Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Peter Thompson replies to the 'Elephant in the room'

This is taken from todays guest blogger Peter Thompson

The Elephant in the room - world population growth.

Fellow GWCT colleague “Farmer Phil” Jarvis wrote an interesting piece on the difficulties that the agricultural industry will face, if in the future we continue to loose active agro-chemical ingredients and don’t replace them with new technology. You can read what he had to say on:

Phil finished his article by saying “The elephant in the room - 'population growth'... who would like to continue that debate?”

Well Phil, you know me - so here are a few thoughts on the subject!

At the moment there are more than 7 billion people on the planet, all of whom need feeding and we are already falling short as more than 800 million people are hungry. According to the United Nations, we will need 60% more food than we currently produce to feed the world’s projected population by 2050.

Listen, I’m certainly no expert on this, but that sounds all a bit scary to me. So I have turned to two people who are experts in this field – namely Malcolm Potts, Bixby professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley and Martha Campbell, who is president of Venture Strategies for Health and Development and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.
This is what they have to say on the matter.

“The United Nations Population Division has made a radical shift in its population predictions. Previously, the organization had estimated that the number of people living on the planet would reach around 9 billion by 2050 — and then level off. Now everything has changed: Rather than levelling off, the population size will continue to grow, reaching 10 billion or more at century's end. Rapid population growth inhibits many of the factors of development from proceeding apace — including education and health. 

In all our research, we have not found any country, with the exception of a few oil-rich states, that has developed or extricated itself from poverty while maintaining high average family size. Countries with high birth rates tend to find it difficult or impossible to expand their education systems or their health systems adequately to keep up with the need. However, at present many women across the globe, especially poor women, do not have access to family planning.

This matters beyond any one country or region. If we want to live in an ecologically sustainable world, we'll have to meet the needs of the present without compromising the natural resources and services our children and grandchildren will need. Given time, and a great deal of scientific ingenuity, we might still be able to reduce our consumption and pull a world of 8 billion people back to a biologically sustainable economy by the end of the century. But a world of 10 billion could do irreversible damage to the planet. It's just too many people.

We've now been warned. If measures are taken now, we could still keep the 2050 world population at around 8 billion. We have to ensure that the population can be slowed by purely voluntary means and within a human rights framework. We need to galvanize the political will to make it happen and invest now so that family planning options are universally available. Fail to do so, and we may give birth to a new, difficult era of poverty instead”.

So, it appears blatantly obvious to me anyway, that if all life, including humans, is to have any sort of future on this planet, then we need to act quickly to introduce widespread contraception across the world, making sure that the wealthier nations help to fund the poorer countries so as to make this possible.

So Phil, as requested I have continued the debate. But actually what is needed now is action, not more words.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

'Plant Protection Products' Debate

The report published by Andersons today,   'The Effect of the Loss of Plant Protection Products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture and the Wider Economy' is a thorough study exploring some of the issues facing farmers and growers. The report was commissioned by the National Farmers Union, Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation. It illustrates a number of conundrums, dilemmas and challenges faced by UK and European agriculture.

The issue
The changing regulation of plant protection products from a risk based system to hazard based, reduces the chemistry available to growers. It would appear that a number of other factors are influencing  the approvals and renewal process and sound science has less of an impact.
Reduction of active ingredients over  since 2000

Plant protection products, in Europe, are already among the most closely regulated in the world and have a part to play in modern food production.
  • With more restrictions on the horizon many will say the registration and renewal process that governs plant protection products is flawed. This process says most sprays are hazardous and should be restricted.
  • Less plant protection will be available to growers and this will have a negative impact on efficient food production.
  • Agricultural investment and innovation will be stifled in over regulated European economies driving investment to other parts of the world.
Some commentators have stated that such an 'evolving regulation system' offers a high level of protection for human and animal health. It is the 'intensive use of pesticides that is undermining our ecosystems' and support for this report is 'scaremongering' and 'crying wolf'.

The challenges
We need to pay more attention to the planets growing population - as a species we continually ignore unsustainable population growth and the pressure it places on the world's limited resources. This human expansion, increases the need for more efficient food production. This is also an issue in England, as shown below.

We recognise the need to develop food production systems that impact less on our soils, water and air whilst still producing sufficient food. Such systems are advocated by LEAF's Integrated Farm Management and our own 'Allerton Approach'. Remember growing food under any system will impact on the environment. Our own government also have a responsibility to keep a productive and competitive UK agricultural sector, growing food from our fields for our consumers. Increasing imported food also has an environmental footprint.

So let's advocate risk based approach to plant protection product regulation, based on sound science. Encourage technology and investment in our agricultural sector. We also need to make sure the increase in British food production and productivity is at the centre of UK policy and that view is represented within Europe.
Recent trends would suggest a yield plateau, the reasons are numerous and a subject for discussion on their own.

The Allerton Project  will continue to embrace both cultural, organic, science and technology in pursuit of a sustainable crop production systems. As vice chairman of our NFU County Group, I'm proud to support the efforts of UK farmers to produce safe and affordable food.

The elephant in the room of 'population growth',... who would like to continue that debate?


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Allerton Supporting CFE

Living and working in the countryside can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Take a look at the Campaign for the Farmed Environment video showing farming in the countryside.

Made by the NFU in conjunction with farmers and some of the team from the Allerton Project.

I challenge you to not start humming!!!

More can information can be found at the NFU website

Pollen and Nectar
GPS controlled combining
Canary grass and clovers


Chicory visited by pollinators

Temporary drainage channels with the mole plough

Flower margins

GPS direct drilling