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Author Topic: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD  (Read 253585 times)

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #50 on: July 10, 2013, 09:00:56 PM »
You seem outraged in some way by what Battisti and Naylor presented.  I think that they did a pretty good job though I would like to see an update taking into account the last 4 years of data to see if their charts changed much. It is not like they are wild optimists or anything like that as their projections indicate eventual catastrophe.

Hmm, I'm not sure what I said that sounded outraged - not at all - I think it's a useful contribution, just I'd have liked to see a bit more nuance and detail especially in the lead in to 2050. That - and I'm not sure how convincing the benchmark of "hotter than ever before" is in the sense that that allows for plenty of temperatures that aren't quite as hot as all time records but are still damaging to output.

Nonetheless, those are damning long term projections for agricultural output and the lag with which the climatic system responds means that immediate action would be required to affect them.

One of the things about global food production which needs to be kept in mind is that our recent years food shortages in various countries which precipitated problems (Tunisia, Egypt, etc.) are NOT due to a shortage of food production.  The crises were caused by two main factors.  1.  Affordability.  In other words there was plenty of grain but some could not afford to buy it.  2.  Food to fuel programs.  The price of the grain was artificially high due to grain to fuel conversion programs designed to pad the pockets of the agriculture industry.  In other words welfare politics is disrupting the market. 

I agree entirely - there is plenty of slack if biofuels are cut out, wastage reduced, the effects of affluence on diet mitigated (ie people don't consume so much meat) and purchasing power better distributed so all people could at least afford food.

My problem is - I'm not convinced those things are going to be resolved, however logical and rational it would be to do so.

One of the dire implications of the 2050 chart is that major drops in yields in the tropics (they ARE in critical territory by then) will have set in by 2050 so there is going to be some starvation in Africa and other locations before then.  At first due to affordability and then due to shortages.  For them collapse will come sooner than to us.  But it always was going to work out that way.  So maybe by your way of counting this means that collapse comes a little sooner than 2050?  I admittedly count differently.

I think we broadly agree on the implications of collapse. Certainly, when I use the term I am talking about more than economic or financial collapse as occurred in Russia and Argentina during respective debt defaults (as was accompanied by some decay in social cohesion, but was ultimately recoverable).

My definition requires widespread conflict, general disintegration of social cohesion, followed or accompanied by widespread famine and a high mortality rate (and a greatly reduced and technologically limited final population level). Clearly for global collapse that must have reached virtually everywhere (as opposed to just a few societies as is pretty much normal historically).

I don't think we really disagree about the input factors? I may be ascribing different weights to some of them - or I might be tossing in a larger precautionary fudge factor for "unknown unknowns". I also don't think it's only about agriculture - but also about the behaviour of large angry populations.

Perhaps I could cite Syria as an example illustrating my thinking? They experienced adverse agricultural conditions via drought (quite likely influenced a bit by climate change) and a food price shock. They proceeded into what I think it's fair to call a civil war, which has now greatly further reduced their agricultural output. If you look at climatic factors and agriculture alone - I don't think you would predict their current agricultural output accurately? Clearly, right now they should still be able to grow a significant amount of food - just - they're too busy fighting...

I ascribe quite a high weight to the synergistic interplay of related factors in their ability to rapidly worsen and accelerate the situation - you may think the overall system is more resilient in this respect.

Another example of my thinking - how secure long term do you think Morocco is? They supply, unless I'm mistaken, the majority of the agricultural phosphates used by Europe. That's another factor I weigh fairly heavily - reliance upon less stable regions for key resources (which get a lot more expensive if you need to fight wars for them). I grant that right now, Morocco doesn't seem immediately precarious (and is just a convenient example of a critical resource dependency with implications far beyond the local region) - but if you're looking ahead further?

I digress from the direct impacts of weather upon agriculture though, I appreciate.

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #51 on: July 10, 2013, 10:02:10 PM »
    European capacity to grow food is plateauing, scientist warns

    Countries may not be able to increase food production because many staple crops are close to their physiological growing limits




 
   Britain and other countries may not be able to increase the amount of food they grow because many staple crops are close to their physiological growing limits, one of the world's leading food analysts has warned.

    "In France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the three leading wheat producers in western Europe, there has been little rise in yields for over 10 years. Other countries will soon be hitting their limits for grain yields. Agriculturally advanced countries are hitting natural limits that were not widely anticipated," said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Institute in Washington and a former US government plant scientist.

    "Rice yields in Japan have not increased for 17 years. In both Japan and South Korea, yields have plateaued at just under five tons per hectare. China's rice yields are now closely approaching those of Japan and may also soon plateau," he said.



http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/08/european-capacity-grow-food-scientist

(Thanks to Graeme at POForums and ritter at Malthusia for drawing my attention to this link.)
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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #52 on: July 10, 2013, 10:28:02 PM »
ccg,

I guess I misunderstood you a bit.  Sorry bout that,

On Syria I am not sure we could claim that high food prices precipitated the civil war.  A factor maybe, but there have been lots of efforts for many years to destabilize the Syrian regime.  Unfortunately now we have to deal with it and many of those who wanted it to happen are now in the dilemma of what to do about it.  Asad is an ugly man but in terms of having a stable geopolitical situation in the middle east we are better off with him than the likely alternative (that being an Al Quada based group.  Thus the US has painted itself in a corner as we promised to help the rebels (why I don't know) if Asad went to far in trying to defeat them.  Now we can't help them because the prime rebel group turned out to be the Al Quada one.  Best to have stayed out of it entirely.

But Syrian type flare ups will be very common as we go forward.  Wait until the Iraqi's try and get control of the Kurds again.  Or what happens when the Taliban controls Afghanistan again.  Not to mention that Pakistan is on borrowed time.  And a dozen others.  Got popcorn.
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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #53 on: August 01, 2013, 05:21:36 PM »
Compared to the dry western half of the US, the southeast (and northeast) are suffering this summer from billions of dollars worth of crops that have been destroyed by heavy rain.   3-minute video
 http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/52625864/

Last year the UK suffered the wettest autumn on record, followed by the coldest spring for more than 50 years, reducing wheat yields by around one third and forcing food manufacturers to import 2.5 million tonnes of wheat – transforming Britain from a wheat exporter to importer.
...
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change warns that drier summers over the next few years could expose farmers to water shortages of up to 50% by 2020, increasing Britain’s reliance on global food imports.

The article also says, “The UK is already importing 40% of its overall food supply.”
http://tcktcktck.org/2013/07/global-warming-stuffs-farming-says-british-farmers-union/55357
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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #54 on: August 01, 2013, 05:35:32 PM »

“Peak Water”
Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world's people, are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point – known as "peak water" – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.  His list includes the US, China, and much of the Middle East.
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/jul/06/food-supply-threat-water-wells-dry-up


A report from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change says drought could devastate food production in England by the 2020s.  The report also warns that the retreat from coastlines as sea level rises must be speeded up five-fold or risk serious flooding.
 http://tcktcktck.org/2013/07/climate-change-could-hit-food-production-in-england-by-2020s-warns-report/54699
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JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #55 on: August 01, 2013, 10:25:26 PM »
Hey!  I coined the phrase Peak Water years ago.  Copyright infringement!

Water is on a timeframe that is very close to that of AGW as to its effects on reaching the point where industrial agriculture can no longer feed the global population.

If one looks at drawdown rates in the prime growing regions of China, India and the US it gets a little scary.  Across wide areas of the Punjab and the North China Plain they are seeing the water table drop in excess of a meter a year and in some local areas more than that.  There are places in India they are pumping from more than 1 kilometer deep.  This can only be done because their government does not charge farmers for electricity to pump water. So you have a non-profitable enterprise being subsidized by the government to strip the resource as fast as possible.  Brilliant solution.

I have seen projections for India and China that show aquifer depletions skyrocketing in about 20-30 years.  In the US the giant Ogallala aquifer already has areas around the southern and western periphery where land has had to be returned to dry land farming as there is no more water under it.  This will spread, especially in Texas, over the years and real trouble will slowly creep into the system. 

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #56 on: August 02, 2013, 04:04:23 PM »
I’m waiting for the day when oil & gas pipelines are switched over to carrying water....
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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #57 on: August 02, 2013, 06:48:45 PM »
Article details the extinction of 2 butterfly species in Florida.  Butterflies are one of eh big pollinators after bees.


http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0801-holmgren-butterfly-extinction-florida.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #58 on: August 02, 2013, 07:49:52 PM »
Article describes the extinction of a valuable tree in Malaysia due to clearing rainforest for palm oil plantations.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0730-keruing-paya-extinction-palm-oil.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #59 on: August 07, 2013, 07:04:16 PM »
Here is a great example of how current economic stress results in stupid behavior and certain long-term adverse consequences.

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-08-06/drought-stricken-new-mexico-farmers-drain-aquifer-to-sell-water-for-fracking
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Ned W

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #60 on: August 07, 2013, 07:58:20 PM »
Here is a great example of how current economic stress results in stupid behavior and certain long-term adverse consequences.

Thanks for the link.  What an awful story. 

With the shift in US population growth from the north to the south and west, and these kinds of severe droughts coming up with regularity, and demand for water increasing all the time ...
... one wonders how long it will be before people in other states start pressing for the US to abrogate the rules about Great Lakes water. 

I could easily imagine a campaign demanding the construction of pipelines so we can put all that clean Great Lakes water to productive use in Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico instead of letting it all flow out the St Laurence to the ocean.  The Great Lakes states would object, but if a drought got severe enough, would a southern and western dominated Congress be able to resist the temptation to raid the lakes?

Shared Humanity

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #61 on: August 08, 2013, 03:04:20 AM »
Here is a great example of how current economic stress results in stupid behavior and certain long-term adverse consequences.

Thanks for the link.  What an awful story. 

With the shift in US population growth from the north to the south and west, and these kinds of severe droughts coming up with regularity, and demand for water increasing all the time ...
... one wonders how long it will be before people in other states start pressing for the US to abrogate the rules about Great Lakes water.

I could easily imagine a campaign demanding the construction of pipelines so we can put all that clean Great Lakes water to productive use in Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico instead of letting it all flow out the St Laurence to the ocean.  The Great Lakes states would object, but if a drought got severe enough, would a southern and western dominated Congress be able to resist the temptation to raid the lakes?

Use of Great Lakes water for anything outside of the Great Lakes watershed is governed by international treaty with Canada. We cannot ship the water to the Southwest.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 06:32:56 PM by Shared Humanity »

Ned W

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #62 on: August 08, 2013, 03:47:05 AM »
: Shared Humanity
Use of Great Lakes water for anything outside of the Great Lakes watershed is governed by international treaty with Canada. We cannot ship the water to the Southwest.

Believe me, I know all about that.  But my comment was raising the question of whether at some point there'd be pressure from drought-stricken states elsewhere in the US to abrogate the treaty and start stealing Great Lakes water. 

It's not like the US doesn't have a history of breaking treaties.  And the party in power in many southern and western states has a particular aversion to international treaties.

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #63 on: August 08, 2013, 04:46:19 PM »
" -- comment was raising the question of whether at some point there'd be pressure from drought-stricken states elsewhere in the US to abrogate the treaty and start stealing Great Lakes water.  --"


Six months to year old articles:

Not until the Missouri River "pipe-dream" fails
http://gasconade.countynewslive.com/content/2013/jan/02/diverting-some-missouri-river-water-southwest-towing-icebergs-west-coast-water-c
and
http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/in-an-arid-land-managing-our-thirst/article_26f14799-c793-5bfa-910f-d3d49585c992.html
and
http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22126112/missouri-river-pipeline-mulled-ease-front-ranges-water

Great Lakes to Southwest pipeline ? Not happen because Southwest would expect Great Lake states to pay for it. Not enough profit until water sells for more than oil. But, I expect it to be on the agenda of various govt-state-muni planning groups.

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #64 on: August 12, 2013, 01:08:37 AM »
Just to demonstrate that the vagaries of climate juiced weather do not always work to destroy food production we have the example this year from India.  Note that just a few weeks ago there were all kinds of items in the news related to severe flooding in the mountainous regions of India and Nepal due to very heavy monsoon rains.  But this rain is not as destructive in the lowland primary agriculture regions and we are seeing positive results there. 

Monsoon-sown grain production in India may climb to a record this year as the best start to the rainy season since 1994 spurs rice and corn planting, potentially easing inflation in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The production of crops from corn to rice and barley may exceed the all-time high of 131.3 million metric tons in the 2011-2012 season and last year’s 128.2 million tons, Tariq Anwar, junior agriculture minister, told reporters in New Delhi today. Farmers planted rice, oilseeds, cotton and sugar cane in 74.8 million hectares (184.8 million acres) as of July 26, about 18 percent more than the same period a year earlier, according to data from the Agriculture Ministry......


.....Rains were 17 percent more than a 50-year average at 506.7 millimeters (19.95 inches) between June 1 and July 29, according to the India Meteorological Department. That’s the most since at least 1994, according to data from the bureau. The country received 32 percent more rains than the average in June.....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-30/food-grain-harvest-in-india-seen-at-record-on-monsoon-rainfall.html
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JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #65 on: August 12, 2013, 01:30:30 AM »
And then we have what is going on in the US gain production regions and other locations around the world.

A few weeks ago we had this in the US...

Record domestic corn output of 14.005 billion bushels this year will more than double inventories before the harvest in 2014, and soybean production will be 3.39 billion bushels, the most ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. While drought damage late last year will reduce the 2013 U.S. wheat harvest, global output will rise 6.1 percent.


U.S. corn inventories before the 2014 harvest will total 1.949 billion bushels, up from 769 million this year, the lowest since 1996, the USDA said. The average estimate of 30 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 1.829 billion. The government said production in 2013 will be higher than the average estimate of 13.82 billion, based on a separate Bloomberg survey of 28 analysts. Farmers collected 10.78 billion in 2012.

World corn inventories on Oct. 1, 2014, will total 151.83 million metric tons, up from 124.31 million this year, the USDA said. Analysts expected 151.21 million tons, the average of 16 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey.

U.S. wheat stockpiles on June 1, 2014, were forecast by the USDA at 659 million bushels, more than the 655 million expected by analysts and down from 670 million projected in May. Production in Kansas, the biggest U.S. producer, was pegged at 307.8 million bushels, up 2.7 percent from a May forecast, as precipitation in May boosted prospects for late-blooming plants.


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-12/grain-prices-tumble-as-u-s-sees-bigger-corn-supply-wheat-crops.html

But in the meantime we have had a lot of cool weather in the mid-west and oceans of rain.  Could result in a lowering of projections.  But, all in all, global grain supplies do not look to be taking a beating this year and are headed towards a few percent increase over last year.

Global rice production is expected to come in about 2% higher than last year.

Strong anticipated gains in rice production in almost all regions except Europe and North America will help boost global rice production to reach around 500 million tons (milled equivalent) in 2013, up almost 2% from an estimated 490.5 million tons produced in 2012, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


http://oryza.com/content/global-rice-production-could-touch-500-million-tons-2013-says-fao

For reference:

China's wheat production looks to be down just slightly (1-2%) this year.
European grain production looks to be up about 1% this year (1% in Europe of total grain production is equal to 3% wheat production in China).
Australian wheat production is expected to rise a few percent.
Argentina wheat production is expected to fall about as much as Australia is rising.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #66 on: August 12, 2013, 04:52:17 AM »
Just to demonstrate that the vagaries of climate juiced weather do not always work to destroy food production we have the example this year from India.  Note that just a few weeks ago there were all kinds of items in the news related to severe flooding in the mountainous regions of India and Nepal due to very heavy monsoon rains.  But this rain is not as destructive in the lowland primary agriculture regions and we are seeing positive results there. 

The tendency to run food reserves as low as recently is the big issue here - it's an interesting point that sometimes climatic variability may boost production in some seasons. Without large reserves - that causes major issues if we get a bad year and the odds fall against agricultural production seriously enough in that production cycle.

If reserves were built up and maintained at sensible levels - it might be possible to operate things longer - using the reserves to buffer the bad years.

It would be perfectly possible to start building up major reserves, using all the slack identified in the system - biofuels and wastage, to pick but two. The political and economic willpower just isn't there - nor likely to be, since global reserves are of no concern to any nation - only national reserves, if anything is a concern at all.

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #67 on: August 12, 2013, 07:40:01 PM »
NASA projection of increases in evaporation over North America out to 2100.

Interesting implications for many of our prime growing regions.  Note that by 2050 only SW Colorado and Ohio/Indiana have hit the highest level.  By 2100 it is pretty scary.

Potential Evaporation in North America Through 2100


http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2013/08/video-projected-increase-in-potential.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #68 on: August 12, 2013, 08:15:25 PM »
New World Bank report on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a rapidly developing region of over 800 million people, with 49 countries, and great ecological, climatic and cultural diversity. Its population for 2050 is projected to approach 1.5 billion people. The region is confronted with a range of climate risks that could have far-reaching repercussions for Sub-Saharan Africa´s societies and economies in future. Even if warming is limited below 2°C, there are very substantial risks and projected damages, and as warming increases these are only expected to grow further. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly dependent on agriculture for food, income, and employment, almost all of it rain-fed. Under 2°C warming, large regional risks to food production emerge; these risks would become stronger if adaptation measures are inadequate and the CO2 fertilization effect is weak. Unprecedented heat extremes are projected over an increasing percentage of land area as warming goes from 2 to 4°C, resulting in significant changes in vegetative cover and species at risk of extinction. Heat and drought would also result in severe losses of livestock and associated impacts on rural communities.


In southern Africa, annual precipitation is projected to decrease by up to 30 percent under 4°C warming, and parts of southern and west Africa may see decreases in groundwater recharge rates of 50–70 percent. This is projected to lead to an overall increase in the risk of drought in southern Africa. t Strong warming and an ambiguous precipitation signal over central Africa is projected to increase drought risk there. t In the Horn of Africa and northern part of east Africa substantial disagreements exists between high-resolution regional and global climate models. Rainfall is projected by many global climate models to increase in the Horn of Africa and the northern part of east Africa, making these areas somewhat less dry. The increases are pro- jected to occur during higher intensity rainfall periods, rather than evenly during the year, which increases the risk of floods. In contrast, high-resolution regional climate models project an increasing tendency towards drier conditions. Recent research showed that the 2011 Horn of Africa drought, particularly severe in Kenya and Somalia, is consistent with an increased probability of long-rains failure under the influence of anthropogenic climate change.


Heat extremes: The South East Asian region is projected to see a strong increase in the near term in monthly heat extremes. Under 2°C global warming, heat extremes that are virtually absent at present will cover nearly 60–70 percent of total land area in summer, and unprecedented heat extremes up to 30–40 percent of land area in northern-hemisphere summer. With 4°C global warming, summer months that in today´s climate would be termed unprecedented, would be the new normal, affecting nearly 90 percent of the land area during the northern-hemisphere summer months.


In South Asia, climate change shocks to food production and seasonal water availability appear likely to confront populations with ongoing and multiple challenges to secure access to safe drinking water, sufficient water for irrigation and hydropower production, and adequate cooling capacity for thermal power production. Potential impact hotspots such as Bangladesh are projected to be confronted by increasing challenges from extreme river floods, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea-level and very high temperatures. While the vulnerability of South Asia’s large and poor populations can be expected to be reduced in the future by economic development and growth, climate projections indicate that high levels of local vulnerability are likely to remain and persist.


Lots of interesting items in there.

http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/06/17862361/turn-down-heat-climate-extremes-regional-impacts-case-resilience-full-report
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #69 on: August 18, 2013, 10:29:03 PM »
Drought in Namibia is worst in 30 years.

The Kunene region in the north has had no rain for two years, and families have been forced to sell livestock and migrate to cities in search of work.


http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/aug/14/namibia-drought-malnutrition-state-emergency
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #70 on: August 22, 2013, 12:43:41 AM »
Drought in Austria and Hungary threatens to wipe out harvests.  Aug 2013.

“For farmers in Austria and across the border in Hungary this is just the latest bout of extreme weather to ravage their fields. In March, temperatures dropped to record lows. This was followed in May and June by some of the worst flooding the region has seen in recent history. Now, high temperatures and poor rainfall threaten to wipe out what is left of this year's harvest.”

tcktcktck.org/2013/08/central-european-drought-threatens-to-wipeout-harvests/56268

http://www.dw.de/drought-shrivels-harvest-in-central-europe/a-17024436
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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #71 on: August 27, 2013, 05:59:45 PM »
New report on the United States' High Plains Aquifer, also called the Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches through eight states and supplies 30% of the US irrigated groundwater:

Using current trends in water usage as a guide, the researchers estimate that 3 percent of the aquifer's water was used up by 1960; 30 percent of the aquifer's water was drained by 2010; and a whopping 69 percent of the reservoir will likely be tapped by 2060. It would take an average of 500 to 1,300 years to completely refill the High Plains Aquifer, Steward added.

But, if reducing water use becomes an immediate priority, it may be possible to make use of the aquifer's resources and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110, the researchers said.

"The main idea is that if we're able to save water today, it will result in a substantial increase in the number of years that we will have irrigated agriculture in Kansas," Steward said.

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-8C11009320
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ritter

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #72 on: August 27, 2013, 06:07:13 PM »
But, if reducing water use becomes an immediate priority, it may be possible to make use of the aquifer's resources and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110, the researchers said.

Oh great! We're saved! Plenty of water for another 100 years if we throttle back now.

Anybody else see a problem with that? Assuming, of course, we're not extinct by then.

Sigmetnow

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #73 on: August 27, 2013, 06:16:20 PM »
So, best case, we have 100 years to learn how to prepare a tasty recipe for... dirt? 
Or insects:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/07/17/203001025/these-pictures-might-tempt-you-to-eat-bugs
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ritter

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #74 on: August 27, 2013, 07:00:43 PM »
So, best case, we have 100 years to learn how to prepare a tasty recipe for... dirt? 

Geophagy already occurs in food insecure areas. It doesn't keep you or your children from dying, just helps satisfy that empty gnawing feeling.

I'll take the bugs, thanks.

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #75 on: August 27, 2013, 07:17:03 PM »
New report on the United States' High Plains Aquifer, also called the Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches through eight states and supplies 30% of the US irrigated groundwater:

Using current trends in water usage as a guide, the researchers estimate that 3 percent of the aquifer's water was used up by 1960; 30 percent of the aquifer's water was drained by 2010; and a whopping 69 percent of the reservoir will likely be tapped by 2060. It would take an average of 500 to 1,300 years to completely refill the High Plains Aquifer, Steward added.

But, if reducing water use becomes an immediate priority, it may be possible to make use of the aquifer's resources and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110, the researchers said.

"The main idea is that if we're able to save water today, it will result in a substantial increase in the number of years that we will have irrigated agriculture in Kansas," Steward said.

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-8C11009320


Interesting premise about it being capable of being recharged in 500-1300 years - my understanding is that often when you deplete ground water heavily the ground tends to subside, presumably as the material above can compress the voids where the water used to be.

That means one probably typically does permanent damage to large aquifers as you deplete them, meaning they will never recharge - at least not to their original capacity.

Furthermore, unless I'm mistake water is usually removed from the top - forcing ever deeper drilling to reach the water. Post civilisational collapse, that water is hence potentially removed from the pool of options for anyone trying to inhabit the region if they can't drill so deep.

Ned W

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #76 on: August 27, 2013, 07:36:29 PM »
As I think I said in another recent thread, when push comes to shove the US will probably just break its treaties with Canada and start pumping water out of the Great Lakes. 

Fresh water is going to be increasingly valuable.  Over the course of this century, we'll probably end up moving a lot more water around on the landscape, and where there aren't any good sources of fresh water within reasonable distance, relying on desalinization plants powered by nuclear power. 

Of course there's also room for a lot of improvement in the efficiency with which we use water.  Ideally you'd first rely on conservation to reduce demand as much as possible, then save the large engineering projects for whatever additional water management is needed beyond that.  But most politicians, regardless of country, prefer to be seen boldly signing off on the plans for new dams or canals or whatever, rather than promoting conservation. 

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #77 on: August 27, 2013, 07:53:55 PM »
Another thing about the Ogallala is that like a lot of other things location is everything.

Since it is just like a lake the topography matters if you want to pump out of it.  As it is drained areas around the periphery end up with no water.  This has already happened in Texas and Nebraska where there is no longer any water under some farms and they have had to return to dry land farming techniques.  The Ogallala is shallowest in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas and the deeper parts are in general in Nebraska.  So over the next 20 years many millions of acres in Texas and other areas where the aquifer is shallow will lose access to the water.  Wiki has a great map of what its shape and depth is. 

So even though there may be water for some for the next 100 years that does not apply to many. And it gets worse every day.

Interesting number about the recharge rate.  I had thought it took much longer. But the Wiki page indicates that the recharge rate varies by location

Recharge in the aquifer ranges from 0.024 inches (0.61 mm) per year in parts of Texas and New Mexico to up to 6 inches (150 mm) per year in south-central Kansas

and mentions that much of this depends on the type of soil over it as some is very dense and water does not percolate through to the aquifer.

27% of the land irrigated in the US is from the Ogallala.  What could go wrong?
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ritter

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #78 on: August 27, 2013, 08:09:06 PM »
27% of the land irrigated in the US is from the Ogallala.  What could go wrong?
Indeed.

Shared Humanity

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #79 on: August 27, 2013, 08:13:09 PM »
JimD....

I want to thank you for your thoughtful posts on agriculture. I've learned a great deal in the past couple of months.

With Texas losing access to the aquifer earlier, can dry land farming work in an increasingly drier Texas?

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #80 on: August 27, 2013, 09:41:41 PM »
SH,

Thanks.

That is a much more complicated question than it sounds like.   Any answer will have lots of maybe's and 'it depends' in it. I doubt I can do a good job on it.

The area of Texas which has the most problems with losing access to the aquifer right now is mostly used to grow cotton.   So no loss in food production but no cotton either.  I believe that most of the places down there which have completely lost access to water have returned to scrub grazing land as it is just too hot and dry for anything else.  If you still have some water but not enough for cotton you can switch to a less profitable crop which requires less water.  And it may be a food crop so food production actually rises in that area.

But the long term trend is all downhill.  As it gets hotter and dryer and there is less water the dynamics just keep pushing the farmers ability to adapt by switching crops and land use practices until there is no place to go.  Eventually you reach a point where all that is left is grazing uses.  For each specific location you will get a different answer.  Since the aquifer is shaped just like a lake two properties right next to each other can have different results for a time.  One might be over deeper water than the other and can survive much longer.  But when the water is gone and you have to depend on rain everyone will be in the same boat.

In Nebraska the places I am familiar with which have had to shut off some of the irrigation were mostly growing hay/alfalfa for cattle or horse feed.  Some of those places can plant winter wheat or it can be used for grazing land.  Strip farming becomes common.

But there are economic issues that have to be taken into account.  Just because the land can still be farmed in some different fashion it does not mean that it can be done profitably.   If you take a property which was farmed at functionally 100%  capacity each year with a valuable crop and have to switch to strip farming where 50% of the land is in crop each year and the other 50% lies fallow to allow soil moisture to build up you have a very different financial profile.   The entire structure of farming could have to change as well. In many of these places before there was access to underground water the types of operations present were like those in the western movies.   Ranches of 100,000  thousand acres were common and big properties ran several times that large.  When we end up with large tracts of land which are only good for grazing again how do you put that infrastructure back together.  Another big problem we might face here is the fracking issue.  When your water supplies may only be good for a few more years and are worth far more to you by selling the water to fracking operations then using them to grow crops what do you do?  Or if the local municipality needs the water and will pay more for it than the crops are worth.  Or they go to court and take the water away from you.

I have an acquaintance who owns territorial water rights (date to the 1880's) in Wyoming on 4000 acres next to the Green River.  These are the best water rights in existence on the whole Colorado River drainage.  I mentioned to him that rather than irrigating to grow alfalfa in the summer (the ranch only breaks even) and grazing cattle on it, he should lock in a lease with Los Angeles and sell them the water (build in an inflation clause and use a 99 year lease).  He can make far more money that way (not have to work) and no one is likely to take his water away from him.  LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas are going to control the fight for the Colorado River drainage and eventually they are going to take most of the water away from the ranchers and farmers out here.  So sell it to them and put them on your side?
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #81 on: August 27, 2013, 10:04:17 PM »
Are there profitable food crops that require less water than cotton?

Meanwhile, it seems to me that we are likely facing a very sharp agricultural/food crisis. If, as many think here, the Arctic is on the verge of being essentially free of sea ice, it seems likely (and many on neven's threads seem to agree) that the basic structure of the climate of the Northern Hemisphere (at least) will be profoundly disrupted, probably switching from three to one (or two?) Hadley cells.

It seems highly unlikely to me that such a radical shift would not fundamentally disrupt patterns of rainfall that the basic bread baskets of the NoHem depend on for their production.

If (as seems likely in this imminent) the monsoons don't come to India and the rain patterns in Russian/Ukraine, China and North American bread baskets are similarly disrupted, most of the world will suddenly have to go without food. (Last I checked, world grain reserves were at or near record lows.)

And this is almost guaranteed to happen within the next very few years.

Is anyone else...concerned about this?

Am I missing something? (I hope so.)



"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #82 on: August 27, 2013, 10:19:49 PM »
Meanwhile, it seems to me that we are likely facing a very sharp agricultural/food crisis. If, as many think here, the Arctic is on the verge of being essentially free of sea ice, it seems likely (and many on neven's threads seem to agree) that the basic structure of the climate of the Northern Hemisphere (at least) will be profoundly disrupted, probably switching from three to one (or two?) Hadley cells.

It seems highly unlikely to me that such a radical shift would not fundamentally disrupt patterns of rainfall that the basic bread baskets of the NoHem depend on for their production.

...

And this is almost guaranteed to happen within the next very few years.

While I also think we are on the edge of a profound and accelerating food production crisis - is there any evidence (at all) supporting the contention that we should expect the number of cells in the atmospheric circulation system to change in the next few years? While I think it pays to be open minded as to the possibilities, as far as I can see it's somewhat of an outside probability right now, and not necessary for analysis given that increasingly extreme weather is already starting to play a stronger role.

With respect to the Arctic, it's confounded expectations this year - the question naturally has to be if that is just variation in the decline, a last blip on the way down - or if there are other more structural processes going on that may slow loss a little. Only another year or two will answer that, I think.

It does raise the interesting prospect that potentially we might not see a continuous run of ice free summers even after the first one occurs - if weather variability is still large enough to let some ice withstand the melt season for some years (at first at least).

Anyway, about any evidence for switching of the atmosphere to other cell circulation structures - I'd be very interested to know what there is on that score?

wili

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #83 on: August 27, 2013, 10:51:36 PM »
The shift in atmospheric circulations mostly happened over at the Blog, especially here:

http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/07/second-storm/comments/page/1/#comments

IIRC, the basic idea is that the polar cell depends for it's basic pattern on a reliably cold north pole. If you have mostly open ocean there during the summer, and that water is absorbing solar energy 24/7 for much of the summer, your are going to get a much less cold air mass there, with likely mostly rising rather than falling air right over the North Pole. That destroys or radically alters the polar cell. So then the question is can the system just go on with two cells, or does it collapse immediately into one (a question I don't pretend to be able to address, but you get the idea--things get very quickly very much out of whack.)

Here's perhaps the most relevant post on that thread:


I have been reading reports lately that indicate a complete absence of Arctic sea ice in early summer could be the trigger to flip the northern hemisphere into the hothouse mode just as it was when last the Earth had 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. Several researchers have been modeling the effect of an ice free Arctic ocean and the majority of runs show that the Ferrel cell of atmospheric circulation would grow from its current Equator to 30 north range and encompass the entire northern hemisphere.

See
http://www.fields.utoronto.ca/programs/scientific/10-11/biomathstat/Langford_W.pdf

and

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/eli/research/equable/hadley.html

The studies don't say how long the Arctic has to be ice free, it could take a decade or more for the transition to happen once we are there, but at the rate we are going now I don't think it is nearly as far off in the future as we have been lead to believe by the IPCC.

Posted by: Allen W. McDonnell | July 26, 2013 at 22:15

"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Sigmetnow

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #84 on: August 28, 2013, 04:20:45 PM »
Armed robbers have resorted to targeting trucks hauling tons of onions after unrelenting monsoon rains damaged this year’s crop and a drought affected production last year, sending prices for the popular food skyrocketing in India.  India has a 19 percent share of global onion production, second only to China.
“It is not usual to target food or vegetables,” said Ram Kishore, a police officer from the northern district of Shahpura where the truck carrying 40 tons of onions was seized last Wednesday. “Thieves do hijack loaded trucks, but it is usually for something more valuable.”

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/28/20228605-enough-to-make-you-cry-big-spike-in-onion-prices-sparks-fury-armed-robbery-in-india?lite
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JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #85 on: August 29, 2013, 06:45:27 PM »
Here is an interesting article from Climate Progress regarding the effect that cover crops and no-till agricultural practices have on the ability of crop land soil to withstand the effect of extreme weather.

In light of the extensive flooding we have seen in the mid-west this season and the drought the previous 2 years researchers have learned some interesting figures.

Cover cropping increases the amount of organic matter and moisture in the soil and helps prevent erosion, so it’s helpful in both drought and heavy rains, and no-till farming has similar benefits.


http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/08/28/2505511/drought-billions-crop-insurance/

Note that most industrial grain farmers do not cover crop.  In fairness, depending on where the farm is located, cover cropping is not always possible.  Following the corn harvest is when the cover crop would need to be planted.  As corn harvesting in many locations is not performed until well after the fall frosts have set in this greatly restricts being able to successfully cover crop.

For example for corn in
Illinois planting runs from Apr 22 to May 28 and harvest from Sept 24 to Nov 19
North Dakota runs from    May 3 to June 5   and harvest from Sept 29 to Nov 9
Many places, due to soil conditions, do not harvest until the ground is frozen hard enough to drive on.

Any cover crop needs warm enough soils to germinate the seeds and then grow enough to set down a good amount of roots before hard winter sets in.  If you plant too late this does not happen and you have wasted your money.   Successful cover cropping can add very large amounts of organic matter depending on what kind of cover crop is used.   But how that cover crop grows in the spring is critical as well.  You cannot plant into a vigorously growing crop; you have to have the cover crop dead before planting.  Unless you use a cover crop that winter kills (the winter weather kills it) in the spring you will have to kill that crop before you plant.  The old way of doing that was to plow and then disk the fields before planting the corn (obviously we are trying to avoid that now).  The vast majority of corn farmers today spray the fields with Roundup (a herbicide) a few weeks before planting the corn (which is genetically modified to not die from the roundup) so that the corn will not have other plants to compete with.  This is not an option if you want to use organic techniques (at least until the industrial farm lobby gets Roundup certified for organic use - yes they are trying).  So we end up with a complicated situation where some farmers can execute the cover cropping technique and others cannot.  Or you can cover crop but then you have to plow if you do not want to use Roundup.  I know some farmers who have been executing the no-till practices for some years and who have told me that they are going to do the old-fashioned plowing and disking every few years again as the weeds are adapting to the Roundup and it is not controlling them sufficiently.  Since we have learned that this does not reduce the soil carbon content this is probably a sound idea as long as one takes into account that springs weather conditions. 

One correction to the above article is that it implies that no-till techniques (not plowing and planting directly into the old crop rubble or the cover crop) increase soil carbon content.  This is not correct.  No-till was assumed, by its advocates, for a long time to result in higher carbon content in the soil (after all, it seems to be common sense) but subsequent research has shown that it makes no difference as all plowing does is change the depth of the soil carbon distribution and not the total amount.  It is surprising that this mistake is in the article as the first place I read about this research was on Climate Progress.

One of the things that no-till helps with in heavy rain conditions is that the soil is much harder than it is after plowing and excess water will tend to run off of it rather than soak into the ground.  Thus you can get heavy farm equipment out on the ground much sooner than if the ground was p[lowed.  This is a big advantage to the farmer.  Plowing in the spring in low rain conditions can actually help the farmer however as the soil is much softer and more readily absorbs the limited rain thus resulting in a greater increase in soil moisture than if the ground was in a no-till situation.  Another thing about plowing is that, when performed at the right time, it helps to conserve soil moisture.  If you are farming in an arid climate and it has been very dry and then you get a moderate rain.  If you have time to roll that soil over and bury the wet dirt you will end up with higher soil moisture content.  This is a common practice when dry land farming or dry land gardening.  It used to be common to disk the aisle ways between crop rows to conserve limited moisture and control weeds also (my mother who grew up on a dry land farm homestead in Wyoming told me that from the age of 5 on she was required at day break to hand hoe 1/4 acre of the garden every day to turn the nights dew into the ground).  But it is a dangerous practice as it is easy to end up with very loose drier soil and thus a dramatic increase in erosion from wind (Dust Bowl anyone?).   Many farmers today primarily use roundup and other means to control weeds in between crop rows during the growing season.   I used to plant very short cover crops between the rows to smother out weeds if I did not want to take the effort to till the aisle ways.  But you lose productivity that way as those cover crops take some of the nutrients away from your commercial crop.  You can balance that loss sometimes by planting a legume that puts nitrogen in the soil for your commercial crop. 

Crop rotations are another big factor.  The generally accepted best industrial practice is to rotate corn/corn/soybeans or corn/soybeans.  This is where the greatest profits are found when using industrial methods.  These methods were developed primarily to support the vast scale of CAFO operations around the world.

The implication of all of this is that only with this type of system will agriculture be able to meet the food demands of a rapidly growing population. Sustaining this model of agricultural production involves the heavy use of herbicides, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers, all of which have significant environmental impacts. The system is also heavily dependent upon the use of fossil-based energy to produce the synthetic fertilizers that are crucial to the system  and the fuel that is needed to cultivate fields, plant the crops, harvest them, and transport the corn and beans to feed mills that prepare the rations used in the various meat production systems.


A 4 crop rotation which includes grains has a much better long-term result in soil health and environmental results.  But you do not make as much money as the volume of high value crops is much less.  An advantage of crop rotations and tilling (plowing) is that they are the two most effective means of controlling pests and weeds if one is trying to avoid using and paying for  herbicides and pesticides.  Crop rotation also cuts the amount of fertilizer needed as well if you include legumes in the rotation (an interesting aside - to me anyway- is that crop rotation techniques were invented by two Quaker farmers who farmed only 5 miles from my farm in Virginia in about 1790-1800.  Tomas Jefferson was so impressed by this development that he sent the information to Europe and helped revitalize farming there.).

Here is an example of the thought process in these decisions:
....Now, go to the other extreme, a straightforward corn-soybean rotation with 50% of acres in each crop. Per-acre profits are slightly better here. "Given a stable cropping rotation over time, corn-soybeans has an average return of $484 per acre, the average of $578 for corn-after-soybeans and $390 for soybeans after corn ($578 + $390 / 2)," Schnitkey says.

Finally, take that rotation that's 2/3 corn and 1/3 soybeans where each field's in corn 2 years followed by 1 year of soybeans. This shows the most profit potential, Schnitkey says, at about $504 per acre.

There are a few other variables that can sway these numbers; for example, additional corn tillage narrows the gap between corn-soybean (484/acre) and corn-corn-soybean rotations ($499/acre). "The budgets assume that there are no additional tillage passes for more corn-after-corn and continuous corn rotations," Schnitkey says, noting each additional tillage pass amounts to about $15/acre more in cost. "Reliance on more tillage to continue with corn-heavy rotations will reduce the return advantages or more intensive corn rotations."

Then, factor in how the land is paid for. If you're cash-renting and unsure about the length of your future on that ground, the higher corn profit potential in the first year of a rotation may warrant a more corn-heavy rotation.

"It has been noted that cash rent arrangements that are short-term may encourage more corn production," Schnitkey says. "If a farmer believes that they will only be able to rent a farm for one year, there is an incentive to plant all corn so as to maximize profits in one year."


Recent very high prices for corn have resulted in a higher percentage of land being planted repeatedly just in corn and no rotations which require much higher levels of chemical inputs.  Another side effect of our corn to ethanol welfare program for Monsanto, ADM and the industrial farming industry.

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #86 on: August 29, 2013, 11:00:00 PM »
Thanks for the info.

I asked an organic farmer about how they got around having to use round up with no till. He claimed they just used roles to knock down the cover crop (I think it was rye) and that killed it enough to plant right into it. Does that make any sense to you (I may have some crucial details wrong, being a farmer only in my sweetest dreams  :)).

I haven't talked with him in a while to ask follow up questions, but surely there must be a large number of organic farmers using no till that have found ways not to use roundup? Do you know of any?

Also, are you at all familiar with the researches of Wes Jackson and The Land Institute?

http://www.landinstitute.org/

Any thoughts?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #87 on: August 29, 2013, 11:47:40 PM »
Wili,

Yes that is right.  That is one of the methods.

But it depends on what your farmer friend was planning to plant after the rye.  Rye is usually planted in the fall after your main crop is harvested and there is no time left for another cash crop and it is still early enough to get the rye established.  The trouble with rye, and the reason you have to know what you are going to plant in that field the next season, is that rye does not winter kill.  It takes off growing in the spring and eventually produces seeds for harvest.  But when used as cover crop you cannot kill it by crimping until it has formed the seed heads.  Then when you crimp or cut it it dies.  This restricts your options for spring planting until the rye has grown enough to form seeds.  A common mistake that beginning farmers often make is to plant the cover crop rye and not realize that what they want to plant there in the spring needs to go in the ground a month ahead of the rye's seed formation dates.  Then you have no choice but to grind the rye down to the ground and plow and disk it.  Sometimes you might have to till the soil several times to kill it sufficiently.  This is very bad for the soil.

Re the Roundup and organic farming.  By definition organic farmers are NOT using Roundup.  It is illegal still (and hopefully for ever - but I fear otherwise).   If we are still talking about organic grain farming then you have exceeded my knowledge as I no direct knowledge of no-till organic grain farming.  All my knowledge of how to do that involves plowing and tilling.  All my direct experience was growing vegetables so using no-till was not possible and I know no one personally who is doing no-till organic grain farming. 

I do know that there are efforts to develop perennial vice annual grasses like wheat so that any soil manipulation can be avoided.  This would result in lower production but much more sustainable operations.  For corn I am pretty sure you could do no till organic operations by using a heavy fall cover crop which winter kills.  Then as soon as possible in the spring you drill the  corn seeds right through the crop rubble.  The corn should be able to outgrow the weeds in that circumstance. 

I googled this subject and came up with some info on no-till organic grain farming.  Experiments were initiated in different areas about 5-15 years ago.  For soybeans they are using winter rye which is crimped in the spring and then the soybeans are planted through the rye rubble.  They are using high residue cultivators, and pre and post emergent herbicides (organically certified it says - I must admit that I did not know that there were any organically certified herbicides) to control the weeds (I am not sure I like the sound of that).

For corn they are doing exactly what I described above.  For sorghum they are using field peas as the cover crop.  I did not find instances of winter wheat being done via no-till but that does not mean it isn't of course.  Here are some guidelines (note item 4):
In order to implement an organic no-till cropping rotation the following guidelines may be helpful in a successful start:
1. First start the rotation with weed free fields, especially of perennial weeds.
2. Have target-planting dates in mind and then plant timely and with precise seed placement.
3. Anticipate 25-30% stand mortality due to seedling decay and insect damage, therefore, increase seeding rates accordingly.
4. Keep the soil disturbance to a minimum, and covered at all times if possible.  If tillage becomes necessary, do so in the late fall or early spring when the growth of weeds may be kept to a minimum.
5. Apply manure and organic fertilizers after the establishment of the crop, to minimize nitrogen losses, and enhance the availability of nutrients during the grain fill period.  This will also reduce weed competitiveness.
 

So they are using no-till as much as possible but reserving the use of tillage if the weeds get out of control. Also to start with weed free fields (#1) you are going to have to till if growing organically.
 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #88 on: August 30, 2013, 12:05:13 AM »
Here is something I have never heard of before.  There is an invasive crab species in the waters off Maine.  The Green Crab.  It arrived there in the mid-1800's in the ballast in sailing ships, but has never been a big problem until recently.

The link is to an article which indicates that "warming waters" are starting to result in the crab populations growing out of control.

It turns out that they are likely to eliminate the soft shell clam industry (Maine's 3rd largest seafood crop) if the waters don't turn cold again. 

There are no commercial uses for them yet...
While there is currently no viable commercial market for green crabs, efforts are underway in the private sector to pursue a value-added process that converts green crab protein into a sustainable aquaculture feed for use in Maine and possibly for export. There are also attempts to augment commercial compost with green crabs to produce a valuable commodity. Research has been conducted at the University of Maine to produce a food additive paste made from green crabs, and there have been efforts to develop a bait market from green crabs.


Yuck!  I wonder what that will be called on the ingredients list?   I also wonder what they will call the jellyfish when they start grinding them up and feeding them to us.

http://www.kjonline.com/news/Survey-to-gauge-Maines-green-crab-population-.html 

http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rm/invasives/GreenCrabs.htm
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #89 on: August 30, 2013, 02:10:43 AM »
Thanks for the info.

The problems with using cover crops with corn sound like another set of reasons to back away from our hyper-corn culture.

As for renaming disgusting creatures to make them more palatable to us, I have no doubt about the ingeniousness of the marketers.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Bruce Steele

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #90 on: August 30, 2013, 02:32:50 AM »
I farm without roundup and put in a cover crop every year. Peas, fava beans and oats. We get our rains in the winter so with a little luck and typical rains I don't need to irrigate the cover crop. Come spring about a month before summer crops go in i till it in. I get by with very little extra fertilizer and make 2500 to 3000 per acre. Screw GMOCorn and corn subsidies.

Vergent

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #91 on: August 30, 2013, 04:34:45 AM »
Yuck!  I wonder what that will be called on the ingredients list?   I also wonder what they will call the jellyfish when they start grinding them up and feeding them to us.

Jim,

I've had jellyfish in the orient. It was surprisingly unjellylike in texture, it was crunchy. Very noisy to eat. The taste was rather bland.

Vergent

Laurent

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #92 on: August 30, 2013, 10:10:24 AM »
Bruce,

How do you get the seeds to replant the cover crop ?
Do you extract it before crunching it ?

Laurent

Bruce Steele

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #93 on: August 30, 2013, 04:56:22 PM »
Laurent, I buy my cover crop seed. Cover crops provide a lot of organic material along with nitrogen but to get best results it requires tilling in while it is still blooming,so I don't get seeds. You don't want the oats to seed or they regerminate and require additional tillage-cultivation during your growing season. They can also draw in rodents.  A green cover will break down much quicker than a dry one and a lot of dry material makes my seed beds difficult to work, the seeder doesn't work as well because it gets bound up with detritus.  If I were to grow a cover crop and let it go to seed I would also need to thrash it . Each seed is a different size and thrashing works best on one size seed at a time. There are screens and the amount of air you blow over the small seed is less than a big heavy seed requires. I would love to have a trashing machine but they are big machines, I have pictures on the wall of my families trashing machine being pulled with horses and using a stationary steam engine to run it.  All my families land and equipment was gone before I started ( had to buy ) my little farm. When I was young the thrashing machine and the harnesses for the horses were still in grandpa barn but before I grew up it was all gone.   
I have a rototiller that I use to incorporate the cover crop. Smashing it down first makes the rototiller work harder so I go though it while it's still standing. Cover crop seed costs about a dollar a pound and I use about 200lbs. an acre.
Small equipment for the scale of farming I do isn't manufactured in the U.S. these days. Some antique equipment can still be found and I believe China and India still make small farm machinery because they haven't completely switched to corporate farming yet. If anything like collapse happens anytime soon Americans will have to go bad to a shovel and a hoe, hand thrash their grains, and hand winnow out the chaff. There simply is nothing between that and the mega tractor equipment typically in use around here.

Laurent

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #94 on: August 30, 2013, 05:13:22 PM »
Don't you know a cover crop that could be harvested without problems?

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #95 on: August 30, 2013, 05:42:56 PM »
I farm without roundup and put in a cover crop every year. Peas, fava beans and oats. We get our rains in the winter so with a little luck and typical rains I don't need to irrigate the cover crop. Come spring about a month before summer crops go in i till it in. I get by with very little extra fertilizer and make 2500 to 3000 per acre. Screw GMOCorn and corn subsidies.

Bruce,

My favorite cover crop mix was field peas and oats also.  Never used fava beans though.  What crop mix are you growing during the season?  Your $ per acre indicate you are growing on larger acreages and likely selling wholesale??

I grew exclusively organic vegetables for sale at farmers markets in the Washington DC area.  My gross was about $30,000 per acre.  A couple of the younger (more energy than I had) and very skilled farmers near me hit $40,000 per acre but they were selling about 11 months a year while I limited myself to 7 months.  The markets are very busy there and the prices are very good as well, plus a big demand for organics.

Where are you located?
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #96 on: August 30, 2013, 05:55:44 PM »
Don't you know a cover crop that could be harvested without problems?

Laurent,  if a crop is harvested by definition it is not a cover crop.

The purpose of cover crops are several.  They are used primarily to hold soil in place and to build up the soil by adding nutrients and organic matter.  They also are used to control weeds (I would plant buckwheat between different cash crops in the summer to control weeds and add a little organic matter).  If you really need to build the soil up you can plant a 2 year clover as a cover crop and on the 2nd year you flail it and then incorporate it into the soil by tilling.  The clover in this circumstance has sent roots down many feet and helped break up the soil and it will have incorporated large amounts of  nitrogen for later crops to feed upon.   One uses different mixes of cover crops depending on what the following crop needs for nutrients as well.  Some farmers grow a cover crop that grows 6-7 feet high and then cut the grass with a flail mower into a bin (like a giant lawn mower with a bag to catch the grass) and then incorporate that cut cover crop into a large compost pile for later use as fertilizer.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #97 on: August 30, 2013, 06:12:43 PM »
Laurent it just occurred to me that you might have had a different type of question in mind than I answered above.

I think you might be thinking of the concept of crop rotations.  When I was farming I grew about 40 different vegetables.  When you break these vegetables down into different plant genus's  you end up with groups of vegetables which require similar sets of nutrients for ideal growth.  Each type of plant when it is growing consumes certain sets of nutrients and leaves behind others.  As the different types of plants are planted in the right order in the same field both during a single season and over the course of several years the farmer gets much higher production and less soil amendments like fertilizer and micro-nutrients are required to be added to the soil.  This is called crop rotation.  In a sense the famer is using the cash crops to provide some of the same benefits a cover crops provide.  This type of crop rotation was invented on a farm about 5 miles from mine in about 1790-1800. 

The above crop rotation knowledge eventually led to the concept of perma-culture farming where one plants a mix of different kinds of plants which work together to help feed each other.  I won't go into perma-culture farming as the subject would need its own topic if posters wanted to discuss it (it tends to get very emotional at times as there is a lot of controversy about it).
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Neven

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #98 on: August 30, 2013, 06:34:40 PM »
Talking about permaculture and no-tilling, I'm sure you guys have heard of Masanobu Fukuoka and his One Straw Revolution.
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Bruce Steele

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Re: Weather and agriculture
« Reply #99 on: August 30, 2013, 07:37:30 PM »
One straw was no-till or as I recall sheet composting. Everyplace you farm you deal with different problems but lots of organics laying around can bring with it rodents like rabbits, squirrels, or worse rats. Snails also like someplace to hide that is dark and moist. I don't till deep and sometimes a deeprooted plant like safflower can get organics deeper into the ground( dead roots ) and break up hardpan. We are having lots of food safety rules , mostly to trace origin and transport channels.
  JimD, I usually farm half the year and fish the other half. I also sell locally rather than drive to the big money farmers markets in L.A.  I don't get much more than SafeWay or Albertsons prices but sometimes even with fairly low prices it's a struggle to unload abundant yields.  I also farm solo so planting, weeding, packing and selling gets kinda tough even if I did have more markets.  I think my goal to get away from fossil fuels costs me on the profit side but if I were willing to trade petroleum for production I should probably fish more and ignore the problems we all see coming. I think it is possible to get closer to my goal but the profit part eludes me. In a long term view on things we need to get very close to zero ff and money may also become less important even in the good ol' USA.  I hope for some sort of agrarian movement, I hope someone will try for profit vegetable farming with a calories in calories out goal that puts some decent numbers on sustainability. I would also like to add soil carbon in the process.  Back to the raspberry patch.  P.s.  JimD  It's pinion pine season right now so if you haven't gone out to collect pinions it's one of the pleasures of living in the high desert.