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Thread: Can we sustain current agricultural yields indefinitely?

  1. #1 Can we sustain current agricultural yields indefinitely? 
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    Hi,

    I've heard that finite resources are used to manufacture modern agricultural fertilizers e.g. phosphates. Further, these fertilizers have been a key reason for the high yields since ca. the 1960s.

    So I'm concerned, what will we do once these finite resources have been used up?


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  3. #2  
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    Do you want the population optimists' response? Or the pragmatic response?


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    Definitely pragmatic. I'm not a fan of optimism that flies in the face of reality
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    Most agriculture today uses unsustainable practices due to soil erosion, drawing from underwater aquifers faster than they are being replenished, using irrigation methods with tend to make the soil saltier etc.

    There are practices which are approach sustainability though. Just a few:
    drip arrogation
    development of perennial grains equivalents to annuals
    no-till planting
    systems which apply point fertilization and water only where needed
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    Lynx Fox,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Three follow-up questions.

    1) Would drip irrigation and point fertilization be energy-intensive?

    2) Even point fertilization would require some fertilizer. Are we pushing up against any limitations in terms of raw materials? I know Nauru has already run out of phosphates...

    3) How likely are farmers to take up the improvements you suggested in the near/medium term future?
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  7. #6  
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    Russell

    Humanity can, and will not only sustain agricultural productivity, but will increase it. We have to. Global population will reach 9 to 10 billion before stabilising and possibly reducing.

    Most fertilisers are not in limited supply. Of the three main ones, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, only phosphorus is limited. We have about 80 years proven supply left. However, scientific growth in 80 years is likely to be unbelievable and I would be most surprised if no better method is found by then. For example, phosphorus is found in many seaweeds, and a genetically modified variety that takes up large amounts might be farmed for fertiliser.

    Improvements to agriculture are ongoing and continuous. Irrigation, for example, is becoming more efficient. As the resource becomes scarcer, farmers will use more efficient methods out of pure necessity.

    The place where agricultural productivity is most desperately needed, is also the place where the greatest potential for improvement exists - Africa. Since productivity is currently at a terrible low point, there is massive scope of increase.
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  8. #7 Fertilizers 
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    We should be able to find ways to produce fertilizers from other sources. Here are two examples that may have the potential:

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/organ...og.aspx?page=2

    http://www.espressogrow.com/#!
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    Thanks for the replies.
    I'll check out those links in a bit
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Russell

    Humanity can, and will not only sustain agricultural productivity, but will increase it. We have to. Global population will reach 9 to 10 billion before stabilising and possibly reducing.

    Most fertilisers are not in limited supply. Of the three main ones, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, only phosphorus is limited. We have about 80 years proven supply left. However, scientific growth in 80 years is likely to be unbelievable and I would be most surprised if no better method is found by then. For example, phosphorus is found in many seaweeds, and a genetically modified variety that takes up large amounts might be farmed for fertiliser.

    I.
    When in history has the fact we "have to" ever meant that we did?

    I don't think that's how it will play out. Instead, once the shortages start, we'll pick a group of people and target them to be the ones to bear it. That could mean outright genocide, or just passive genocide (letting them starve to death), but either way we'll do it.

    The question is: how large a scale can we do this on before it provokes someone somewhere to unleash nuclear or biological war?
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    kojax

    Some time ago, I was reading an article on hydroponics. It stated that 1000 sq. m. of such growth is sufficient to support one human, if no animal protein is asked for.

    On that basis, the northernmost one third of Australia (the part with unlimited water) would be sufficient to support 20 billion humans. More than double the total number ever expected to live on planet Earth according to the UN.

    Obviously, Australia is not going to feed humankind, but this shows the potential productivity if we ever need it. The point is that we can feed everyone if we get the politics and the economic system right.

    Your rather nasty and pessimistic prediction is only valid if we end up with a nasty political situation in the future. I cannot predict the future, but this appears to me to be a bit unnecessary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne
    The question then becomes where the heck would Australia get all the water to run such facilities. The "hydro" in hydroponics, means water. Much of the interior is desert, IIRC.
    Use the other two thirds to erect vast solar arrays and desalinate sea water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne
    The question then becomes where the heck would Australia get all the water to run such facilities. The "hydro" in hydroponics, means water. Much of the interior is desert, IIRC.
    That is why I specified the northern one third. That is the monsoon region, and rainfall can be as much as nine metres in a year. It is seasonal - lasting about four to six months, but replenishes the aquifers annually. Anywhere in the northern one third of Australia, you can sink a bore and get all the water you need. Any water you remove will be topped up again the next wet season.

    When I stayed in Wyndham, the lodgings were on stilts. Our hosts told us how, during the wet season, they had to put the cars in a raised garage, and travel everywhere by boat. They would get crocodiles swimming under their house! Mind you - those outback types knew how to tell a tall story!

    In that part of Australia, they talk of two seasons - the Wet, and the Dry.
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature5/

    Further south, of course, you get dreadful desert. But not in the north.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic

    Your rather nasty and pessimistic prediction is only valid if we end up with a nasty political situation in the future. I cannot predict the future, but this appears to me to be a bit unnecessary.
    In other words, my prediction is spot on.

    Plans of action that involve perfect cooperation on the part of an inherently imperfect species are doomed to fail. We have to anticipate that there will be infighting, ignorance, and selfishness in large amounts on all sides of the table. If we can't work around those things then we might as well just give up.

    Hence my preference for population control. It's simple. It's possible, and there's no way to fail accidentally by overestimating our technological potentials.
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    I suppose it all depends upon whether you follow Boserup or Malthus' line of thought regarding food supply issues and the current growing population- Malthus claimed that population is growing geometrically (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16...) and that food supply grows arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5...), whereas Boserup claims that as population grows and we realise the seriousness of the food supply situation, then we will develop new technologies and methods to produce a larger amount of food on a smaller area of land: "Necessity is the mother of invention".
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    Boserup sounds like one of those guys who would have given all the money he could to the alchemists of medieval times in the hope that with sufficient funding and support they might be able to convert lead into gold.

    It's wonderfully optimistic to think we're just going to magically invent our way out of every problem we face, but a little bit dangerous. What happens when necessity has a miscarriage?
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    The solid data implies that the problems are manageable. Food production for the 9 to 10 billion maximum population can easily be achieved. In some parts of the world, fresh water will be a limiting factor, but it has always been a limiting factor.

    Kojax implies that this can be achieved only with perfect cooperation. Not so. Food production will be achieved at the farm face. Perfect cooperation not needed. Just a few billion food producers independently doing their thing and selling the results.

    With better distribution, we could grow enough food for 10 billion today. That will not happen, of course. In places like Africa, there is not enough money to buy the surplus from more productive western nations. However, there is no reason they cannot increase their own agricultural productivity to feed their own people. For example : insects attacking maize in Africa consume the equivalent of food for 80 million people. There is a new GM maize on the way that is toxic to insects, but not to people.

    African agriculture in many places is so inefficient, that simply improving their methods could increase productivity per acre 500%. Even without outside inputs like fertiliser, the productivity can be increase 300% with better education. Guess what the burgeoning internet provides?

    So feeding the 9 to 10 billion can and will be achieved.
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    A common assumption I question, about agriculture, is that "green" (as in foliage) is necessarily good for the environment. We often speak of nature, ecology, and climate all under the heading of "environment", and somehow our pastoral footprint gets included too. Then by fighting brushfires & dustbowls, and irrigating dry lands, we must be helping the environment while helping ourselves. Can we really expect the Earth visibly greener (as seen from space) without altering climate?
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    Pong

    Everything we do alters the climate and alters the natural environment. So what? That has always been the case, and before humans, various animals did the same, albeit to a lesser extent. My favourite example is elephants, which alter the environment by deliberately knocking over acacia trees to eat the leaves. This maintains the African grasslands, preventing forest. That is a massive environmental adjustment.

    So humans plant more crops, and irrigate widely. The environment changes, as it has always done. The climate adjusts - probably cooler due to carbon uptake. Life goes on.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The solid data implies that the problems are manageable. Food production for the 9 to 10 billion maximum population can easily be achieved. In some parts of the world, fresh water will be a limiting factor, but it has always been a limiting factor.
    It means we're trading one limiting factor for another. We extend our arable land, and now we don't have enough fresh water. Either way we run into unmanageable shortages.


    Kojax implies that this can be achieved only with perfect cooperation. Not so. Food production will be achieved at the farm face. Perfect cooperation not needed. Just a few billion food producers independently doing their thing and selling the results.


    With better distribution, we could grow enough food for 10 billion today. That will not happen, of course. In places like Africa, there is not enough money to buy the surplus from more productive western nations. However, there is no reason they cannot increase their own agricultural productivity to feed their own people. For example : insects attacking maize in Africa consume the equivalent of food for 80 million people. There is a new GM maize on the way that is toxic to insects, but not to people.

    How do we know the new food won't skew the UN's population predictions? Maybe everyone suddenly decides there's more room and starts upping their family size?

    I think if the human population just so happens, all on its own, by coincidence to decide to stop itself at the sustainable limit, that would be like taking a vacation to Las Vegas and coming home with a lot of money. Usually, getting the right result requires deliberate effort, but I don't want to say getting lucky is impossible.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    A common assumption I question, about agriculture, is that "green" (as in foliage) is necessarily good for the environment. We often speak of nature, ecology, and climate all under the heading of "environment", and somehow our pastoral footprint gets included too. Then by fighting brushfires & dustbowls, and irrigating dry lands, we must be helping the environment while helping ourselves. Can we really expect the Earth visibly greener (as seen from space) without altering climate?
    That would be so ironic if it turned out badly. On the plus side, it would result in a lot of carbon capture, which would offset CO2 emissions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax

    How do we know the new food won't skew the UN's population predictions? Maybe everyone suddenly decides there's more room and starts upping their family size?
    Population growth increase comes from not being able to use birth control. Most of the world now has access. If you want to slow population growth even more, lobby for birth control aid. More food will not make people have more kids. In fact, the data clearly shows that greater resources mean smaller families.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax

    How do we know the new food won't skew the UN's population predictions? Maybe everyone suddenly decides there's more room and starts upping their family size?
    Population growth increase comes from not being able to use birth control. Most of the world now has access. If you want to slow population growth even more, lobby for birth control aid. More food will not make people have more kids. In fact, the data clearly shows that greater resources mean smaller families.
    When women view motherhood & housewife to breadwinner as their best "career" option, they must have children. In a lot of poor countries girls are right to take this role, because only men (husbands) earn real money. Where women expect equal pay (Denmark, communist China), the birthrate drops. This is not the same as "greater resources", for example post-war baby-booms occur when men displace women from the workforce and then receive salaries designed to support wife and kids.

    I'm sorry man, but saying these women need contraceptives is saying let them eat cake. Try to understand the realistic prospects for a girl wishing to secure her future in a sexist economy.
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    Pong

    That is bulldust!

    To become a wife and mother does not require six kids. One or two is enough.

    More importantly, the observed facts are clear. Wealthier families are smaller families. Give people what they need, through improved economies and reduced government corruption, and they will have fewer kids - assuming they have access to contraceptives. This has been proven time and again through actual observation of people.

    In fact, most of the wealthier communities have negative population growth. That is, on average each couple has fewer than 2 kids. The poorest nations have highest fertility and the richest have lowest.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...fertility_rate

    Niger, one of the world's poorest nations is worst at just over 7. Lowest birth rates are Macau and Hong Kong, though that is forced upon them. A whole lot of other, wealthier nations like Japan have fertility around 1.2.

    The relationship between fertility and wealth by nation is clearly shown in : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TFR_vs_PPP_2009.svg
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    Are the observed facts clear? I find wage disparity highest in the poorest of countries (that itself could be an argument for equalizing wages to increase wealth). In other words your list of wealthy countries nearly matches my list of wage-parity countries.

    The states you mentioned conform well with my hypothesis. Niger: women can't expect to earn anything like men, so they secure support through marriage. Hong Kong: the state forces equal opportunity in schooling and career, so women, given the option, rather earn a paycheck than raise children. It's not that they're very wealthy relative to the rest of the world; it's that they aren't dependent on Hong Kong men. They gain nothing by having a man's children, besides the children.



    I also find, historically, economic booms coincided with baby booms - how do you explain that? Why'd you expect future economic booms to be different?

    More to the pith: Have you any idea why wealth would lower birthrate?
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    Pong

    If women got married only to ensure wealth or financial support, why do rich women marry? Marriage for women is an intensely emotional thing, and is due to their most basic instincts. While is clear evidence that marriage partner selection, for women, is related to the ability to provide support, almost all males that are total wash outs, and cannot provide support, still find wives.

    The basic reason women get married is their biological instincts drive them to it. Not their desire for money, though that desire may affect mate selection.

    In Hong Kong, the rate of child birth is low due to government regulation. That does not explain the very low rate in Japan, though, where most couples have only one child. For them, it is high standard of living coupled with universal access to contraception.

    The link between economic booms and childbirth booms? The one I know best is the baby boomer one, and that followed the return of millions of men from WWII. These young men then got married and started making babies. The economic boom was the return to work of all that productive labour.

    Why would wealth lower birthrate?
    There was an article on that in New Scientist some time back. They noted that, in the animal kingdom, short lived species reproduced earlier and more often than long lived species. The suggestion is that humans obey the same rule. Poor people live shorter lives than richer people, and their instincts gear them to start making babies earlier, and more often.

    I am not sure I agree totally with this, but the hypothesis is there for you to consider. I would be inclined to put it down to feelings of security or insecurity. If poor, we are insecure, and having a family links us into feelings of togetherness and security. But that is just my own hypothesis and is just as likely to be wrong.
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    I think there's something to both points.

    Rich women do get married less though.

    And there's also the fact that after WWII women were in large part tossed off the job as the men returned. Note the baby boom continued decades after WWII only decreasing at the convergence of availability of the pill contraception and advent of 60's women's rights movement.

    Heck the marriage career option was so obvious that it was widely popularized. During that time many women entering college to obtain an "mrs" degrees (a largely true stereotype).


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    Are there any nations with truly sustainable agriculture yet? Isn't it true that even the "greenest" farms in the US are still loosing soil making them unsustainable in the long run?
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    We pump oil over considerably longer distances than we would have to pump desalinated sea water. You have raised a non-existent problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The basic reason women get married is their biological instincts drive them to it.
    I prefer to think people's life decisions are smart ones, appropriate to their particular conditions. We aren't dumb animals.

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    In Hong Kong, the rate of child birth is low due to government regulation. That does not explain the very low rate in Japan, though, where most couples have only one child. For them, it is high standard of living coupled with universal access to contraception
    Quibble: The decreased birthrate of China isn't forced. People aren't penalized for having more than one child. More accurately, the welfare state provides significant assistance for a single child, but no further incentive for having additional children. Women make an essentially financial calculation, and find they're better off having that one child stay with grandma while both parents work outside the home.

    Japan is no champion of contraception, since less than 1% of Japanese women use the Pill. This shows us that a nation may have very low birthrate without that, if the women truly desire less children.

    I really believe you could better appreciate which conditions compel girls to choose motherhood. Some misunderstanding is forgivable since people must prevaricate about this, before and of course after the fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I would be inclined to put it down to feelings of security or insecurity. If poor, we are insecure, and having a family links us into feelings of togetherness and security. But that is just my own hypothesis and is just as likely to be wrong.
    That made me think of traditional Canadian farming families, often very large, where the children are regarded as so many "mouths to feed". To a farmer the security in raising larger herds of children would be obvious. And if you're cooking for six, the additional effort of feeding eight is negligible.

    But what if you have heightened expectations for your children? Like you want yours to get ahead of the other kids, in a more competitive environment? Then the investment one could make in a single child is bottomless. It would be better to put all your energy into raising one superchild.

    :| That brings us back to gender equality. Because if girls aren't viable superchildren mothers will continue to make babies 'till they get a boy.
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    I think access to pension plans probably weighs in quite a lot. Nobody wants to be old, childless, and destitute. In a society where pensions or 401k is a likely outcome of your work career, you'd probably want to save money anywhere you can to put into your investment portfolio or home mortgage (a home which you'll probably sell when you retire.)

    In a society without those things, your family is your investment plan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I would be inclined to put it down to feelings of security or insecurity. If poor, we are insecure, and having a family links us into feelings of togetherness and security. But that is just my own hypothesis and is just as likely to be wrong.
    That made me think of traditional Canadian farming families, often very large, where the children are regarded as so many "mouths to feed". To a farmer the security in raising larger herds of children would be obvious. And if you're cooking for six, the additional effort of feeding eight is negligible.
    The problem of feeding them when they're yet young is negligible as you point out. The trouble is that they won't be young forever. Some day they're going to want to leave home, buy some land, and have their own brood of farm helpers.

    You see the problem? Those idiots feel secure because they already own their own acreage, but they can't just subdivide that land into 8 plots if they have 8 kids, so they have to count on those kids being able to go out and buy plots of their own if the tradition is to continue. But if there's a lot of farm families, then there won't be more and more farm plots out there to buy ad infinitum, so this massive pyramid scheme ultimately ends somewhere with a generation that has no access to land, and no skills to make a living any other way.


    But what if you have heightened expectations for your children? Like you want yours to get ahead of the other kids, in a more competitive environment? Then the investment one could make in a single child is bottomless. It would be better to put all your energy into raising one superchild.

    :| That brings us back to gender equality. Because if girls aren't viable superchildren mothers will continue to make babies 'till they get a boy.
    Super children unfortunately leads to education plans like "no child left behind" that penalizes any child who brings a superior IQ to the table, because nobody wants a silly consideration like a lack of natural aptitude to stand in the way of their own super child's dream of success.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    In fact, most of the wealthier communities have negative population growth. That is, on average each couple has fewer than 2 kids
    Unfortunately, even such very low fertility has not led to actual declines in population over any relevant (multigenerational) time scale.

    Not only do we see longevity and "baby boom" effects, so that even with very low fertility the populations continue to grow for the time being, but also with very low fertility, these countries have been importing people to support their wealth.

    Any actual declines are very modest, usually involve emigration, and seem apparently temporary.
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Everything we do alters the climate and alters the natural environment. So what?
    So if we ruin what we care about and depend on, our lives will be poor and miserable.
    Quote Originally Posted by lynn
    Are there any nations with truly sustainable agriculture yet?
    There are regions with agricultural civilizations of hundreds of years' duration - some places in Korea and Japan, some islands in the Pacific, etc.

    Modern agriculture is too new to be sustainable - we are still figuring it out. But there are many farms in the US, especially the "organic" or other specialized kind (some Amish, etc), that have more and better topsoil now than they did 75 years ago after the pioneer degradations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    Unfortunately, even such very low fertility has not led to actual declines in population over any relevant (multigenerational) time scale.



    Modern agriculture is too new to be sustainable - we are still figuring it out. But there are many farms in the US, especially the "organic" or other specialized kind (some Amish, etc), that have more and better topsoil now than they did 75 years ago after the pioneer degradations.
    First, such low fertility is definitely causing a drop in population. In Japan, the government is so worried about this that they are dreaming up schemes to financially reward women who have more than 2 children. Japan now has a population lower than 100 million.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2...opulation.html

    On top soil. The biggest increase in topsoil in places like the USA is currently coming from 'no-till' agriculture, in which the soil is never plowed. Seeds are planted with needle injectors, and weeds are killed with glyphosate, and left as mulch to grow the soil.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-till_farming
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    On top soil. The biggest increase in topsoil in places like the USA is currently coming from 'no-till' agriculture, in which the soil is never plowed. Seeds are planted with needle injectors, and weeds are killed with glyphosate, and left as mulch to grow the soil.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-till_farming
    I haven't read about a single example of soil increase in the US. If you can show some from an actually working farm I'd like to read it. I noted already that no-till is excellent means to reduce soil loss. The biggest reason is to build soil the farmer has to plant cover crops which means loosing a year or two every so often of actual production--I think that's exceedingly uncommon right now. I also think in the long term some combination of perennial crops, no-till and drip irrigation systems, with cover crop years when the perennials need replacing will eventually be common and truly sustainable. We're a long ways from that.

    The earlier biofarm vid series posted above was excellent. I found it's ideas of forest farms based more on tree nut production particularly interesting.
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  34. #33  
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    Here is a Sciam article on soil conservation and addition using no-till agriculture.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...cfm?id=no-till
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    Unfortunately, even such very low fertility has not led to actual declines in population over any relevant (multigenerational) time scale.



    Modern agriculture is too new to be sustainable - we are still figuring it out. But there are many farms in the US, especially the "organic" or other specialized kind (some Amish, etc), that have more and better topsoil now than they did 75 years ago after the pioneer degradations.
    First, such low fertility is definitely causing a drop in population. In Japan, the government is so worried about this that they are dreaming up schemes to financially reward women who have more than 2 children. Japan now has a population lower than 100 million.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2...opulation.html
    I think that's mostly driven by the desire to maintain a favorable young-to-old ratio. Any long term population stability situation, with a low early death rate, would involve a ratio that isn't overly favorable, where there are almost exactly as many people aged 20-30 as aged 50-60, and the number of people aged 60-70 not being way too far out of range. Naturally it's hard to keep an economy going when a substantial share of your population is retired.

    Unfortunately, the only way to keep a favorable ratio is to perpetually grow the population, or have a massive genocidal war every few decades. It's a short sighted concern that needs to be addressed another way.
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    That is correct.

    Japan had an even bigger 'baby boom' leap in population than the west, as soldiers returned after WWII. These baby boomers are now approaching or have reached retirement, and are now a burden on the economy. The number over 60 outnumber those below 21. Average longevity in Japan is high at 82, which exacerbates this situation.

    The point, though, is that prosperity brought a major drop in birth rate, at 1.2 children per couple. This is happening world wide, with fertility dropping as prosperity increases and birth control becomes more widely available.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Unfortunately, the only way to keep a favorable ratio is to perpetually grow the population, or have a massive genocidal war every few decades. It's a short sighted concern that needs to be addressed another way.
    Or revise our societal expectations. Most 50-60 years old and a sizable number of people are quite capable of being productive well into their 70s. As our aging health improves our aging expectations haven't and now become an excepted entitlement. No one should expect society to pay for their last 20 years--but that's what we've created.
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    http://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Air-Je.../dp/0307351785

    Nice background information on the War of the Pacific as well as the tragic figure of Haber. Recommended.

    Documentary called "King Corn", also nice to know SOME Americans are curious about what's on their plate and how it gets there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Unfortunately, the only way to keep a favorable ratio is to perpetually grow the population, or have a massive genocidal war every few decades. It's a short sighted concern that needs to be addressed another way.
    Or revise our societal expectations. Most 50-60 years old and a sizable number of people are quite capable of being productive well into their 70s. As our aging health improves our aging expectations haven't and now become an excepted entitlement. No one should expect society to pay for their last 20 years--but that's what we've created.
    Yes, if the old farts cannot work anymore, send them to the dog food plant- after all, what do these useless eaters have to offer society? All they have to look forward to is years of senile incontinence anyway! Plus they keep USING our shiny new medical technology and THAT costs MONEY! MY money!!!

    Indeed! And no one should expect society to pay for their FIRST twenty years either! Put those urchins to work! Let them PAY for their education by damn, and then maybe they will not write "EXCEPTED" when they MEAN "ACCEPTED"! End the socialistic free ride before the little whippersnappers come to expect anything! That's my platform, and massive cuts in property taxes for everyone!

    If we send those kids to the mines or out on boats to fish for our suppers there's a good chance enough of them will die before puberty to take care of this pesky population surplus as well!
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    Regardless of population, clever farming methods can create arable land rather than depleting it, and an integration of small scale farming (think bacteria, algae, fish, vegetables) into cities can result in food without the environmental costs of other farming methods.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_paw...hitecture.html

    Take the link above. The project in the desert that guy talks of is nothing short amazing. It creates power, fresh water, food, pushes arable land into a desert, prevents desertification, provides rudimentary building materials, and even supplies f other elements found in seawater. The problem being, it needs a gigantic initial investment.

    Or this, which is admittedly less immediately foreseeable: http://blog.ted.com/2010/07/02/dont_build_your/

    You get the idea, convert wastes into resources for other aspects of production, and eventually a man made self contained ecosystem will result, whether on a scale as large as a desert or as small as a house. Projects like the two above could produce huge quantities of food, one in a centralised fashion, the other decentralised (if a bit strange).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistereduser
    The problem being, it needs a gigantic initial investment.
    And that's a common problem to many great ideas, and often a difficult one to mitigate. Hence, such is our current situation, and potential future challenges.
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    The desert project is very interesting. I'm currently working on a project where we are using the same type of evaporative media that was shown in the greenhouse - it's called Munters evaporative media in case anyone's interested - to cool air which is then used to cool process fluids. The project is in a semi-arid region, and the water evaporated is an expensive resource consumed. Now I'm thinking, grow tomatoes inside the cooled and humid structure...
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Japan had an even bigger 'baby boom' leap in population than the west, as soldiers returned after WWII.
    Not many horny Japanese sailors returned actually. Post-war romance didn't drive the boom (though it makes great cinema). What happened, as in the West, was a concerted restructuring of the economy amid... well... peace!

    A utopia was planned and built in which men would be the sole breadwinners of respectably-sized families, the women staying home and wishing hubby get promoted. A woman's job was to have children. Many women bought into this.

    Japan still holds dear a lot of 1950's stereotype family ideal that would seem quaint or downright degrading in the West. Wife in slippers & apron waving from the kitchen kinda thing. A few differences though: Firstly, there just isn't space in a normal home to accomodate many children. I think you've got to see that first hand to really grasp how cramped people's lives - and life decisions - are. This can only get worse. Secondly, the competition to advance a child is intense, and intensifing. If you have to divide time and energy between three children, they will all fail.

    The second bit about investing more in fewer children, to raise superkids, I can see that supporting your theory that prosperity lowers birthrate. It is actually the demands of a competitive job market decreasing family size.

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The point, though, is that prosperity brought a major drop in birth rate, at 1.2 children per couple.
    Well, if you asked anybody in 1950 (vs. say 1930 or 1940) "are you prosperous?" the answer would be YES! The baby-boom occured within the economic boom. So which prosperity are you referring to, Skeptic?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Well, if you asked anybody in 1950 (vs. say 1930 or 1940) "are you prosperous?" the answer would be YES! The baby-boom occured within the economic boom. So which prosperity are you referring to, Skeptic?
    The baby boom may have represented perceived prosperity. Sure. But there were, as I pointed out, other factors involved in causing a higher birth rate. The recent prosperity did not coincide with those other factors, and the birth rate has fallen. I am suggesting that prosperity is a major factor in lowering birth rate. But it is not the only factor affecting birth rate.

    I strongly suspect that modern birth control methods are a big part of the current low birth rate also.
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  45. #44 Re: Can we sustain current agricultural yields indefinitely? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by russell_c_cook
    Hi,

    I've heard that finite resources are used to manufacture modern agricultural fertilizers e.g. phosphates. Further, these fertilizers have been a key reason for the high yields since ca. the 1960s.

    So I'm concerned, what will we do once these finite resources have been used up?
    Using Haber process nitrogen from air is made so nitrogen, No problem!
    Until we are running out of air, anyway.

    As for phosphorous, in many parts of world, sewage must be treated to remve phosphorous, which provides ready source of same.

    Potassium reserves are estimated in excess of 10 billion tonnes.

    NPK fertilizers look to be available for some time accordingly.
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    Apologies for dragging Skeptic off on this tangent:

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I strongly suspect that modern birth control methods are a big part of the current low birth rate also.
    You keep saying this, but it's dead wrong for Japan. Japanese birth conrtol is primitive. The Pill was not legalized until 1999, and today only prostitutes and foreigners will touch it; doctors discourage it. Normally women use a condom only when they think they're fertile, or when they suspect a partner might have an STD. That's it. The abortion rate is a bit higher than USA.

    Japan demonstrates that a country may have low birthrate without any contraceptive aid from government or NGOs, if that is what the population really wants.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    The desert project is very interesting. I'm currently working on a project where we are using the same type of evaporative media that was shown in the greenhouse - it's called Munters evaporative media in case anyone's interested - to cool air which is then used to cool process fluids. The project is in a semi-arid region, and the water evaporated is an expensive resource consumed. Now I'm thinking, grow tomatoes inside the cooled and humid structure...
    Why not "Pomatoes", using improved genetic technology and as both potato and tomato are members of nightshade family, it should be simple matter to combine fruit AND tuber-producing plants into one! Looking forward to your reply on "Eutrophication" thread, which may be relevant, Prince salutes all dotcomrades!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I strongly suspect that modern birth control methods are a big part of the current low birth rate also.
    You keep saying this, but it's dead wrong for Japan. Japanese birth conrtol is primitive. The Pill was not legalized until 1999, and today only prostitutes and foreigners will touch it; doctors discourage it. Normally women use a condom only when they think they're fertile, or when they suspect a partner might have an STD. That's it. The abortion rate is a bit higher than USA.

    Japan demonstrates that a country may have low birthrate without any contraceptive aid from government or NGOs, if that is what the population really wants.
    You are correct in this. But I said 'contraceptives' - not 'the pill'. It is true that the pill is not widely used. However, condoms are, and I count condoms as a contraceptive. Japanese women are fully capable of using contraceptives very effectively, and they do.
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    In two most populous nations on Earth, India and China, female infanticide is persistent problem. Is Prince alone in concern for future consequences of sex imbalance?

    And could we return to topic of food production and investigate population dynamics on another thread? Only a suggestion, dotcomrades.
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    The joint annual OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook
    2010-1029 report, issued June 15, announces that the British
    oligarchy's policy of mass death of a large portion of the
    world's population by starvation, is now the official policy of
    the UN and OECD for the populations in the world. The report
    asserts: "Higher agricultural commodity prices here to stay,"
    noting that the higher food costs "will undermine food security,
    especially for the poor who spend a significant share of their
    budgets on food." It admits that at least one billion people are
    now estimated to be undernourished, a gross underestimate.

    According to the report, average wheat and coarse grain
    prices will be 15-40% higher over the next 10 years (adjusted for
    inflation) than they were during the 1997-2006 period. Real
    prices for vegetable oils are expected to be more than 40%
    higher, and dairy products 16-45% higher. A senior economist for
    the FAO said that over the next 10 years, meat prices will be 30%
    higher than in the last decade. These estimates depend on a large
    anticipated increase in food production in Russia, Ukraine,
    Brazil, China, and India--which will not happen as the world
    economy implodes due to the bankrupt monetary system. So in fact,
    the situation will be even worse.

    The report attempts to place the blame for what they see as
    a prolonged period of inordinately high food prices on objective
    factors, such as higher energy costs raising the price of
    production, demand for biofuels, and the rapid growth in Asia and
    South America, which is creating more demand for food and feed.

    The report rules out speculation as a causative factor in
    the sky-rocketing prices: There is "...no convincing evidence
    that positions held by index traders or swap dealers impact
    market returns. The Task Force on Commodity Futures Markets,
    established by the International Organization of Security
    Commissions [the fox guarding the henhouse] to look into these
    matters, reviewed the available research and came to the
    conclusion that they `do not support the proposition that the
    activity of speculators has systematically driven commodity
    market cash or futures prices up or down on a sustained basis.'"
    The report also cited the October 2008 IMF World Economic
    Outlook, which concluded "that there was no evidence of a long
    term systemic effect due to speculation on commodity prices...."

    The report concludes that to solve the problem,production
    will have to be increased, and "a well functioning, rules-based
    trading system will be crucial to fair competition and to ensure
    that food can move from surplus to deficit production areas,"
    i.e. no protectionism for purposes of developing local food
    production to create food security, is to be allowed.

    Coincidence or fact?
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  51. #50  
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    The report concludes that to solve the problem,production
    will have to be increased, and "a well functioning, rules-based
    trading system will be crucial to fair competition and to ensure
    that food can move from surplus to deficit production areas,"
    i.e. no protectionism for purposes of developing local food
    production to create food security, is to be allowed.

    Coincidence or fact?
    Your summation of the report and your conclusion is not logically connected.
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  52. #51  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    The report concludes that to solve the problem,production
    will have to be increased, and "a well functioning, rules-based
    trading system will be crucial to fair competition and to ensure
    that food can move from surplus to deficit production areas,"
    i.e. no protectionism for purposes of developing local food
    production to create food security, is to be allowed.

    Coincidence or fact?
    Your summation of the report and your conclusion is not logically connected.
    ARE not logically connected, dotcomrade. So OK, speculation in foodstuffs is not a factor in shortages of same? Yes or no, and because why? Prince thinks wild swings in price and unpredictability of yield are detrimental to supplies despite report of report, what is he missing here?

    Most commodity futures are purchased by parties not involved in production at all, middlemen, gamblers, not producers, but parasites.
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    Quote Originally Posted by talks like a bot
    what is he missing here?
    Any argument that links "a well functioning, rules-based
    trading system will be crucial to fair competition and to ensure
    that food can move from surplus to deficit production areas,"
    with the statement that "protectionism for purposes of developing local food
    production to create food security, is to be allowed."
    The first sentence neither excludes other means to make food affordable nor make them prohibited as you suggest. Furthermore you've presented absolutely no argument that supports your extreme conclusion.
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    Under status quo, "free trade" is rule, protectionism and domestic food security are excluded, providing field day for previously described parasites turning food production into casino-like sideshow. Who benefits? Bearers of prosperity gene. Who pays cost? Hungry untermenschen.

    It is old financier swindle, shares of stock, deeds, mortgages, commodity futures, carbon emission credits under cap-and-trade scenario, no matter. Items are manipulated in price, operators of market buy low and sell high, suckers buy high and sell low, and real assets represented by market tokens described above take beating, as do those dependent upon real production. Naturally control of press facilitates this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    Under status quo, "free trade" is rule, protectionism and domestic food security are excluded, providing field day for previously described parasites turning food production into casino-like sideshow.
    You're ranting and making broad brush assertions without any supporting evidence or argument.
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  56. #55  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    Under status quo, "free trade" is rule, protectionism and domestic food security are excluded, providing field day for previously described parasites turning food production into casino-like sideshow.
    You're ranting and making broad brush assertions without any supporting evidence or argument.
    Is common knowledge. Operation of commodity markets is open to all, financial types seek to make quick "killing", telling term. This is illustrated in popular culture, old movie "Trading Places", etc. Generally negative impact on production due to volatility which is exaggerated by media manipulation.

    Of course, compounding matters is similar speculation in currencies, also on markets, also rigged in favor of house, house being financial Establishment based in City of London and Wall Street.
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    More broad garbage. It's not common knowledge at all and I dispute your idea. I've never seen "trading places" but I doubt anyone should consider it a credible economical model.

    Can you at least try to put together an argument?
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  58. #57  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    More broad garbage. It's not common knowledge at all and I dispute your idea. I've never seen "trading places" but I doubt anyone should consider it a credible economical model.

    Can you at least try to put together an argument?
    What, you don't think you could open commodity trading account today? Actually, it is Sunday, markets are closed, bad example.

    All you need is money.

    Briefly, bets are placed on whether price goes up, "long" or down, "short". Information can be controlled, manipulated, as in screenplay, to bilk suckers out of money, none of which producer ever sees, whether it is copper, pork bellies or dollars being produced.

    With me so far?
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    Listen, Elmo. You're suggestions are not hard to follow, despite the nonsensical way you express them illeistically. People bet on commodities and make lots of money, which often drives up prices (which hurts consumers who don't make lots of money) and this speculation (gambling) often hurts people who produce those commodities since less cash per unit is available to go to them for their efforts.

    What's your point?

    This is a thread about sustainable agriculture and crop yields keeping pace with population and demand. It's not about market gamesmanship or the gap between the rich and the poor.


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    International trade in food is not terribly relevent to the poorest of the poor, anyway. This is especially true for Africa, where a seriously large fraction of that malnutrition is going on. The need is for local agriculture and food production. In Africa, the potential is there. Food growing is so inefficient that, in many places, production per acre can be increased five fold, using the best modern techniques.

    The biggest problem is, as always, government corruption. Even when foreign aid is set up to develop that agriculture, it is stymied by government. Good government encourages agriculture and encourages infrastructure for the marketing and distribution of agricultural products.

    You only have to look at Zimbabwe to see how massive the effect was. Before Mugabe began taking over (meaning stealing) people's farms, Zimbabwe was a wealthy nation by African standards, and exported food. Hunger was unknown. Today it is a very poor nation, with malnutrition and human misery, and food aid required just to feed the people today. Mugabe's corruption drove that nation into poverty.
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    Mugabe is or was good British tool, Knight Grand Cross Order of the Bath(annulled).

    Is government "stealing" when taxing property owners for schools?

    Why is Cecil Rhodes stealing better than Mugabe stealing?

    Disparity of rich vs poor is a factor in all policies, agricultural included, smart guys should recognize this.
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    Prince

    Are you trying to justify Mugabe's actions?
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    You need protectionism because any acre of land anywhere on Earth that is not going to use is just plain wasted. Destructive competition, like one farmer killing off another farmer's farm by under selling them is just plain ridiculous unless the winning farmer takes over the loser's lands and starts growing food on them.

    The goal is for every country everywhere to maximize all the land in its borders. Then food wouldn't be so scarce. Unless.... of course.... the population simply grows to a newer higher level, in which case we'd be right back where we started.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    In two most populous nations on Earth, India and China, female infanticide is persistent problem. Is Prince alone in concern for future consequences of sex imbalance?

    And could we return to topic of food production and investigate population dynamics on another thread? Only a suggestion, dotcomrades.

    It's an easy imbalance to solve. Just reward families that have daughters better than families that don't. In the case of China, they could change the one child rule to be a 1 child if it's a boy, 2 children if they're girls, rule. Problem solved.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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