Commentary: 12 half-baked ideas for improving agriculture
3. Increasing crop diversity: Mono-cropping often exposes crops to pests and diseases associated with overcrowding, and can increase market dependence on a few varieties: in the United States, almost 90 percent of historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished in favor of mono-cultured staples such as Pink Lady apples and Yukon Gold potatoes. Encouraging diversity through agricultural subsidies and informed consumption choices can help reverse this trend and the threat it poses to domestic food security. (Crop rotation is usually a good thing, but to suggest the world is being overrun with Yukon Gold potatoes and Pink Lady apples and squeezing out other varieties seems far fetched. Then to suggest consumers should buy alternatives to these as a way to sway the market to grow some other variety is even more far fetched. I also cannot see Worldwatch Institute members wanting the government to tell them what to grow through government subsidy programs.)
4. Improving food production from existing livestock: Improved animal husbandry practices can increase milk and meat quantities without the need to increase herd sizes or associated environmental degradation. In India, farmers are improving the quality of their feed by using grass, sorghum, stover, and brans to produce more milk from fewer animals. This also reduces pressure on global corn supplies. (Animal husbandry has been improved over the years and continues and that means artificial insemination, too. Feed rations are improved and feedstocks that have potential are assessed constantly.)
5. Diversifying livestock breeds: Most commercial farming operations rely on a narrow range of commercial breeds selected for their high productivity and low input needs. Selective breeding, however, has also made these breeds vulnerable to diseases and changing environments. Lesser-known livestock such as North American Bison are often hardier and produce richer milk. (Every breed of livestock is vulnerable to major disease concerns with an example being foot and mouth disease; vulnerability is not based on whether it is an angus or charolais cow. As for the example of raising bison, anyone who has seen the effort and expense to raise this animal with its wild instincts wouldn’t suggest those animals or any other wild animal as a major replacement for meat or milk.)
6. "Meatless Mondays": Choosing not to eat meat at least one day a week will reduce the environmental impacts associated with livestock as well as increase food availability in domestic and global markets. Current production methods require 7 kilograms of grain and 100,000 liters of water for every 1 kilogram of meat. Livestock production accounts for an estimated 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and roughly 23 percent of agricultural water use worldwide. (The vegetarians of the world can do as they please, but the howl against Meatless Mondays has been widely heard. Livestock producers have a lot of messages to counter this vegetarian point of view. The statement that it takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of meat is outrageously high.)
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