01 August 2012
“Decades of industrial farming have depleted the natural organic matter (and “tilth”) of many Midwestern soils, reducing their ability to absorb and store moisture. Fortunately, no-till agriculture and organic farming practices can restore the health of the soil, and greatly improve the resilience of crops to extreme weather.”
Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, on how organic methods can help combat drought – The New York Times – 25 July 2012
Farming changes can limit risks
Jonathan Foley looks at why so many farmers in America’s Midwest are so vulnerable to the drought conditions currently being experienced in the region. He concludes that the four main reasons are that the area is largely a corn or soyabean monoculture, that these crops have shallow roots and are unable to withstand a bad season, that industrial farming has depleted organic matter and tilth and that there are built-in inefficiencies of commodity agriculture.
The New York Times (25 July)
Dual payment boost for organic farmers
Organic farmers have welcomed the Department of Agriculture's decision to uphold dual payments on designated lands. Earlier this year it was announced that the Department was to withdraw dual payment to organic farmers who were in the AEOS and the Organic Farming Scheme. However, this decision has now been overturned.
Irish Independent (31 July)
Research under way to drought-proof crops
British scientists are investigating ways to protect crops from damage caused by drought. Researchers from Harper Adams University College in Shropshire are using special compounds which reduce water loss. Plants lose water from their leaves and if this is more than what is available in the soil, growth is reduced. Antitranspirants decrease this water loss by acting as ‘waterproofing’.
Farmers Guardian (1 Aug)
Fears grow for rise in food prices
The increase in grain prices is already being felt around the world. In Indonesia, the tofu industry has threatened to strike over rising soyabean prices; in Mexico, the cost of corn tortillas is on the rise; and Iran last week witnessed a rare protest over the cost of chicken. But the economic effects of the sharp rise in agricultural commodities have barely begun. A jump of 30-50% in benchmark corn, wheat and soyabean prices has revived memories of the world’s last food crisis in 2007-08, and large consumers from Egypt and Morocco to South Korea and Taiwan are bracing for a renewed bout of food inflation.
Financial Times (31 July)
Local loaves for Lammas
Campaigners for real bread are attempting to revive the ancient harvest festival of Lammas, or loaf-mass.
The Guardian (1 Aug)
Schmallenberg vaccine ‘desperately needed’
A vaccine to protect sheep from the Schmallenberg virus is "desperately needed to prevent a catastrophe" in the UK flock, sheep industry leaders have warned. The National Sheep Association and Sheep Veterinary Society joined forces to warn that tupping, the most infective period for the virus in ewes and their unborn lambs, was getting close, but although a vaccine had been developed, it was moving too slowly through the Veterinary Medicines Directorate's approvals process.
Farmers Weekly (1 Aug)
How dirty tricks are ruining country shows
Udder tampering, skin bleaching, and big money. The world of country shows may not be as genteel as it seems.
The Telegraph (1 Aug)
Jimmy Doherty says barbeque grey squirrel this summer
No fashionable barbeque will be complete without grey squirrel fillets after celebrity farmer Jimmy Doherty suggested the best way to deal with pests is to shoot them, garnish with rosemary, and eat the tender meat al fresco.
The Telegraph (31 July)
Anna Hill hears about Ireland's first GM crop trials for 14 years. The National Grid plans to build a route of around 100 high voltage power to pass through Powys in mid Wales. BBC correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd tells Anna why the announcement is not popular with local people. And a pig farmer is fighting planning proposals for a biomass plant in Suffolk because he thinks it will create a shortage of straw.
BBC Radio 4, listen again (1 Aug)