Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:34PM - 11 Views

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The world may be on the verge of a second Green Revolution, says an OhioState University soil scientist. But while the original pulled people fromthe brink of starvation using genetics, he believes the success of thecurrent movement will be rooted in careful management of Earthıs naturalresources.Rattan Lal, a researcher with the Ohio Agricultural Research andDevelopment Center, said seed germplasm to improve crop production will notbe useful if soil, water and climate arenıt carefully managed and conserved.³This second Green Revolution has to be different than what was done inthe 1960s. It must be resource-based, not seed-based,² Lal said. ³It meansrestoring degraded soils and conserving water resources, while providingseed genetics that support changes in climate.³This approach will require a different kind of thinking and mustinvolve a host of experts: soil scientists, climatologists, socialscientists, and plant breeders.²Itıs a philosophy that Lal sees as a solution to the current global foodcrisis -- a phenomenon of skyrocketing food prices, driven by a multitude offactors, that is putting over 1 billion people worldwide out of reach of thevery basics of survival. And itıs a situation that wonıt be alleviatedanytime soon, and most likely will get worse as the worldıs populationincreases, Lal said.³People whose income is less than a dollar a day are finding that foodis not accessible. Itıs a problem that will persist for quite a while andmore than likely become more severe,² he said. ³We are at 6.5 billion inworld population now. By 2050, we will be at 9.5 billion. Ninety-ninepercent of that population increase will be in developing countries, placeslike Africa and Southeast Asia, where resources are already in short supply.What we are experiencing now is just the tip of the iceberg.²It is in those developing countries, where farmland is abused and equityshifts with political and economic unrest, that natural resource managementis of the greatest importance in stabilizing the global food crisis.A way of managing the environment is to start with the soil, said Lal.³Improve the soil by improving its quality, and to do that you mustrestore carbon to the soil,² said Lal. ³Adding that carbon sequestrationincreases soil health and improves soil structure.³Places like Africa have benefited from improved plant genetics, butresearch has shown that improved seed germplasm does not perform well underpoor soil conditions, generally yielding one-third to one-sixth of itspotential. Crops grown in Africa are only yielding 1,000 pounds per acre peryear, but have the potential to yield two to four times more. The plantgenetics are not being fully utilized.²Lal said production practices, such as no-till, agroforestry, covercrops and manure application, are all ways to restore, conserve and buildcarbon in the soil.Wisely managing water resources through efficient harvesting,containment and conservation is another important aspect of natural resourcemanagement. Throw in worldwide climate shifts that are having a greaterimpact on crop production, and managing soil and water become even moresignificant, even in areas where land remains fertile.³There are 5 billion acres of agricultural land worldwide that were onceproductive but are now degraded. Itıs important to save that land, as wellas preserve the land that is still fertile,² said Lal. ³Because of climatechange, our food-production zones are shifting northward. For every 1 degreecentigrade change in temperature, those zones are shifting 150 miles north.So places like Siberia and Canada are becoming prime land for cropproduction.²Modern technology, combined with resource management, can help bringfarmers into the next phase of crop production and management, said Lal.³Modern technology can play an important role in that resource-basedstrategy,² said Lal. ³Such land-saving technology includes nanotechnologythat can improve fertilizer use, sub-drip irrigation systems that bringwater and nutrients directly to plant roots, and crops that emitmolecular-based signals when they need nutrients and water before yieldssuffer.²But the implementation of resource management techniques andtechnological developments is a slow process, and whatever immediatesolution proposed for the global food crisis is just a band-aid, said Lal.³Improving soil quality, conserving water resources -- that takes time.Any improvements implemented today take years for results,² said Lal. ³Butthey have the potential to solve our food deficit problem. Global leadersjust need to recognize that new paradigm shift.²According to Ohio State University soil science research focusing onsoil quality in such countries as the United States, Africa, India, SouthAmerica and Latin America, if soil carbon content was increased by one tonper hectare (roughly 2,000 pounds per 2.5 acres) using conservationpractices, grain yield would increase 220-440 pounds per 2.5 acres, wheatyield from 44 pounds to 110 pounds per 2.5 acres, and soybean yield from 44pounds to 88 pounds per 2.5 acres.³What that means for countries like Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, whosefood deficit will be 22 million tons by 2010, is that if farmers can adoptcarbon-storing practices, food production could increase by 32 million tonsevery year, basically eliminating that food deficit,² said Lal. ³Inaddition, there will be an increase in the production of root crops(cassava, yam and sweet potato, which are food staples in sub-SaharanAfrica) by as much as 7 to 11 million tons per year.²The key to such success, said Lal, is to add value to Earthıs naturalresources through agriculture.³We are undervaluing those natural resources, like soil and water. Andwhen we do that, those resources can be abused, and that is what ishappening,² said Lal. ³Agriculture, once blamed for environmentaldegradation, can now be part of the solution to the crisis that the world isfacing.²  

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