A complex issue: GM Crops

Weather . . . or not

BBC website weather summary on 4th November.

“One of the warmest October months on record gives way to a mild start for November. It will turn colder as we move through the month and this will bring some night-time frosts. It looks set to be a rather unsettled month with showers and longer spells of rain.”

We need the rain and there hasn’t been enough of it yet to make up the deficit from the first 5 months of this year.

There is also talk of a spell of severe winter weather. By the time I write again in 2012 we will know whether it has arrived or not.


Rhino; a month in the life of an Oil Seed Rape plant

Rhino is on target for going into and through the winter. Not too advanced but not lagging behind either. There is grass weed control and fungicide to apply in November and then daily pigeon patrols start. As the temperatures drop and other sources of food decrease, pigeons flock together and love to ‘attack’ rape crops causing extensive damage if allowed to.


Elsewhere on (and off) the Farm

Feed In Tariffs:

we were well on the way to installing a 50KW solar photovoltaic system on one of our barns to generate electricity for on-site use, based on the government’s Feed in Tariff scheme. The ‘FiT’ scheme nationally was adjusted at the beginning of August to concentrate on smaller schemes. A further adjustment, just announced, reducing the tariff payment, has thrown the basis of many proposals and plans up in the air and they may well not proceed. Whilst understanding the logic behind yet another change in Government support for ‘green energy’, it does nothing to encourage longer term planning in reducing our carbon footprint. We may continue with a smaller 25KW scheme that can be installed before the new deadline in December 2011

Common Agricultural Policy:

initial proposals have now been published for the policy post 2014 (or ‘15 or ‘16, depending when the 27 countries involved can agree something!). One of the main proposals is to have a compulsory ‘greening’ of 7% of farmland taken out of food production for environmental benefit .The need to maximize food production (surely a good target in a growing and hungry world) and bring environmental / wildlife benefits from setting some land aside from crop growing is, in my view, trying to square a circle. The National Farmers Union President, local farmer Peter Kendall, has described these CAP proposals as ‘absolutely bonkers’!


Global Issue / Warm off the Press

GM crops; a complex subject but one I promised to open up even if I am not well versed in all aspects of the debate . . . . to be continued.

This is an excerpt from The Sunday Times, 30th October 2011.

“British research scientists have developed a variety of genetically modified wheat that could save the Indian subcontinent from a humanitarian disaster. Since 1999, a new strain of stem rust, a fungal disease that destroys wheat plants, has been spreading from Uganda. It is already in the Arabian peninsula. If it reaches the Punjab, which grows 19% of the world’s wheat, and other areas nearby it will create a crisis in feeding nearly a billion people.

By inserting genes that confer resistance to the strain of stem rust the scientists have coincidentally also found that the wheat can be grown with far less water, in an area often stricken with drought.

Yet GM crops remain illegal across much of the world.”


Interesting Statistic(s)

In 1804 there were I billion people in the world (apparently!). By 1927 that had doubled and by 1960 there were 3 billion. More children survived into adulthood and people were living longer. In early November the 7 billionth turned up, possibly in the Philippines. Cause for celebration or alarm?

The UN’s optimistic forecast for 2100 is 6 billion and falling: its pessimistic forecast is 15 billion! (What assumptions are used in calculations like this? Do they have any meaning?)

One of the key demographic variables affecting a society’s economic well-being is not the absolute number of people but the ratio of dependents to those in work.

Clearly, another key issue is the ability of resources to support those people and of science to develop ways to use them.

Do you worry about the effect this will have on the next generation of your family: are you able to put yourself in the position of a drought affected mother trying to feed her family in Ethiopia; or flood affected father attempting to provide shelter in Bangladesh? What can (should) I / you do?


50 Years Ago: Michael Foster’s Diary Extract from 1961

[listitems is_numeric=”no”]

7th December: Smithfield Show (indoor livestock and farm equipment). Just managed to jump on 11.10 train as it was moving out of Hitchin station. Enjoyed getting away and looking at things from a distance.

25th December: everyone (except him) in bed with nasty colds. Cancel lunch with wider family( in spite of the) 20lb turkey!! Spent much of the day feeding cattle and thawing pipes[/listitems]


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