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Industrial agriculture pigs out- Mar 4

U.K. Farmers Face Seed Shortage as Spring Planting Set to Surge
Whitney McFerron, Bloomberg
Farmers in the U.K. are facing a shortage of seeds as planting of spring crops is set to surge, after record rainfall last year in England muddied fields and left less land available to be sown with winter crops.

Farmers are paying about 30 percent more than usual for spring seeds as rising demand has led to shortages of domestic supplies and spurred an increase of imports, said David Neale, a business development manager at Andoversford, England-based farm adviser Agrii. As much as 20 percent of U.K. fields intended for winter crops including wheat and rapeseed last autumn went unplanted because of excess rain, leaving that ground now available to be sown with oilseed and grain, he said.

“We pretty much exhausted some time ago supplies of U.K.- produced seed, and there’s been massive imports of seed from Germany, France and eastern Europe,” Neale said in a telephone interview today. “Spring barley planting will have a big increase, and spring wheat, and there will be some increase in spring rapeseed and other minor crops” including peas and linseed, he said....
(15 February 2013)


UN says fertiliser crisis is damaging the planet

Michael McCarthy, The Independent
The world is facing a fertiliser crisis, with far too little in some places, and far too much in others, a new report from the United Nations says today.

The mass application of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients needed for plant growth has had huge benefits for world food and energy production, but it has also caused a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health, causing toxic algal blooms, killing fish, threatening sensitive ecosystems and contributing to climate change, says the report, “Our Nutrient World”...
(18 February 2013)
You can download the report here.


'Land Grabbing': Foreign Investors Buy Up Third World Farmland
Staff, Der Spiegel
A number of developing nations have sold or leased much of their farmland to foreign investors. The list is led by Liberia, whose arable land is 100 percent under foreign ownership.

The process is known as "land grabbing," and it is affecting countries in Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Around half of the farmland of the Philippines is owned by foreign investors. In Ukraine, American companies have secured over one-third of the country's farmland...
(19 February 2013)


King Corn Mowed Down 2 Million Acres of Grassland in 5 Years Flat

Tom Philpott, Mother Jones
In a post last year, I argued that to get ready for climate change, we should push Midwestern farmers to switch a chunk of their corn land into pasture for cows. The idea came from a paper by University of Tennessee and Bard College researchers, who calculated that such a move could suck up massive amounts of carbon in soil—enough to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 36 percent. In addition to the CO2 reductions, you'd also get a bunch of high-quality, grass-fed beef (which has a significantly healthier fat profile than the corn-finished stuff).

Turns out, farmers in the Midwest are doing just the opposite. Inspired by high crop prices driven up by the federal corn-ethanol program—as well as by federally subsidized crop insurance that mitigates their risk—farmers are expanding the vast carpet of corn and soy that covers the Midwest rather than retracting it. That's the message of a new paper (PDF) by South Dakota State University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

They looked at recent land-use changes in what they call the "western corn belt"—North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska—between 2006 and 2011. What they found was that grasslands in that region are being sacrificed to the plow at a clip "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia." According to the researchers, you have to go back to the 1920s and 1930s—the "era of rapid mechanization of US agriculture"—to find comparable rates of grassland loss in the region. All told, nearly 2 million acres of grassland—an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined—succumbed to the plow between 2006 and 2011, they found. Just 663,000 acres went from corn/soy to grassland during that period, meaning a net transfer of 1.3 million acres to the realm of King Corn.
(20 February 2013)

Editorial Notes: Photo credit: flickr/planmygreen

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