseases is often due to man’s activities – a consequence of mass tourism, global trade, or changes to farming practises or the environment. 
Continue reading Monitoring emerging crop diseases in developing countries

Sara Delaney

At the launch of the book Science and Innovation for Development on 19 January, co-author Sir Gordon Conway said: “It doesn’t matter where the technology comes from, it matters that it is appropriate.”

Too often international development researchers, policy makers and practitioners get caught up in the source of a technology, and use this as the metric for whether it will be successful.
Continue reading What is an appropriate technology?

Why should the UK grow food?

Chris PollockThe UK has imported food for well over a thousand years. During the industrial revolution, we lost self-sufficiency in basic foodstuffs and have never regained it.

We have always been able to buy food from elsewhere and the global food market has become so efficient that the proportion of UK average income spent on food has fallen from 33% in 1957 to 15% in 2006.  If food is cheap, reliable, safe and globally abundant, why should the UK worry about local production?

In my view, there are three main reasons why we should not assume that tomorrow will be the same as yesterday.
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Produce more, impact less. This is the challenge that the NFU’s farmer and grower members have set themselves. It’s a big ask for farmers anywhere and at any time.

But as we prepare to enter the second decade of the 21st century, we are in what the Government Chief Scientist John Beddington famously called ‘the perfect storm’: farmers have to grow their crops and livestock in a way that achieves bigger yields and better quality. But we can’t massively increase our use of fertiliser, pesticides, water, energy. Using these inputs certainly has an impact on the farm balance sheet but it also has an impact on soils, air, water courses and biodiversity.
Continue reading A great opportunity for British farmers

Even in the UK, where we have shown little anxiety about our access to food supplies since the days of rationing in World War 2, food security is back on the agenda.

Climate change could, it seems, be the trigger that makes us overcome our squeamishness about genetically modified crops, according to debates in the popular press. The recent Royal Society report “Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture”, urges universities to work with funding bodies to reverse the decline in subjects relevant to the sustainable intensification of food crop production.

But is technology really going to provide everything that we need or are we simply hoping once again for a quick fix to an extremely complex problem?


Continue reading The human and technological dimension