Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Next 40 Years

We need to grow as much food in the next 40 years as we did the last 8,000 years!  Sobering thought?

What would it take to grow enough food to meet human needs in 2050 while reducing environmental impacts of agriculture?

We have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000. That’s the challenge. And if we want to do it without expanding further into the environment, we’re going to have to produce twice as much food on the same amount of land. Where do we invest our time and money?

Where do we?

We need to look at which crops have the most to gain from genetics. It’s not going to be corn and soybeans, because the big gains have been made there. We haven’t even really started work on palm oil, cassava, cocoa yams, sweet potatoes, peanuts, bananas or plantain, and sorghum—those are the ones that we really need to work on. And why? We know that the average production on an average farm in Costa Rica in bananas produces 20 times more calories than the average corn production in Iowa on the same unit of land.

Speaking of Iowa, where production is advanced, aren’t there gains to be made in Eastern Europe or Africa, where farmers are using practices from 50 years ago?

We know globally that the best practices, the best producers in the world, are 100 times better than the worst. But what we’re finding is that that’s actually true in what we think of as homogeneous places. In a three-county area of northeastern Nebraska, some producers use inputs 10 times more efficiently than others. The only way we can move the bottom is to take the principles of what we’re doing with the top producers, and begin to push the bottom—get them on a stepwise approach to improve production.

I was 5 counties north yesterday and the planters and tillage equipment were rolling.  No-Till looked dead in the part of Ohio I was in.  I thought about this article and what happens to our corn and soybeans?  Most of it goes to fuel or feed, very little of it goes into direct consumption?

"During the last year I've been following a bushel of corn through the industrial food system. What I keep finding in case after case, if you follow the food back to the farm — if you follow the nutrients, if you follow the carbon — you end up in a corn field in Iowa, over and over and over again.
Take a typical fast food meal. Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It's in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce. Slim Jims are full of corn syrup, dextrose, cornstarch, and a great many additives. The “four different fuels” in a Lunchables meal, are all essentially corn-based. The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn. The french fries are made from potatoes, but odds are they're fried in corn oil, the source of 50 percent of their calories. Even the salads at McDonald's are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn."
I have more questions than I have answers.  Is this sustainable?  Can we feed the world in the next 40 years?
Ed Winkle
pictures are a year ago this week, things haven't changed much!

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