Global Food Shortages

Weather or not

Today (6th June) my heart is singing (quietly to itself, you understand) like the blackbird in the rain in our garden. We have had the best part of 20 hours of steady rain which, together with a couple of decent rains a week or so ago, at last brings some welcome relief to our drought stricken region.

(The TV weather forecaster subsequently said this evening that more rain had fallen at a location in Surrey in the past 24 hours than in all of March, April and May put together; about 22mm, which is still less than 1inch, if you’ll excuse my mixing measurement scales)

How do you define a drought? A visitor travelling around the area would not automatically jump to the conclusion that East Anglia has had the ‘driest spring ever’. Nothing was obviously amiss from a car window until you gave careful inspection to what was happening at soil level and in the (lack of) crop canopy.

I keep consoling myself that at least we will get a harvest, when many parts of the world will not.


Oakley: a month in the life of a wheat plant

Oakley is now on ear but there are less ears than we would like to see. The plant aborts side tillers in the face of drought stress as it makes sure that it produces at least some seeds to fulfill its ‘role in life’.

The rain will help to fill the grain sites on the ears that survive and we hope this will lead to a better harvest yield than was looking likely in May. Only after harvest will we know for sure, and modern combines can give a good idea, as weights are estimated electronically as grain is discharged into the trailer carting to farm store.


Elsewhere on the Farm

Although I have yet to see one here at Polehanger, badgers have been spotted regularly locally. I am pleased that this was not the case when we milked cows (to my knowledge) as this meant we weren’t faced with the huge issue faced by the west country and Welsh cattle / dairy farms of how to prevent cross infection of TB from badger to bovine.

Cull or vaccinate? I can take a relatively detached view from a distance now. If I, or you for that matter, were the present Minister for Agriculture, what would you decide to do?


Global Issue / Warm off the Press

A recent report commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and presented to an international congress in Germany in May, has highlighted that more than 1 billion tonnes of food is being wasted globally each year. Consequently this in turn is wasting land, water and energy resources.

The study says that food loss occurs at all stages of the cycle; from production through harvest, postharvest and transport, to processing and consumption. These losses are more significant in developed countries.

Consumer waste accounts for 222 million tonnes, and is a growing percentage. This is as much as the entire net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa.

EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said (quite rightly in my view) that “ the world can not have the luxury of throwing away more than a billion tonnes of food each year globally. Countries must make optimal use of natural resources in the context of global food security”.

More sustainable agriculture will be a key part of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform post 2013.

Another challenge for us all!

I’ll attempt to unravel what sustainability means for us as farmers later in the year. I’m not sure myself. Sounds fine in principle but what does it mean in detail on our farm?


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

[listitems is_numeric=”no”]

28th June:  Windy warm and sunny. Flat out irrigating brussels, grass and mangolds

14th July:  Rogueing (hand pulling) wild oats (aggressive weed cereal) in Sugar Loaf Field (behind Village Hall)

26th July:  2 men hand hoeing (growing) brussell crop for weeds. 18 acres takes 6 days.

29th July:  Trying to catch up with office work but spent 3 ½ hours getting 2 yr. old heifer out of old tree stump hole near river where stuck.

30th July:  Walked round barley and oats in filed to see whether should start harvest as many have done locally, but decided not ready until end of week. (Later entry shows it rained at end of that week!)

1st August: Fetched 500 rail sacks (for grain storage post-harvest)

7th August (Bank Holiday): Enjoyable day off in garden. Found two cricket balls in hedge whilst clearing trimmings (lost by sons?)

21st August: Finished harvesting oats but many shed on ground from continuous wind and showers (the frustration of harvest weather!)[/listitems]

Thought for the Month:

Does Roger have any thoughts about the demise of the honey bee locally and internationally: pesticide or mite or virus . . . ?

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