Blog, Education, Environment, Fertilizers, Sustainability

The History of Farming As We Know It.

Reasons why the industrial farms will one day disappear.

What successfully replaces this system will have to reverse these trends and do so sustainably.

Limited resources impact the world – with the rising population, demand for fuel and diminishing quality of our soils it is important to focus on sustainable methods of farming.

Water – “Global demand for water has tripled in past 50 years, causing half a billion people to be chronically short of water. By 2050 that number will likely be 4 billion. 70 percent of all water used goes into food production. It takes 1.3 liters of water to raise 1 kilo of wheat, and 15 liters to raise 1kg of beef. The world needs sustainable farming methods particularly in the area of water use.

Food – The crisis has its roots in four interlinked trends.

  • The first is the chronically low productivity of farmers in the poorest countries, caused by their inability to pay for seeds, fertilizers and irrigation.
  • The second is the misguided policy in the U.S. and Europe of subsidizing the diversion of food crops to produce biofuels like corn-based ethanol.
  • The third is climate change; worldwide droughts cut global production.
  • The fourth is the growing global demand for food and feed grains brought on by swelling populations and incomes.

Soil quality has been impacted worldwide with industrial agriculture leading to four major types of soil degradation.

  • Water erosion
  • Wind erosion
  • Deterioration of physical properties
  • Chemical degradation – including nutrient depletion and loss of organic matter, salinization, acidification, and chemical pollution

Total land area with some form of soil degradation was estimated to be about 2,000 million ha. Inappropriate farming methods, deforestation, and overgrazing are identified as the primary causes. At issue, then, is whether further intensification of cereal production systems can be achieved that satisfy the anticipated increase in food demand while meeting acceptable standards of environmental quality.

Why the world needs and alternative approach:

BioFuels, weather, consumption. In the near short term, unaffordably high costs are relative demand for crops for biofuels; rising demand from emerging economies, especially China and India; rising input costs due to energy cost; and perturbations such as poor harvests resulting from extreme weather or depleted grain stocks. Ethanol consumes 20% of US corn crop (likely 32% by 2016).

Climate change, oil depletion, water scarcity, change in subsidies and trade policy are  long term drivers that will become more significant in the years ahead.

Fertilizers, peak phosphate, heavy metals – It is well documented that fertilizers commonly ‘recycled’ with industrial wastes contain unacceptably high levels of heavy metals.  The insidious health effects are rising and could become catastrophic should industrialized food grid lead to a toxic accumulation of these metals in our diets. Peak phosphate is another major concern, as over-mining for phosphates has lead to diminished resources of this key component to manufactured fertilizers.

 – The excessive use of pesticides and antibiotics in agriculture and fish farming causes resistance to pathogens including salmonella, cholera and e-coli, making them hard to treat. The transmission of resistant organisms can lead to disease outbreak or other risks to food born illnesses.

GMO – Genetically modified organisms in food production leads to transfer of allergens and antibiotic resistance, plus the nightmarish risk of Frankenfoods, a metaphor to Frankenstein, creating a monster through genetic engineering

About drdave

CoFounder of Algosolar, dba Bioponica. Consultant, designer, developer of Biogarden and Incubator Ecosystems for producing organic food and fish, sustainably.


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