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February 26, 2009

Food for the future

When I read a recent report that the U.N. says food production may fall 25 percent by 2050 because of land degradation and loss, water scarcity and climate change, I immediately thought of our neighbor who is working to solve this problem: Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. He and six plant geneticists and agronomists are developing perennial grains from such annuals as wheat, sorghum and sunflowers.

Perennials have many advantages over annual grains. Their massive 10-foot roots manage water and nutrients better and hold the soil all year from erosion. Since they regrow each spring, there is less need for fossil fuel-dependent farm machinery to plow and plant seeds. They have a longer growing season and require less fertilizer and other chemicals.

U.N. Environment Program director Achim Steiner said: “We need a revolution that boosts yields by working with rather than against nature … Simply ratcheting up the fertilizer- and pesticide-led production methods of the 20th century is unlikely to address the challenge.”

Mary Helen Korbelik
Mission Hills

Comments

TinaMcG

Well hey, how was I supposed to know you're from Wichita?

Pub 17

You're telling a WICHITA boy about the Equus Beds?

TinaMcG

Good primer (pun intended) on the aquifer:
http://theparagraph.com/2007/02/the-ogallala-aquifer/

TinaMcG

Well, not to worry. We have this big honkin' Ogallala aquifer running from SD to south Texas. Almost 100 years of drinking at this public trough is putting the future of farming the Plains in jeopardy.

Plant natives, mow high, let the lawn go dormant in August, and turn off those damned sprinkler systems. Being a water wonk comes with being a soil wonk.

Pub 17

Welcome to the Great American Desert.

TinaMcG

Well, I am intrigued by the idea. I'm a soil wonk. Before we purchased a home in the KC area, I researched the soil types by street address at the USGS Web Soil Survey site. Fat lot of good that did us though, once we realized the %$&@#$ developer had stripped off the topsoil and sold it. Talk about practices that lead to erosion and excessive stormwater runoff -- I'm on a tear about this issue. It's a practice that should be outlawed, and at the very least, it should be disclosed to home buyers. The first year we were here, we spent $8000 IN ONE DAY to truck in topsoil and compost to use in regrading and filling to limit serious erosion problems on the property. And that $8K hardly made a dent.

I've veered off topic, sorry. Like I said, soil wonk.

Pub 17

As long as you can patent varietals it will.

TinaMcG

"modern agriculture is built around forcing annuals into the biome, where nature wants perennials. " == Pub

So it's doubtful Monsanto is funding this research.

Pub 17

Tina--
Cliche, which means its true: modern agriculture is built around forcing annuals into the biome, where nature wants perennials. Annuals kick out lots more production, but need Farmer John to replant and tend them. Interesting idea, but it's just staving off the inevitable, which is there's too many people out there and way too many on the way.

TinaMcG

Wow, perennial grains -- who knew? I'll have to read up on that. So, it would mean no planting in the spring, and instead of tilling under in the fall, the plants would be mowed? Interesting.

 
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