Winder says, “This affects the vital supply chain of food that is felt by farmers around the world. Not only are farmers needing to adapt to these changing conditions in an attempt to generate ever increasing yields from their farmlands they are also trying to find ways to contribute to being part of the solution of damaging the earths climate.”
Sustainability has become a watchword for many in the agricultural sector
“The recent and on-going drought on the US breadbasket, which has been described as the worst in over half a decade, has heightened the seriousness of the problem. Similarly, the drought in East Africa has caused a devastating famine. The real impact on prices and shortages, particularly on corn and soya beans, the US’ biggest crops, remains to be seen considering that the United States exports more than 30% of all wheat, corn, and rice on the global market. This month, the United States Department of Agriculture forecast a corn crop that is down 13% on 2011 and a soybean harvest 12% down on last year,” says Winder.
We can expect to see these kinds of weather problems cropping up more regularly around the world and farmers with governments need to start working on the means to combat these problems.
“While more carbon in the atmosphere may help some plants, the warmer temperatures can also retard growth, the opposite is also true, uncommon rainfall and floods can be just as devastating to crops. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which can lead to unusual rain patterns. The floods in Pakistan in 2010 caused food prices to soar as thousand of acres of crops where decimated. In addition, the biological make up of the soil is vital to crop growth and extreme temperatures can have an adverse effect on these, destroying the delicate balance in the soil required for efficient growth. Despite the effect on plants, extreme weather conditions can drastically effect livestock and their breeding, as well as parasites which pose a risk to farm animals.”
“As demand for food increases with the growing world population, we’re seeing increased impact in shortfalls in food production. It extends much further than simple crop yields. Many of these crops are in turn feed for livestock, which creates a multi-tiered and interconnected problem when it comes down to food supply around the world. A more political aspect of this problem is the ingoing food wastage and spoilage we’re seeing in many nations, especially the richer ones. What is needed is greater efficiency in the logistics of food management and international distribution in order to move food between high and low demand areas,” explains Winder.
One of the biggest contributors to both depleting the soils nutrients and effecting the environment is the overuse or inexperienced use of fertilisers. In order to increase crop yields many farmers will resort to increasing their fertiliser usage without a proper understanding of the soils requirements, effectively spending more, depleting the soil of nutrients and releasing more harmful chemicals into the environment. With the right soil management and an analysis of the soil, fertiliser usage can often be drastically reduced with much better results. The problem has become so pervasive that in countries like India, the government subsidisation of fertilisers has been stopped altogether in an effort to get fertiliser usage under control.
“We’re already beginning to see surges in food prices themselves as demand outstrips supply. We’re just not stepping up to the challenge of managing our food production and distribution effectively enough. Many farmers are actually looking for ways to change their farming systems but are unsure of which way to turn, in many cases it is simply a lack of knowledge or where to find the right knowledge. Science is been turned to more than ever before as adverse weather and overplanted soil start impacting on crops. To know what’s coming and be prepared for it will go a long way to circumventing food disasters in the near future, governments need to start investing in and implementing policies and procedures to adapt to coming changes,” concludes Winder.
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