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Author: admin, 18.07.2015. Category: Organic Fertilizer

East Sussex farmer George Young is operating a low input, low yield arable system he hopes will produce consistent returns. A former oil trader, George Young headed back to his South Essex family arable farm and has met declining cereal returns and uncertainty with Britain poised for a referendum on exiting the European Union. George Young is an old soul – at least in terms of the type of management he’s thinking of inplementing on his 500 hectare farm in South England. And yet his ideas are fresh, brave and ironic in a time when English and New Zealand farmers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of cereal yields.
With recent feed wheat crops in Mid Canterbury reaching unconfirmed yields of over 18 tonnes, FAR’s 20 tonnes by 2020 research project and the intense rivalry between the two countries for the world record George’s ideas are not just outside the square, they’re out of the park in the minds of today’s agronomists as well.
Travelling Australia and New Zealand recently to gain an in-depth view of global agriculture, he has clarified his vision for his farm – and it doesn’t entail increasing cereal yields.
It would be easy to dismiss George’s theories as somewhat greenie if it weren’t for the fact that this smart, articulate and educated young farmer is not from an environmental background. In short, volatile market conditions and woeful returns has forced George and others to rethink their entire operation. Currently spot prices for feed wheat are sitting at just $206 per tonne, while barley is at $189. George Young’s East Sussex farm is struggling to be a viable business as cereal prices drop dramatically. And even though he’s subsidised up to $380 per hectare, George will struggle to make any profit. With large amounts of grain on hand and overproduction, George believes there is nowhere for the price to go apart from stagnating or dipping further. It’s a serious situation and has meant the arable industry is in much the same state as the British dairy industry – precariously balancing on a knife-edge. Weed problems are, like many areas of management of crops, a significant issue for British farmers who have had to face up to chemical resistance problems a lot sooner than their Kiwi cousins due to our heavily restricted availability of products here. And so all inputs are being questioned, with many farmers doing their own investigations including George. On the back of low returns the agriculture industry is struggling to understand what exiting the EU might mean for them.
Producing milling wheat, feed barley (autumn and spring sewn), oilseed rape (canola) and combinable peas. After this year’s harvest, George will be establishing grass-based leys into the arable system which he intends to rotate around the farm with the intention of reintroducing stock (store lambs, store cattle, and hopefully an end-to-end production beef herd), and returning to a more mixed farming approach (this was a key driver of his recent travels to Australia and New Zealand).
Increased herbicide resistance coupled with no new actives coming onto the market means this is the farm’s method to deal with grass weed issues as well as improve fertility. The scale of food waste in India is vast and horrifying with 40 per cent of product failing to even reach the market.
Should Britain reject the EU, the Government will need to fight to have trade agreements in place for UK grain, he believes.
While New Zealand food security is not conversed about regularly, UK farmers are worried at their current level of supply – sitting at around just 58 per cent. Following two wars and depression memories run deep, and the fear of food scarcity has underpinned much of historical agricultural policy. Against a backdrop of continuing political and global unease particularly in the Middle East, having secure food stocks is seen as a safety guard, but that’s not happening in the current environment of selling commodities into the worldwide market.

And that’s where it gets interesting as George moves the current conversation away from feeding the ballooning world population to one of assessing just how much food waste we create. Although still working on the figures, he believes if you estimate how much we need to produce for fuel, food and the escalating population and add in another 15 per cent for variance you would come up with a figure each country needs to produce to be sustainable – but that figure could be substantially reduced once food wastage was subtracted.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40 per cent of the food produced in India is wasted. Recently he saw a documentary that frightened him with the staggering figures around cereal wastage in India, which can be as high as 40 per cent due to poor storage conditions. And so his biggest passion lies in how to reduce inorganic inputs into farming in exchange for a lower but consistent margin.
While most of the problems facing arable farmers today are due to supply and demand, if you were to grow only what the world or your country needs consistently there would be no volatility in price – an idea he knows most people will think is naive. Currently he’s toying with the next step of marketing product according to its holistic qualities. A no-tillage farmer, George at first thought he would market around that but he now thinks any marketing has to be around the entire approach to production and not just one part of it. Always learning, George says he’s constantly reassessing his ideas and will continue to travel and discuss in an effort to find the appropriate way forward.
But for now there’s spring planting to do although you can be sure his mind will be turning over as much as the tractor tyres. 25 per cent of fresh water used to produce food is ultimately wasted, even as millions of people still don’t have access to drinking water. Even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world’s present population, food wastage is ironically behind the billions of people who are malnourished. The headlines out of the Sahel region of Africa (and Sub-Saharan Africa) are not good, and are reflective of climate change, food insecurity, and poverty. A new report by Refugees International said that frequent droughts and unsteady rainfall are pushing families out of the Sahel. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.  And women are empowered when their reproductive rights and gender are respected, they have access to education and healthcare, and they find sustainable economic livelihoods. When women’s rights, education, health, and family planning are prioritized, people and communities become stronger and can better handle and adapt to environmental and social problems.  But with the impacts of climate change becoming increasingly severe the world over, the time to act is now. Transition EarthA blog exploring the relationships between population growth, human rights, women's equality, family planning, carbon footprints and economic activity. Nadine Porter talks to the young emerging British agricultural leader about why our obsession with cereal yields is not for him and how a lower input, lower yield system may yet still save the world. Instead he’s happy to drop the numbers, simplify his system and in the process ensure environmental sustainability. The word crisis has been used by visiting English agronomists to describe the situation back home in recent years. At a recent conference George attended he came away unsure of what it might mean in terms of reduced subsidies on farm, but certain that he would need to be in a strong financial position. Wastage of food is not indicative of only hunger or pollution, but also many economic problems in the economy, such as inflation. Yield is such a simple quantifier – for me it’s a little bit of a misnomer to be aiming for yields. The number of hungry people in India has increased by 65 million (more than the population of France).

About 45 per cent of India’s land is degraded primarily due to deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and excessive groundwater extraction to meet the food demand. Most of the region’s 100 million inhabitants rely on seasonal rainfall to rejuvenate farmland and produce feed for their herds.
In general, the longer girls stay in school, the later they start bearing children, and the fewer children they ultimately have. Access to family planning counseling and technology ensures that women and men can make informed choices about reproduction.
Reducing infant and child mortality assures parents that they do not need to conceive a high number of children in order to assure survival of a desired number.
Something has to change and that has led George to try and find a sustainable economic long-term solution to retain his farm. I know that the farmer that got the UK record over here for wheat last season didn’t get a huge amount more in margin than we did for producing half as much at 8.5 tonnes. According to a survey by Bhook (an organisation working towards reducing hunger) in 2013, 200 million Indians sleep hungry on any given night. The sustained price decline can be attributed to farmers’ success in keeping crop yields ahead of rising worldwide food demand. But for Sub-Saharan Africa, the region has a low share of women with lower secondary education, but a large share of high birth rates. Millions of women want to space and limit their births, but do not have adequate access to reproductive health services.
According to the World Health Organization, 53 percent of women in Africa who wish to control their fertility lack access to birth control.
Advances in crop breeding and an expansion of agricultural land drove this rise in production, as farmers cultivated an additional 434 million hectares between 1961 and 2010.Food price volatility has increased dramatically since 2006.
Some price volatility is inherent in agricultural commodities markets, as they are strongly influenced by weather shocks.
But the recent upward trend in food prices and volatility can be traced to additional factors including climate change, policies promoting the use of biofuels, rising energy and fertilizer prices, poor harvests, national export restrictions, rising global food demand, and low food stocks.Perhaps most significant has been an increase in biofuels production in the last decade. Between 2000 and 2011, global biofuels production increased more than 500 percent, due in part to higher oil prices and the adoption of biofuel mandates in the United States and European Union (EU). When food stocks are high, shocks can be absorbed more easily than when stocks are low or nonexistent.
The world stock-to-use ratio for calories from wheat, maize, and rice was lower in the last decade than in the two preceding decades, which may be a main reason for higher global food prices.Rising energy and fertilizer prices drove up food prices as well, by adding to production, processing, transportation, and storage costs. As climate change increases the incidence of extreme weather events, production shocks will become more frequent. Food prices will also likely be driven up by population growth, increasing global affluence, stronger linkages between agriculture and energy markets, and natural resource constraints.

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