The Role of Technology in Battling Agricultural Issues

The notion that farming has been exploiting resources as a worldwide practice has been an issue of debate for several years. Signs of imbalance have been seen in the form of general alteration of a natural flora and fauna, wildlife population decline, pollution, and soil erosion. A parallel and unnatural phenomenon has been the exponential human population growth with related demands for shelter and food that have always exceeded the land’s natural carrying capacity. However, redefined advances have led to the emergence of modern technology in the agricultural industry.

The use of geographical location devices, computational technology, and remote sensing developments in agriculture has significantly changed the way the crops are managed. Integration of information has also created the management of knowledge as a way of achieving the production goals. Although uncertainty will always be a primary issue in agriculture, it can be controlled as an environmental problem using risk management strategies. This may call for the use of genetics on some soils in specific climatic conditions.

With new technologies, breakthroughs have continually been seen in the world food production. In addition to the increase in productivity, technology is used to renew the land that has been misused or overused through poor farming methods. In this case, sustainability is a survival issue, but it is far broader than the situation of soil erosion and habitat destruction. It includes food producers’ welfare, the goal of food production, and preservation of nonrenewable resources. Hence, any technology in agriculture is an enabling made-made component that can successfully bring these overriding objectives together.

Soil Erosion Top Concern for Farmers

According to an article published on Huffington Post, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified soil erosion, soil organic carbon buildup and soil nutrient imbalance as the top three threats to global soil health. Globally, about 40 percent of all land is farmed using practices that cause the loss of 24 billion tons of top soil each year. About 2 billion is lost each year in the United States. Replacing that top soil is a time-consuming process as it takes about 2,000 years for the earth to make four inches of top soil.

Master farmer Tim Johnson says that it need not be that way. He was recently recognized as the 2015 Champion of Change by the United States Department of Agriculture. He says that it all starts with stopping soil erosion. Tim is affiliated with Soil Health Partnership which is funded by the National Corn Growers Association.

Tim says that one area that is showing lots of promise is the planting of cover crops alongside regular crops. Popular cover crops include rye, sorghum, buckwheat and clover. These crops capture excess nitrogen left in the soil and help to put nutrients back into the soil. The United States government encourages this practice by paying farmers carbon credit money when they implement wise management techniques.

Farmers are also using no-till farming practices. They are not plowing their fields in the spring or fall. This allows them to use less fertilizer and about one-half the fuel of normal farming techniques. Healthier soil is created because worms and organisms have a place to live. In exchange, the ground is better able to absorb water and is less likely to blow away. Leaving residue on fields also forms microbial communities that help provide oxygen and nitrogen to plants.

Farmers understand that the soil provides their living. Therefore, they are also using crop rotation to help maintain soil health. They often test the soil to determine what nutrients are lacking in their soil. Then, they plant crops that will return those nutrients to the soil.

 

The Growing Problem of Rotting Food in America

According to an article in the Huffington Post, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Currently, about 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown on farms in America does not make it to tables. In other words, about 6 billion pounds of fresh produce goes unsold each year with most of it being left in the field to rot.

Part of the problem lies with conditions that are beyond most people’s control such as the weather, pests, diseases, market prices, and labor shortages. A large share of it is because of the policies within the United States Department of Agriculture that forces retailers to sell produce that complies with strict cosmetic standards. Therefore, farmers have to plant a larger crop to make sure that they have enough to sell and make their living.

Some apps have been created that allow cooks and farmers to connect when the farmer has food that they cannot use. Some of these apps include Love Food Hate Waste, Rainbow, Waste No Food and Food Cowboy.

There are ways that food not currently harvested can be used. For instance, Salem Harvest in the Williamette Valley of Oregon uses a network of volunteers to harvest food from 42 farms and then gives the food to food banks which distribute it to feeding programs for the hungry. Other programs like the Agricultural Clearance Program in Ohio pay farmers 20 cents a pound to bring the food to the food bank. While that may not seem like a large payment, it at least lets the farmer’s break even.

There are several problems with getting food to where it can be used to feed hungry Americans. First, is the logistics of taking food from fields to food banks. Secondly, most states do not offer farmers any money for the food and they cannot afford to harvest it for free.

There is an easy solution to this problem, however, as states and the federal government can change the tax code so that farmers can write the donated food off their taxes. At the moment, they do not get any tax breaks.

 

Surplus Crop Problem

Close your eyes for just a minute and imagine an old fashioned country kitchen. As you look around the room, you notice a fresh baked cherry pie sitting in the slightly opened window cooling. Ambling a little closer you begin to get a whiff of the pie’s heavenly aroma as the pie releases it steam. For many people, this is a heavenly picture made complete by the perfectly tart cherries within the pie.

Now, welcome to the reality of what many tart cherry farmers are facing in Michigan as they are forced to dump thousands of perfectly harvested tart cherries on the ground to rot. It is not the farmer’s idea to let their product lay on the ground to rot. They do it because the government demands that they only sell a certain amount of tart cherries each year. The government claims that it adds stability to the market. In the case of Marc Santucci about 40,000 cherries lay on the ground rotting, according to the Huffington Post.

The problem is not with the cherries themselves. There is a two or three day window to harvest and process the cherries. The government mandates that they can only process so many cherries each year.

While this makes cherry farmers angry, they are not the only farmers who face this issue. On a yearly basis, many potato farmers are forced to spread perfectly golden or red potatoes back over their fields to rot.

If the food was not needed, that might be one thing. The food is needed, however, to feed Americans. As the cherries lay in the field rotting, under trade agreements, cherries are regularly imported from other countries like Turkey and Eastern European countries. In the case of potatoes, $2.7 billion of potatoes were imported mainly in the form of French fries from Canada.

If we assume that letting product rot provides price stabilization, then producers should be able to donate the food. The problem is that there is no network connecting these growers with food banks. There is also no way to move the food from where the surplus exists to food banks throughout the nation or world.

Genetic Engineering Could Turn Agricultural Virus Into Useful Weapon

An agricultural virus that was once feared by citrus farmers may turn out to be the best hope for an industry that is desperately trying to tackle an even more serious problem. It is through the marvels of genetic engineering that one virus has been modified for the purpose of destroying the other one.

The citrus tristeza virus, or CTV, had previously caused trouble for citrus farmers, but the disease has been eclipsed by the problem of citrus greening. Produced by a specific type of bacteria and spread by certain flying insects, citrus greening causes trees to produce fruits that are greenish and misshapen in appearance and bitter in taste. Although the disease had been reported in other parts of the world, citrus greening was first observed in the United States in 2005 and has since ravaged the fruit-growing regions of the South.

In battling greening, one produce company plans to graft tree limbs containing the modified CTV virus. The firm has requested permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to employ this technique, which will have to be reviewed to determine whether it poses any environmental risks. If approved, this will be the first commercial use of CTV as a sort of inoculation to deal with another type of agricultural disease. More information about the CTV technique is available at www.reddit.com/agriculture.

Using other types of genetic engineering, farmers have been able to provide some protection to their citrus products. One method allowed growers to produce a reasonable number of sweet and round oranges, provided that the trees were properly maintained. An engineered form of spinach has also shown success in dealing with citrus greening. If successful, the CTV technique may help reduce the stigma that has in the past been associated with genetic engineering. Since the method does not actually alter the fruits that are produced from the modified trees, some farmers could in fact claim the final products are not in themselves genetically engineered, which could be an important selling point.

The entire process could take at least two years to yield results, with time being the greatest enemy to citrus farmers. Many hope that the technique will prove successful in wiping out citrus greening before the disease wipes out the industry.

 

How Australian Farmers Have Adapted to Climate Change

Australia and its agricultural industry have certainly felt the effects of climate change. However, farmers on this island nation have begun dealing with the changes in the weather using some creative techniques, with moderate success.

During this past year, the Australian farming industry chalked up a record in terms of crop production, which translated into record profits. This was a reversal in the downward trend in agricultural yields that the country began experiencing in the early 1990s. It was during this period that wheat production alone in Australia declined by some 25 percent. Based on available evidence, this reduction was directly attributable to rising temperatures that are an element of global climate change. More information about the effect of climate change on the Australian agricultural industry is available at www.reddit.com/r/agriculture.

Some observers have credited the recent turnaround to changes made by Australian farmers in response to the climatic changes. Dealing with such changes can in some cases involve the mere location where the farming is conducted. This is because drier areas that are farther inland have in recent years experienced less rainfall. In wetter areas, such a reduction can be beneficial to crop growth. This type of adaptation is illustrated by the expanded production of grapes on the Australian island state of Tasmania.

Other changes have been procedural in nature. One new technique is known as conservation tillage, in which new crops are planted without removing the residue of the previous harvest. Additionally, farmers have altered their plans in order to take advantage of the moisture that remains in the soil after summer, which has begun to experience greater precipitation than the winter months. Such new growing methods represent a change from the past, when farmers concentrated on increasing production when the conditions were good. Unfortunately, this philosophy cost them dearly during periods of drought. These new techniques and a particularly wet winter have together been credited for the success rate of Australian farmers during the past year.

However, continued success is not guaranteed, especially when considering that the growing conditions may worsen in the coming years. Although their methods have allowed many Australian farmers to remain profitable, they will need newer techniques and perhaps some good blessings if they want to maintain their businesses in the future.

 

Ways to Deal With Shortage of Water in Farms

Oil and gas have been the primary concern for many environmentalist groups. However, there is a new concern that needs urgent attention. The world is slowly running out of clean water. Many places in the world suffer from severe water shortages such as Nepal. The residents in such areas have to buy water from private vendors. It has caused a major headache for a majority of the population. Many developing countries struggle with the same problem.

 

It is estimated that more than a billion people have no access to fresh water. The population of the world is growing rapidly. Therefore, it means that we need more water to cultivate more crops to feed the population. It has been suggested before that we could remove the salt content from sea water and use it on plants. Australian greenhouses use solar energy to desalinate seawater and grow crops. The farmers in those areas have had to come up with new ways to support agriculture in their region.

 

Plant scientists are researching on plant genes that would do well in arid conditions. They aim at introducing the key cells of drought tolerant plants to crops through genetic engineering. Traditionally, farmers have used pollination to try and crossbreed different species of plants to come up with more draught-resistant breeds. However, this process is slow.

 

There have also been studies on root architecture systems in different chickpea plants. Scientists are trying to identify the gene that makes the plant’s roots efficient in capturing nutrients and water from dry soils. Most of the draught-resistant plants have abscisic acid (ABA). The acid increases the plants’ water retention capacity. However, it also reduces the efficiency and rate of photosynthesis. It is vital that we come up a way to cultivate draught-resistant plants for our survival.

 

 

Genetically Modified Crops: Are the Herbicides Used on these Crops Harmful?

Genetically modified crops began being released in the American market in the mid-1990s. Genetically engineered crops have been with us for more than 20 years but do not seem by themselves to have any negative effects on human health. However, the herbicides used on GMCs could be an ignored health hazard.

 

One of the main ideas put forward for the creation of GMCs was the need to reduce the chemicals (herbicide and pesticide) used by farmers. Proponents of genetically modified crops argue that GMCs make farms more eco-friendly. Additionally, they argue that GMO seeds allow farmers to make high profits since they spend less on “inputs” (chemicals).

 

But according to a study that was released by Food & Water Watch, the objective of decreased chemical reliance has not come to fruition as planned. GMCs are now the number one agricultural products that are heavily treated with herbicides. In fact, the use of herbicide by farmers has substantially increased over the past years.

 

According to an article published in the opinions section of the New England Journal of Medicine, two of the herbicides used to treat GM crops may pose a health risk. Most of the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified; this implies that all the products resulting from these crops (e.g. bean curd and soda) are also GM foods.

 

The two authors of the opinion article (Charles Benbrook and Dr. Philip Landrigan) argued that several studies have associated cancer risk to the herbicides (particularly, glyphosate) used on genetically modified crops. They also added that they believe that further studies should be done on the Enlist Duo. However, other experts have disagreed with the opinion citing that glyphosate is safer than other chemicals used in the past.

 

 

The Growing Problem of Rotting Food in America

According to an article in theHuffington Post, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Currently, about 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown on farms in America does not make it to tables. In other words, about 6 billion pounds of fresh produce goes unsold each year with most of it being left in the field to rot.

Part of the problem lies with conditions that are beyond most people’s control such as the weather, pests, diseases, market prices, and labor shortages. A large share of it is because of the policies within the United States Department of Agriculture that forces retailers to sell produce that complies with strict cosmetic standards. Therefore, farmers have to plant a larger crop to make sure that they have enough to sell and make their living.

Some apps have been created that allow cooks and farmers to connect when the farmer has food that they cannot use. Some of these apps include Love Food Hate Waste, Rainbow, Waste No Food and Food Cowboy.

There are ways that food not currently harvested can be used. For instance, Salem Harvest in the Williamette Valley of Oregon uses a network of volunteers to harvest food from 42 farms and then gives the food to food banks which distribute it to feeding programs for the hungry. Other programs like the Agricultural Clearance Program in Ohio pay farmers 20 cents a pound to bring the food to the food bank. While that may not seem like a large payment, it at least lets the farmer’s break even.

There are several problems with getting food to where it can be used to feed hungry Americans. First, is the logistics of taking food from fields to food banks. Secondly, most states do not offer farmers any money for the food and they cannot afford to harvest it for free.

There is an easy solution to this problem, however, as states and the federal government can change the tax code so that farmers can write the donated food off their taxes. At the moment, they do not get any tax breaks.

Surplus Crop Problem

Close your eyes for just a minute and imagine an old fashioned country kitchen. As you look around the room, you notice a fresh baked cherry pie sitting in the slightly opened window cooling. Ambling a little closer you begin to get a whiff of the pie’s heavenly aroma as the pie releases it steam. For many people, this is a heavenly picture made complete by the perfectly tart cherries within the pie.
Now, welcome to the reality of what many tart cherry farmers are facing in Michigan as they are forced to dump thousands of perfectly harvested tart cherries on the ground to rot. It is not the farmer’s idea to let their product lay on the ground to rot. They do it because the government demands that they only sell a certain amount of tart cherries each year. The government claims that it adds stability to the market. In the case of Marc Santucci about 40,000 cherries lay on the ground rotting, according to the Huffington Post.
The problem is not with the cherries themselves. There is a two or three day window to harvest and process the cherries. The government mandates that they can only process so many cherries each year.
While this makes cherry farmers angry, they are not the only farmers who face this issue. On a yearly basis, many potato farmers are forced to spread perfectly golden or red potatoes back over their fields to rot.
If the food was not needed, that might be one thing. The food is needed, however, to feed Americans. As the cherries lay in the field rotting, under trade agreements, cherries are regularly imported from other countries like Turkey and Eastern European countries. In the case of potatoes, $2.7 billion of potatoes were imported mainly in the form of French fries from Canada.
If we assume that letting product rot provides price stabilization, then producers should be able to donate the food. The problem is that there is no network connecting these growers with food banks. There is also no way to move the food from where the surplus exists to food banks throughout the nation or world.