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Nanotechnology Can Transform Agriculture
Combined with the impacts of climate control, production increases and scarce land have become prominent issues in agriculture on a global scale. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has predicted that the world population will approach 10 billion by 2050. As a result, the growing population will need to explore new ways of agriculture efficiency. Agrochemicals are the current method of intense crop production. However, these agrochemicals negatively affect the environment, as they contain pesticides and growth hormones which have toxic effects on consumers. Fortunately, a new solution has risen, as nanotechnology has the potential to be the answer to both efficient fertilization and crop protection. Here is some information about how nanotechnology can transform agriculture.

Current Sustainability Methods

Developing nations currently use three main sustainable methods of agriculture. First, sustainable agriculture is a farming philosophy that focuses on resource maintenance. Unlike intensive agriculture, sustainable agriculture follows natural harvest cycles, reducing the use of agrochemicals and recycling water and nutrients. Permaculture, hydroponics and agroforestry are all methods of sustainable agriculture. These three tools allow farmers to recreate natural ecosystems and help raise livestock in safe grasslands. This healthy environment produces better food quality and plant health, as livestock manure, soils and fertilizers get proper nutrients from the excrement recycling system.

Precision farming is another form of agriculture that aims to improve sustainability. This method focuses on monitoring pest and disease management, something smallholder farms in developing countries cannot regulate as much. One benefit is that precision farming aids farmers in developing cropping plans. Farmers are thus able to “combin[e] forecast data with the crop models, allow[ing] [farmers] to present data-supported recommendations that are implementable at small and large scales.” Overall, these cropping plans allow farmers to improve their environmental efforts of sustainability in an economically beneficial way.

Lastly, Climate Smart-Villages exist within rural farms in India, Columbia and Nepal. These villages deal with climate fluctuation data to anticipate participatory methods. Smart technologies, forecast services and adoption planning all help to improve harvesting techniques and plant planning. In order to increase water retention and reduce the risk of fertilizer loss, climate-smart farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. With these villages in place, farmers can find alternative wetting and drying methods in rice paddies, thus “reduc[ing] water consumption by 50% and reduce[ing] GHG emissions by 30-50%.” Overall, the method is able to limit consumption and improve crop growth, thus making it a more sustainable farming technique.

The Nano-Particle Solution

Climate Villages, precision farming and sustainable agriculture offer solutions to the environmental crisis in developing countries. A new method of nanotechnology that can transform agriculture is undergoing development to create materials from biological nano-structures that work within gases, liquids and solids to manipulate atomic properties. The medical field, cosmetics and electronics already use nanoparticles (NPs) due to their expansive chemical and biological properties.

When applied to agriculture, NPs work through the cellular system so they can remain within the farm’s ecosystem. NPs also help change the rate of a plant’s retainment of water, oxygen growth, sun absorption and chromosomal activity. Other developments like nano-pesticides help to regulate the number of pesticides that negatively affect food production and nano-fertilizers. Nano-fertilizers are thus able to enhance agricultural yield and reduce the use of zinc, silica and titanium dioxide.

Improving Precision Farming with NPs

One of the best features of nano-particles is the opportunity to increase funding and popularity with seed treatment. In order to improve the environmental impact of agriculture in developing countries, implementing the use of NPs into popular methods of agriculture, such as precision farming, is a feasible solution. This form of agriculture uses GPS satellite signals to gain information about harvest fluctuations by interpreting the position, velocity and time of the surrounding climate.

Nano-sensors pair well with GPS technology. These sensors work as small monitors that confirm the soil’s conditions and plant growth during changing climate. With nano-sensors, precision farming can increase production quickly with minimal cost. The United States and Australia are currently profiting from nano-sensors. Both countries have been using this technology in vineyards to grow high-quality grapes at an optimal price point.

Being able to apply nanotechnology to well-running methods of sustainable agriculture has proven to be successful so far. Developing countries such as India, Iran and Thailand have experienced economic growth with the use of nanotechnology. In India, the production of efficient water fertilizers, soil conservation, livestock nutrients and plant health monitoring have been positive changes for agriculture there. Going forward, nanotechnology can be the new solution that allows farmers to be successful in their farming without using toxic GMOs or agrochemicals. Nanotechnology can transform agriculture and is the future of farming. When applied sustainably, it can produce major changes in the world of agriculture.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Roxburgh rose in GuizhouThe Guizhou Province, located in Southwest China, is famous for its beautiful landscapes, reigning mountain ranges and for being a multi-minority region. The province is landlocked, stretching “350 miles from east to west and 320 miles from north to south.” With that much land to cover, it’s no wonder agriculture is one of the main sources of income for rural communities. The crops grown in Guizhou are mainly graze crops including wheat, corn, rice, potatoes and beans. Unfortunately, the harvest is not enough to support local farmers. But, individuals in rural areas have found a great way to turn Guizhou’s natural environment into a booming market with flowers. The cultivation of the Roxburgh rose in Guizhou is helping the province rise out of poverty.

The Story of the Roxburgh Rose in Guizhou

The Roxburgh rose, also known as the chestnut rose, is a soft pink color with a yellow center. The petals are flatter and more spread out than the typical rose giving it the appearance of a large daisy. The plant grows a small, spiky, bitter fruit that many thought had no value. However, villagers who joined the Roxburgh rose industry realized it could be a reliable, profitable source.

The pungent, tart fruit of the rose is known for being extremely high in vitamins and minerals. Some companies claim it has the largest amount of vitamin c of any other fruit. From it, you can produce wine, sparkling beverages and dried candies.

In this region of China, it’s hard to grow continuous crops in the rocky landscape. In Xichong, a city in the Guizhou Province, a man named Ma Jinyou discovered his land had the perfect soil for growing Roxburgh roses. When a group of researchers from the South China University of Technology came to Guizhou to study the pedology of the region, they knew the conditions were ideal. According to Jinyou, a good harvest could bring in around five thousand kilograms of fruit. For that amount of fruit, Jinyou makes a profit of 30,000 yuans ($4,467.61). Soon, Jinyou was able to see his investment in the Roxburgh rose got him out of poverty.

In an article by en.people.cn (Daily People China) they state, “The industry helped 1,798 local people increase their annual income by an average of more than 9,000 yuan.” The Roxburgh roses in Guizhou are helping many individuals rise above the poverty line.

The Beginning of the Roxburgh Rose Industry

Although tourism has been an effective way to lower the poverty rates employing over 900,000 people, Guizhou has been creating opportunities for the rose market. On August 13, 2020 the Roxburgh rose industry was launched in Guizhou, China. Two companies emerged in Bijie to start up the creation of Roxburgh rose products, including The Guangyao Wanglaoji Cininghi Innovation Center and The Guangyao Wanglaoji Industry Company Limited. The two companies are planning to alleviate poverty throughout the Guizhou province by creating a new market and new jobs.

Beverages and dried candies are two of the latest products. GPHL’s chairman, Li Chiyuan, agreed that for every 12 cans sold of Roxburgh rose drinks, his company will donate two yuans to fighting poverty in Guizhou.

In support of the new changes, local institutes wanted to assist in reducing poverty. The Roxburgh rose in Guizhou is now part of research projects in hospitals and respiratory disease research to further discover the benefits of the flower.

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr

How Agriculture is Ending Poverty in IndonesiaIndonesia has struggled with poverty since the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the rate of poverty has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 1999, Indonesia’s poverty rate was a staggering 24%. In 2013, it had dropped to 11.4% and in 2019, it stood at 9.4%. Below are the ways agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia.

Palm Oil Production in Indonesia: Providing Jobs and Alleviating Poverty

Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world and is found in half of grocery store items. Its popularity has skyrocketed globally since 1990, with global consumption growing from 14 million tons in 1990 to 63 million tons in 2015, 80% of which is supplied by Indonesia. After the Asian Financial Crisis, millions of Indonesians relied on the palm oil industry to relieve poverty. Between the years 2001 and 2010, 10 million Indonesians saw relief from poverty directly from working in the palm oil industry.

In 2017, 3.8 million Indonesians were working in the palm oil industry. Today,  17 million Indonesians rely on the palm oil industry for work, and 7% of Indonesia’s land is used for its production. Palm oil agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia because it directly helps farmers in rural areas. Indonesia’s rural areas are most affected by poverty. However, by maintaining and increasing funding for palm oil production, families living in these rural regions can lift themselves out of poverty.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 Farmer Support

Farmers in Indonesia play a significant role in stabilizing the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity of supporting the many farmers of Indonesia—who make up 30% of the population—by providing necessities such as seeds and fertilizer.

The government is also providing 34 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs, or $2,284,494,000, in loan subsidies. The 2.7 million farmers also received 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs, or $20, which is typically one week of wages, for three months.

USAID: Partnering with Local Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with farmers in Indonesia to help build a better livelihood, reduce poverty and help the economy. USAID ensures that farmers have a consistent supply of necessary resources needed to produce food at a high quality. This food security ensures that people see long-term benefits and avoid issues of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and cognitive health issues. At the same time, USAID is committed to achieving these goals in an environmentally-friendly way.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USAID clarified how its assistance with agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia. USAID gained 2.9 hectares of farmland, which supports the livelihood of 11,400 people. Rubber farmers also received training on environmental sustainability and reducing the risk of forest fires, which have reduced by 74%. Additionally, 30% of farmers are now producing government-certified rubber products at a higher quality, which have increased in price from $0.50/kg to $0.80/kg. In addition, productivity has increased by 2.5%. USAID is focused on long-term goals and is expected to acquire 100 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

Agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia at such a high rate because the agriculture industry is most effective at raising incomes compared to other industries. In a 2016 study by the World Bank, 65% of impoverished workers were able to make a living by working in agriculture The agriculture industry has made great efforts to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Improvements in the practices of agriculture have correlated in better incomes and lifestyles for farmers, and are projected to steadily increase.

—Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Land ManagementSettled in the South Pacific between New Zealand and Hawaii, Samoa is a tropical Polynesian island country known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning beaches. However, increasing land degradation and drought threaten the future of Samoa’s inhabitants, posing a serious threat to the food, water and energy security of Samoa’s population. The Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes (SMSMCL) project establishes sustainable land management to combat degradation and improve agricultural and forest land quality. In particular, the project focuses on shifting Samoa’s farms from mono-cropping to mixed-use, as well as introducing resilient crops.

The History of Land Degradation in Samoa

Climate change, deforestation and agricultural expansion have resulted in extensive vegetation and forest deterioration. Additionally, as part of the Samoan government’s initiative to increase exports in the 1970s, many forests were cleared to make way for agricultural land. The intensive farming of crop commodities like coconut, taro, bananas and cocoa robbed Samoa’s soil of key nutrients and threatened the health of the agricultural sector. Agriculture accounts for 90% of Samoa’s exports and makes up a significant portion of the nation’s GDP, although profits rarely return to local communities. Land degradation affects the livelihoods of small-village and farming communities. As land resource insecurity rises, communities fear that future generations will be left with little to no development opportunities.

The SMSMCL Project

The Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes (SMSMCL) Project works to counter the land degradation problem by introducing sustainable land management strategies that improve food, water and energy security in Samoa. Funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the Government of Samoa, the project works to protect and sustainably manage productive landscapes from 2013-2018 in an effort to reduce poverty and combat the effects of climate change.

The SMSMCL Project takes a multifaceted approach to solving the problem. It encourages the use of nitrogen-rich plants like legumes to restore nutrients in critical landscapes and introduces climate-resilient food and tree crops to withstand environmental fluctuations. In addition, the project encourages a shift from mono-cropping to mixed-cropping. In the past, most of Samoa’s agricultural lands only cultivated traditional crops such as taro, a starchy root vegetable. The mono-cropping of taro deteriorated soil health, and the reliance on the crop devastated Samoa’s agricultural industry during a taro-leaf blight of the 1990s. By diversifying traditional food crops, the SMSMCL project improves agricultural productivity and strengthens crop resilience to prevent infectious crop diseases from devastating farmers’ livelihoods.

The SMSMCL Project involves village communities in every step of the process to educate Samoans on sustainable land and water management. Farmers, community organizations, students and church groups have responded enthusiastically to embrace sustainable land-management practices and encourage nature conservation.

Encouraging Results

Already, 126 villages throughout Samoa have benefited from the Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes project, and over 16,760 hectares of agricultural and forest land have been restored. Embracing sustainable land management strategies has improved the food security of Samoa’s population, helping communities cultivate their lands efficiently and secure opportunities for future generations.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Pixabay

Genetically Modified PestsHumanity’s ability to feed itself by farming crops is a skill that has existed for millennia. Agriculture has long served humans’ need for nourishment and has allowed the growth and expansion of populations across the world. However, the same agricultural problems that plagued early farmers’ crop fields such as weeds, insects and weather still plague modern farmers today. Modern solutions like genetically modified pests are emerging to increase crop yield and food security for millions.

Issues Facing Farming

One key problem farmers face is pests. Pests such as the diamondback moth and the medfly are extremely dangerous to the health of key crops globally, and pests in general cause crop damage in one of two ways: they either eat or burrow into the plant, or they carry a disease that threatens the plant’s health. On a global scale, pests and the pathogens they carry are reducing crop yields major food crops by 10 to 40%. Furthermore, the resulting dead or inedible crops around the field lead to lower crop yields. In poverty-stricken areas, every crop is critical in preventing families from going hungry. For this reason, crop loss to pests is a massive problem that must be addressed.

Current Solutions and Room for Improvement

Farmers currently attempt to combat these insects with many types of pesticides, including insecticides. Insecticides are chemicals used in both rich and poor countries worldwide to kill the insects that threaten crops. Pesticides are utilized particularly heavily in South America, with insecticides comprising a significant component of total use: in fact, as of 2017, countries like Ecuador have used as many as 4,700 tons of insecticide on their crops to protect against dangerous insects.

With the heavy use of insecticides permeating agriculture globally, a major problem is on the horizon. The very insects these chemicals are designed to protect against are beginning to grow resistant to pesticides’ effects. This resistance leads to chemicals being unnecessarily sprayed on food crops, adversely affecting human health without protecting crops from any damage. Given the issues emerging from insecticide use, an innovative new solution is desperately needed.

A New Solution: Genetically Modified Pests

Valiant scientific efforts are emerging to curtail the issue of insecticide immunity. Oxitec, a company based in the U.K., has created a healthy and environmentally friendly solution to the pest dilemma. Their methods involve the “friendly” genetic modification of male pests to include a “self-limiting” gene. This gene is then passed on to wild females in affected areas. This gene kills off the female’s offspring before they can reach a mature enough age to reproduce, restricting population growth. The gene modification process ultimately shrinks the insect population, protecting more plants and increasing crop yield.

The benefits of Oxitec’s technology extend beyond plant protection. This gene also helps protect other insects, such as bees, that are vital to the agricultural process by killing off their predators. With a robust population, these insects can more efficiently pollinate and increase overall crop yields. Genetically modified pests are also beneficial to environmental and human health. Once properly implemented, this method completely replaces the insecticides that have been known to cause pollution and illness when applied in high volumes.

Impact of Genetically Modified Pests

Genetically modified pest control presents positive implications for poor farmers worldwide. This technique is cost-effective, as the work to defend against pests is done by the insects themselves in nature. Thus, participating farmers save money by no longer having to purchase insecticides and can use the extra funding to help increase crop yields, food supply and income. Additionally, the health benefits of removing insecticides from crops mean farmers and consumers alike benefit nutritionally. This is especially useful in regions where healthcare quality is poor or inaccessible. By removing the health risks of insecticide ingestion, those lacking adequate healthcare could experience a reduction in medical concerns.

By providing a plethora of agricultural, environmental and financial protections, genetically modified pests have the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of farmers. Better yet, this new method of pest control empowers farmers by allowing them to focus on improving other aspects of agriculture, which could increase food security and health for consumers across the globe.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

Technology in West AfricaThroughout history, new technology has always been one of the key factors in driving both the economy as a whole, as well as a specific economic sector. New inventions drive new innovations, and as a result, significant advancements are made. Now, technology is driving agriculture in West Africa as well, with both new and familiar ideas paving the way forward. Here are some of the most notable technologies and advancements pushing agricultural expansion in West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

Clean Energy in Ghana

One of the keys to most modern technology involves energy: sustainable energy, of course, being among the most ideal (and often cheapest) options. Solar power is making electricity available for more and more West Africans every day. There is also a massive project in the works to create a solar power facility in Ghana. Composed of 630,000 photovoltaic modules, the Nzema Solar Power Station will bring electricity to the homes of more than 100,000 Ghanaians. With this clean energy, new technologies that push agriculture and other economic sectors forward can be powered.

Access to Smartphones

Tied closely with the push for energy is the advancement of the smartphone across West Africa. Smartphone ownership has increased to around 30-35 percent in Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria. Smartphones are an absolutely integral driving force for agriculture and technology in West Africa. With access to a smartphone and the internet, farmers can gain easier and more convenient access to information about local markets and upcoming weather forecasts, improving their ability to adapt to shifts in both the environment and the economy. Not only that, but smartphones also allow farmers to purchase insurance and get other financial services, such as banking.

Technologies Boosting Agriculture

In Nigeria, one company named Hello Tractor is making use of the increased spread of smartphones by creating an app designed for renting and sharing tractors with farmers. Farmers can use the app to communicate with nearby owners of tractors, and schedule bookings for the usage of those tractors on specific days. This reduces the barrier of entry to farming as a profession, and as a result is a massive boon to the agricultural sector. With West African companies such as Hello Tractor innovating upon smartphone technology and the Internet of Things, technology in West Africa is once again driving agriculture.

There are also other technologies which may be potentially transformative to agriculture in West Africa. The more recent advancements in 3D printing may offer another pathway to increase efficiency. In West African companies with less intricate transportation infrastructure, 3D printing offers a cheaper way to obtain farming tools by producing them yourself rather than paying expensive shipping fees. In Nigeria, there is a permanent set-up dedicated to manufacturing replacement parts for local industries in order to provide them more efficiently and at a lower cost. The market for this is expanding as well, as there are U.S firms investing in this technology in the region. The installment also offers training programs for local workers so that they can learn the skills necessary to operate such technology.

Another potential, yet controversial advancement is in the sector of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Ghana particularly, cowpea is a crop prized for its energizing properties, eaten traditionally by farmers before working in the field. However, the crop is dying faster each year due to insects. GMOs could offer one potential path to solving this issue and stabilizing cowpea for West African farmers. Though scientists are still in widespread debate about the safety and usability of genetically modified cowpeas in particular, the technology could regardless offer another potential path to advancement for the West African agricultural sector.

Future for Technology in West Africa

Ultimately, the most important and consistent technology for the future of agriculture in West Africa is found in information technology. Smartphone presence becoming more widespread allows access to market data, weather data, financial services, and even access to rental services like those of Hello Tractor. Western Sydney University is also working on a mobile application specifically streamlined for usage by farmers, providing access to many of these services all in one app.

Overall, it is clear to see that technology is driving agriculture in West Africa. With all of these new advancements, it is reasonable to expect West Africa to continue pushing its agricultural sector forward. With solar power expansion, 3D printing, smartphone access, and rental services like Hello Tractor, the informational landscape of West Africa will be transformed significantly over the next several years.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

rice
In order to address the threat of climate change on global food security, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has released 44 varieties of rice that are resilient to some of the effects of climate change. Currently, around half of the entire global population is dependent upon rice as the staple of its meals.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the adaptations necessary due to climate change impacts and states, “starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease [are] likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change.” The effects of climate change on agriculture, food security and poverty are particularly distressing; billions of people may face an extreme threat to their food and water security by the year 2050.

Because of the dangers that climate change poses on agriculture, the establishment of climate resilient agricultural sectors is a necessary for nations such as Ghana, where food security is diminishing and poverty is increasing. The rice variations introduced by the IRRI can account for some of the environmental concerns placed upon rice production in many nations that are facing impacts of climate change. The 44 types of rice released include “nine salt-tolerant varieties in the Philippines, three flood-tolerant varieties in South Asia, and six in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Although genetically modified crops, such as the climate resilient rice variations introduced by the IRRI, have faced backlash in developed nations, they are beginning to become a necessity in developing nations. Climate change impacts are expected to worsen, as the global environment is a complex system where much can be left unconsidered. Therefore, resiliency in crops is a necessary avenue for research and development in the very near future.

The 44 rice varieties are expected to bolster the agricultural sectors of nations within Africa and Asia including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nigeria, Tanzania, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and Rwanda. With the global population on a steep rise and mass cases of socio-economic ascension from poverty to the middle class, food demand is significantly high. Currently, the IRRI is working on a tripartite rice variation that is resilient to droughts, floods and saltiness, all of which are staples of climate change impacts on the agriculture sector.

Jugal Patel

Sources: Interaksyon, Think Progress
Photo: Golden Diamond