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.

 

 

GMO; Making a Case for and Against the Technology

Debate on the merits and demerits of genetically modified crops (GMO) continues to rage as both sides of the divide smack at each other. According to a New York Times article published on October 10, the controversy surrounding GMO crops goes further than the not-backed-up fear that the crops are unsafe to eat. The author, Danny Hakim reckons that the real problem lies in the findings showing genetically modified crops have not increased crop yields in the US and Canada or led to the reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. The author adds that the use of herbicides in the US has increased substantially and even permeated to so called modified crop varieties such as cotton, soya beans and corn.

 

According to the author, the very promise to grow GMO’s was built on the premise that it would create pest and weed resistant crops that would produce abundant yields and ease world hunger. Danny acknowledges that while US and Canada quick to embrace GMO, Europe largely rejected the idea when it was introduced some 20 years ago. This fact demonstrates serious loopholes in technology in spite of years of research and trials. A report released by the UN has also not shown any significant food per acre yields in the US or Canada when pit against Europe. These findings are backed by a new report released by the National Academy of Sciences showing little evidence that US crop yields had increased compared to that of traditional food crops.

 

The New York Times article has elicited an equal measure of rebuttal from farmers, research organizations and other interest groups. According to a report published on Genetic Literacy Project website by Professor Stuart Smyth of the University of Saskatchewan department of agriculture, GMO food crops have numerous benefits which the NYT article has failed to point out. These insurmountable benefits to the environment, including a 35% reduction in pesticide use as well as soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and use of fossil fuels. Professor Stuart also painted a different picture showing the dangers of not embracing the technology. He cites India, where cotton farmers have lost up to 60% of their yields as a result of insect infestation while those who grow GM cotton have seen 40% reduction in pesticide use.

 

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 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.

Coffee Farmers Will Suffer Due to Climate Change Without Intervention

Many people love waking up to the smell of coffee brewing. Look around any city and you will see coffee shops on nearly every corner. Why? We love our coffee! The morning coffee tradition is likely to become a thing of the past in the next several decades due to climate change’s impact on the coffee industry.
Scientists say that Nicaragua, a major producer of coffee beans, will likely lose the majority of its coffee farming land by 2050. Other producers of coffee, such as Tanzania will reach “critically low levels” about a decade later. Climate change will render the coffee producing areas around the equator inhospitable for coffee plants within this century, affecting consumers and farmers on a massive scale.
Coffee farmers are among 120 million of the poorest people in the world. Without the crops from the coffee plants they farm, they would suffer tremendous hardship. Coffee farmers rely on their coffee plants as a major crop and this crop may not be viable in a little over 30 years and may go extinct, without intervention, by the end of the century.
Coffee plants are a unique plant that becomes weak if it does not have genetic diversity, much like animals and people. Healthy coffee plants need the diversity of wild coffee plants so that they are not susceptible to disease, weather, and other factors that can impact coffee plant health and production. Wild coffee plants are currently expected to be extinct within 65 years. This will quickly weaken and destroy the future coffee plants which will be more easily damaged and will yield fewer and lower quality fruit.
The solution for the problem is to relocate the crops away from the equator, where the temperatures will become too hot to grow. That solution isn’t helpful to poor coffee farmers who cannot afford to relocate. It takes money to begin a new crop and years for it to yield fruit, which means farmers could not financially survive the relocating of these crops without some form of assistance from outside sources.
Climate change is no longer a problem for future generations. It is a problem for the world now. We need to plan to adjust to these changes now to prevent future problems.

Tuta Absoluta Destroying Tomato Crops

Several areas are experiencing tomatoes being ravaged in the crop field. The culprit is a very tiny moth. This tiny moth is causing massive destruction towards the tomato crops. The culprit goes by the name of Tuta absoluta. In 2006 it made its appearance in Europe by infesting imported tomatoes. Eventually, the Tuta absoluta continued to spread in Europe. After spreading throughout Europe it made its way to Asia.

The drastic toll that the Tuta absoluta is causing to agriculture and farming is undeniable. The devastation is greatly affecting the farmland for countries that are still developing. Many farmers in developing countries cannot afford integrated pest management. Using integrated pest management can be a big help to keep this type of moth away. Without such management farmland crops especially tomatoes are being wrecked and ruined.

In Nigeria there was an emergency put out regarding this matter. Kaduna State experienced the crop destruction. In Kaduna State tomatoes are abundant and contribute a large portion for producing Nigeria’s tomatoes. By the month of May about 80% of tomatoes were destroyed. Prices of tomatoes began to rise because of the shortage of tomato crops.

Even though the range of destruction by this moth has been massive there are some farmers that have the means to secure their agriculture. Some farmers are using pheromones which help to lure the moth into a trap. Another option that farmers are using is bio pesticides that have fungi, bacteria, or oil based ingredients that disrupt mating for the moths. Farmers have been using pesticides with chemicals in them and natural enemies to ward off the moths from destroying tomato crops. With a good I.P.M. strategy established you will be able to have more of a handle on the Tuta absoluta.

This type of moth is very small that they can transport by wind. They have a high capability for reproduction. Uncontrolled and not managed properly this moth can cause 100% damage to farmed crops. Tomatoes are continuing to rise up in price in various areas especially when an outburst of destruction occurs. For more information regarding tomato crops and the Tuta absoluta follow this link. In conclusion, tomatoes are being destroyed and with destruction causing drastic change for those growing the crops.

Lowering Grain, Egg and Dairy Prices Raises Farmers’ Woes

While the current market of $3/pound ground beef and $1.50 cartons of eggs means that families can dine cheaper,
these family windfalls have grocery stores and farmers panicking.
Experts are anticipating that this drop in agricultural productivity will reach its worst point since 1960. While this is great for anyone looking to work on a culinary bucket list, it could leave many farmers and vendors scrambling to stay alive in the market.

While the annual cost to feed a person has dropped by nearly 2%, this reduced cost has impacts dairy, meat and grains by an even greater margin: Corn has dropped to less than half its cost per-bushel in four months, wheat is at a notable low of slightly above 40% of its peak worth and the value of soy has dropped to nearly half of what it used to fetch. Elsewhere, dairy farmers have had to discard excess milk with the government providing a $20 million bailout to store the surplus. At least one corn farmer has remarked that 2016 is looking to be his least profitable in 20 years and the reduced prices of his livelihood imperil the very industry.

When changes perspective from America’s farmers to most of the country’s grocery stores, most of these vendors have reported mediocre gains in their quarterly earnings and attribute those meager gains to a deflation of product. Indeed, the comments about “deflation” can be attributed to an incredibly bountiful yield of crops that has greatly impacted the concept of scarcity. Another factor in the value of grain products is that the price of corn has recently changed to have a relationship with gas prices, shifting to reflect the value of ethanol instead of traditional fossil fuels.

Only a handful of industry positives emerge from this news: the increased value of fruit, mostly driven by California’s drought negatively affecting its fields and orchards; the increased profits and stock value of deflation-resistant Walmart; and an opportunity for the meat industry to rebound into profitability as the price of cattle feed and chicken feed plummets in value. The president of the National Turkey Federation remarked that the cost of grain accounts for nearly three-quarters of the total cost to bringing a turkey to the dinner table.

Moths threatening Tomato Production across the World

Spanish residents amazed the world when over 20,000 people engaged in the world’s biggest tomato fight. As the tomato war went down, tomato farmers across the world are experiencing a crisis due to a moth that is damaging their crops.

The moth, said to the size of an eyelash is causing enormous damages to tomato crops bringing huge losses to tomato farmers. The moth, known as the tomato leaf miner, is reported to have originated from Chile.

It is believed that the moth arrived in Europe through a container that contained infected farm produce, as reported in an article on the New York Times website. The container is believed to have arrived in Bunol, Spain where it later spread to other parts of Europe and later to Africa and Asia.

The tomato leaf miner has done the most damage in third world countries where most tomato farmers are poor and unable to access sophisticated tools of fighting the moth such as the integrated pest management.

For instance, the moth has caused enormous losses to farmers in Nigeria. In the state of Kaduna, a major tomato producing state in Nigeria, the moth attacked the crops and caused devastating damages to both the crop’s quantity and quality.

The moth was the cause of a major food crisis and threatened to affect the economy of the state. The affected productivity of the tomato crop made it difficult for households to maintain their purchasing power. The price of a basket of tomatoes shot from an average of $8 to $212. The state’s authorities expressed disbelief at the devastation to the extent of declaring a state of emergency.

Unlike the Nigerian farmers, European farmers have dealt better with the moth due to their ability to access technological systems and financial support from the relevant authorities.

Scientists in Europe have joined the fight against the moth and have been able to come up with a control system that is based on biological characteristics of the moth. The moths, however, reproduce fast and authorities fear that the moth may soon spread to North America.

While tomato farmers are doing their best to fight the moth, the average consumers are more likely to continue digging deep in their pockets to consume tomatoes.

Cucumber Mosaic Virus May Be the Key to Helping Both Bees and Farmers

As previously reported by ScienceDaily and posted to Reddit, research botanists at Cambridge University have discovered the potential key to helping both the declining bee population and farmer’s agricultural yields through the use of the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV). During the study, it was noted that bees seemed to prefer plants that had been infected with the virus. They would go to the infected plants first, and they would stay by these plants longer than they would the healthy plants. The question was: why?

In order to attract potential pollinators, plants emit chemicals in the form of scent. The study found that the cucumber mosaic virus alters these chemicals. It does this by changing the expression of a gene in the tomato plants that it infects. The small alteration the cucumber mosaic virus causes in these chemicals subtly changes the scent emitted by the tomato plant, which is then detected by the bees. As a result, the bees are more likely to select an infected plant over a healthy one.

This selection provides a form of symbiotic mutualism. It aids the disease susceptible plants by attracting pollinators to them, which then aids the virus in spreading because it has more time to multiply and produce more disease susceptible plants. This research provided a key to understanding just how the cucumber mosaic virus is able to effectively spread throughout a farmer’s crops. This knowledge may lead to future discoveries that will positively impact both the bee population and disease resistant crops.

The scientists of this study believe that by further analyzing the chemicals that are emitted from the infected plants, they will be able to reproduce the smell artificially. The thought is that by artificially introducing this scent to crops that are not infected with cucumber mosaic virus, a healthier crop will be achieved. More bees will be attracted to the crops to pollinate them, which will help to provide larger yields of crops. In addition, this will potentially help the struggling bee population because it attracts them to plants that have healthy sources of pollen and nectar that are essential for their survival. If this study proves fruitful, both the agricultural and bee community will greatly benefit.