Week in review – food and farm edition

by Judith Curry

A collection of articles on food and farms, related to climate change, sustainability, and broad environmental issues.

#Foodwaste & yard waste produce a lot of methane, but there are ways to reduce impact. [link]

Africa Transforming Agriculture To Combat Climate Change [link]

How crickets can provide cheap, climate-friendly protein – study: [link]

@FAOnews warns #climate smart #agriculture essential for smallholder farms, but implementation challenges remain [link]

Faced with falling commodity prices, farmers are getting smarter about how they purchase seeds. [link]

Insurance can help build farmers’ #resilience to climate change. How can Southeast Asia make the most of it? [link]

The girl who wants to end hunger [link]

#Florida Faces Worst #Orange Harvest Crisis Since Records Began in 1913 [link]

Farmers, Herders, and Floods: Social-ecological changes in Colombia’s Bogota Plateau during the 18th and 19th centuries [link]

First farm to grow vegetables in a desert using only sun and #Desal seawater [link]

A look at the future of meat.  [link]

Could traditional plants hold the secret to saving crops from pests? [link] …

How three U.S. mini-farms are sowing the seeds of global food security [link]

J.M. Fortier and the Rise of the High-Profit Micro Farm [link]

The pig poop story: Factory farming practices are under scrutiny again in N.C. after disastrous hurricane floods [link]

Most Farmers Still Doubt They Have Anything To Do With Climate Change [link]

On smallholder adaptation to climate change and the ‘green revolution in #Africa’ [link]

Ethical arguments won’t end #factoryfarming. Technology might. [link]

It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System [link]

Schoolgirl’s invention solves drought crisis? [link]

Is Dry Farming the Next Wave in a Drought-Plagued World? [link]

Hydrogen could become the new fuel for cooking – here’s how  [link]

Farming is at a #climate crossroads [link]

NYTimes:  Why industrial farms are good for the environment. “Before ‘factory farming’ became a pejorative, scholars were calling for farmers to do just that.” [link]

“Improving fertilizer efficiency could reduce China’s GHG emissions as much as 6 percent, according to one study.” [link]

What would it take to mainstream “alternative” agriculture? [link] …

“India’s foodgrain production is estimated to rise by 9% to an all-time high of 135.03 million tonnes” [link]

How carbon farming can be the answer to #climatechange [link]

How Aquaculture and Agriculture Can Work in Harmony -[link]

The Next Agricultural Revolution Is Under Our Feet:  Healthy soil needs less water! [link]

EPA initiatives to fight food waste [link]

Seaweed could hold the key to cutting methane emissions from cow burps [link]

UN: Global agriculture needs a ‘profound transformation’ to fight climate change and protect food security [link]

48 responses to “Week in review – food and farm edition

  1. Pingback: Week in review – food and farm edition – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. How can a girl from Chicago not post even one story of the most important event/story going on in the Universe right now?

  3. Alternative agriculture. Another whine from someone who knows nothing about modern farming but thinks it can be done like the 250,000 peasant farmers in some Latin American association.

  4. The teenager, whose hero is the Indian agricultural scientist M. S. Swaminathan, has many more ideas, including a proposal to dye the skins of endangered animals to discourage poaching.

    … a lot different than the reception than Kristen Byrnes (“Ponder the Maunder) received.

    • Steven Mosher

      because she was a fake..

      someday I will dig out those emails.. too funny

      • Are you calling 15 year old highschooler Kristen Byrnes (“Ponder the Maunder”) a fake because she wrote a term paper back in April 2008 (years prior to foi2009 CruGate disclosures) that exposed Al Gore as a nutbag? Do you really believe Al Gore when he tells you that polar bears were drowning due to global warming because they were forced to swim long distances to find the ice? Was hurricane Katrina really caused by global warming?

  5. Hydrogen for third world cooking, specifially places like Ghana. One of the dumbest ‘sciency’ proposals ever seen. Idea is solar electricity for hydrolysis, then use the hydrogen via pipeline like natural gas or via bottle like propane. There are three difficulties. First, if you have solar electricity, you can use it directly to cook. All you need is wires and a hotplate. No need to waste ~30% on electrolysis. Second, hydrogen leaks through anything. Pipeline won’t work. Cooking bottle won’t work. Third, hydrogen is volumetrically very low energy density. Cryogenic LIQUID hydrogen has about 25% the energy density of propane. Good luck with than in Ghana.In a compressed gaseous state less than 1%. Good luck with cooking one meal per bottle. The basic ignorance of easily determined facts is stunning.
    Many other goofy hydrogen ideas are deconstructed in essay Hydrogen Hype in ebook Blowing Smoke, foreword by Judith.

    • David L. Hagen

      ristvan another “minor” problem. How can people in Ghana afford that compared to firewood?

      The inability to connect and market solar “on to the grid” has kept major solar companies out of Africa and has made solar a tool with limited markets, an expensive choice for rural people without cash, often peddled with missionary zeal by aid agencies and NGOs. Among rural people who get by on a few dollars a day, off-grid solar will always be limited — a plaything that cannot deliver what grid or generator power can, something in a shop window, or a toy that provides a few watt hours a day, but not a permanent solution.

      Why Africa is Missing the Solar Power Boat 2013

    • But hydrogen cooking in Ghana sounds so progressy! No need for fact checking. /sarc

      Thanks Rud again.

    • ristvan ==> Cooking with hydrogen gas is a stupid idea — especially when they throw in solar to electrolysis

      However, cooking fuel is a huge problem in all of the developing world — and electricity is NOT the answer to that problem. State subsidized propane and propane/bottled gas distribution does work, and allows the end of firewood cutting and charcoal making. All of the progressive oh-so-cool solar cookers etc are also not in the running to make any difference.

      Worked humanitarian efforts for years in the northern Caribbean, where denuding mountains produce floods and mud slides due to lack of simple two-burner gas cook stoves.

  6. Food/yard waste to methane article offers “solutions” that are pretty much here. EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) lists 652 operational projects. The article blows past the LFGTE projects and goes on to other things like keeping waste out of landfills. Although EPA has lower the floor on size required for LFG capture, many will not be equipped with capture and control. Also, the viability of a LFGTE project depends on the size of the landfill, location of distribution infrastructure and the price of energy, unless you are in the it’s free government money so cost is no object projects. Most of the good, economical projects have been taken.

    Landfill gas to energy projects take a variable, low quality energy supply containing all kinds of contaminants and convert it to something useful. Current economics make conversions to pipeline methane projects difficult. If you remove the organic wastes, the methane content decreases and the projects get more interesting. Also, the regulatory environment makes these projects more difficult than necessary.

  7. How can you people vote for this grifter. From the article:

    The Nuclear Option — Wikileaks Reveals Even Hillary’s Own Staff Knows Truth: She’s Psychotic

    Turns out the Clintons have been right all along: Lying really does work.
    Poring through all these purloined emails, you get the sense that these people spend every breathing second of their day either lying, plotting to tell lies or lying about lies they told in the past.

    And each batch of stolen emails is worse than the last.

    Hillary Clinton is a liar. She has terrible instincts. She doesn’t believe in anything. Her head is broken. She doesn’t know why she should be president. She is pathological. And she is psychotic.

    Just ask everybody who works for her. Just ask campaign chairman John Podesta. Just ask the people working the hardest to get her elected president.

    I mean, in her most rabid streak of attacks on Donald Trump’s alleged unfitness for office, Mrs. Clinton doesn’t call him “psychotic.”

    Psychotic! That is what her campaign chairman called her.


  8. Vegetables in desert from solar and desal. Yup, 15000 tons of greenhouse tomatoes annually from a $200 million dollar setup in South Australia. That is ‘only’ $13.3 million capital per ton. As an Australian professor from NSW pointed out at the end of the article, complete ecoloonacy as Australia has plenty of farmland elsewhere that happily grows tomatoes under ideal natural conditions.

    • But, hey, it puts bread on the table courtesy of the government grants, etc.

    • Further to the SA ecolunacy. An acre of average NSW farmland goes for $1200 at present. It yields about 70-80 tons of tomatoes per season depending on cultivar So 15000 tons/yr requires a capital (land) investment of ~$260 thousand, not $200 million. Plus 1 medium HP tractor.

    • Math error — I come up with $13.3 thousand capital/ton instead of 13.3 million, but the point is still well made.

    • johnvonderlin

      Wow, with that kind of analysis (even without your 1,000 to 1 math error) no prototypes should ever be made. Two hundred million bucks to get the first farm of its type up and running seems negligible. I’m sure that Saudi Arabia and many other areas that are inhospitable to raising fresh vegetables under ordinary circumstances are interested in this concept. Having proved (I assume) the concept’s efficacy, your country may have gotten in on the ground floor of a high dollar export, i.e. experienced technical know how in this arena. The patents alone might repay the investment if it is a success that serves as the pattern for others. Maybe Elon Musk will want to build one on Mars.
      As to the $13K per ton for initial capital investment. Should I analyze the cost of every night’s sleep in the next year at my home as over $3,000 a night. There are plenty of nearby hotels at just a few hundred dollars a night. I don’t feel like a lunatic for buying it. Infrastructure once built or bought defrays its cost over a long period. And it tends to become more valuable if it is useful and doesn’t fall apart.
      Capital investment’s return is also almost always returned over a long period. The cost of the $200 million ($6 million a year at 3%) plus maintenance, labor, seeds, etc. are the relevant costs. 15K tons of tomatoes at $1 a pound is $30 million. Seems like plenty of room to turn a healthy profit even at half that price.
      Living in the heart of global Innovation, the Silicon Valley, I can assure you that this is the way to a better future, not being a nattering nabob of negativism. Until our population stabilizes we need to plan on feeding more mouths. Last time I looked they weren’t making much more good farmland.

      • Curious George

        Let’s go buy tasty greenhouse tomatoes. Top dollars.

      • dont bother them with life cycle analysis

      • It would seem that a more appropriate approach would be to conduct a benefit/cost analysis of constructing a sister solar operation versus the benefit/cost analysis of constructing a comparable sized conventional operation. It is difficult to imagine that the solar operation with its $200 million upfront cost will compare favorably with the conventional operation. Now we can throw in a twist that might make a difference. We could require the conventional operation to purchase enough carbon offsets so that it, on net, emits no more carbon than the solar operation. That would help tilt the numbers toward the solar operation. I’m still skeptical that the math would work out. Of course, there would need to be a market somewhere in the world where the carbon offsets can be purchased. As an aside, a calculation as to how much the upfront cost of the solar unit has to fall to make it viable can also be part of the benefit/cost analysis. Of course, this is assuming that the present value of solar option’s cash flow doesn’t compare favorably to the conventional method.

      • johnvonderlin

        While I’m all for comparing this operation with a “convential” one and would try to analyze it on every level. I wouldn’t drag in the artificial carbon offsets, as they are unknowable. Using saline water, essentially unusable land and the blazing sun that produces large amounts of solar energy right next to it are the selling points here. Fossil fuels will become more expensive eventually, no matter how clever we are in extracting them, solar power is becoming cheaper as innovation and economy of scale develops, food needs and value will increase as population continues to grow, usable farm lands will become more expensive even as they are exploited more vigorously, potable water is decreasing in quantity and increasing in cost as aquifers lower and usage continues to rise, and whoever can demonstrate solutions to these problems with a successful prototype will reap a fortune in patents, and licensing agreements, even if they don’t go into the business of building plants all over the world for those that want them or make a healthy yearly profit from product sales right now.
        I see little to criticize in this bold effort, but rather a lot to commend. The world needs more such innovative efforts to solve the problems we will face in the not so distant future. Horse carriage companies complained about noisy, belching, expensive autos when they first began appearing commercially, only to soon be left sitting on a pile of manure looking wistful as society watched them disappear in their rear view mirrors. Old nags should get out of the road, if they can’t lend a hand.

  9. Oh my!!! Hahahahaha most of these are just, well, unbelievable. Hahahaha

  10. Here in South Africa we have lots of new farmers taking up land grants but without sufficient capital. The high-profit organic micro-farm looks good to me. I reposted the link at FB group Farmers South Africa.

  11. ianmurray1000@gmail.com

    Cheers. Will put this in. At the moment I am trying to find out if the huge Papist Cathedral does decent music, and if so at what time. Being Papist of course, it does not tell you.

    Sent from my iPad


  12. #climate crossroads
    Joseph Curtin should read Hubert Lamb on increased storm events and Ireland flooding during solar minima. It’s not rising greenhouse gases that are increasing such negative North Atlantic Oscillation driven events.
    The same goes for El Nino driven drought effected regions, like Southeast Asia.
    It is about time that an impartial standard is established to distinguish how increased forcing of the climate actually changes the climatic regime in each region. The current climate science paradigm seems to working on the effective pretext that it will increase both El Nino and increase La Nina, blaming both increased floods and increased droughts ad hoc on rising emissions. Which just stinks of duplicity or delusion.

  13. “16-year-old South African invents wonder material to fight drought”.
    Whoa! Wait. What?
    It already exists. It’s called ‘carbon’ (sic):
    “Paris floods made almost twice as likely by [Doomsday Global Warming], say scientists”

  14. Relentless and now rapidly receding water tables (due mostly to irrigation/food production) in some places and increased flooding in others as increasing water vapor (which counters cooling) rains out, is compelling evidence humanity needs to aggressively attend to rational management of fresh water … and stop wasting time and resources on the mistaken perception that CO2 has a significant effect on climate.

    As the fresh water runs out pandemonium, food shortage and starvation will increase. http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2015/12/10/pumped-beyond-limits-many-us-aquifers-decline/76570380/

    Discover what does cause climate change (98% match 1895-2015) at http://globalclimatedrivers2.blogspot.com

  15. GHG emissions and GW are beneficial for agriculture.

  16. john vonderlin

    In regards to this quote from the “Worst orange harvest since 1913” link:
    “U.S. consumers have it in their mind that orange juice is high in sugar, which it is, but it’s natural sugars that don’t contribute to obesity,” John Michalik, a beverages expert at the Canadian division of the market research group Global Data,”
    Now that seems like a ‘Pants on Fire.” if I ever read one. Though, as everybody knows, if you add some natural cane alcohol to the orange juice it will make you smarter and more handsome.

  17. One of the above posts reminded me that ordinary farmers seem to have much better analytical skills than ordinary climatologists selected to write reports for the UN’s IPCC. Common sense is uncommon in bureaucratic agencies.

  18. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Carbon fertilization to reduce CO2 does not work.
    You add potash and phosphate to soil improve plant growth. You expect the soil to become depleted in this K and P as the plants remove it for better yield. Later you have to top it up. That K and P has gone to places like your stronger human body.
    So it is with carbon. If you add it to soil to improve plant yield, it can only do good if it in involved in reactions, biological or chemical, that deplete it to do good. These reactions involving soil carbon have a habit of eventually producing CO2 by various pathways and putting it in the air.
    So what is the value of a carbon farming scheme that adds CO2 to the air in a process designed to take CO2 from the air?
    One might accept that CO2 to the air can be reduced by burying carbon so it cannot be oxidisednto CO2. Nature beat them to this, see coal deposits. No, benefit to plants happens only when the carbon put into the soil is taken out again, by plants – then usually to CO2.
    (It should be noted that improvement to soils can arise through a different process, namely being a ‘sponge’ material to hold extra amounts of trace elements to feed the roots and thus give better plant nutrition. But this is not the process being flogged by the carbon farmers).
    It is beyond belief that nobody flogging carbon farming seems to have revealed this fatal flaw. If people do not have the skill to reveal the flaw, they do not have the skill to research agriculture. The most charitable explanation for this apparent show of dismal ignorance is that somehow researchers have found a work around the problem but have not yet disclosed it. But the easy explanation is that they hope to make some cash and flee before people catch on.
    Situation is similar to those who have repeatedly noted, for decades, that wind electricity has substantial intermittency problems, but people went ahead and pushed it as a public good, making lots of cash before citizens realised how flawed wind energy is, even fatally.
    Why does climate research so often accept schoolboy howlers?

  19. This story starts with a single cabbage.  But it wasn’t just any cabbage, however. It was a 40-pound cabbage, grown by a 9 year old girl named Katie Stagliano.

    This young gardener donated that huge cabbage to her local soup kitchen, and it fed more than 275 people.

    That’s about 2 1/3 ounces per person which contains about zero fat, less than one percent of the recommended daily carbohydrates and about one fortieth of the recommended daily protein.

    I’m sure this young lady has done some good and has certainly come a long way since she was nine years old and growing a garden, but starting a story with what could kindly be called hyperbole or less kindly called BS doesn’t say much for the writer, the publication or their respect for their readers.

  20. Richard Tol, 2011. The economic impact of climate change in the 20th and 21st Centuries, http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/sites/default/files/climate_change.pdf Figure 3, shows that GW is beneficial for agriculture – in fact, of all items, agriculture is the greatest benefactor of warming. Maximum benefit is at about 2C warming above 1900 temperature; warming is net beneficial to beyond 4 C.

    Energy is the only item that is significantly negative. However, I suspect the assumptions used for energy costs are not defensible (especially if they assume increasing real cost of energy in future).

    Anthoff and Tol, 2011. The Uncertainty about the Social Cost of Carbon: A Decomposition Analysis Using FUND Table 3 and 4 and Figure 1 shows that climate impacts are most sensitive to the energy terms in the damage function. This paper explains the impact items used in FUND and their effect on the damage estimates.

    I would like to understand what empirical data was used to derive expressions used for each item. I’d like to start with just one, the most important – i.e. the energy costs. Can anyone tell me where I can find an explanation of how the energy expression was derived?

  21. EPA initiatives to fight food waste

    Well, there are two ways to approach this.

    The food waste problem has two components:
    1. The picky/trends that eat some and toss the rest
    2. Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last long.

    The EPA is attacking #1.

    Most food waste is probably #2.

    Approaches to #2.
    a. The Army is actually researching tomatoes that last months or years after being picked.

    b. An antibacterial/antifungal/atmosphere controlled refrigerator would help

    c. Promote use of IQF (Individually quick frozen). for fruits and vegetables.

  22. Abstract
    The scale of the decarbonisation challenge to meet the Paris Agreement is underplayed in the public arena. It will require precipitous emissions reductions within 40 years and a new carbon sink on the scale of the ocean sink. Even then, the world is extremely likely to overshoot. A catastrophic failure of policy, for example, waiting another decade for transformative policy and full commitments to fossil-free economies, will have irreversible and deleterious repercussions for humanity’s remaining time on Earth. Only a global zero carbon roadmap will put the world on a course to phase-out greenhouse gas emissions and create the essential carbon sinks for Earth-system stability, without which, world prosperity is not possible.

    How could anyone take the linked article seriously when no where in it does it mention a global commitment to nuclear energy to accomplish a “zero carbon” goal deemed so necessary to extend, “humanity’s remaining time on Earth?” Otherwise, shouldn’t we drop the charade of pretending to aspire to “world prosperity” when we all know that billions living today need more not less energy to transcend mind-numbing poverty?

  23. As someone with degrees in ag and ecology, scrolling through that list of headlines made me want to punch the screen.

    I wonder, how far has society progressed when we start poking ghosts with sticks in order to maintain and secure our food supply? I am pretty sure this is no different than what the Inca and Aztecs were doing; using religious dogma to control the climate.

    And how convenient is it, that “efforts to combat climate change” all involve the same agenda items found in the left wing culture; humans are evil, remove humans from the land, animal products are evil, everything must be protected, and ultimately it comes down to wishing for one’s own self destruction.

    I guess after reading what the progressive liberals think makes me also hate humans….but not in the same way.