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Brazil's Agricultural Miracle - How To Feed The World

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The world's population is projected to peak at around at 9 billion people by mid-century, and then decline afterwards. But the question has been if the world's food production will be able to cope with the peak.

Some very good news below, from Brazil. (No, not from the Amazon rain forest, but from its arid [dry, almost desert] regions. See map below)

And probably useful for large parts of Africa as well, with similar climate and soil.

These may be the best news of the decade.

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LEADER: Brazil's agricultural miracle

How to feed the world LINK: http://www.economist.com/node/16889019?story_id=16889019

Brazilian agriculture

The miracle of the cerrado

Brazil has revolutionised its own farms.

Can it do the same for others? LINK: http://www.economist.com/node/16886442?story_id=16886442

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Edited by Tired of Waiting

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This approach to farming still requires a very high energy input per hectare; specifically oil.

Secondly it looks very much like the same mistakes made by the Mesopotamian empires in the fertile crescent during the latter Bronze age. It will desertify and then collapse.

The Planet cannot support nine billion; war or disease will see to that I'm afraid.

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This approach to farming still requires a very high energy input per hectare; specifically oil.

Secondly it looks very much like the same mistakes made by the Mesopotamian empires in the fertile crescent during the latter Bronze age. It will desertify and then collapse.

The Planet cannot support nine billion; war or disease will see to that I'm afraid.

It is the other way round. Look here how this area, "sertao", is now: http://www.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&q=sertao&rlz=1B3GGLL_en-GBGB370GB370&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1024&bih=433

655px-Sertao.jpg

Edited by Tired of Waiting

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I have serious reservations about this. Economically-minded types don't understand farming, nor do most farmers.

It'll end up like Australia.

Exactly, the land will be wasted as always happens in intensive systems. The more badly it is managed the quicker the land will degrade and erode and need increasing amounts of irrigation and fertilisation.

Add to that the distances involved in moving the food to markets, it will suddenly not be so cheap.

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Exactly, the land will be wasted as always happens in intensive systems. The more badly it is managed the quicker the land will degrade and erode and need increasing amounts of irrigation and fertilisation.

Add to that the distances involved in moving the food to markets, it will suddenly not be so cheap.

I don't understand this. Have you seen my post just above yours, #5?

It is a desert now. The main point in those news articles is that Brazilian scientists have developed seeds/varieties that can cope with drier climates and more acid soils, such as this, below. This is very good news! Why are you guys trying to put a negative spin on it??? :huh:

sertao.jpg

Edited by Tired of Waiting

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High yield, genetically engineered, fertilized, irrigated farming is the way to be environmentally friendly and increase the standard of living.

Its better to intensly farm 1000 acres and leave 2000 to wild nature.. than to 'sustainably' farm 3000 acres and have nothing left to wild nature.

Few people know this but America actually has less farm coverage today than in 1900.. back then it had 75 million people, now it has 300 million. The forest cover in America is actually higher in the year 2010 than it was in 1900. As even though urban areas have spread, the abandonment of farmland has been greater.

Brazil also has gotten its birthrate under control, it is now under replacement rate. Although the population is still growing because of demographic momentum.

With capital intensive large scale farming surplus labour moves from the rural areas to the cities. And generally has fewer children. This is happening across the third world, but its a long process.

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High yield, genetically engineered, fertilized, irrigated farming is the way to be environmentally friendly and increase the standard of living.

Its better to intensly farm 1000 acres and leave 2000 to wild nature.. than to 'sustainably' farm 3000 acres and have nothing left to wild nature.

Few people know this but America actually has less farm coverage today than in 1900.. back then it had 75 million people, now it has 300 million. The forest cover in America is actually higher in the year 2010 than it was in 1900. As even though urban areas have spread, the abandonment of farmland has been greater.

Brazil also has gotten its birthrate under control, it is now under replacement rate. Although the population is still growing because of demographic momentum.

With capital intensive large scale farming surplus labour moves from the rural areas to the cities. And generally has fewer children. This is happening across the third world, but its a long process.

Exactly!

Very good post.

We still have too much of a Luddite frame of mind in Britain. Development is a good thing. And science is its main tool.

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Do you mean dry like Australia?

Dry, ruined water table, salt problems, top soil destroyed etc.

If it works long term, great. Just skeptical, that is all.

I do agree with the 1000 acres intensively farmed and 2000 left to run wild versus 3000 acres sustainably farmed, and if this does that, double plus good.

Edited by Tiger Woods?

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Few people know this but America actually has less farm coverage today than in 1900.. back then it had 75 million people, now it has 300 million. The forest cover in America is actually higher in the year 2010 than it was in 1900. As even though urban areas have spread, the abandonment of farmland has been greater.

I was surprised how little farming there was in New England when I visited, even flatter areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts were covered in forest.

I enquired as to whether this was old growth woodland, was given the answer that that the early settlers had cleared the rocky, forested land for agriculture, but that it had reverted back to woodland as mechanised farming on the more fertile Midwest plains came on stream.

Now I reckon a squirrel could make it from New York to Boston without having to touch the ground.

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All this 'miracle' will so is to allow us (rich industrialised countries) to have hundreds of tons more Rice Krispies or Cheese flavoured maize snacks on our supermarket shelves. Not one starving child in Africa or India will be saved. Plus Monsanto, Pioneer or Nestle will make a lot more money.

GM crops concentrate ownership and control in too few hands - the worst option for food security. We are witnessing a repeat of the insecticide era - crops controlled by big business, that do nothing other than make the West fatter and the starving deader.

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All this 'miracle' will so is to allow us (rich industrialised countries) to have hundreds of tons more Rice Krispies or Cheese flavoured maize snacks on our supermarket shelves. Not one starving child in Africa or India will be saved. Plus Monsanto, Pioneer or Nestle will make a lot more money.

GM crops concentrate ownership and control in too few hands - the worst option for food security. We are witnessing a repeat of the insecticide era - crops controlled by big business, that do nothing other than make the West fatter and the starving deader.

+1

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All this 'miracle' will so is to allow us (rich industrialised countries) to have hundreds of tons more Rice Krispies or Cheese flavoured maize snacks on our supermarket shelves. Not one starving child in Africa or India will be saved. Plus Monsanto, Pioneer or Nestle will make a lot more money.

GM crops concentrate ownership and control in too few hands - the worst option for food security. We are witnessing a repeat of the insecticide era - crops controlled by big business, that do nothing other than make the West fatter and the starving deader.

A potential risk that no one should lose sight of.

As far as Brazil is concerned and it's future, well it isn't perfect and has a lot of way to go. Yet i'd rather live there than China anyday.

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I haven't been to Brazil for about 8 years now, so may be out of date, but it is an amazing country bursting with potential.

They do have huge social problems in the big cities, but food doesn't seem to be one of them. It is plentiful and everyone seems to eat well. They have a saying out there 'as cheap as bananas'. You only pay for bananas in the morning. They give them away in the afternoon.

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Dry, ruined water table, salt problems, top soil destroyed etc.

In the Brazilian case they are starting from these conditions. So, not much to lose.

If it works long term, great. Just skeptical, that is all.

(...)

From what I gathered from that article the main breakthrough has been the development of varieties that can cope with that climate and soil. This should reduce the need for fertilisers and irrigation. Besides, since these things cost money, it is also commercially sensible to avoid.

And it looks like the Brazilians are also trying to help the Africans, by transferring this technology to them. The question will be that "system" adaptation the article talks about (not clear to me).

Edited by Tired of Waiting

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I find it interesting the number of experts there are on this forum. Over the years many subjects have come up including all sorts of energy generation (solar, wind, wave, nuclear, coal, clean coal), pollution, climate change, electric cars ... all sorts ... and now agriculture.

And, sure enough, a number of people are s h ! t hot experts on agriculture.

It's amazing. Why isn't this forum sending people to parliament to run the show?

Edited by Let's get it right

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I'm sure you guys are seriously well informed on these matters, but I'm under the impression from my reading that if the world were vegetarian and we used fields to grow things like walnuts instead of cows we'd not only be able to feed the world, we'd also go a long way to solving climate change as some serious percentage of greenhouse gases is the methane released from the rear ends of our ruminant friends.

Edited by Let's get it right

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Thanks OP, good article. I hope this works out. In the coming years the BRIC economies are what will propel the world.

You are welcome.

Exactly, their development will help us, not hinder us.

(And I wish we could import their beef without EU CAP tax!)

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I was surprised how little farming there was in New England when I visited, even flatter areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts were covered in forest.

I enquired as to whether this was old growth woodland, was given the answer that that the early settlers had cleared the rocky, forested land for agriculture, but that it had reverted back to woodland as mechanised farming on the more fertile Midwest plains came on stream.

Now I reckon a squirrel could make it from New York to Boston without having to touch the ground.

Yes I think the Northeast has been where it is most dramatic. In North America as a whole ~2 million square kilometers are under cultivation.

So if over the next decade the population rises by 10% but yields rise by 15% per acre.. that will free up 5% of the land. Or 100,000 square kilometers. Well England is 130,000 square kilometers!

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