A Real Green Revolution (and You Don't Even Need a Gene-Splicer)
Sustainable farming methods can help the poorest farmers in developing nations out of poverty, new research suggests.
Scientists found that techniques such as crop rotation and organic farming increased crop yields by an average of 79%, without risking future harvests....
The team of international scientists who carried out the four-year project found that the farmers enjoyed improved crop productivity, while reducing their use of pesticides and water.
One of the report's co-authors, Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, UK, said the findings challenged the dominate view that the West knew best when it came to agriculture....
The researchers found methods that did not have an adverse effect on local biodiversity allowed farmers to reap the rewards of growing crops in healthy soil.
"People are using a variety of integrated pest management techniques; making the best of biodiversity like predators, parasites and multiple cropping," Professor Pretty told the BBC News website.
"In essence, it allows the ecosystem to deliver the pest management services."
This approach paid dividends, he said, because it not only cut the use of pesticides but also resulted in farmers having to spend less of their income on chemicals.
Healthy soil also required less water to cultivate crops, he added: "All crops need water, but soils that are higher in organic matter are better at holding water.
"If you have diverse and higher soil quality then it is better prepared to deal with drought conditions when access to water becomes a critical issue."
Louis Bromfield demonstrated more than fifty years ago that one of the fastest and cheapest ways to dramatically increase the fertility of depleted soil was by cover-cropping and green manuring with deep-rooted legumes like red clover. The deep roots bring subsoil minerals to the topsoil, break up compacted soil and restore friability, at the same time as nitrogen-fixing bacteria restore fertility. With multiple crops of alfalfa or clover, it was possible to turn hardpan clay into decent soil and produce massive increases in yield in a single year.
The problem with such techniques of soil stewardship is that they're much more suited to small-scale agriculture than to the cash crop plantations of corporate agribusiness. So for them to be implemented on a large scale in the Third World will require major changes in the structure of power and the distribution of land.