Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Full Monty on Global Land Use.

Here is what you'll find in this post:

  1. Land-use changes are greatest threat to biodiversity by year 2100.
  2. How technology can reduce our impact on the Earth.
  3. Can the World Produce 40% More Rice by 2030?
  4. Increasing agricultural water use efficiency to meet future food production.
  5. Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change.
  6. Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices.
  7. Global consequences of land use.
  8. Farming and the fate of wild nature.
  9. Nature Magazine, Issue relating to food and farming 2002.
  10. GMO Pundit Posts links.
  11. Use of modern agricultural technologies is essential to avert the impending consequences of overpopulation. Science Furum summary.
  12. Genetics is Moving The Corn Belt and Soybeans are Marching North.
  13. Significant Brazilian land use savings have come from crop technology this last decade.
  14. Modern Cotton versus organic cotton: technology reduced environmental footprint.
  15. Cotton Pushes South in NSW.
  16. Ethanol versus conservation reserve in the US.
  17. Global land productivty Trends USDA ERS
  18. US Agricultural Land Use. USDA ERS.
  19. Stern report on climate change discussess importance of farm productivity in preservation of forest. October 2006.
  20. How much will feeding more and wealthier people encroach on forests? Paul E. Waggoner and Jesse H. Ausubel, January 2000.
  21. Mixed cereal growing to mitigate risk on degraded land, Ethiopia.

Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100.
Scenarios of changes in biodiversity for the year 2100 can now be developed based on scenarios of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate, vegetation, and land use and the known sensitivity of biodiversity to these changes. This study identified a ranking of the importance of drivers of change, a ranking of the biomes with respect to expected changes, and the major sources of uncertainties.

For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration.

For freshwater ecosystems, biotic exchange is much more important. Mediterranean climate and grassland ecosystems likely will experience the greatest proportional change in biodiversity because of the substantial influence of all drivers of biodiversity change.

Northern temperate ecosystems are estimated to experience the least biodiversity change because major land-use change has already occurred. Plausible changes in biodiversity in other biomes depend on interactions among the causes of biodiversity change. These interactions represent one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future biodiversity change.
Science. 2000 Mar 10;287(5459):1770-4.
Sala OE, Chapin FS 3rd, Armesto JJ, Berlow E, Bloomfield J, Dirzo R,
Huber-Sanwald E, Huenneke LF, Jackson RB, Kinzig A, Leemans R, Lodge DM, Mooney
HA, Oesterheld M, Poff NL, Sykes MT, Walker BH, Walker M, Wall DH.

How technology can reduce our impact on the Earth.
Nature. 2003 May 8;423(6936):115. Goklany IM, Trewavas AJ.
Prudent use of innovations could avoid sacrificing the present for the future, or vice versa.

William E. Rees, in his Concepts essay "A blot on the land" (Nature 421, 898; 2003), uses the ecological-footprint concept to argue that the 'carrying capacity' of the Earth has been exceeded because of technological and economic growth, and to counter some economists' claims that the carrying capacity can increase indefinitely. The critical point, unrecognized by either side, is not whether the carrying capacity can increase indefinitely but whether it can increase rapidly enough to accommodate the environmental and economic expectations of a world that grows wealthier as its population growth rate slows dramatically.

Paradoxically, both technology and economic development provide the means to solve the very problems they create. Without technological development in the first instance, the human population would be smaller, because higher birth rates would have been offset by higher mortality rates. Dispensing with present technology now would undoubtedly be catastrophic in human terms — people would be hungrier, unhealthier and shorter-lived , without the world necessarily becoming ecologically more stable.

Similarly, foregoing economic development, which helps to generate wealth, would also be calamitous (see I. M. Goklany, Case Western Law Review; in the press). Only wealthy countries can afford the scientific infrastructure to research, develop and put into use clean technologies that increase the Earth's carrying capacity.

Can the World Produce 40% More Rice by 2030?
CO2 Science Volume 9, Number 9: 1 March 2006
What will it take to feed five billion rice consumers in 2030? That is the question that plagues the mind of Gurdev S. Khush (2005) of the International Rice Research Institute in Metro Manila, Philippines. "According to various estimates," in his words, "we will have to produce 40% more rice by 2030 to satisfy the growing demand without affecting the resource base adversely," because, as he continues, "if we are not able to produce more rice from the existing land resources, land-hungry farmers will destroy forests and move into more fragile lands such as hillsides and wetlands with disastrous consequences for biodiversity and watersheds," echoing sentiments previously expressed by Wallace (2000), Tilman et al. (2001; 2002), Foley et al. (2005), and Green et al. (2005). Hence, as Khush puts it, the expected increase in the demand for food "will have to be met from less land, with less water, less labor and fewer chemicals."
Increasing agricultural water use efficiency to meet future food production
JS Wallace Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 82 (2000) 105–119
With the world’s population set to increase by 65% (3.7 billion) by about 2050, the additional food required to feed future generations will put further enormous pressure on freshwater resources. This is because agriculture is the largest single user of fresh water, accounting for about 75% of current human water use. At present about 7% of the world’s population live in areas where water is scarce. This is predicted to rise to a staggering 67% of the world’s population by 2050. Because of this water scarcity and because new arable land is also limited, future increases in production will have to come mainly by growing more food on existing land and water. This paper looks at how this might be achieved by examining the efficiency with which water is used in agriculture. Globally, in both irrigated and rain fed agriculture only about 10–30% of the available water (as rainfall, surface or groundwater) is used by plants as transpiration. In arid and semi-arid areas, where water is scarce and population growth is high, this figure is nearer 5% in rain fed crops. There is, therefore, great potential for improving water use efficiency in agriculture, particularly, in those areas where the need is greatest. The technical basis for improving agricultural water use efficiency is illustrated. This may be achieved by increasing the total amount of the water resource that is made available to plants for transpiration and/or by increasing the efficiency with which transpired water produces biomass. It is concluded that there is much scope for improvement, particularly, in the former and that future global change research should shift its emphasis to addressing this real and immediate challenge. www.bayercropscience.com

Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change.
Tilman D, Fargione J, Wolff B, D'Antonio C, Dobson A, Howarth R, Schindler D, Schlesinger WH, Simberloff D, Swackhamer D. Science. 2001 Apr 13;292(5515):281-4. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA. tilman@lter.umn.edu
During the next 50 years, which is likely to be the final period of rapid agricultural expansion, demand for food by a wealthier and 50% larger global population will be a major driver of global environmental change. Should past dependences of the global environmental impacts of agriculture on human population and consumption continue, 10(9) hectares of natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050. This would be accompanied by 2.4- to 2.7-fold increases in nitrogen- and phosphorus-driven eutrophication of terrestrial, freshwater, and near-shore marine ecosystems, and comparable increases in pesticide use. This eutrophication and habitat destruction would cause unprecedented ecosystem simplification, loss of ecosystem services, and species extinctions. Significant scientific advances and regulatory, technological, and policy changes are needed to control the environmental impacts of agricultural expansion.

Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices.
Tilman D, Cassman KG, Matson PA, Naylor R, Polasky S. Nature. 2002 Aug 8;418(6898):671-7.
Comment in: Nature. 2003 Mar 27;422(6930):397-8; discussion 398. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA. tilman@umn.edu
A doubling in global food demand projected for the next 50 years poses huge challenges for the sustainability both of food production and of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide to society. Agriculturalists are the principal managers of global usable lands and will shape, perhaps irreversibly, the surface of the Earth in the coming decades. New incentives and policies for ensuring the sustainability of agriculture and ecosystem services will be crucial if we are to meet the demands of improving yields without compromising environmental integrity or public health.

Global consequences of land use.
Foley JA, Defries R, Asner GP, Barford C, Bonan G, Carpenter SR, Chapin FS, Coe MT, Daily GC, Gibbs HK, Helkowski JH, Holloway T, Howard EA, Kucharik CJ, Monfreda C, Patz JA, Prentice IC, Ramankutty N, Snyder PK. Science. 2005 Jul 22;309(5734):570-4. Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin, 1710 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53726, USA. jfoley@wisc.edu
Land use has generally been considered a local environmental issue, but it is becoming a force of global importance. Worldwide changes to forests, farmlands, waterways, and air are being driven by the need to provide food, fiber, water, and shelter to more than six billion people. Global croplands, pastures, plantations, and urban areas have expanded in recent decades, accompanied by large increases in energy, water, and fertilizer consumption, along with considerable losses of biodiversity. Such changes in land use have enabled humans to appropriate an increasing share of the planet's resources, but they also potentially undermine the capacity of ecosystems to sustain food production, maintain freshwater and forest resources, regulate climate and air quality, and ameliorate infectious diseases. We face the challenge of managing trade-offs between immediate human needs and maintaining the capacity of the biosphere to provide goods and services in the long term.
Farming and the fate of wild nature.
Green RE, Cornell SJ, Scharlemann JP, Balmford A. Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK. reg29@hermes.cam.ac.uk
Science. 2005 Jan 28;307(5709):550-5. Epub 2004 Dec 23. Comment in: Science. 2005 May 27;308(5726):1257-8; author reply 1257-8.
World food demand is expected to more than double by 2050. Decisions about how to meet this challenge will have profound effects on wild species and habitats.
We show that farming is already the greatest extinction threat to birds (the best known taxon), and its adverse impacts look set to increase, especially in developing countries. Two competing solutions have been proposed: wildlife-friendly farming (which boosts densities of wild populations on farmland but may decrease agricultural yields) and land sparing (which minimizes demand for farmland by increasing yield). We present a model that identifies how to resolve the trade-off between these approaches. This shows that the best type of farming for species persistence depends on the demand for agricultural products and on how the population densities of different species on farmland change with agricultural yield. Empirical data on such density-yield functions are sparse, but evidence from a range of taxa in developing countries suggests that high-yield farming may allow more species to persist.
Nature Magazine, Issue relating to food and farming
Volume 418 Number 6898 pp3-707
(8 August 2002)

Food & the future p667
Henry Gee

Malthus foiled again and again p668
Antony Trewavas
Throughout history, increasing population has driven the need to increase agricultural efficiency, so averting successive 'malthusian' disasters. In the twentieth century, the application of scientific knowledge to agriculture yielded tremendous dividends, enabling cereal yields to increase threefold since 1950. But with the world's population projected to reach nine billion by the middle of this century, new ways must be found to increase yields while preserving natural habitats and biodiversity.
The application of scientific knowledge to agriculture has yielded extraordinary dividends. Although estimates suggest that about 800 million people are still undernourished, it is thought that this number will drop to about 600 million, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, by 2025 (refs 1, 2). But this is no time for congratulation: although it is hoped the human population will level off at about nine billion by 2050, the population is currently still expanding. Additionally, as populations get richer, meat consumption increases and, because cattle are fed largely on cereals, cereal yields will have to at least double to keep pace.

Achieving this target will face an additional constraint not seen before — lack of available farmland. From 1800 onwards, more food was simply produced by ploughing up virgin land and forest. The land area used for farming increased about fivefold up to the middle of the twentieth century in step with population increases. The Green Revolution put a brake on this expansion, increasing yields threefold with no need for further expansion5. Since 1950, the proportion of the land devoted to farming has barely increased, even though the world population doubled over the same period. We currently use at least half the available good quality soil for agriculture, with the remainder under tropical forests6. This leads to an obvious dilemma. Unless we can pull off a second Green Revolution, increasing yield but limiting it to land currently used for farming, there will be further deterioration of natural habitats and biodiversity at a rate that could even threaten the further existence of humanity.

The lessons of history are clear. Successive lurches in population number have driven the development of new agricultural technologies designed to provide food for growing populations. This process of discovery will continue until there is an abundance of food equally enjoyed by the whole world population. We are far from achieving that at the present time, and there is therefore a constant need to examine the state of current agriculture to see where progress needs to be made. The following collection of articles on 'Food and the future' provides a snapshot of the current state of play.

Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices p671
David Tilman, Kenneth G. Cassman, Pamela A. Matson, Rosamond Naylor and Stephen Polasky

Enhancing the crops to feed the poor p678
Jikun Huang, Carl Pray and Scott Rozelle
Solutions to the problem of how the developing world will meet its future food needs are broader than producing more food, although the successes of the 'Green Revolution' demonstrate the importance of technology in generating the growth in food output in the past. Despite these successes, the world still faces continuing vulnerability to food shortages. Given the necessary funding, it seems likely that conventional crop breeding, as well as emerging technologies based on molecular biology, genetic engineering and natural resource management, will continue to improve productivity in the coming decades.

Billions of people struggle for a better life in the developing world, but they are able to improve their prospects of achieving this only when there is abundant and affordable food available1. Food security for the poor is dependent on issues such as access to the resources needed to buy or produce their own food2; nethertheless, welfare increased dramatically for many after the Second World War, in part because of the huge increase in agriculture's ability to produce food. Improving quality of life in the twenty-first century will likewise require as much, if not more, effort in increasing global food production. One of the great challenges of the coming decades will be to produce the food and fibre that is needed to feed and clothe those in the poorer parts of the world. And although from some perspectives this seems like an impossible task — in the same way that it must have to the doomsday forecasters since the days of Malthus — there are many reasons to believe it can be achieved.

In this review, we explore how technology can help the developing world meet its food needs in the twenty-first century. We begin by discussing the role of technology in generating past growth in productivity and output by analysing the successes and failures of the Green Revolution. Despite the past successes, the world's continuing vulnerability to food shortages is illustrated. The constraints that are holding back food production are examined, and we divide these into those that can be addressed by traditional crop breeding and agronomic techniques, and those that can be best solved by biotechnology and other high-technology approaches. We then shift our focus to the future. Drawing on a survey of prominent scientists and research administrators in China and interviews with scientists elsewhere in the world, we assess the technologies that are currently available and those that hold promise in the future. Finally, we turn our attention to who will create the new technologies and where the resources to create them will come from.

Benefits and limitations of genetic engineering

GM technologies have benefited the farmers who have adopted them, mainly through time-saving gains, increased yields and reduced chemical pesticide inputs. Herbicide-resistant soya beans in Argentina have reduced costs of production per hectare through a reduction in herbicide applications33. The average Bt cotton farmer in China has reduced pesticide sprayings for the Asian boll worm from 20 to 6 times per year and produces a kilogram of cotton for 28% less cost than the farmer using non-Bt varieties34. Mexican and South African Bt cotton farmers increased the yields at the same time that they reduced their costs35, 36. The reduction in pesticide use not only saves farmers the financial outlay for insecticides, but also reduced the incidence of insecticide poisonings37.

Although the potential exists in the future for increasing food production and alleviating constraints on cereal production in semi-favourable and marginal areas of developing countries, progress so far is limited. No GM varieties of a major food grain are currently being grown in developing countries, and there is very little work being done on crops grown in many marginal areas, such as millet, cassava or beans. But field trials for bio-safety clearance of GM varieties show that some major GM food crops are in the pipeline, and a few countries are actually releasing or close to releasing GM food crops. China's scientists, for example, are working on GM rice, potato and peanuts, crops that have been largely ignored in the developed world. Researchers in other developing countries are working on sugarcane, papaya and a number of other tropical crops. South Africa is leading the way in growing GM subsistence crops with the production of GM white maize, the first harvest of which will take place this year38. Other major food crops that are in the final stages of testing before commercial release are Bt rice, disease-resistant rice and Bt maize in China, and virus-resistant sweet potato and Bt maize in Kenya32, 34. Much more than in developed countries, biosafety is emerging as a principal constraint on release of GM organisms in developing countries.

Like developed countries, the characteristics of GM crops that are in the pipeline in developing countries are overwhelmingly focused on herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Except for China, 80% of the field trials are on varieties that contain these characteristics individually or 'stacked' together39. Field trials of crops that were being promoted primarily for higher yield were less that 1% of the field trials in developing countries. In China, however, scientists are experimenting with nutrition-enhanced varieties of rice, shelf-life-enhanced varieties of tomatoes, and other characteristics.

Assessing the risks associated with new agricultural practices p685
R. S. Hails
Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication p700
Jared Diamond

GMO Pundit Posts:
......# More Nutrition per drop
......# Water Wars
......# Saving natural resources
......# Water productivity on the farm
......# Better land use better for poverty too
......# Solutions to Salinity in Australia
......# Using Science to save water resources..
......# Preventing erosion and saving fuel with conservation tillage.
......# Brazil leverages of technology not land clearing to double crop output this last decade.
......# Organic farming uses more land and does not leach less nitrate to water drainage systems.
.......# More data and links documenting lower yield and higher leaching than conventional cover crop option with organic farming in Sweden.
......# Environmental footprint of cotton reduced by technology, better than going organic.

Dr. RĂ¼diger Scheitza at the 2006 Science Forum in Frankfurt: “Use of modern agricultural technologies is essential to avert the impending consequences of overpopulation”
May 18, 2006
......# Bayer Crop Science

Frankfurt (Germany) – “Science and Society: Caring for Future Needs” – this was the title of the third international Science Forum. On May 18, 2006, Bayer CropScience invited more than 100 leading scientists, representatives from the food industry, politicians, administrators and representatives of the media from both Germany and abroad to Frankfurt. The presentations by the internationally renowned speakers focussed on major global challenges such as overpopulation and climate change, along with their consequences: shortages of natural resources, dwindling supplies of water and food, and displacement of the flow of goods.
In his opening speech, Dr. RĂ¼diger Scheitza, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience AG, talked about the role of agriculture in our society. “Sustainable farming produces high-quality food, feed and renewable raw materials. It also makes a significant contribution to environmental objectives such as protecting soil and water quality, maintaining biodiversity and preserving landscapes. This makes it an important element in society,” he stressed. Added Scheitza, “More intensive use of modern agricultural technologies such as seed treatment or plant biotechnology is essential if we are to avert the impending consequences of overpopulation.”
In this context, Dr. Scheitza urged politicians to create dependable underlying conditions for successful, future-oriented research work. Product registration in particular has become increasingly complex, with growing volumes of bureaucratic work as a result of burgeoning legal requirements. “We have some serious concerns about the proposed revision of EU Directive 91/414, as it places research-based companies at a disadvantage,” said Scheitza in regard to the planned revision of the directive for the re-evaluation of crop protection agents. For example, the current draft stipulates a shortened period of data protection, reduced from 15 to ten years, for new active substances, while the original developers of already registered, patent-free active substances will lose all data protection. In addition, it is planned to scrap the possibility of preliminary national registration. In future, the precondition for registration of a crop protection agent will be Annex I listing, which is valid EU-wide.
Given the background of increasing resistances, the wide-spread prevalence of numerous economically relevant crop diseases and in view of stricter regulatory requirements, the development of new, efficient active substances with improved environmental properties is more necessary than ever before. Bayer CropScience relies on its outstanding research pipeline. Since 2000, for example, 16 new active substances have been launched, with another 10 scheduled to follow from 2006 to 2011. Bayer CropScience holds the view that politics must also help to ensure that discussions on topics such as genetic engineering or food safety are conducted on an objective level. “Bayer CropScience believes that plant biotechnology has great potential for innovation, both in regard to new, health-promoting foods and in the production of sustainable raw materials,” said Scheitza, underlining the economic significance of plant biotechnology.
Overpopulation and drought threaten prosperity
Lester Brown, founder and President of the Earth Policy Institute, Washington, USA, talked about the topic of “The fast changing world food prospect”. Brown graphically outlined the consequences of overpopulation and warned the audience about the struggle for resources. For example, it is expected that the global population will grow by 3 billion by 2050. These people will have to be fed, which will further intensify the food and water shortages that are already prevalent in large parts of the world. Using China as an example, Brown demonstrated how further increases to the standard of living in threshold countries will also have consequences for the Western world.
Genetics Moves Corn Belt
- Tom Webb, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 23, 2006 http://www.philly.com/ Via Agbioview
This item centers on St. Paul, Minn. - It explains for years, Iowa and parts of Minnesota were the nation's Corn Belt. But now, so is a good chunk of North Dakota, which was once considered too chilly for raising corn and soybeans. The same holds true for the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota.

And Kansas, it says, which features wheat on its license plates, now grows more corn than wheat despite its hot and dry summers.

It gooes on to say what is changing the Midwest is plant genetics. High-tech varieties of corn and soybeans are letting farmers reliably grow row crops where they never could before, and the results are confounding the grain trade. The change has been building for several years, but the magnitude of the shift hit home last fall when a severe summer drought wracked the eastern Corn Belt - yet the crop flourished.

"I thought there was no way" corn could do well, given the heat, said Joe Victor, vice president of marketing at Allendale Inc., a grain-trading firm in Illinois. "Every day was 98 degrees, no rain. I thought, this crop is in trouble."

The article says a new generation of super-plants had changed the game, and redrawn the map. While genetically modified crops remain controversial overseas, they have become commonplace here. "North Dakota has gone from hardly any soybeans to one of the leading soybean-production states in the United States," said Mike Vande Logt, a vice president at Croplan Genetics. He said that, over the last five years, one could say that the growing region "is moving 60 miles north every year."

The P.Inqu. says in Otter Tail County, northwest of St. Paul, Dave Johnson was out on his tractor in the third week of April, probably the earliest in the season he had ever planted corn. "When I started growing corn almost 40 years ago, we weren't considered in the Corn Belt at all," Johnson said. "We were considered too far north, so the seed companies weren't breeding any corn for this region. Things have changed a lot."

It continues with: Now, those changes are accelerating, shattering old patterns and raising new questions. With genetic engineering, is drought such a big threat anymore? Or weeds? Or bugs? Will more corn growers lead to overproduction? Or will a booming ethanol industry crave the crop?

Agriculture is sorting out the answers, according to the item.

At List; A decade of biotechnology has allowed crop breeders to change a plant's genetic instructions, just as a chef changes a recipe. Here is a sample of what scientists have been coaxing plants to do:

  • Fight bugs. By engineering insect resistance, corn breeders have created ways to fend off destructive pests such as the corn borer and corn rootworm.
  • Battle drought. By protecting plants against insects, scientists have realized a second benefit: better drought tolerance.
  • Grow quickly. Frost-free days are so scarce in North Dakota that growing a decent corn or soybean crop had long been difficult. But now, seeds are better engineered to pop out of chilly ground and start growing.
  • Thrive in crowds. Dave Nicolai, a University of Minnesota extension educator in Hutchinson, said more plants now can be crowded onto every acre, increasing yields and potential revenue.

It says that these magic traits, however, do not come cheap, and not every farmer wants to pay the price. Moreover, genetically modified crop varieties, while becoming commonplace in the United States, face considerable resistance abroad.

To quote Johnson, the Otter Tail County farmer, has wrestled with both issues. So he picks and chooses - planting genetically modified seed when he needs a special trait, but also non-genetically modified soybeans that fetch a premium price. To fight rootworm, he will skip the special seeds, rotate his crops, and pocket the savings.

"We try to outguess the money and the bugs," Johnson said.

Brazilian land savings from technology.

In the past decade, Brazil had almost doubled its cropping production, from about 70 million tonnes in 1994-95 to almost 120mt last year (2005).

Importantly from an environmental perspective, this had been done by using virtually the same land area, Dr (Fave) Neves said.

Dr Marcos Fava Neves is professor of strategy and marketing at the University of Sao Paulo.

Cotton Technology reduces environmental footprint
Cotton Land Usage discussed by Berre Worsham.

A head-to-head comparison
Where the cotton industry may have put the bat on the ball with more authority than the meat industry, however, is in dealing with the issue of organic vs. conventional methods of production.

For example, with the recent move by major retailers to board the organic bandwagon, category leaders such as Wal-Mart have already begin "educating" shoppers on organic's so-called advantages. As reported in the current issue of Southwest Farm Press, a Wal-Mart internal publication states that organically grown cotton saves nearly one ton of pesticides per acre during production.
To me, such a statement is right in league with the "One pound of meat requires 4,000 gallons of water" factoid that activists have long cherished — without any substantive documentation.

Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Inc., plans to take on Wal-Mart over that statement and the larger issue of sustainability. "The reality is that demand for fiber is growing by nine million bale-equivalents per year, worldwide," Worsham told the magazine. "That's either going to be supplied by conventional cotton's best management practices, or it's going to be produced in a factory." In other words, loss of market share to synthetics.

Worsham cited statistics compiled — and publicized — by Cotton Inc. showing that from 1996 to 2004, there was a 17 percent reduction in cotton's "environmental footprint," even as yield per acre increased by 25 percent.

What that means over the long run is that less land is delivering greater tonnage. To anyone familiar with meat production statistics, such progress mirrors the incredible gains in lean muscle mass and carcass yield per animal the meat industry has achieved through better breeding, management and use of various inputs.
Most importantly, Cotton Inc. has developed messaging emphasizing that with only about 90 million acres in the entire world suitable for growing cotton, the supply side of the production equation is critical. Since conventional production produces about 850 pounds of fiber per acre, compared with less than 600 pounds an acre for organic, simple math shows that as organic cotton production increases, available acreage must be pulled out of production of something else — assuming those added acres are even available; I know in Arizona, what used to be cotton country is now pretty much country club — and pulled into growing cotton.
The environmental impact of such a shift, were it even possible, would be monumental.

Cotton pushes south

Thursday, 6 July 2006

Some of Australia's best cotton is being grown in the southern NSW valleys.

Peter Bunce, Australian Classing Services, Wee Waa, NSW, said the cotton coming from NSW's Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Macquarie Valleys was consistently of a high standard.

This season, the Australian cotton crop has had its share of ups and downs.

Early-season cotton was showing signs of high micronaire and at times falling short of base grade (36 staple).

In the northern valleys, there has been a higher proportion of 35 staple and micronaire.

The southern valleys, however, have had an excellent growing season.

According to Mr Bunce, this has enabled the southern valleys to buck the trend, being this year's consistent performer.

"Only one percent of it fell below base grade and 80pc was 37 staple and above," he said.

Traditionally a cooler area, it has missed the very high heat units that threatened to play havoc with cotton in Queensland and northern NSW.

Namoi Cotton's Nic Mahoney, Narromine, described it as the best season on record for the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Valleys.

"Our gin at Hillston is over halfway through ginning, and they are hearing reports of fields going as high as 13b/ha."

SOURCE: Extract from Australian Cotton Outlook to be distributed through Queensland Country Life and The Land, NSW, July 13, 2006

Corn growers have tough decision
Knight-Ridder Tribune
Steve Tarter, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
MANLIUS -- Keith Bolin was cited as saying he is not in favor of growing corn on acreage set aside for a conservation program, adding, "I know that's not what you'd expect to hear from the president of the American Corn Growers Association.
USDA's chief economist Keith Collins was cited as telling Congress last month that farmers looking to plant more corn to meet the nation's demand for ethanol might need to tap into conservation acreage, adding, "If exports and feed use are to be maintained, corn acreage would have to rise to about 90 million acres in 2010, nearly 10 million more than the average planted during 2005 and 2006" and that "4.3 to 7.2 million acres currently enrolled in the CRP could be used to grow corn or soybeans in a sustainable way."
The story says that in 2000, about 6 percent of U.S. corn went into ethanol. This year, it's expected that about 20 percent of the nation's corn would go towards fuel.

Food, fuel, feed or price

By Alan Guebert Special to the Farm Forum

Drop a pebble in the ag policy pond and the resulting ripples seem to rush over many farmers' self-interest. Drop a rock in the deepest ag policy lake, Washington, D.C., and the non-farming wonks there begin searching for solutions to problems that don't exist.

The latest illustration of this curious phenomenon is ethanol, the biggest rock to drop in the U.S. farm pond since the Soviet Union's 1970s grain-buying spree. So big and so loud is the ethanol boom that farmers and their Capitol Hill lobbyists now are beginning to worry over what they see as a future fuel-versus-food fight.

The tussle goes like this: If ethanol demand continues to grow at today's pace, American consumers soon will be forced to choose between corn-based fuel and corn-on-the-cob or corn-fed beef. As such, American farm policy must be redirected now to ensure the nation grows enough corn for fuel, food and feed.

Keith Collins, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sanctioned this view Sept. 6 when, in testimony before the Senate's Environment and Public Works

Committee, he suggested U.S. farmers need to plant 90 million acres to corn by 2010 - or 10 million more than 2006 - to meet USDA's projected food, feed, fuel and export demand.

Indeed, Collins said, the grain demand could become so severe that as much as seven million acres of today's idled 35-million-acre Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) may be required to grow corn in just three years.

Global Resources and Productivity
Keith Wiebe
Global food production has grown faster than population in recent decades, due largely to improved seeds and increased use of fertilizer and irrigation.
Soil degradation, which depends on farmers’ incentives to adopt conservation practices, has slowed yield growth in some areas but does not threaten food security at the global level...

...Area Growth Is Slowing, So Yields Will Become More Important
FAO reports that the total area devoted to crops worldwide has increased by about 0.3 percent per year since 1961, to 3.8 billion acres in 2002. Growth has slowed markedly in the past decade, to about 0.1 percent per year, as a result of weak grain prices, deliberate policy reforms (in North America and Europe), and institutional change (in the former Soviet Union). FAO estimates that an additional 6.7 billion acres currently in other uses are suitable for crop production, but this land is unevenly distributed, and includes land with relatively low yield potential and significant environmental value.
Given economic and environmental constraints on cropland expansion, the bulk of increased crop production will need to come from increased yields on existing cropland. FAO data indicate that world cereal yields rose by about 2.5 percent per year from 1961 to 1990, but growth slowed to 1.1
percent per year in the 1990s (fig. 3.5.3).

As a result of reduced input use (reflecting low cereal prices), market and infrastructure constraints, and low levels of investment in agricultural research and technology, IFPRI and FAO project that yield growth will slow further to about 0.8 percent per year over the next several decades (see Chapter 3.4, “Productivity and Output Growth in U.S. Agriculture”).
Genetic improvements have contributed greatly to gains in yields and production of major crops, beginning with wheat, rice, and maize in the 1960s. About half of all recent gains in crop yields are attributable to genetic improvements. By the 1990s, 90 percent of wheat acreage in developing countries was in scientifically bred varieties, as was 74 percent of land in rice and 62 percent of land in maize. In developed countries, 100 percent of land in wheat, maize, and rice was in scientifically bred varieties by the 1990s (and probably even earlier). Gains from genetic improvements will continue, but likely at slower rates and increasing costs, as gains in input responsiveness have already been largely exploited (see Chapter 3.1, “Crop Genetic Resources”).
Land Use
Ruben Lubowski, Marlow Vesterby and Shawn Bucholtz
The three major uses of land in the 48 contiguous States are grassland pasture and range, forest-use land, and cropland, in that order. Total cropland (used for crops, used for pasture, and idled) declined 6 percent over 1969- 2002. Farm policy changes have reduced the acreage idled under Federal programs since 1996.

Stern report includes discussion on forest preservation. (see hyperlink to GMO Pundit quotes from Stern).

How much will feeding more and wealthier people encroach on forests?
Paul E. Waggoner and Jesse H. Ausubel, January 2000.

also as
Waggoner PE, Ausubel JH (2001) Popul Dev Rev 27:239–257.

The growing forests in industrial nations encourage a hopeful vision of a Great Restoration of nature in the form of a spreading forest canopy.[1] The reforestation supports a vision of restoration even while population continues to grow, albeit at a slowing rate, and the human condition improves. The realization of this hopeful vision rather than an apocalypse of denuded forests and destroyed nature, however, depends heavily upon how people will eat, how farmers will till, and how each change of cropland encroaches on forests.

We examine eating, tilling, and encroachment to answer the big question: How much will growing crops to feed more and wealthier people encroach on forest to the year 2050?

To many, the answer is dire and the proscription of farming clear. For example in November 1999, journalist Ed Ayres[2] wrote in Time magazine, "Agriculture is the world's biggest cause of deforestation, and increasing demand for meat is the biggest force in the expansion of agriculture." Although grazing to produce meat will affect forests, we shall concentrate on the more distinct impact of crops. Crops encompass corn to feed cows, pigs, and chickens as well as wheat, rice, and vegetables for people to eat directly. More cattle on feed rather than pasture, as in the rise from 5% on feed in the USA in 1945 to 12% in 1970[3], and more poultry and swine that depend on feed increase the importance of crops in meat production.

On the ground, of course, farming and forests interact in more ways than can be captured in a popular generalization. Angelsen and Kaimowitz (1999)[4] summarized by Helmuth (1999)[5] analyzed the manifold ways. For example, the magnet of rice growing in an irrigation project in the Philippines drew people to lowlands and reduced pressure on forests. Laborious but profitable production of coca in plantations attracted farmers and reduced pressure on South American forests. Honduran farmers who lifted their maize yields by technology planted twice as much maize as those who did not--but the total land occupied by their cropping system fell because they no longer needed broad fallow areas.

Labor-saving machinery and new crops expand cropland sometimes and some places. The expansion of soybeans encroached on native vegetation, though not on forest, in the Brazilian campo cerrado. Unsurprisingly, small Ecuadorean farmers with chain saws cleared more forest than those without.

A generalization can explain these diverse outcomes. Labor-saving technology encourages cropland encroachment on forests when both labor and the demand for crops are elastic. Recurring farm surpluses, however, testify that cheap food often fails to increase demand. Already in the 17th century Gregory King (1648-1712) noticed that the inelasticity of farm crops could make a bumper crop worth less in total as well as per ton than a skimpy one.[6] For the USA, classic studies show the farm price elasticities of demand vary from a low 0.2 for potatoes to 0.4 to 0.7 for beef, chicken, and apples. In the long run, elasticity at the retail can rise to 0.7 to 1.0 for pork and beef.[7] So, Angelsen and Kaimowitz conclude their generalizations by writing that the best technologies for conserving forests are ones that "greatly improve the yields of products that have inelastic demand."...continues at link
Farmer Management of Production Risk on Degraded Lands: The Role of Wheat Genetic Diversity in Tigray Region, Ethiopia

Abstract: This article investigates the effects of wheat genetic diversity and land degradation on risk and agricultural productivity in less favoured production environments of a developing agricultural economy. Drawing production data from household and plot surveys conducted in the highlands of Ethiopia, we estimate a stochastic production function to evaluate the effects of variety richness, land degradation, and their interaction on the mean and the variance of wheat yield.
Ethiopia is a centre of diversity for durum wheat and farmers manage complex variety mixtures on multiple plots. Econometric evidence shows that variety richness increases productivity and reduces yield variability, while land degradation augments exposure to risk. Simulations with estimated parameters illustrate how farmers mitigate the adverse effects of land degradation on wheat productivity and risk exposure by planting more diverse durum wheat varieties on multiple plots.

Keywords: Wheat genetic diversity; production risk; land degradation; facilitation; Ethiopia

Salvatore Di Falco
CSERGE School of Environmental Sciences University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ United Kingdom
Jean-Paul Chavas
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Taylor Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA
Melinda Smale International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2033 K Street, NW Washington, DC, 20006 - 1002, USA

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