By 4th March, 2014 Excursii in Delta Dunarii Comments Off

This discovery, and of the nearby saltpetre (potassium

Enriching the world’s soil

Canada Goose Outlet One of the biggest drivers of the Anthropocene the age of man is muck. More precisely, artificial muck, in the form of fertiliser. It used to feed half of the world people, but in order to provide food for the constantly escalating number of mouths we are running the risk of irreversibly damaging the planet. Canada Goose Outlet

buy canada goose jacket cheap Directly or indirectly, plants are the making of us. We rely on plants because canada goose outlet location we can metabolise the nitrogen that makes up four fifths of the air we breathe. Nitrogen is a vital constituent of all proteins as well as other important molecules, including DNA, but we can only use nitrogen once it has been broken down and combined into an organic molecule, such as an amino acid, for example. buy canada goose jacket cheap

canada goose coats So for thousands of canada goose outlet uk sale years, humans have come up with ingenious ways of replacing the canada goose outlet eu nitrogen and other essential nutrients such as phosphorous they have taken from the soil. canada goose coats

Farmers left stalks and silage in the fields canada goose outlet toronto address to rot down, and added whatever other organic material they could, including animal and human excrement. As populations grew in Europe and the US, nineteenth century scientists found precious useable nitrogen supplies in South America, in the form of vast quantities of guano bird droppings which indigenous people had been using for centuries as a soil enricher. This discovery, and of the nearby saltpetre (potassium nitrate) mines, generated enormous interest in Europe and the United States. Trainlines were constructed at great canada goose outlet woodbury expense through the desert to export the valuable materials, and the War canada goose victoria parka outlet of the Pacific kicked off between the guano and saltpetre rich nations of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Britain supported Chile, enabling it to win most of the guano and saltpetre area and Bolivia entire coastline in the process.

canada goose store Come the turn of the last century, though, the need for guano was replaced by a revolutionary idea. The German chemist Fritz Haber invented a way of converting the nitrogen in air into liquid ammonia (NH3). The era of artificial fertilisers was born. canada goose store

Canada Goose sale The effect on crop production and hence population growth was immediate. The number of humans that could be fed from 1 hectare of canada goose jacket uk land (2.47 acres) rose from 1.9 to 4.3. Half of the protein in our bodies now comes from ammonia made in the Haber process. (Unfortunately, the same reaction also leads to the production of powerful explosives, which have been responsible for the deaths of some 150 million people.) Billions of people owe their daily bread, rice or canada goose outlet potatoes to artificial fertilisers. And that where the greatest problem lies, because nitrogen is also a superb fertiliser of algae and bacteria. Fertiliser pollution in lakes and the ocean causes massive blooms of algae, which use up the oxygen dissolved in the water, suffocating other species. The vast blooms of red or green algae cause dead zones for kilometres, with the associated stench. Canada Goose sale

Ten times more nitrogen is canada goose outlet us used to canada goose outlet online uk produce food than humans consume as protein, and not all the nitrogen in the food canada goose outlet canada we eat is even used by our bodies canada goose outlet online store review the excess enters the environment through human waste. canada goose outlet toronto location Most people require only 2g (0.07 ounces) of nitrogen a day, but the average American consumes 13g (0.46 ounces) daily, mainly in animal products, which are fed on fertilised crops.

Canada Goose online Over use of fertilisers is a particular problem in China, where whole river systems are polluted and the soils degraded by intensive farming. canada goose outlet hong kong But safeguards in Europe, including using only a small amount of fertiliser where needed, and canada goose outlet jackets providing catchment reed beds that filter out any runoff before it enters the river, have greatly reduced the problem there. Canada Goose online

However, local fertiliser use has a global impact. Producing fertilisers also pollutes the atmosphere with climate altering greenhouse gases. The Haber reaction canada goose outlet black friday requires canada goose outlet 2015 burning fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide. And other potent greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide, are also released canada goose outlet black friday sale while canada goose outlet london uk making or using fertiliser. Transporting fertiliser also releases significant carbon emissions, making it a dirty industry.

Canada Goose Jackets So what the answer? One school of thought advocates organic methods that use pre industrial methods of soil enrichment, such as muck spreading, for example, They are useful, environmentally sensitive and cheap, if time consuming ways of improving depleted soils across the world, but canada goose outlet belgium they have their disadvantages. Canada Goose Jackets

cheap Canada Goose Artificial fertilisers cannot replace lost organic matter (carbon) in soils mulch canada goose outlet in uk is a useful way of restoring canada goose outlet orlando structural integrity and preventing fertilisers from washing out of soil immediately, but it uses valuable animal fodder or cooking fuel. As with all fertilisers, manure runoff can also pollute rivers and oceans with eutrophication (death by oxygen starvation). Making manure releases its own potent greenhouse gas methane. Planting legumes that fix nitrogen can take up space in canada goose outlet store near me the field that many farmers would prefer to dedicate to cash crops. cheap Canada Goose

buy canada goose jacket But, perhaps most damningly, in the world poorest areas, the majority of farmers do not have a choice about whether to go organic or not most farmers are working with poor soils, bad seeds and uncertain water supplies. buy canada goose jacket

The truth is that it would be impossible to feed a growing global population using purely organic farming methods. While Asia and Latin America farmers increased yields by increasing productivity of existing fields, in Africa, they have extended their cultivated land through slash and burn. As a result, grain yields in most of Africa are around 1 tonne per hectare, whereas South Asia achieves 2.5 tonnes per hectare and East Asia makes 4.5 tonnes per hectare. With Africa population set to double by 2050 to two billion, this yield gap must be overcome.

Which leads to the other main school of thought one that advocates industrial scale methods with the efficiencies of synthetic tools.

canada goose clearance sale Africans use less than one tenth of the global average of fertiliser use less than 10kg (22 lbs) per hectare compared to canada goose outlet in chicago 140kg (309 lbs) per hectare in Latin America and South Asia. Very few African countries produce fertilisers, the majority are imported, and the cost of transportation is very canada goose outlet buffalo high on the continent because of high fuel prices and terrible roads. As a result, African farmers pay as much as six times the global average price for fertiliser when they can find it at all. canada goose clearance sale

canada goose black friday sale In the 1980s, canada goose outlet trillium parka black the IMF and World Bank imposed conditions on development aid, preventing African governments from subsidising fertilisers. The cost of fertilisers have risen fourfold in the past few years canada goose outlet in vancouver because petrol prices have soared. Millions of African subsistence farmers survive on less than buy canada goose uk a dollar a day, so fertiliser is simply unaffordable. Without subsidies, goose outlet canada farmers can afford bad years, they plant less and are crippled by debts from loans just to buy seeds. canada goose black friday sale

canada goose clearance After decades in which the population was continuously on the edge of famine, and following a disastrous harvest in 2005 when more than a third of the population needed emergency canada goose outlet mississauga food aid, the Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika said that enough was enough, and re introduced fertiliser subsidies the first sub Saharan country to do so. canada goose clearance

canadian goose jacket As a result, agricultural production more than doubled in 2006, and trebled by 2009 as fertiliser use doubled. By 2007, Malawi was exporting its surplus corn to Zimbabwe and Kenya, unthinkable just two years earlier. When I visited Malawi in 2010, the country had closed the grain gap from eight months (time during which the granary stores are empty) to two months, and some had two months surplus. In going against the World Bank, Malawi created a production level that dragged its people out of starvation. But a truly successful outcome for Africa, and the world in general, would be to see agricultural yield per hectare increased with minimal environmental impact and in canada goose outlet in toronto a way that can be sustained as the climate becomes less conducive. canadian goose jacket

canada goose deals So when I hear the passionate views about whether farming should be entirely organic and GM free, or entirely industrial scale with the efficiencies of synthetic tools, my response is that it will be all of these things. canada goose deals

The answer is to use fertilisers in a far more efficient and better targeted way, so that just the right dose is given to each plant with minimal run off or waste a concept known as micro dosing. And to eat less meat so that the protein in the crops we fertilise is used in the most efficient way.

Canada Goose Parka Meanwhile, traditional methods should be embraced. Farmers reap multiple benefits from planting nitrogen fixing trees and hedgerows around their fields, for example, while also sowing the most effective crops for the area, climate and soil type whether that be GM rice or conventionally bred cassava rather than vast grain monocultures. With an enormous variety of crops, fields and farmers, there will be a variety of different practices used (including the investigation of wild type relatives of staple crops), and we will need this variety in the coming decades. Canada Goose Parka

canada goose If you would like to comment on this article or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. canada goose

Explore the BBC Home Home News News Sport Weather Shop Earth Travel Capital iPlayer Culture Autos Future TV Radio CBBC CBeebies Food iWonder Bitesize Travel Music Earth Arts Make It Digital Taster Nature Local Tomorrow’s World.