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Farming In Hotter Climates

We examine what a hotter, drier climate may mean for American agriculture and your food.

A field of corn in the sunshine. (Noble Gill/Flickr)

A field of corn in the sunshine. (Noble Gill/Flickr)

There’s been soggy weather over much of the country this past weekend, but step back and you’ll find that, for a big part of the West and more, the story has been too much hot and too much dry.

Forty percent of the nation’s farm income comes from seventeen Western states: cattle, sheep, salad greens, dry beans, melons, hops, barley, wheat, potatoes, citrus.

For all that and more, my guest Gary Paul Nabhan is looking at how to adapt for a hotter, drier climate, how to treat our soil and water, how to choose and raise our crops to make it through.

This hour On Point: Farming for living, eating, surviving in a changing climate.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Gary Paul Nabhan, agricultural ecologist, ethnobotanist and writer. Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona. Author “Growing Food in Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty” and “Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands.”

Eugene Takle, professor of atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology and director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land” by Gary Paul Nabhan. Copyright 2013 by Gary Paul Nabhan. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Our Coming Food Crisis [OP-ED]: “The most vulnerable crops are those that were already in flower and fruit when temperatures surged, from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. Idaho farmers have documented how their potato yields have been knocked back because their heat-stressed plants are not developing their normal number of tubers. Across much of the region, temperatures on the surface of food and forage crops hit 105 degrees, at least 10 degrees higher than the threshold for most temperate-zone crops.”

The Guardian: Climate Change: How A Warming World Is A Threat To Our Food Supplies: “Global warming is exacerbating political instability as tensions brought on by food insecurity rise. With research suggesting the issue can only get worse we examine the risks around the world.”

TIME: Climate Change And Farming: How Not To Go Hungry In A Warmer World: “Warming isn’t the only threat to our ability to feed ourselves — it acts in concert with rising population, the growing demand for grain and water-intensive meat, and the civil dysfunction and conflict that often frustrates poor farmers in the developing world.”

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  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    On page 6 of Mr. Nabhan’s book excerpt, he ask,

    “ What old behaviors, technologies, and practices might you have to give up or suspend to get to where you want to be?”

    The answer is straightforward :

    Quit having children at the current rate and quit supporting those that have more children than they can afford. Make these adults accountable for their actions. OR, and I mean capital or, find a substitute for baby-making sexual intercourse. (Of course, you could demand that people quit having sex; good luck with that !)

    There is no people shortage !

    The US cannot act as the global warming police! We will not be able to prevent others from using whatever form of energy feedstock others choose to use, until the price of alternative energy feedstock is more economical than current sources. Even if we could, a population that continues to increase will eventually outstrip resources through such actions as deforestation. Did you every stop to think about where our oxygen will be coming from when all the trees have been cut down ? The Amazon Rainforest produces about 1/3 of the world O2 supply. All those extra people will have to live somewhere, wont’ they ? The global warming issue is a major distraction from the World’s, singular, most important issue OVERPOPULATION !

    If you want to start planning for some kind of positive action TODAY, then take a good look at what Volkswagen is offering for, late, 2013. It wouldn’t hurt to check out : XL1 : 120 to 260 miles per gallon.

    http://autos.yahoo.com/news/120-mpg-room-two-vw-xl1-hitting-streets-140058109.html

    Or:
    “Breakthrough fuel-cell technology promises to make futuristic cars affordable”, from ACAL.

    Note: An engine is just another type of power plant.

    http://autos.yahoo.com/news/breakthrough-fuel-cell-technology-promises-futuristic-cars-affordable-180000979.html

     
    While it’s not a substitute for coal, it’s a damn good start. It will send a message that you mean business. Talk is cheap, unless the dollars are doing the talking !

    Trivia answer at bottom of link page:

    How much oxygen is absolutely required for the human body to survive?

    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=57029

    Bonus question:
    If we started out with an ocean full of fish and then we humans continue to breed and eat all the fish, how many fish will we have when we are done eating ?
    Duh ?

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      overpopulation is all relative. its also a temporary problem that often takes care of it self. humans are really good at reducing the populations of rival populations of humans. we are also, more than was ever possible, susceptible to a global pandemic.  the plague lowered the world population significantly even though it was not a  worldwide epidemic. a few failures of monoculture can also reduce the population significantly.  I was watching something about gates trying to cure all these diseases. if he does cure them all what are we going to do with all those people?

      • Wm_James_from_Missouri

        If you are correct we will find ourselves in a perpetual state of “plague”. —- Gates needs to get back to improving Microsoft’s products, they are in retrograde and not living up to their potential.

    • TheDailyBuzzherd

      “Soylent Green is made from people.”

    • andic_epipedon

      While I agree that overpopulation is the worst environmental problem on this planet, if we go to a zero growth policy we are still going to have problems in the future when it comes to food.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    I did not read the whole excerpt but I wonder if the author points out how many of our potential problems are severely exacerbated by monoculture. it mentioned potato farmers. mc Donald’s buys something like 40-60% of the worlds potato crop and they demand potatoes that are the same. if that strain is vulnerable to heat or disease then they all go. a great way to ensure a reliable food supply is to grow many varieties of fruits and vegetables instead of monocultures

    • 1Brett1

      Yes, McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of potatoes on the planet. Growers for McDonald’s set the stage for another potato famine, except on a global scale…then, of course, this sort of monoculture farming sets the stage for companies like Monsanto to gain more and more power over agribusiness. Monsanto has legally binding agreements with McDonald’s and their growers that growers of their potatoes will not only purchase only insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers from Monsanto but will also purchase genetically modified seeds and will follow prescribed application schedules. If growers do not follow those agreements (often monitored by Pinkerton-like thugs and undercover workers from Monsanto) then the growers are blacklisted. Those who do not use Monsanto products and application methods will not get into the larger markets.

      • jefe68

        And beef I believe.

        • 1Brett1

          AND pink slime! (beef byproducts, bleached, made into a pink slurry, then added to beef products, such as McDonald’s hamburgers). So, if a product is advertised as made with “100% beef” it is, it just has other things added to that 100% beef!

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Small victory time: Taco Bell had to actually change their ads and labels about what constitutes their protein.

      • notafeminista

        My goodness.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        actually mcdonalds got busted for the GMO spuds a few years back and they stopped using them. the ones they were using made their own pesticide and so did not need to be sprayed. on the other hand if these crops did fail all it would mean was no more mcdonalds fries and I don’t eat those now

        • 1Brett1

          Of course, while I found nothing about McDonald’s getting “busted for GMO spuds a few years back” I did find this:

          http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-18/features/chi-food-policy-will-mcdonalds-serve-genetically-modified-fries-20130618_1_fries-mcdonald-potatoes

          http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/06/mcdonald-s-may-soon-serve-genetically-engineered.aspx

          There is no law against GMO foods sold to the public in the US, as far as I know, so McDonlad’s will likely start selling GMO fries soon….Growers either will use GMO seeds or will use more insecticides/herbicides. Also, there is some concern regarding McDonald’s using oils produced from GMO crops…a charge to which they have yet to respond in the US. They have responded in Europe to the charge and have said they don’t use them over there…I find it interesting that they have said they don’t for European restaurants but haven’t yet disclosed the origin of their oils in the US. 

          In monoculture farming if one crop fails it has a ripple effect…so, the failure of one crop means more than just “no more McDonald’s fries.” And this agribusiness practice pervades farming/the environment irrespective of whether or not you “eat those [McDonald's fries] now.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            there seems to be no limit to what you are unable to find out with your internet. “busted” not in a criminal sense but in a sense that it became public and people were upset so they changed.
            there also seems to be no limit to your level of misunderstanding on this issue like many others. why should I be responsible for your inability to operate the internet?

          • 1Brett1

            Oh, that’s just more BS on your part and you know it. It doesn’t make sense that McDonald’s used to use GMO potatoes but stopped after they got caught but are now considering using them, and yet none of the articles on their recent consideration to use GMO potatoes mentions that they used to use GMO potatoes. Yeah, “people got upset so they stopped” but they are considering using them…sure that makes sense in bizarro Futo Buddy world. AND, once again, there is nothing on the internet about this and you’ve provided no evidence, which I’m sure you would if you had any. You don’t have any because there is none. You just like making crap up to be contradictory. There seems to be no limit to your BS

  • notafeminista

    3 comments in and already overpopulation has reared its ugly head.

    Ehrlich is still wrong.

    • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

      I KNOW! It’s soooo 60s. 

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Ehrlich is still wrong, this is true, for now, and will be for some time, yet. The real question is, “when will he be right?”. After all the arguments are made, I believe the question becomes, “how do you want to live? “ and “what tradeoffs are you willing to make?. Living in a constant state of crowding is not my idea of “the good life”.

      • notafeminista

        Oh come now.  Space is like money.  At some point you have enough.  Stop being greedy.

  • 1Brett1

    Not to worry, the Arctic will become fertile farm land! And Boston will be a tropical resort; it’ll be the Key West of the North!

    • Ray in VT

      Come on, Brett.  You don’t believe in the conspiracy that is global warming, do you?

      • 1Brett1

        If by “conspiracy,” do you mean the two scientists ["conspiracy"=more than one, right?] who say there is global warming? Pfft, they are probably working for a solar company owned by Algore trying to get funds from Obama! (By the way, did you see how much weight he’s gained? He’ll definitely leave more of a carbon footprint with all of that tonnage!) 

        All of this nonsensical stuff about “97% of the scientific community believe in climate change” is just made up by the liberal media, Ray, didn’t you know that?! Besides, it was chilly around here yesterday, so I don’t know what all of these tree huggers are doing trying to scare people. Trees suck up all of the oxygen in the air anyway, so they are definitely hazardous to humans! 

        Remember, if you believe in that global warming propaganda, then the terrorists have won!

        • Ray in VT

          I may have been brainwashed by the peer-reviewed scientific community.  What do those hacks know anyways, though.  I should really only trust non-scientists or actual scientists who get fossil fuel industry money or organizations that also oppose other scienceist propaganda like evolution.

          My sister-in-law remarked the other day that it was chilly in NYC, and I was sure that someone on Fox (probably Neil Cavuto) would say something about how that showed that there was no global warming.

          • 1Brett1

            Spot on, Ray! “Peer reviewed” just means they are all in cahoots with each other, anyway! …Evolution? Pfft, in all the 6,000 years the earth has been in existence, there has never been a fish that has turned into a man! 

    • jefe68

      Tundra tomatoes… and permafrost peppers…
      Think of the possibilities.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        All I can think of are mosquitos and blackflies that won’t die from the deep freezes we used to get.

        • jefe68

          Well there is that as well. Not to mention tropical diseases becoming the norm in Maine.

  • Eleanor

    Some of these lands which are no longer viable for grains could be transitioned to grasslands for managed intensive livestock grazing…

    http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

    But could it ever realistically happen within the current frameworks — economic, political, cultural?

    The current situation is hardly encouraging: Farmers who do the extraordinary and admirable work of developing sustainable methods which work for their ecosystems can encounter regulatory enforcement run amok.

    http://www.farmtoconsumer.org (Save Your Bacon!)

    Yet what those farmers have been doing is much less of a challenge to the grain-based agricultural and consumer sectors than transitioning from large-scale croplands to grasslands.

    • Don_B1

      I like your link to the FTCLDF site, and Allan Savory’s TED Talk is greatly instructive for measures that can genuinely reduce some of the effects of Climate Change that is generated by the burning of fossil fuels.

      1) With continuing population growth and the resulting demands on land for agriculture for human food and inefficient animal protein production, there will not be the ability to sequester all the fossil fuel CO2 added to the atmosphere over any significant period of time without a huge reduction in that source.

      2) Even if, and it is incredibly difficult to even envision, there was some great geoengineering breakthrough, which is what Allan Savory is doing, although in a mild and mostly bad side effect free way, that the excess CO2 will also destroy the oceans as a place for as much or more than 75% of the current life (note that some 75% of ocean life was destroyed by ocean acidification in the 

      http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2013/02/the-coming-mass-extinction-in-the-oceans.html

      The most recent large extinction of 25% of ocean life occurred in the early Jurassic period, some 180 million years ago, where warming oceans lead to reduced oxygen levels in the water:

      http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/ocean-life-extinction-threat-study-20130219-2enzr.html

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Hey, whatsamatta, haven’t you listened to the fossil fuel industry, their bought media, and the dupes with so few street smarts as to believe them? There is no warming, so there’s nothing to discuss!

  • Charles Vigneron

    Wildlife and livestock die in severe heat. Changing crop land to grazing land isn’t an answer. 

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      The native grasslands are a huge carbon sink, and totally sustainable.

  • Shag_Wevera

    We aren’t going to do anything about climate change, so we’ll adapt and/or starve.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      like yeast

      • Yar

        At least they get drunk first!

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          whats stopping you?

    • TheDailyBuzzherd

      Say, let’s sacrifice that 47%! Who’s with me.

      Lulz

      • hennorama

        Soylent Green is people!  We’ve gotta stop ‘em … somehow!

  • David_from_Lowell

    In our garden here in Lowell, the growing season (last frost) was almost 3 weeks earlier than typical. Usually the last frost is around Memorial Day. This year it was in the beginning of May. USDA claims we’re a 6A zone, but we are in practice at least 6B now, if not 7A.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      has that been happening every year?

      • David_from_Lowell

        We were historically 5B, then 6A. It’s been variable year to year but trending warmer. This year was very noticeable though.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          I planted too late this year. maybe we can start growing pineapples or bananas

          • David_from_Lowell

            maybe we don’t have to take our rosemary inside this year

          • jefe68

            You will, it will die if left out and it drops below freezing.
            The only herb that winters over (I’m in Boston) in my experience is oregano and sage and for some reason parsley seems to make it.
            Mind you I’m cutting them back to the ground and mulching with leaves.

          • jirohwein

            I have no trouble overwintering mints, chives, and thyme as well (also in eastern MA)

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            I might as well just burn all my long pants and sweaters now

  • Emily4HL

    My eggplant is very happy this year, as are my peppers and tomatoes–everything in the nightshade family. 

    Everything in the squash family, on the other hand is at best struggling, or toast.

    My garden is all in 5 gallon buckets on a porch, so it is extra sensitive to heat.

    I might give up on squash next year. Especially since, for now, eggplant and peppers cost more than zucchini and cucumbers.

    • TheDailyBuzzherd

      Emily same here, but that’s prolly because I too planted very late. Mine aren’t baking, they’re molding.

      Chalk it up to experience.

    • hennorama

      Emily4HL – you might get better results if you group your 5 gal. buckets together and touching each other, so they can shade the sides of each bucket.  Keep the crops that are most heat-sensitive in the center of the grouping, where the sides of the buckets are shaded all around.

      In this way, your soil will be somewhat cooler, and won’t dry out as quickly.  You can also rig some simple shade structures from weed blocking fabric and lightweight wooden or wire metal frames, even using chicken wire or metal fencing material as your the structure.

  • Ray in VT

    For everyone’s information/entertainment/dismay:

    “37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax.”

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/04/conspiracy-theory-poll-results-.html

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      For spits and giggles, do we have something about how right-wingers polled were aghast at the term “global warming” and wanted the more specific “manmade climate change” instead?

      (Somehow I think not.)

      • Ray in VT

        I wonder how many responded by saying something about how they only changed it to climate change away from global warming because of ….

        • HonestDebate1

          Hey! I was going to say that!

          • Ray in VT

            Seriously or as a joke?

    • TomK_in_Boston

      I believe that Romney is a hoax.

  • PithHelmut

    The first thing climate change proponents need to understand is that facts are not quite important right now.  What is important is the tug of the minds that is going on by the fossil fuel industry.  The link must be made with the words fossil fuels and  climate change (or climate heating or climate weirdness) because the fossil fuel industry is plowing billions to keep that association out of our sub-conscious.  The industry knows how to play tactics with our minds.  They have the huge success of the tobacco industry to rely on (ie: “Manufacturing Doubt”) plus more modern psychological research on group mind control. We can play that game too however we don’t want to rely on tricks. What is needed is public awareness and the simplest way is to start connecting the phrase “fossil fuels” with “climate change” and make it clear that fossil fuels are largely responsible for the rise in CO2 (supplemented by removing forests and bad soil management, etc)

    • TomK_in_Boston

      “fossil fuels are largely responsible for the rise in CO2″

      But don’t forget, in the righty alt universe, CO2 need not cause warming, ’cause “things will be different this time”

  • wanders123

    Tuned in late, so you might have mentioned this already, but what I see here in Vermont is that the mammoth federal ag bill is way behind the times. The experimenters, local sustainable farmers, etc. receive no money as they try to pioneer a new way, while the Big Ag and its corporate backers — Monsanto, etc. — keep getting money for methods and crops we don’t want and in fact suffer from.

  • Yooperwoman2

    I have been inspired to diversify my small home garden with a combination of bottom land and raised beds.  During dry years my small field in the low area of my property does pretty well. During wet years, my raised bed do much better.  One benefit of the warmer winters here in western New York is that I can now make cold frames work for certain hardy crops such as spinach and root vegetables.
     

  • truegangsteroflove

    I see this discussion as a start in looking at what we can do to adjust to changing climate conditions. No matter how many adjustments we make, though, we will still be on a path of doom if we continue with our profligate, corrupt, infinite-growth of output and population planetary mass industrial system.

    What the guests are talking about is vital, though, in a kind of subvert the dominant paradigm way. By offering options to our current productive system, a certain momentum is generated, which can give people a psychological boost in their own lives, encouraging them to make their own changes.

    Add to this the CERTAINTY that the current system will fail, and the future starts looking good. One thing we might consider, suggested by the previous hour’s segment, is accumulating wealth above a certain level be made a criminal offense with mandatory minimum sentencing. Some would say setting the maximum at $1,000,000 per year is too high, but it would be a good place to start.

    • nj_v2

      No need to make wealth illegal, just tax income above some specific level at 100%.

  • Yar

    Folks, cheap food and cheap energy are the hallmarks of our entire economy.  Even the high priced CSA farm is dependent on the efficiency of large scale agriculture to create the wealth that supports their niche market.  Don’t let the cows cures the grass.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517154492 Ben Hurst

    How about adding more small farmers rather than big ag? With thousands of small farmers with very diverse crops could help with climate change. Might actually also help the economy-turn the middle class into farmers and lower that unemployment rate. Surly the government could start some kind of grant program for educating new farmers and providing land.

  • SamEw

    I’ve always been amazed by how central California is somehow both one of the most arid and fertile areas on earth. Maybe, the San Joaquin valley has lessons to teach the world for coming decades.  

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Ahhh, no. The water that the southwest is stealing from others is running out quickly. Growing green crops in the desert is just wrong.

      Neil

      • SamEw

        What happens in Central California that doesn’t in Montana or Arizona which are similarly arid? That is the point. Just saying there’s a lot of irrigation doesn’t really say much about why farming in that region is successful. It’s not like there’s a lot of farming in Nevada which is also heavily irrigated. Also, if we’re really going to be serious about water supplies there’s lot of things to do before shutting down farming. Have you ever been to Vegas?

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Never.

          When the water runs out, it is out – almost none for anybody.

        • ExcellentNews

          It’s geology that makes the difference. The bottom of the San Joaquin is a mix of sediment (ancient sea bottom) and more recent glacial rock grind. It is rich in minerals plants need. Much of Arizona on the other hand is weathered sand and gravel from the truly deep past, and has little more than iron and silica…

    • ExcellentNews

      Somehow? Not really. Arid and fertile are two separate things. The valley is fertile because of past geology. Thanks to artificial irrigation, the areas that receive water can have very high yields. Many desert areas around the world would be very fertile too if you could get water to them.
      The lesson that San Joaquin IS teaching us right now, is that such agriculture may be a way of the past. The Sierra snowpack that feeds the reservoirs that irrigate the valley has been decreasing since the 70s. The most likely cause is the global warming of Earth, which results in less snow and more rain over the mountain ranges. If you look at all the large natural or artificial reservoirs in CA, you will see how the average water level has steadily dropped.

  • tbphkm33

    I saw climate change starting in the mid-1990s.  Lexington, KY sits on a 120 x 60 mile plateau, where often weather systems will go either north or south, but increasingly only the stronger and wilder systems go over the plateau.  Wells on horse farms that had been producing water since the 1790s, started going dry.  In the space of ten years you saw natural vegetation (what people call weeds) change to more drought resistant plants.  Whenever I return now, I am amazed at how dryer the area is.  It has been a gradual change that many locals do not recognize, but if you return every year or two, the accumulative changes are easier to see. 

    • ExcellentNews

      What you see is more likely the result of aquifer depletion. I’m not saying that global warming is not real (it very much is!) – just that the particular effect you noticed is more likely the result of aquifer mis-management.

  • Robert Sorel

    Here in So Cal, I’m seeing native plants, along with citrus, burn in the summer sun. Garden crops must be in the ground early or it becomes so hot that  they have difficuty getting established. The Permaculture model is a large part of the solution. I’m also seeing new insects that have appeared in the past few years. It’s getting hotter and drier and only heavy mulching is reducing watering needs.

  • TheDailyBuzzherd

    It’s past the point that even an aggressive land management initiative will soften the blow.

  • andic_epipedon

    Tom, your guests are good, a meteorologist and a social science type.  I would have liked to have seen a soil scientist or a pure agronomist in on the conversation.  Nabhan seemed too up in the sky and tracking trendy notions than science.  He needed someone to balance him and explain details.  Eugene’s specialties are physics and meteorology and administration, but not the down in the dirt research. 

  • andic_epipedon

    The bottom line in an age of global warming is lower yields.  We have to adapt or die.  I say this as a soil scientist.  

    Farmers are smart, and hopefully will outlive big agrobusiness, which can be stupid.  Farmers have innovative ideas about crop systems.  Technology may be able to compensate, but not for a while.  We have hit the point where we don’t have food surpluses worldwide.  The way we can make positive changes is to experiment ourselves on a small scale, then ask farmers to make one change at a time.  Agricultural systems have always been developed with one or a small handful of changes at a time.  

    On another NPR show, a guest mentioned that millet grows well in arid climates and that we should grow millet in the mid-West instead of wheat.  With variable weather patterns, we might be able to intercrop millet with wheat or find some other agricultural system that incorporates millet.  I wouldn’t advocate a wholesale replacement of wheat with millet in a monoculture system.   I have no idea what millet tastes like.  I know folks with celiac’s disease use it and I know it is a little higher in fat than wheat.  Next time I go to the store I’m getting a bag of it to see if I like it.  If I can find recipes that make millet taste good I might start demanding millet at the grocery store, find out what research has been done on it and pressure our skilled ag folks to do more research on it.

    As consumers, we need to be as flexible as our health allows. That is how we can adapt to our reality.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      perhaps we should just return to growing hemp. the Canadian organic hempseed was like $60 a lb at the grocery store. too bad our farmers are not allowed to grow it

      • andic_epipedon

        Yes and I wish I didn’t have to pee in a cup to keep my job.

    • Nancy E. Stewart

      In the film “Seven Samurai”, Akira Kurosawa 1954, the poorest farmers were eating millet instead of the more -in -demand rice. They may have a good point in this!

  • andic_epipedon

    I just want to thank all the farmers for their excellent comments on the show.  

    There are many crop systems in the world and each crop system has to adapt to local conditions.  The permaculture fad that I live in being a resident of Portland, Oregon makes me grit my teeth until I realize that most of the purveyors of permaculture are idealists without roots in reality.  I am a soil scientist and understand some of the complexities you manage.  

    Three things I feel strongly about

    1.  I prefer foods grown under minimum till and reduced fertilizer use.  In my own garden I do not use pesticides.  My vegetables are fine and over half of my fruit are fine (cherries are inedible; pears, half the apples and tons of plums are edible).  I think a very judicious use of pesticides is called for in ag systems.  I am attempting to grow my own potatoes this year because I think we have gone too far with pesticides in the potato world and if I’m going to pay that much for organic potatoes I might see if I can grow them myself. 

    2.  I think you as farmers should know, I switched to organic milk several years ago and feel the better for it and will continue to strictly buy organic milk even while the rest of my cart may not be organic.  I feel it is because the animals aren’t pumped with antibiotics and other things.  Being educated about the way feed lot animals are treated also encouraged this trend.  I buy free range or naturally nested eggs and organic bananas as well.

    3.  I do not like crops that are genetically engineered to resist pesticides.  I don’t mind genetic modifications to make plants more adaptable to drought or other conditions.  I have reduced my intake of corn products and have practically eliminated corn syrup and other nonsense from my diet.  I buy organic bread hoping it’s not GMO pesticide resistant.  I think because there is such a demand for perfection with the organic food trend we are missing out on other measures that could be beneficial to the planet and to ourselves and could be more affordable for everyone. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      actually plants are not modified to resist pesticides they are modified to survive glycophosphate which is an herbicide
      you are right about the potatoes and milk. potatoes and other root veggies since they are underground sit in a soup of chemicals when grown inorganically and are hard to wash off really well. a doctor told us years ago to stick to the organic milk although they now have non organic milk that is hormone free. potatoes are tough to grow don’t get discouraged. do some reading first

      • RobertLongView

        potatoes are hard to dig, here in the South in our July heat.  then after you put them up you have to keep them from sprouting.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          yup its definitely an endeavor for intermediate and advanced gardeners. a sack of organic potatoes is pretty cheap. I have a huge potato vine growing out of my worm bin right now. should be interesting

          • andic_epipedon

            It appears so. We have 3 containers of potatoes and one of the plants just died. After it died we harvested a couple of pounds of potatoes out of the dead container only. I live in the Pacific Northwest and a friend who grows potatoes successfully here said earlier this season that the part of the plant that is above the soil isn’t supposed to be as lush as our plants are and she had never seen them grow like that.

    • TJPhoto40

      I’m surprised that a crop scientist doesn’t have among his strong interests the restoration of soil quality in this country and elsewhere. Where’s the concern with biodiversity, reducing soil erosion and nutrient carrying capacity, treating the soil too much like so many unwise farmers did during the Dust Bowl years with pillaging monoculture, etc.

      • andic_epipedon

        Much of my experience has been with forestry, pollution and wild lands. I am an erosion expert. I am very interested in the things you mention, but so are many non-Corporate farmers. I used to work for the NRCS and you would be surprised at how much farmers know about these things based on their experiences in the Dust Bowl days.

        The minimum till systems I mentioned in my first point help reduce erosion and keep nutrients in the soil. I prefer to proscribe technologies and practices on a site by site basis based on conditions that are specific to the site.

        Monoculture has been intrinsically tied to the European farming system for hundreds of years. You can’t just throw out everything you have been doing for hundreds of years on a production scale and expect to make a living wage. You have to experiment with new ideas first on a small part of your land and implement conservation measures that have already been proven to work on the rest of your land.

        Hugh Bennett, the father of soil conservation, proposed turning the Great Plains back into grazing land as that is what the climate is meant for, but the President disagreed. I agree with Hugh Bennett.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    The TeaOP will refuse funding to enforce the laws of Physics, so 400, 500, 600…ppm of CO2 will not cause any warming.

  • notafeminista

    I smell a politically engineered “crisis.”

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Are you kidding me?

  • TJPhoto40

    Good presentation of the topic, with some very interesting comments from callers. Thanks for delving into this subject.

  • andic_epipedon

    In the long term this might be possible for production scale agriculture, but at this time the harvesting equipment is not built for this type of agriculture. I don’t know how you would design a machine to take advantage of inter cropping. Let’s say you want to incorporate corn, beans and squash. Are there any machines that would allow you to do this?

    The NRCS helps farmers set up buffer strips, good vegetation in and around stream corridors, cover crops, mulch and a host of other environmental practices that would be compatible with permaculture and are in their own right good for the environment. I’m just having a hard time with this permaculture thing because I see books at the bookstore that are completely impractical for production agriculture and hippies with their home gardens who do everything by hand saying everything should be done this way in larger scale production.

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