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Save and grow

The United Nations Food Organization formulated a plan that will allow farmers in developing countries to produce more crops while reducing damage to the environment and soil

Fish farming in a rice field
Fish farming in a rice field

Food can be grown without harming the natural environment. This is according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A book published by the organization describes the possibilities for growing corn, rice and wheat which together provide humanity with more than 40% of the calories and about 35% of the proteins in ways that respect the farmers and even They will benefit the natural environment.

The book describes from assessments, data and studies conducted around the world how the "save and grow" (20) approach to agriculture is already successful when it is applied to the cultivation of basic foods, mainly grains. This approach points to the possibility of sustainable agriculture and enables the planning of a practical outline that will be a guide to "How can the world implement sustainable agriculture and development?".

In order to fulfill the international commitment to eliminate poverty, it is necessary to change the approach. There is a need for a development and agriculture model that will allow a lot of harvest without environmental damage and that will implement the agreements in Paris on "sustainable development" Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)). The goal is that by 2030 the agreements should bring the environment to an adequate state. To implement this, an innovative and comprehensive approach to food supply is needed.

While today the global grain production has reached a peak, the production of food in general and grains in particular causes serious damage to the groundwater aquifers and the environment. Loss of species and other environmental problems mark the end of the "green revolution". To feed the world's population by 2050, the demand for food will increase by about 60%. This growth must be based on lands and agricultural areas already in use.
Those who grow most of the food are the small growers and they will have to optimize the growth in a way that does not harm the environment and does not increase humanity's obligation to the environment.

"Save and Grow" is a broad-based approach to environmentally friendly agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture will increase yields while strengthening natural sources and reducing reliance and dependence on chemicals, by utilizing sources provided by natural processes in the soil and environment. The approach will also make a substantial and significant contribution to climate change preparations.

The application of "keep and grow" is expressed in different ways, such as growing "low" crops such as corn, vegetables or cassava in combination with trees that shed their leaves during the growing of the vegetables and thus do not hide the sunlight. Cultivating/plowing the field without removing the remains of the previous crops so that the plant material improves the soil structure and adds nutrients.

The authors claim that "the time has come to upgrade the success of small towers to applications on a broad international scale. To do this, a "guide to the sustainable cultivation of grains" is published, which describes the "possible contribution to shaping the world we want".

"Save and Grow" refers to technologies that use a variety of biological and environmental processes to produce more produce with less environmental damage.

The authors note five core elements:
1 - Cultivation, hilling and seed circulation.
2 - Strengthening soil health by nitrogen-fixing crops that replace chemical fertilizers.
3 - Crops with high nutritional value that will give a large yield and will be resistant to climatic pressures.
4 - Management and efficient use of water.
5 - Integration of natural enemies in pest control.

In China, the method for integrated cultivation of fish in rice fields is widespread. The farmers spread fish in the flooded rice fields, the fish fertilize the fields, eat mosquito larvae, grasses and mushrooms and thus save on the use of chemicals. The fish grow and fatten and thus constitute an additional source of food or income (about 100 kg of fish can be grown in each dunam). According to the organization's assessment, about 90% of the rice growing areas are suitable for combining rice and fish. But outside of China only 1% of the rice fields apply the winning combination.

In Africa there is a caterpillar whose larvae eat and destroy fields of corn. Instead of spraying with insecticides, farmers combine Desmodium species around the corn beds which is a weed that attracts the caterpillars' natural enemies. The desmodium also "transmits" pheromones that repel the butterflies from laying eggs. Around the desmodium areas, a species of Napier grass is grown that attracts the fliers. The nephire secretes a sticky resin that traps the ingots. Both types of grass are used as pasture for sheep or cattle so that even though the corn area is reduced, the farmer gets a higher yield plus pasture for domestic animals.

There are many examples of success

As the world turns more and more towards a balance between the needs of humanity and the needs of the natural environment, advanced technology has a role to play in enhancing the flow of environmental services.
For example, the use of a (manual) device to measure the amount of nitrogen required for a plant resulted in a significant increase in crop yields in India. At the same time, by using a device that levels the ground with a laser, (instead of using wooden boards) about 40% of the water for irrigation was saved.

In 2000, the Food and Agriculture Organization began a soil conservation experiment in Kazakhstan, where due to poor cultivation, the wind caused weathering and loss of agricultural land. The organization helped farmers implement a no-plow approach, which allowed water from snowmelt and rain to soak into the soil. The result was a 25% larger wheat crop.
In 2011, the government joined the project by providing financial support to those who implemented the method. As a result, today 200 thousand square kilometers are cultivated subject to environmental conservation conditions.

The organization's researchers emphasize that farming using the keep and grow method collects information, and must rely on local knowledge. Although the farmers often recognize the advantages of the method - the profits are not immediate, therefore a strong institutional organization is necessary for a period in which support will be given to the growers.
In order to enable the transition to sustainable agriculture that will enhance crops, policy makers must create incentives through support in markets where there will be cyclical changes in produce. There is also a need for a system that will provide credit and insurance that will reduce the risk of changes.
It is important to promote the "keep and grow" method by adopting the method at all governmental levels - governments, international and private organizations.

We will add that:
While researchers and scientists are teaching farmers to implement "save and grow", small farmers are returning to traditional crops that were abandoned under the influence of the rulers during the colonial period. For example, in Africa they grow less corn and more sorghum and cassava. It turns out that when traditional crops are combined with new irrigation methods in combination with the "keep and grow" method, growers manage to get high yields despite the damage of global warming and the impact of climate change.

One response

  1. Very interesting article.
    One note: regarding the increase in food demand at a rate of 60% by the year 2050, there are such estimates, but more updated estimates are that the rate will probably only increase by half of that. Two reasons for this: the update of global demographic trends - it is estimated that in 2050 there will be 9.3 billion people compared to 7 billion today and therefore the growth rate will be "only" 32%. Another reason: the world population is getting older and people over the age of 55 consume on average only two thirds of the food consumption of people aged 30. On the other hand: the growth of the middle class in China and India which will lead to increased protein consumption...

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