Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peak food?

Climate change is beginning to destroy our ability to feed ourselves.  Here in Minnesota, the crops look quite lush but they are VERY late so an early frost would cause a world of hurt.  But just to put the following article into context, when the corn crop around here goes well, the yield is something like 225 bushels per acre.  But from Iowa south, the heat and drought have just devastated all crops but especially corn.

The current price rises seen at your local supermarkets reflects the growing shortage of corn--which accounts for about 25% of the diet in USA.

ISU expert: USDA's outlook for corn too rosy

Dan Piller  12:04 AM, Aug. 19, 2011

Iowa State University agronomy climatologist Elwynn Taylor warned Thursday that the U.S. corn yield is likely to average 149 bushels per acre, which would be lowest in five years.

Taylor's estimate was four bushels per acre below the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate released last week. Other agronomists and farmers believe the government's estimate is too high.

A 149 bushel per acre yield, 9 percent below what U.S. farmers produced two years ago, could worsen the problem of tight U.S. corn supplies. That could raise costs for ethanol plants and livestock producers, ultimately resulting in higher meat prices.

The yield problem stems from the hot weather that hit Iowa and Illinois in the last half of July.

Corn normally pollinates best at temperatures in the upper 80s. Instead, Iowa and Illinois endured temperatures near 100 degrees during the crucial two weeks of pollination.

While temperatures have cooled since, an ISU Extension report said "the reprieve will not restore the loss of potential crop yield that was incurred by faulty pollination."

The reports of ISU specialists confirm what many Iowa farmers have seen in their fields this summer.

Farmer Rob Russell in Prescott in Union County, while watching daughter Gracie take the reserve grand champion ribbon at the 4-H show this week at the Iowa State Fair, lamented the condition of his crop reeling under one-two punches of extreme heat and dryness.

"My corn burned up," Russell said.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said at the State Fair that "from what we're hearing from around the state, I'm really worried about the crop."

The USDA said a week ago that Iowa's corn yield would be 177 bushels per acre, up from 165 bushels per acre last year but below the record 182 bushels two years ago.

But the USDA forecast has been received skeptically.

"I'd say this year's corn yield in Iowa will be about like last year's," said Taylor's colleague at ISU Extension, agronomist Roger Elmore.

In addition to the pollination problems, Elmore said Iowa's corn crop this year is afflicted with Goss' wilt, caused by extreme warm and damp conditions, as well as corn aphids. more
The food disasters caused by climate change will have many manifestations.  In Vietnam, the Mekong River delta is being threatened.  Unfortunately, this fertile land feeds millions of people.
Vietnam's rice bowl threatened by rising seas
Climate change is turning rivers of Mekong Delta salty, spelling disaster for millions of poor farmers

Kit Gillet in Ben Tre, Vietnam
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 21 August 2011 20.51 BST

Sitting amid buckets of rice in the market, Nguyen Thi Lim Lien issues a warning she desperately hopes the world will hear: climate change is turning the rivers of the Mekong Delta salty. 
"The government tells us that there are three grams of salt per litre of fresh water in the rivers now," she says. "Gradually more and more people are affected. Those nearest the sea are the most affected now, but soon the whole province will be hit." 
The vast, humid expanse of the delta is home to more than 17 million people, who have relied for generations on its thousands of river arteries. But rising sea water caused by global warming is now increasing the salt content of the river water and threatening the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers and fishermen. 
Vietnam is listed by the World Bank among the countries most threatened by rising waters brought about by higher global temperatures, with only the Bahamas more vulnerable to a one-metre rise in sea levels. Such a rise could leave a third of the Mekong Delta underwater and lead to mass internal migration and devastation in a region that produces nearly half of Vietnam's rice. 
"If there was a one-metre rise, we estimate 40% of the delta will be submerged," says Tran Thuc, director general of the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment. "There is also the threat of cyclones and storms linked to climate change. The people in this area are not prepared for any of this." 
Already affected by regular flooding, those who live in the low-lying delta are focusing on the rising salt content of water in land that has for thousands of years been used for rice paddies, coconut groves and other crops which locals rely on for their livelihood. 
According to the Ben Tre department of agriculture and rural development, salt water at four parts per thousand has, as of April, reached as far as 35 miles inland, causing significant damage to crops and livestock, with rice production particularly affected. 
"Salination will become higher and higher and the salt season will last longer and be worse," predicts Thuc. more

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