Sunday, February 17, 2013

India: ecological farmers break the World record of rice, wheat and potato harvest

Sumant Kumar
GM crops? Pesticides? None of that: just lots of love for their work some strictly ecological innovation and maybe a bit of  luck with the weather. Nalanda district farmers in Bihar have achieved the Guinness World Record of rice productivity with rather traditional ecological methods.

Sumant Kumar achieved last year the record yield of 22.4 tons of rice per hectare, beating the previous one by Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping (19.4 tons) and also any other such try by World Bank subsidized projects in Philippines, let alone the GM crop multinationals.

Not only Kumar, his neighbors also achieved very large harvests above 17 tons, double than usual.

Six months later they smashed the World record for potato yields as well. And then, in a neighboring village, the World record for wheat yields was achieved too.

What happened in Darveshpura has divided scientists and is exciting governments and development experts. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the "super yields" is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Root Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world's 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.
Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. The premise that "less is more" was taught by Rajiv Kumar, a young Bihar state government extension worker who had been trained in turn by Anil Verma of Professional Assistance for Development Action, an Indian NGO which has introduced the SRI method to hundreds of villages in the past three years.

Very interesting to say the least. 

Source and more details at The Guardian.

GM crops are not working

GM watch has a very interesting article on the fact that GM crops are not the panacea that Monsanto and the likes pretend us to believe.

In fact they do not work as promised.

In the USA the only result has been a heavy increase use of (very costly) pesticides and herbicides, with the side effect that weeds have soon adapted to them, causing a spiral of dose intensification that goes nowhere but to increased pollution.

"We were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects." Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop.

It seems to be even worse when several genetic modifications are implemented in the same crop (for example herbicide resistance plus pesticide production): the modified genes stack up but not only for the intended traits but also for other ill-understood ones that actually reduce the yield.

Overall, the report uncovers evidence of what is known as "yield drag"—the idea that manipulating the genome of a plant variety causes unintended changes in the way it grows, causing it to be less productive.

Also the hyper-technological management of soils is harmful:

"Soils managed with organic methods have shown better water-holding capacity and water infiltration rates and have produced higher yields than conventional systems under drought conditions and excessive rainfall."

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