Maximizing Agricultural Productivity on Small Land Holdings

Given that the world’s population is growing but the amount of land available for agriculture is not, discuss some practical steps an individual can take to minimise their impact on the food system

Since the origin and evolution of agriculture, people have continuously relied on agricultural products for food and raw materials for agro-based industries. The steady population growth provides a strain on the available land diminishing farms from the large farms years ago to small farms today. However, there are steps that can be taken to still maximally utilize the available small lands for food sufficiency.

To begin with, adoption of agricultural method that ensures maximum yields on small land acreage should be encouraged. Modern agricultural methods such as organic farming and conventional farming as modern crop production techniques do not require the farmer to own large chunks of land for effective and bumper harvests (FAO 2009). Both farming methods are aimed at enhancing the agricultural yields through adoption of simple farm management practices that do minimize related agricultural costs on the farmer. For instance, the method champion use of indigenous crops, biological methods of pest and disease control, soil preservation practices and use of readily available and inexpensive organic fertilizers.

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Soil health is a crucial element of modern agriculture and farmers should be encouraged to undertake measures to ensure soil preservation for fertility and increased food production. This follows extensive research which identified that poor farming practices results in soil infertility which affect crop production and yields and due to the increased population and decreased size of available land for agriculture, preservation of the soil is crucial in food security. Measures that can be taken to enhance soil health include minimum or no tillage, mulching, use of cover crops, conservation crop rotation, and nutrient management through use of organic fertilizers and soil sample testing to understand the nutritional potential of the farms (FAO 2009).

Mixed farming is another measure to ensure maximum use of the farms and the available land. This practice involves the blend of crop farming and animal keeping which offers a sustainable ecosystem that allow farmers to maximally use the available land (FAO 2009). For instance, zero grazing of animals allows farmers to harness manure from the animals while the post-harvest husks can be used as animal feeds.

Biotechnology and use of modern science-based agricultural inputs can also be used to generate substantial yields from the farm. Farming practices that integrates technology has been increasingly adopted to enhance food sufficiency. Some of these methods require small pieces of land and are profitable (FAO 2009). For instance, hydroponic farming is increasingly becoming popular and it allows for production of food through use of technology that requires little space. Additionally, in arid and semi-arid areas adoption of drought and disease resistant seeds can help increase the yields despite the harsh climatic conditions.

Discuss, using examples, how future climate change is likely to impact the growth of crops globally

Climate change globally is a phenomenon causing numerous debates on the effects accruing from the unexpected change in the climatic conditions. Countries that primarily rely on the climate for sustenance of major sectors like agriculture experience the bulk of the losses from these changes in the climate. Common global climate change occurrences such as typhoons and drought and impact of the sea levels in coastal areas have significantly shaped modern agriculture to adopt measures like irrigation to mitigate the reduction in the water availability (Mendelsohn et al 2006).

There are ways in which climate change may impact agriculture in general and growth of crops in specific. The impacts of climate changes on agriculture differ from one region to the other. Nonetheless, global climate change comes with changes in the temperatures, rainfall patterns and CO2. Positive and negative impacts of climate change on growth of crops and agriculture can be pointed out.

Climate changes are bound to bring uncertainties about regional climatic change predictions. The unpredictability nature of the date and magnitude of occurrence of climatic change events such as droughts significantly affect the agricultural cycles in countries (Kerr & Sweet 2008). For instance, countries that solely rely on rain fed agriculture may have difficult time projecting and advising farmers on the appropriate time to begin growing crops due to prolonged droughts and fluctuations in the rainfall patterns as a consequence of the prolonged drought. In such cases, farmers might end up growing crops with first instance of rainfall, though the rain may not signal the onset of rainy season.

Geographic shifts and yield changes in agriculture are common outcomes of global climatic changes. Countries and regions affected by the changes in the climatic conditions experience significant fluctuations in the crop yield during and after the occurrence of the climatic change. For instance, prolonged rainfall may have significant impact, both positive and negative on the yield of crops. Geographic areas experience substantial amounts of rainfall may project increase in the yields. However, areas experiencing floods following the prolonged rainfall may significantly record decline in the crop yields since the floods will destroy the crops grown. Flooding during prolonged rainfall is quite common in areas that are naturally arid or semi-arid.

Climatic changes may also result in the reduction of the quantity of water available for crop production as well as irrigation. Prolonged drought is primarily responsible for this condition and inadequate water for agriculture signify low crop yields since neither rain fed nor irrigation based agriculture will be successful (Kerr & Sweet 2008). This significantly hampers the food security of the respective areas and countries.

In coastal areas, the effects rise in the sea level may result in the loss of land that would otherwise be utilized in crop growth and production. In fact, salinization is also associated with the rise in the sea level and may significantly impact the crop yield and farming. In fact, occurrences of cyclones and hurricanes commonly along coastal regions significantly damage the crop farming and production. The condition is even worse in underdeveloped regions that are grappling with food insecurity and solely rely on nature for crop production (Mendelsohn et al 2006). The emission of harmful gases that may impact the plant growth as a result of industrialization activities may also significantly impact crop growth and yields.

Fishmeal (FM) and fish oil (FO) are key marine ingredients that aquaculture heavily relies on. Respond to the following four questions:

Fish meal and fish oil extraction from small wild fish has created diverse contestations with arguments on the increasing competition of the fish between production of animal feeds and human consumption. Fishmeal is the brown flour obtained after cooking, pressing, drying, and milling fresh raw fish and fish trimmings. However, the increased production of these products creates need to answer the critical questions.

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Which are the current uses of FM and FO

Fish meal and oil has been applied in the variety of uses. The predominant use of FM products is the use of the products as animal feeds. Animals such as pigs and chicken have mainly consumed the fish meal products. Just like the fish have nutritional value to humans who consume the product, animals too have gained nutritional value from the fish meal. FM and FO, being natural ingredients have very high protein content, amino acids, minerals and essential marine oils (William and Rimmer 2005). This makes the FM and FO to offer major benefits to the animal health such as improved immunity against the diseases, higher survival and growth and reduced incidences of deformities.

The other use of FM and FO is the production of chemicals and pharmaceutical products. The products, due to their nutritional values have been used in commercial production of pharmaceutical products like amino acid and omega-3 medical supplements. These products are recommended to patients with deficiencies in specific nutrients, which are available and extracted from the Fish meal for easy absorption in the body.

Currently, there is increasing extraction of fish meal products. The main market of the fish meal and fish oil is aquaculture, dietary and industrial use (Williams and Rimmer 2005). However, there are varieties of fish meal products currently being produced. First, high quality or super prime meals with over 67% of proteins from fish meal are produced which are used in the larval rearing and marine species growth. Secondly, fishmeal is also used in production of low temperature meal that is highly digestible and used in salmon and piglet production. Third, fish meal is also used in fair average quality which is lower in protein and used in pig and poultry feeds./p>

Fish meal and fish oils are sourced from fisheries where feed fish is obtained and trimmings produced from the by-products for processing fish for human consumption. Fish meal is then produced by cooking the fish before pressing them to remove water and body oil, and drying them afterwards. Fish oil can further be extracted through centrifuging.

The use of the Fish meal and fish oil raises a number of issues which are quite debatable. First, the removal of large numbers of industrial fish significantly disturbs the ecosystem by removing the fish from their prey and predator population (Sanchez-Muros et al. 2003). Secondly, the increased market and consumption of fish meal and fish oil has necessitated measures to manage and control the industrial fishing and extraction of fish meal. Control measures are aimed at limiting the impact of the by-catch by the industrial fisheries.

References

Wainwright, P.E. (2002). Dietary essential fatty acids and brain function: a developmental perspective on mechanisms. Proceedings of the Nutritional Society 61, 61-69.

Sanchez-Muros, M.J., Corchete, V., Suarez, M.D., Cardenete, G., Gomez-Milan, E. and de la Higuera, M. (2003). Effect of feeding method and protein source on Sparus aurata feeding patterns, Aquaculture, 224, 89-103.

FAO (2009): enabling agriculture to contribute to climate change mitigation. A submission by the Food and Agriculture Organization to the UNFCCC

Kerr. S and Sweet, A (2008): inclusion of agriculture in a domestic emissions trading scheme: New Zealand experience to date. Farm policy journal vol. 4

Mendelsohn R, Kulukulasuriya, A and Dinar, A (2006): climate and rural income, climatic change vol. 81 no. 1

Williams, K. C. & Rimmer, M. A. (2005). The future of feeds and feeding of marine finfish in the Asia-Pacific region: the need to develop alternative aquaculture feeds. Paper presented at the Regional Workshop on Low Value and 'Trash Fish' in the Asia-Pacific Region. Hanoi, Viet Nam, 7-9 June 2005, p. 11.

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