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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Real Green Revolution (and You Don't Even Need a Gene-Splicer)

From Jorge, via email. At the Beeb,

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.

Healthy soil

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another problem for poor farmers is that they can't afford to do things right, because they are forced into using the same land for immediate needs just to tread water (so to speak). Also, if there ever is new land of "worse quality", they have to improve it almost from scratch - which means using wasteful methods like slash and burn to get started. In fact that isn't a problem if they switch to the better methods fast enough; it's actually the right way to go. But you see the point. And sales of cash crops gradually reduce phosphates too, unless something else replenishes it (fishmeal is one way, some places).

March 08, 2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

PM: Interestingly enough, this relates to currency inflation and time horizons. (i.e. the shortened time horizons of poor farmers due to the time value of money...)

The land-money connection is one of those economic situations that needs to be viewed holistically. The georgists tend to see the land issues but not the related money ones, the austrians tend to have the opposite blindness.

I tend to harp on the money thing more these days because I don't see too many other people in my particular corner doing it, and it's so basic to how our modern economy operates.

March 08, 2006 9:17 AM  

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