Food production and climate change

 

 

The world’s population grows exponentially but despite many people fears there has been no overall food shortage.  Far from being in short supply there is an overall abundance of food and the amount of food wasted runs into billions of dollars each year. Food production has continued to outpace population basically because of wider use of fertilizers, better genetics and plant breeding and the wider use of irrigation.

Despite the short term success they lead to long term degradation of our ecological resources, particularly the destruction of soil structure.

Many people, like me, have been concerned that these agricultural systems are unsustainable in the long term and have worked to develop food production systems which are genuinely sustainable.

In the long term these sustainable practices, largely based on building up soil quality, can be economic but in the short term there is a financial cost.  Typically growers are under great price pressure and cannot afford this short term cost of change.  The result is that unfortunately these sustainable techniques have only been adopted by ecologically sensitive growers with financial resources. 

 The wicking bed system stores significantly quantities of water and reduces water use, in some cases by up to 50%.  This reduces the frequencies of irrigations and in the case of rain fed crops increases the length of productive growth after a rain.

The moist conditions inside a wicking bed are conductive to the growth of mycelium (the network of long hyphae which form fungi).  This network of hyphae adds structure to the soil increasing its water holding capacity.

They can also be symbiotic to the plants roots. The mycorrhizal fungi may actually penetrate the root system, effectively extending the reach of the root many times and increasing the capacity of the plant to extract water and nutrients from the soil.

 

 

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