What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles

Growing Pains, The Economist

Global Food Security by the Numbers, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

New studies deepen concerns about a climate-change ‘wild card’, The Washington Post

EU to Release $558 Million to Help Struggling Farmers, The Wall Street Journal

Land degradation costs the world up to $10.6tn a year, report says, The Guardian

Farming flicks help teach ag skills where they’re really needed, Grist

Africa’s new institution to promote food security, SciDev.Net

Who Will Suffer Most From Climate Change? (Hint: Not You), Gates Notes

Kale or steak? Change in diet key to U.N. plan to end hunger by 2030, Reuters

Climate-smart cities could save the world $22tn, say economists, The Guardian

Two roads diverged in the food crisis: Global policy takes the one more travelled, Wise, 2015, Canadian Food Studies [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Two billion people suffering from hidden hunger according to 2014 Global Hunger Index, even as levels of hunger in many developing countries decrease, IFPRI

The Pig Pledge, Farms not Factories

Countries agree on key policy commitments to fight malnutrition globally, FAO

Conservation agriculture and ecosystem services: An overview, Palm et al

GeneWatch UK PR: Second-generation GM crops: an environmental disaster, GeneWatch

Building a bridge from basic botany to applied agriculture, Eurek Alert

EU makes public its wish list for under-fire U.S. trade deal, Reuters

Grand Challenge: Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development, Impatient Optimists

Participatory Land Use Planning to Support Tanzanian Farmer and Pastoralist Investment: Experiences from Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, EcoAgriculture Partners

Food security successes earn World Food Prize, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Sowing the seeds of stable agriculture, SciDev.Net

Thomson Reuters Foundation and FAO launch global food security news platform, FAO

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, Eurek Alert

GMO The Truth with Vandana Shiva and Deepak Chopra, YouTube [Read more…]

From dust bowl to carbon sink: the potential of conservation agriculture

ID-10049859Two new videos exploring conservation agriculture were recently shared. The first looks back to the US dust bowl in the 1930s that motivated the development of no-till farming and conservation agriculture. The second looking at how conservation agriculture can help in practice and how we can prevent the next dust bowl in the Russian Steppes through sustainable land management strategies.

Changing an Age-Old Practice Helps New Generation of Farmers, is the title of a new video created by the World Bank. Tilling of soil is done to prepare the seed bed, release nutrients and control weeds but tilling can also lead to soil erosion, causing the loss of top soil that degrades farmland and causes sedimentation in waterways. In the lower Mississippi River removal of sediment costs over $100 million each year. In the Great Plains of the US around the 1930s the dust bowl winds eroded top soil from 65 million hectares of land and led to an unprecedented environmental disaster. Soil degradation globally is increasing due to climate change whereby more frequent storms and floods erode vulnerable soils. The disturbance of these soils releases greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.

Conservation agriculture is proposed as a solution, which comprises no tillage of the soil or minimum disturbance of the soil; the maintenance of crop residue in the field; and crop rotations and species diversity. These practices help to reduce soil erosion, allow recovery of the soil structure, reduce pests and diseases, conserve water and build up nutrient stores. Such practices are also said to be more labour and cost efficient. Breaking the centuries old tradition of tilling the soil is not easy however, and requires the development of new herbicides, new equipment and farmer education. But the benefits conservation agriculture can bring, such as relatively inexpensive climate change adaptation and mitigation and sustainable farms into the future, far outweigh the costs.

How to prevent the next “Global Dust Bowl”? – Ecological and Economic Strategies for Sustainable Land Management in the Russian Steppes: A Potential Solution to Climate Change was produced by Kulunda, an interdisciplinary project on sustainable land management. The Kulunda Steppe in Siberia close to the border with Kazakhstan has dry continental climate conditions. In the 1950s about 420,000km2 of natural grassland were converted to farming. In recent decades crop yields have been continually declining as a result of low soil fertility and carbon, wind erosion and drought, and today some 50% of these lands are degraded. Because of the arid climate the soil neither stores water nor nutrients well and conventional agricultural methods are failing leading to the out-migration of young people. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Sharp rise in FAO Food Price Index, FAO

Spreading the word about the no-till agricultural revolution, IIED

On the road to Paris 2015: Towards a new global climate deal, Friends of Europe

Fake Meats, Finally, Taste Like Chicken, The New York Times

‘How DFID Learns’. Or doesn’t. UK aid watchdog gives it a ‘poor’ (but the rest of us would probably do worse), Duncan Green, Oxfam

Realising the Promise of Agriculture for Africa’s Transformation, PAEPARD

Global food security: could wheat feed the world?, The Guardian

Commentary Series – This Land is Our Land, Global Food for Thought

3 Graphics To Explain The Present And Future Of Climate Change, Forbes

Climate signals, growing louder, The New York Times [Read more…]

Scaling Up Sustainable Land and Water Management Practices

ID-100135195Land degradation and declining soil fertility are major threats to agricultural productivity and food production, particularly in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa, where land management practices, high fertiliser prices and water shortages contribute and exacerbate the problems. The World Resources Institute have previously calculated that to eradicate food insecurity we need to produce 69% more calories between 2006 and 2050, while at the same time protecting the world’s water, climate and ecosystems. A new report by the WRI entitled Improving Land and Water Management, instalment four of their Creating a Sustainable Food Future series, outlines some of the land and water management practices that can mitigate land degradation and increase agricultural output. They highlight four practices that are particularly promising, which along with raising yields and productivity can increase incomes, natural capital and resilience to climate change. These are:

Agroforestry – the integration of trees and shrubs onto farms

Conservation agriculture – the combination of reduced or no tillage, crop rotations and on-farm conservation of crop residues or cover crops

Rainwater harvesting – the use of on-farm systems such as bunds, pits and trenches, to collect rainfall and prevent water loss from soils

Integrated soil fertility management – the incorporation of prudent and targeted use of fertiliser with organic alternatives such as manure, compost, leaf litter, crop residues and phosphate rock

The report provides evidence of the impacts these farming practices can have, for example, the combination of conservation agriculture and crop rotations has resulted in 50% higher yields of maize in Zambia. These practices can be combined with each other as well as with more conventional technologies e.g. microdosing of fertilisers.

Implementing and combining these four techniques at scale will require much coordination between different users of the landscape, warranting an integrated landscape approach that acknowledges and plans for multiple land uses. Adoption of these practices is currently low and the main barriers to successful scaling include poor knowledge dissemination, weak land tenure systems and poor coverage of extension services. The potential of these improved land and water management practices has been calculated: if implemented on some 75 million hectares of cropland, with an expected increase in yields of 50%, farmers would produce 22 million tons more food each year, equating to an extra 615 kilocalories per person per day for 285 million people living in Africa’s drylands. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Foresight Africa, Brookings Africa Growth Initiative

Humanity needs science, not ideology, Huffington Post

The Food Index, Oxfam

Perilous retreat from global trade rules, China Daily

101 Organizations to Watch in 2014, Food Tank

First comprehensive test to detect genetic modification in food, American Chemical Society

Got milk? The impact of Heifer International’s livestock donation programs in Rwanda on nutritional outcomes, Science Direct

New discovery could stimulate plant growth and increase crop yields, researchers say, EurekAlert

Hidden soy on supermarket shelves masks assault on nature, WWF

Conservation Agriculture: Global Prospects and Challenges, Jat, R.A, Sahrawat, K. L. and Kassam, A.H.

Frankenpolitics: The Left’s defence of GMOs, EU Observer

The right kind of helping hand for small farmers, Thomson Reuters Foundation

What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters, Grist

 

 

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Milestone Claimed in Creating Fuel From Waste, The New York Times

Harvesting the Biosphere – book review, The Gates Notes

Should we embrace GM food? – five-minute video debate, The Guardian

Conservation agriculture puts Zimbabwean farmers on firmer footing, Thomson Reuters Foundation

In Uganda, better nutrition through school gardens, The Christian Science Monitor

Attacking the Hunger Epidemic — And Winning , Huffington Post

Women as a Force for Change, The New York Times

Iowa View: Increasingly, feeding a growing world needs more focus on science, technology, Des Moines Register

Scientists help African farmers battle pests in warming climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

World’s 1st lab-grown burger cooked and eaten, CBC News

Indigenous Peoples and the Diversity of Food, Landscapes Blog for People, Food and Nature

What Does the Future Hold for Genetically Modified Cotton?, TriplePundit

ICRAF Studies Local Knowledge in Ethiopian Farming Systems, IISD