Friday, November 21, 2008

The Future of Agriculture is the Past

Science, because it's based on telling people what they want to hear instead of giving them an accurate picture of reality, finds itself in the backside of a loop again:


The main conservation method for agricultural irrigation actually wastes water in many cases, a new analysis finds. As a result, government subsidies for this method, called drip irrigation, are not achieving their stated goal, the study concludes. The work is an "important addition to previous conceptual work" and something that may help influence policymakers, says natural resources economist Ray Huffaker of the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Agriculture is the world's largest consumer of water. In an effort to conserve, many farmers now use drip irrigation, which trickles water to crops, rather than flooding their fields. The method has boosted crop yields and farm income--"more crop per drop," as advocates say--and it has won the support of conservationists. But it does have a known drawback: It's considerably more expensive than flooding--because it requires more extensive irrigation equipment--so federal and state governments have promoted the technique by paying subsidies to farmers.

There are other disadvantages. "Most of us interested in water conservation assumed that drip irrigation was a big-time water conserver," says water resources economist Frank Ward of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. But over the past few years, "several water managers and engineers have tipped us off" to problems with the method, he says. For one thing, it turns out that drip irrigation requires more water per plant, because plants irrigated in this way grow faster and produce bigger yields; therefore, they consume more. At the same time, drip irrigation means less water available downstream and in local aquifers, because there's more evaporation and much less runoff.

SciMag


You mean that, after years of doing it the right way, we switched to a method that "looked like" it would be better, and only now are discovering it?

Even more, that the real elephant in the room is our reckless growth, because no matter how much better our watering gets, we'll still be growing?

Oy.


Because hydroponic farming requires less water and less land than traditional field farming, Fujimoto and researchers-turned-growers in other U.S. cities see it as ideal to bring agriculture to apartment buildings, rooftops and vacant lots.

"The goal here is to look at growing food crops in small spaces," he said.

{ snip }

Supporters point to the environmental cost of trucking produce from farms to cities, the loss of wilderness for farmland to feed a growing world population, and the risk of bacteria along extensive, insecure food chains as reasons for establishing urban hydroponic farms.

CNN


Nilla, please. The elephant in the room here is that cities are not an efficient way to live -- a network of small towns is, not in the least because it dissipates rather than concentrates waste.

Further, hydroponics requires less water, etc? I haven't seen this in operation, and I'm not unfamiliar with hydroponics. It requires more land because it happens indoors, and you either electrically light your crop, or can use at most one floor at a time to do it. It requires a ton of water, special chemicals and fertilizers that don't just magically appear at the store -- they require land to produce, etc. etc.

What the Crowd wants to hear is "just keep doing what you're doing, we've got a new magic pill" but that's unrealistic. Then again, the Crowd is biased against the realistic -- It's Not Fair, Waaaah -- so it's no surprise they oppose it.

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Subvert the dominant paradigm, don't be a solipsist.

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