12 January 2010

Agriculture links to think about

1. Is the world going to run out of phosphorus? (It's in all our bones and puts the P into NPK fertiliser). Answer: Probably not for 100 years, but we should look for supply shortages now and start recycling it before we get another disastrous spike in fertiliser prices.

2. 25 stories on African agriculture. Haven't read them all, but good news in no. 18 (Zimbabwe grows more maize), bad news for Kenyan horticulture in no. 9 (is that a climate-compatible industry?). The DR Congo award for "world ignores ongoing disaster" goes to no. 12 on Lake Chad drying up.

3. Interesting post on what to eat by a soil scientist. She has a few rules of thumb which she readily admits are imperfect and inconsistent and - because the budget constraint usually binds for grad students - "I can't always decide whether the cost of organics reflects the true cost of the food or whether I'm paying for the word 'organic'."

My rules of thumb are also imperfect and inconsistent: no beef, other meat or fish every other day not every day, seasonal fruit and vegetables because they taste better anyway. Organic milk, fruit and vegetables yes, free range eggs always BUT conventional wheat/rice/maize (where I think the yield benefit of conventional techniques outweighs the biodiversity loss - i.e., I'd rather have a factory farm next to the Amazon than no factory farms and no Amazon). Do I stick to them religiously? No. Do I try? Yes. Am I a hypocrite? Yes and so are you. If we were honest we'd all eat beans.

Thank you Sarah Holmes, Sue Murray and Etienne Pollard for pointing these out!