The earth’s population is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050 with increasing demand for food, water, fuel, and arable land. Industrial agriculture that dominates food production today is highly dependent upon chemicals and fossil fuel for crop production and transportation. Industrial agriculture typically employs large-scale plantings of a single species of a genetically modified crop, heavy tilling equipment, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, plus large amounts of irrigation water. Mark Bittman, writing today in The New York Times, suggests that another model of crop production more closely resembling organic farming may be a better solution for feeding the world. Organic practices rely less upon chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. A blended model of farming employing the best practices of both industrial and organic agriculture may be a sustainable alternative. See http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/sustainable-farming/?src=me&ref=homepage as well as Andrew Revkin’s analysis at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/a-hybrid-path-to-feeding-9-billion-on-a-still-green-planet/. Those skeptical of elements of industrial agriculture, like the use of GMOs or genetically modified organisms, must be willing to accept the reality of the safe use of GMO foods over a number of years. Also, GMO crop planting allows for reductions in insecticide usage and increased use of no-till farming practices. Likewise, producers growing crops under industrial conditions must realize that the large-scale planting of mono-cultural crops, heavy use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, and elimination of “turn-rows” or crop margins has added to the serious decline of beneficial insect pollinators. The loss of honey bees and other pollinators adversely affects all agricultural growers.
Just as a blended model of crop production may prove to be a more sustainable design for the future, a blended model of integrated pest management may be the best choice for managing honey bee colonies. The repeated use of bee hive chemicals designed to kill parasitic mites and suppress American foulbrood resulted in resistant strains of mites and bacteria. The complete abandonment of bee hive mite chemicals is not successful except with bees bred for genetic mite resistance. Today’s photo: industrial agriculture: mono-cultural winter wheat.