US: No-Till Farming Could Reduce Carbon Emissions
Direct drilling saves tillage farmers the cost of ploughing, as well as reducing carbon emissions. The biggest drawback is increased need for spraying, which could be a problem as some herbicides are suspected carcinogens. Cover crops can provide weeds with competition, as well as fixing nitrogen and replenishing the organic content of the soil. Read more here.
US: Corn Harvest 15% in, Dry Weather Leads to Price Reduction
In a classic Catch-22, farmers in the US corn belt are experiencing better weather which is helping the harvest to come in fast, but this is driving down prices. Moisture has ranged from 15-25%, according to farmers. Read more here.
US: Patchwork Planting on Poorer plots
Randy Neva used a no-till drill to sow barley on the poorest patches of his land this year, then followed with his regular bean planting on the rest of his holding. “Instead of spending $200 to $350 per acre for soybean or corn seed, herbicides, and fertilizer, he spent approximately $25 per acre for seed and fuel on about 50 acres.” Neva said: “It’s better to not spend money on something that won’t grow anything. If I don’t lose money, it’s like saving. I don’t get anything back, so I don’t put the investment into it.” Read more here.
Australia: Dairy Prices Recovering as Production is Cut
Dairy Prices are recovering worldwide but the cost of production stills exceeds income for many dairy farmers in South-Eastern Australia. The index of the National Australia Bank saw export prices increase 21.5% in September but farmers say prices have yet to reach a break-even point. Dairy farmer Nicholas Renyard said, "Warrnambool Cheese and Butter is advertising their current price at $5 per kilogram of milk solids (kgms). I put that into my spreadsheet last night and that it gets us to the $4.80 kgms mark, so it's moving in the right direction. We're not at a profitable point yet, but it's looking more positive. I'm hoping with a few changes that we're making that we'll be in amongst them very soon." Read more here.
China: How will Agro-giant Mergers Affect Smallholders?
Given that 90% of the world's farmers are smallholders, how are their lives and incomes likely to be affected by consolidation of global input providers? In light of the proposed mergers of Dow with DuPont, Syngenta with ChemChina and Bayer with Monsanto, how are smallholders affected? Kim Elliot, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, told Devex Impact that: “Half to two-thirds of smallholder farmers wouldn’t be much affected because they aren’t producing crops where the seeds are being purchased.” Nevertheless, small farmers will still be exposed to price shocks. Furthermore, ChemChina's acquisition of Syngenta suggests a change in direction for China, which has thusfar only allowed genetically modified products to be used in animal feeds. Read more here.
Africa: Mobile App for Predicting Weather is Improving Crop Yields
A mobile app which can predict when rains are on their way is improving harvests across Africa, as farmers can better gauge when to sow, fertilize and harvest their crops. The app was developed by Swedish company Ignitia and is being used in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. Product manager Lizzie Merrill said, “It is one of the first forecasting system to produce highly accurate weather predictions for the tropics.” It is hoped to expand use of the App to more West African countries in the near future. Read more here.
Africa: Foreign Agricultural Companies Leading to Water Shortages and Conflicts
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have pointed out links between foreign leasing of large tracts of African land and subsequent water shortages and conflict. “The study also shows that the crops that foreign investors decide to grow often require more water than the traditionally grown crops. Furthermore, it shows that the same crop can have very different needs for water, depending on the climate where it is grown and which irrigation systems the companies use.” Read more here.
Japan: Breeding Endangered Bluefin Tuna Might Prove Crucial to Saving Species
Japan consumes 80% of the world's bluefin tuna catch (40,000 tonnes per annum) but as stocks of this highly valued fish have plummeted by a whopping 97% since the 1960s, there is a real danger of the species going extinct. As it roams thousands of miles in the wild and is very sensitive to changes in conditions such as temperature and light, early attempts to breed bluefin in captivity were quickly abandoned. But researchers at Kindai University persisted and although their success rate is just 1%, that is enough to supply a restaurant and kindle hope of feeding Japan's insatiable desire for this majestic fish, without destroying it in the wild. The Economist has the story here.