Published Dec 3 2008 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Dec 3 2008

Food & agriculture - Dec 3

by Staff

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Unexpected Benefits From Pasture Farming

Gene Logsdon, Organic To Be
The biggest problem in pasture farming, that is raising farm animals almost entirely on pastures without much annual soil cultivation for grains, is internal parasites, especially in the more humid parts of the country. Parasitic worms hatch into the larval stage in the soil and crawl up the grass stems where they are ingested by the grazing animals. The worms’ eggs then pass out of the animals in the manure, and cycle back through the soil and up the grass stems to be ingested again. As pasture farmers increase livestock numbers because they have learned how to increase the carrying capacity of their pastures, the more the problem is exacerbated and the more they have to rely on various wormers. Treating sheep with vermifuges three times a summer has become necessary in some cases and even that may not do the job very well. Internal parasites seem to be growing immune to the usual medications, necessitating the use of different, stronger and more expensive ones.

We shepherds have learned that taking the animals off a pasture for a month does not break the worm cycle on that pasture, as used to be commonly believed. However a pasture not grazed for a year can eliminate or greatly reduce infestation. Medieval farmers resorted to dividing their land into two parts and alternately grazing only half in any given year. But today, graziers don’t think they can afford to pasture only half their land (so much for progress) and put hay or grain alternately in the other half. That would mean doing annual cultivation of half the farm every year thereby losing the cost-saving advantages of permanent or nearly permanent pasture.

But there might be an effective compromise that rotational grazing makes possible. At least it has worked for us so far— keep your fingers crossed. In earlier years, we had gotten to the point where we had to worm the sheep three times a summer to keep them healthy. (Sheep with stomach worms have pale eyes, scraggly wool, invariably have rear ends coated with manure, and the lambs do not gain weight efficiently.) Now we are back to only one worming a year and I have hopes of eliminating the job completely.
(2 December 2008)
An excerpt from Gene's "Garden Farm Skills," published in 1985. [Incorrect - see Update below.]

Organic to Be publisher Dave Smith writes, "This may be a bit specialized for your readers." True, but it looks as if we will akk need agricultural literacy as food production becomes more problematic. And writer-farmer Gene Logsdon is one of America's national treasures.

UPDATE (Dec 3): Dave Smith writes:
This is an essay that Gene just wrote, not from a book Garden Farm Skills. -BA

Qatar looks to grow food in Kenya

Xan Rice, The Guardian
Qatar has asked Kenya to lease it 40,000 hectares of land to grow crops as part of a proposed package that would also see the Gulf state fund a new £2.4bn port on the popular tourist island of Lamu off the east African country.

The deal is the latest example of wealthy countries and companies trying to secure food supplies from the developing world.

Other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also been negotiating leases of large tracts of farmland in countries such as Sudan and Senegal since the global food shortages and price rises earlier this year...
(2 December 2008)

This is another example of the "global food land grab" referred to in this Energy Bulletin article: This is a disturbing trend. KS

Agrofuel proponents hone tactics

Posted by biodiversivist, Gristmill

Tactic No. 1: Create a straw man.

Nobody in their right mind can claim that corn ethanol has no impact on corn prices, or that corn prices have no impact on food prices. You can only debate the extent of the corn's impact. Here's a conclusion from a study released this year [PDF] that supports all previous studies:

A system of five equations representing the U.S. corn market is estimated by 3SLS. Results show that increasing ethanol production has a significant impact on the national average U.S. corn price. The positive price change is consistent with previous research...
(1 December 2008)