Showing posts with label Agriculture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Agriculture. Show all posts

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Nitrogen Fertilizer: New Report Takes Big-Picture Look

A farm fertilizer plant in Brandon, MB. Photo by Larry Powell.

SASKATOON, Sask: The National Farmers Union (NFU) recently released a report entitled Nitrogen Fertilizer: Critical Nutrient, Key Farm Input, and Major Environmental Problem.  The report takes a big-picture look at nitrogen fertilizer, details its many benefits and also its negative impacts, and makes the case for optimizing rather than maximizing tonnage.  

The report examines the path governments and farmers must navigate as we make our way toward Canada’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction commitments.  The report is the NFU’s submission to the federal government’s consultations on its target to reduce fertilizer-related emissions by 30%.

GHG emissions from Canadian agriculture and farm input manufacturing are up by one-third since 1990.  The primary cause is rising emissions from nitrogen fertilizer production and use.  Darrin Qualman, NFU Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action, commented: “These upward trends in emissions from agriculture and fertilizer are incompatible with Canada’s commitment to reduce economy-wide emissions by 40% by 2030.”

Nitrogen fertilizer is a crucial and valuable farm input that most farmers will continue to use.  But rapid increases in nitrogen tonnage in Canada and around the world are creating problems.  Canadian tonnage has almost doubled since 2006; Saskatchewan tonnage has quadrupled since 1992.  Qualman noted: “GHG emissions won’t go down if fertilizer tonnage continues to go up.”

He underscored the voluntary nature of the government’s 30% reduction target for fertilizer-related emissions, saying: “Contrary to rhetoric from some, governments are not proposing bans or forced reductions; governments are using incentives and cost-sharing programs to get farmers onside with voluntary efficiency measures and rate reductions.  Federal and provincial governments have allocated hundreds-of-millions of dollars to fund these voluntary cost-share programs.  And as governments help farmers use fertilizer more efficiently, farmers’ costs can go down and their margins can go up.”

The NFU report also details lack of competition in the fertilizer sector and potential profiteering. “Record-high fertilizer prices and company profits cut deep into farmers’ incomes.  We can reduce farmers’ dependence and vulnerability and reduce emissions at the same time,” said Qualman.

He concludes: “Defending fertilizer is not the same as defending farmers.  Fertilizer companies prosper when they sell as much as possible.  Farmers prosper when they use only as much as necessary.”


For more information:

Darrin Qualman, Director of Climate Crisis Policy & Action

(306) 230-9115

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Deforestation is driven by global markets


The conversion of forests into agriculture has been flagged as one of the major causes of deforestation. A PinP photo.

The world is at a crossroads, as humanity tries to mitigate climate change and halt biodiversity loss, while still securing a supply of food for everyone. Story here.


Illegal clearing by agribusiness driving rainforest destruction

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ivory Coast without ivory? Elephant populations decline rapidly in Côte d'Ivoire

Science Daily

UN officials take part in the production of manioc (cassava) in Ivory Coast.
It's believed large tracts of forest have been cleared there to make way for crops like this.  
UN Photo/Abdul Fatai Adegboye

Recent years have witnessed a widespread and catastrophic decline in the number of forest elephants in protected areas in Côte d'Ivoire, according to a new study. Story here.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Agricultural expansion could cause widespread biodiversity declines by 2050

                              Journal: Nature Sustainability

A Colombian farmer working on his "finca". These patches of forest are given away at a low price by the government to farmers who then clear them up to grow crops. Photo by LAIF.

Almost 90% of terrestrial vertebrate species around the world might lose some of their habitat by 2050 as land is cleared to meet the future demand for food. However, according to a modelling study published in Nature Sustainabilityproactive policies focusing on how, where and what food is produced could reduce these threats while also supporting human well-being.

Slashing is a common site on the Canadian prairies. Farmers cut and burn trees and shrubs to make way for more farmland. In this case, it's along the fringes of the Boreal forest in west-central Manitoba. A PinP photo.

Habitat loss driven by agricultural expansion is a major threat to terrestrial vertebrates. Projections based on human population growth and dietary needs estimate that we will need 2–10 million km2 of new agricultural land to be cleared at the expense of natural habitats. 

Conventional conservation approaches — which often focus on a small number of species and/or a specific landscape — may be insufficient to fight these trends. Adequately responding to the impending biodiversity crisis requires location- and species-specific assessments of many thousands of species to identify the species and landscapes most at risk.

David Williams, Michael Clark and colleagues developed a model that increases both the breadth and specificity of current conservation analyses. The authors examined the impacts of likely agricultural expansion on almost 20,000 species. 

Moose in Manitoba, Canada are being described as "imperilled."
The Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says they 
need "large, protected areas with healthy forests & wetlands."
Photo Credit - CPAWS.

They found that under current trajectories, 87.7% (17,409) of the terrestrial bird, amphibian, and mammal species in the analysis might lose some habitat by 2050, including around 1,200 species projected to lose more than 25% of their remaining habitat. Projected mean habitat losses were greatest in sub-Saharan Africa with large losses also projected in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, in eastern Argentina and in parts of South and Southeast Asia.

However, the authors also show that proactive policies, such as increasing agricultural yields, transitioning to healthier diets and reducing food waste, may have considerable benefits, with different approaches having bigger impacts in different regions.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Concentration Matters. Farmland Inequality on the Canadian Prairies

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 

 by Darrin Qualman, Annette Aurélie Desmarais, André Magnan and Mengistu Wendimu

A scene typical to the Canadian prairies - a big farm at harvest time.
A public domain photo by cj berry.

The ownership and control of Canada’s food-producing land is becoming more and more concentrated, with profound impacts for young farmers, food system security, climate change and democracy. 

On the Canadian prairies, small and medium-sized family farms are often portrayed as the primary food production units. Yet, the reality of farming in Western Canada is quite different. In fact, a small and declining number of farms are operating the lion’s share of Prairie farmland and capturing the lion’s share of farm revenue and net income. 

The authors analyse the extent of farmland concentration in Canada’s three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), where over 70 per cent of the country’s agricultural land is situated. They find that 38 per cent of Saskatchewan’s farmland is operated and controlled by just 8 per cent of farms. In Alberta, 6 per cent of farms operate 40 per cent of that province’s farmland, while Manitoba sees 4 percent of farms operate and control 24 per cent of the land. Such concentration makes it much harder for young and new farmers to enter agriculture, with the number of young farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba declining by more than 70 per cent within just one generation

The persistent decline in the number of farmers, farm size expansion, growing farm income inequality, and increased land concentration have other effects as well. Rural economies, communities, businesses, and services are also affected as there are fewer farm families to patronize local shops and services, while farmers lose their capacity to democratically influence governments and legislation as their voting numbers fall. Meanwhile, non-farmers lose their connections to farms and rural culture as fewer and fewer urban residents count farmers among their family members or friends. A series of policy measures are urgently needed to counter the market forces that will otherwise drive us toward even more concentrated farmland ownership and drive half of Canadian farm families off the land in the next one to two generations.


Just 1% of Farms Control 70% of Global Farmland: Study Finds 'Shocking State of Land Inequality'

Monday, August 10, 2020

Agriculture replaces fossil fuels as largest human source of sulfur to the environment

A PinP photo.
Historically, coal-fired power plants were the largest source of reactive sulfur, a component of acid rain, to the biosphere. A new study shows that fertilizer and pesticide applications to croplands are now the most important source of sulfur to the environment. Details here.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Global agriculture: Impending threats to biodiversity

Wine crops in Chile. A dreamstime photo.

A new study finds that expanding cropland to meet growing food demands, 
poses a far greater threat to biodiverity in the tropics than intensification. More here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Corn-farming fouls the air to fatal effect

Nature - Agriculture
Harvesting corn in Canada. A PinP photo.
The dominant US crop plant has a voracious appetite for fertilizer, which leads to air pollution and health problems. More here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Farmed Out

George Monbiot's view from the U.K, here.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rivers in the Sky: How Deforestation Is Affecting Global Water Cycles

Yale Environment 360
Producing charcoal in the rainforest.
By User Kelberul on de.wikipedia 
A growing body of evidence indicates that the continuing destruction of tropical forests is disrupting the movement of water in the atmosphere, causing major shifts in precipitation that could lead to drought in key agricultural areas in China, India, and the U.S. Midwest. Story here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Drought predicted for Alberta this summer

The Western Producer
Farmers in central and northern Alberta should brace for drought this summer, according to AccuWeather. Story here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Crop destroying caterpillar rapidly spreading across Africa; maize production endangered

New research announced by scientists at CABI (Center for Agriculture and Bioscience Information) confirms that a recently introduced crop-destroying armyworm caterpillar is now spreading rapidly across Mainland Africa and could spread to tropical Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years, becoming a major threat to agricultural trade worldwide. Story here.

Manitoba "crop-duster." PinP photo.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Are the Days of Some Farm Fertilizers Numbered, in The Battle to Fight Global Warming?

Manitoba Co-Operator
But soil scientist Mario Tenuta says there are things farmers can do to help themselves.
More here.                                                    

PinP photo.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Seeds of Corporate Power vs Farmers’ Rights

Foreign Policy in Focus

We need to start tilting the playing field back in favour of farmers and the environment. Story here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hutterite Colony in Alberta, Canada Blazes Antibiotic-Free Trail


A hog barn in Israel. Shpernik088
You don’t have to sacrifice productivity or compromise health standards by going antibiotic free, say swine managers at Spring Creek Hutterite Colony. Story here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

NFU To Be Part of Climate Change Solutions in Manitoba

National Farmers Union
National Farmer Union (NFU) is working with the Manitoba government to develop new ways for the province’s farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and to reduce the impacts of climate change on our farms. More here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Get Ready For More ‘Weather Whiplash’

Manitoba Co-Operator
Unlike other regions, Manitoba may be able to benefit from climate change. Story here.
These were the soggy fields we drove by on Victoria Day last year, on the Trans Canada Highway west of Portage La Prairie (smack-dab in the middle of planting season): torrential rains most likely made worse by climate change. Does this look like the kind of weather that will "benefit" farmers? PinP video.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Free Trade Places the Future of Rice Farming in Japan in Doubt

Rice has been at the centre of Japan’s economy and culture for centuries. But changes are afoot. There is growing concern among Japanese farmers that the country’s rice-producing capabilities are diminishing in the face of international trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In fact, all local agriculture is in the spotlight as pressure mounts to increase local imports of overseas produce. Details here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Want to Find Out How to Invest in Sustainable Agriculture? Read On!

Earth Institute

Increased investment in agriculture is critical. In a world confronting anticipated increases in food demand arising from a growing world population and changing diets, as well as potential decreases in food supply due to climatic changes and water scarcity, agricultural investment will prove crucial to addressing food security needs in the future. Story here.                   

Two huge tractors and seeders,  probably worth about $2M, stand ready to begin work in Manitoba, Canada. PinP photo.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...