Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jun 11

Remembering Navjot Sodhi
a facebook page memorial

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [6 - 12 Jun 2011]
from Green Business Times

Strange anemones at Kranji
from wild shores of singapore

Olive-backed Sunbird’s blue nest: Continuing saga
from Bird Ecology Study Group

六月华语导游 mandarin guide walk@SBWR,June
from PurpleMangrove

from The annotated budak and

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Renowned conservation scholar, 49, dies

Navjot Sodhi's research helped cut Singapore house crow population by 90%
Grace Chua Straits Times 14 Jun 11;

CONSERVATION scholar Navjot Sodhi, whose research helped pest control agencies cut Singapore's house crow population to a 10th of its former size, died of lymphoma on Sunday. He was 49.

The internationally renowned scholar, who taught in the National University of Singapore (NUS) Department of Bio-logical Sciences, led perhaps the world's first study on a local house crow population in 2000.

His work helped environment agencies cut down and stabilise the population of these raucous scavengers by clearing hawker centre tables of scraps and reducing their tree roosts, whittling down the number of crows from about 100,000 in 2002 to 10,000 today.

Besides advising on the environment here, Professor Sodhi was one of the department's most prolific authors, and was instrumental in helping Singapore punch well above its weight in conservation biology, ecology and biodiversity research.

He served as an editor on top journals such as Biological Conservation and Conservation Biology, and co-authored several books.

Said colleague and department head Paul Matsudaira: 'He was one of the intellectual leaders in the department, and raised awareness about ecology and climate change in Singapore.' He added that Prof Sodhi was a mentor to students, post-doctoral researchers and junior faculty staff.

Prof Sodhi, a Canadian citizen, was born near Chandigarh in India's Punjab region and grew up catching insects to study, said his daughter Ada, 21.

His doctoral research at Canada's University of Saskatchewan was on falcons, and when he started at NUS as an assistant professor in 1995, he focused on tropical rainforest birds.

But Prof Sodhi's research soon spanned every order of creature and every aspect of conservation biology.

His daily uniform included a baseball cap - frequently worn backwards - and bermuda shorts. On field trips, an ever-present, elderly pair of Swarovski binoculars dangled from his neck.

Former student Koh Lian Pin, now an assistant professor at ETH Zurich, said of Prof Sodhi: 'He once told me he didn't care if I danced naked as long as I got the job done.'

A Sikh and a staunch vegetarian, he baulked at eating unfamiliar dishes out in the field, preferring spaghetti from a can, but at home loved to cook and eat.

Assistant Professor David Bickford, who worked with Prof Sodhi as a post-doctoral researcher, then as a full-time teaching staff member, called his death 'a devastating loss'.

'He had these incredible insights about what the next frontier was, what questions to ask next,' he added.

Prof Sodhi was never afraid to speak his mind, Dr Bickford noted.

A 2010 paper he co-authored raised the ire of the Singapore Government by suggesting Singapore was the worst environmental offender among 178 countries, having lost most of its forests and more than half its birds to urbanisation.

The authors conceded that Singapore was something of an outlier as it is a city-state and ought to be compared with other cities such as Hong Kong.

Yesterday, condolences also poured in from as far afield as Canada, the United States and Australia, reading like a Who's Who of ecology.

On his website Conservation Bytes, University of Adelaide professor Corey Bradshaw called Prof Sodhi a 'top bloke', and said: 'He has probably been directly responsible for the protection of thousands of species that would otherwise no longer be with us.'

Stanford University ecologist Paul Ehrlich said: 'He was one of the great stars of conservation science, but also a wonderful (and funny) colleague and friend.'

Prof Sodhi is survived by his wife Charanjit, 52, and children Ada, an undergraduate, and Darwin, 18, who will enter university this year.

Yesterday, his friends, colleagues and former students put a memorial page of photos and anecdotes up on Facebook.

A funeral service will be held at Mandai Crematorium, today at 3.45pm.

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Malaysia: Three surprised fishermen net three angel sharks

New Straits Times 13 Jun 11;

Villagers holding the 7m-long angel shark in Kampung Chempaka near Kuantan yesterday. — NST picture by Shahrul Nizam Mohamad

KUANTAN: Three fishermen were nearly thrown overboard when three angel sharks got caught in their fishing nets.

Zulkifli Mohd Nor, 46, said: "Even though the nets were heavier than usual and we were nearly thrown overboard, we continued pulling up the nets.

"The weather also wasn't good but we really wanted to get our catch that morning."

He said the largest of the three sharks was almost 200kg while the two smaller ones, believed to be offspring, weighed 60kg each.

Zulkifli said this was fourth time he had caught angel sharks.

He expected the three sharks to fetch RM3,000.

He added that he and his friends would sell the sharks to wholesalers at the Fisheries Development Authority complex.

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Tree-frog biodiversity warning for Amazon

Tree-frog hot spots in the Amazon have been established over tens of millions of years, say scientists.
BBC News 13 Jun 11;

To explain why some areas have greater species richness, experts analysed the distribution of 360 tree-frog species.

They found that the most diverse sites were established over 60 million years ago and more recently colonised areas had fewer unique species.

Researchers suggest this is evidence that damaged rainforest could take millions of years to recover.

Scientists from Stony Brook University, New York, US, aimed to shed light on an ongoing debate with their study published in the journal Ecology Letters.

"The question of why there are more species in the tropics has been a puzzle to biologists for more than 200 years, and a particularly challenging part of the problem is to explain why some sites in the rainforest can have more species than an entire continent," explained principal investigator Dr John Wiens.

In the past, species richness had been attributed to climate and some scientists believed that the biodiversity of tropical rainforest was due to their hot wet conditions.

However, by studying the distribution of 360 different tree-frog species from around the world, Dr Wiens found that not all tropical rainforest habitats were home to many different species.

"We found that many tropical rainforest sites have the same, limited number of tree-frog species as some sites in the temperate zone," he said.

"These tropical rainforest sites with low species diversity are in regions that have been colonized by tree-frogs relatively recently, like northwestern South America, Central America, and Australia."

By analysing the DNA relationships between species, Dr Wiens and his colleagues were able to map tree-frog evolution to understand where and when they originated.

The team discovered that areas of high species richness were established before the dinosaurs became extinct.

"The Amazon rainforest have large numbers of tree-frog species per site because tree-frogs have been present and producing new species [there] for more than sixty million years," said Dr Wiens.

The suggestion that high species diversity is established over millions of years could have serious implications for vulnerable habitats.

"As more of the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed and more species are driven to extinction by human activities, the loss of species richness during our lifetimes may actually take tens of millions of to recover from," Dr Wiens warned.

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Bangladesh plans special force to protect tigers

Ethirajan Anbarasan BBC News 13 Jun 11;

Bangladesh is setting up a special force to save the critically endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and other animals.

The 300-member force will be deployed mostly around the Sundarbans mangrove forests, one of the last refuges of the tigers.

The decision came months after they seized three tiger skins and a large quantity of bones, the biggest haul of illegal tiger parts in decades.

The Sundarbans forests stretch between Bangladesh and India.

Around 400 tigers still live in the area.

Until now poaching has not been considered as the chief threat to the tiger population in Bangladesh.

But the arrest of a poacher with tiger skins and bones earlier this year raised fears that an organised poaching group was operating in the mangrove forests.

Officials admitted they did not have enough manpower, resources and training to counter the poachers, who they said were using increasingly sophisticated techniques to trap the tigers.

Minister of Environment and Forests Hasan Mahmud said that the setting up of the new wildlife force was long overdue.

"The forest department staff in Bangladesh need more training, because now the poachers are very sophisticated," he said.

"Their sophistication has been increased but the sophistication of the forest department has not been increased over the last couple of years. So, we have to train them and we have to equip them."

Most of the money to set up the new Wildlife Crime Control unit will come from the World Bank loan of $36m (£21.8m).

The new force will also tackle a growing trade in the illegal trafficking of wild animals.

Recently, officials seized a number of protected wild animals from people who were keeping them illegally.

Earlier this month, customs officers at Bangkok airport in Thailand found hundreds of freshwater turtles and crocodiles packed in suitcases on a flight from Bangladesh.

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Malaysia: 2,000ha of swamp forest encroached by illegal farmers

Stuart Michael The Star 14 Jun 11;

MORE than 200 farmers have encroached 2,000ha into the Kuala Langat South Peat Swamp Forest and only a major operation can force out the culprits.

Selangor Forestry Department assistant director (operations and enforcement) Mohd Yussainy Md Yusop said 30% of the 6,908ha of the forest reserve had been encroached.

“Each farmer plant crops at least on 10ha in the forest reserve and employ workers to take care and harvest the crops.

On June 6, the department arrested five Indonesian workers for encroaching into the reserve and planting cash crops.

There are now remanded at the Telok Panglima Garang police station.

Yussainy said the department took statements from three employers and they would be charged with trespassing.

Under the Forestry Act 1984, Yussainy said those found encroaching into forest reserves could be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to three years or both if found guilty.

“The profits raked in by the farmers amount to thousands of ringgit and they are willing to take the risk of being jailed or fined.

“The money that they rake from the crops like banana, soursop, papaya, sweet corn, tapioca, sweet potato, turmeric, lengkuas (galangal), ginger, serai (lemongrass) and chilli is just too good. Some of these farmers are millionaires,’’ he claimed.

He said on Oct 25 last year, the department had given notice to the farmers to move out.

“Then, the department had planted 100,000 trees of different species to let the forest regrow but it is having a tough time doing so.

“These illegal farmers sprayed poison on the young trees and planted their crops instead. This shows how bold they are and have no respect for the law.

“Some may think that having cash crops at forest reserves is not as bad as chopping down the trees. But they fail to realise that pesticides can be harmful to the surrounding forest,’’ he said.

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Indonesia's deforestation rate drops to 600,000 hectares per year: Minister

Antara 13 Jun 11;

Pasaman, West Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the pace of deforestation in Indonesia has already dropped and now reaches 600,000 hectares per year.

"The figure is lower than in 1999-2002 when it was recorded at four million hectares a year," he said after opening a coordination meeting between the West Java provincial governor and mayors and district heads of the region.

He said the fastest pace of deforestation was recorded in East, West and South Kalimantan, Lampung and South Sulawesi.

To offset the deforestation the minister said the government plans to plant 1.5 billion trees across the country this year.

"This is part of the efforts to reduce natural disasters and anticipate climate change," he said.

"Deforestation has reduced forests in terms of quality as well as quantity," he said.

Due to that forest potentials to contribute to the state`s income have also dropped, he added.

He said the government has produced a decision to stop issuing permits for forest exploitation.

He said there would also be no tolerance for illegal logging in the country in view of its impact on the environment and community.

The minister said the critical forests in the country at present are recorded at 40 million hectares while the country`s total forests reach 187 million hectares.(*)

Editor: Heru

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Vietnam: environmental disaster from on-sand shrimp ponds

VietNamNet 13 Jun 11;

The broad coastal area in My An commune, Phu My district of Binh Dinh province has been devastated with dense on-sand shrimp ponds.

The coastal area has been excavated by local residents who have been trying to create large ponds for shrimp hatcheries. As a result, the coastal protection forests have disappeared, the underground water has become exhausted. The waste from pond shrimp has been left everywhere on the beaches, giving out a terrible smell. Tens of thousands of local residents here are facing an environmental disaster.

The seaside has been “cut into small bits”

According to Pham Van Tra, Head of Sub-department for Agriculture and Rural Development of Phu My district, the coastal area in the communes of My An and My Thang covers an area of 500 hectares, including the 200 hectares the Binh Dinh provincial authorities have reserved for hatching shrimp on sand

Some years ago, the provincial authorities leased the land to some companies which use the premises to hatch shrimp on sand. AE leases more than 50 hectares. The US-based Asia Hawaii Ventures also leases nearly 50 hectares.

However, the companies have been using small parts of the leased area for their shrimp hatchery projects. AE, for example, is using 10 hectares, while Asia Hawaii 18 hectares. As for the remaining land area, the companies have spontaneously re-leased to local residents who create lakes to hatch shrimp on sand.

Currently, in My An and My Thang Communes alone, 70 households have illegally built up lakes for shrimp hatcheries, which cover an area of 30 hectares in total.

According to the Binh Dinh Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, the province now has 140 hectares of water surface area, mostly located in Phu My district with 118 hectares, Phu Cat with 15 hectares, and in the Hoai Nhon district.

Shrimp ponds exhaust fresh water

The shrimp hatchery areas in My An and My Thang communes have been well known as an area with limited fresh water sources in comparison with other localities. For the last many years, local residents have always been facing a fresh water shortage.

Since shrimp ponds have appeared, a lot of water wells have also appeared. According to local authorities, every hectare of shrimp ponds needs 50,000 cubic meters of fresh water.

Meanwhile, the survey conducted by the Binh Dinh Sub-department for Environment Protection showed that the underground water layer in the shrimp hatchery areas in the province has become salty. The wells with the depth of 4-5 meters now cannot be used, and local residents have to seek water at the depth of over 20 meters.

The sub-department has also warned that the massive exploitation of underground water to serve on-sand shrimp hatchery areas will cause the layer landslide and exhaust the fresh water sources, badly affecting the production and lives of local residents.

Bui Thai Son, Deputy Head of the Phu My district’s Division for Natural Resources and the Environment, said that no on-sand shrimp hatchery pond in Phu My has a good waste treatment system. The shrimp ponds all discharge waste to low-lying land, or directly to the sea. In My An, shrimp ponds’ owners discharge waste to the empty sand-banks next to the ponds.

“We know that the waste from shrimp ponds will harm the environment, but it will be very costly to build waste treatment systems. Therefore, no one has such a system here,” said Vo Van Han, a farmer in Xuan Thanh hamlet said.

In fact, according to Son, in the past, there were two reservoirs for treating waste in the shrimp hatchery area of My A. However, after a period of operation, both of the reservoirs got broken. As a result, the waste from hundreds of ponds flows to canals and then go directly to the sea.

Source: SGTT

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UK supermarkets bid to get shoppers to switch to sustainable fish

Sainsbury's to offer free samples of lesser known species and M&S is to promote use in ready meals and frozen foods
Rebecca Smithers The Guardian 13 Jun 11;

UK supermarkets are stepping up their efforts to encourage shoppers to buy fish from sustainable sources in a fresh attempt to alleviate pressure on threatened stocks.

Currently 80% of fish bought by British consumers is one of the 'Big Five' staples – cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns. But experts predict that some popular species could be extinct in the wild by 2050.

On Friday Sainsbury's – the UK's largest retailer of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish and seafood products – will offer customers asking for one of the 'Big Five' an alternative, lesser known species to try out free.

Suppliers will largely bear the cost of the drive to encourage shoppers to broaden their fish repertoire and try out little-known but sustainable species – coley, pouting and megrim, rainbow trout and mackerel. Shoppers will be targeted at the chain's 387 UK stores with fresh fish counters through the new 'Switch the Fish' campaign which will also feature regional roadshows and recipes.

Sales of "alternative" species of fish and seafood soared after being championed in Channel 4's Fish Fight campaign – led by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – which launched in January. Initial supermarket sales figures suggested consumers were favouring coley, dab, mussels, squid and sardines over the salmon, cod and tuna in the TV programmes, which highlighted the wasteful use of "discard" in fishing practices while encouraging shoppers to take the pressure off popular fish stocks by being more adventurous in what they eat.

Yet new research carried out by YouGov for Sainsbury's and publishedon Monday shows that shoppers remain set in their ways. Nearly half (41%) of Britons eat cod at least once a month while a fifth of people eat tuna at least once a week. At the same time, 84% of Britons have never even tried megrim while 82% have never eaten pouting. Some 43% of fish eaters are put off trying a different type of fish if they were unsure about its taste, while 31% of people admit they would not try a new fish if they did not know how to cook it.

Supermarkets came under strong criticism last month from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which said they should be doing more to help the environment and boost dwindling fish stocks by helping shoppers to make the right choices.

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer is to use the profits from its 5p food carrier bag charge to finance its 'Forever Fish' campaign starting later this month, which will promote the use of sustainable fish not only in fresh products but also in ready meals, takeaway and frozen foods. Money will also go to the environmental charity WWF to help clean up beaches and support threatened species such as turtles and dolphins.

Marc Bolland, M&S chief executive, said: "We will work together with our customers, our people and their children to promote a healthy future for our beaches, seas and fish. Forever Fish involves schools, charities, fishermen and fisheries so we can all enjoy cleaner beaches, more sustainable fishing and healthy fish."

Sainsbury's move is backed by the government and chef Jamie Oliver. Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister, said: "This is exactly the sort of thing we've been working hard for in government – sustainable fish stocks and the conservation of our precious marine environment for future generations.

"If more people start to choose a wider variety of fish, this will help in our battle to end the terrible waste of millions of edible fish being thrown back into the sea dead because of an outdated system."

Oliver, who took part in the Fish Fight campaign, added: "Earlier this year I joined the debate to encourage people to try new, less loved fish, which had a great response."

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Global research chief sees rice boom in Africa

David Williams Yahoo News 13 Jun 11;

MADRID (AFP) – Subsaharan Africa could double or triple rice yields and one day even export to Asia where urban sprawl and rising sea levels threaten paddies, a global research chief said Monday.

Large parts of Subsaharan Africa, in the Sudan, for example, have vast tracts of land suitable for paddy rice production, said International Rice Research Institute director general Robert Zeigler.

But these lands have yet to be harnessed.

As a result, Africa now imports about 40 percent of its rice needs from Asia.

In 2009, paddy production rose 3.44 percent to 24.43 million tonnes in African countries, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data showed.

But demand grew 4.2 percent in the same year, said the Africa Rice Centre's annual report, forcing the continent to import 10 million tonnes of rice at a cost of $4 billion ($2.8 billion euros).

"We are looking to double or triple the yields in Africa - they are very low now," Zeigler said in an interview in Madrid, where he was picking up a BBVA Foundation award to the institute for development cooperation.

"Within 10 years we will begin to see increases in national production statistics, I don't have any doubt about that," he said.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) plans a "green revolution" in Africa built on improved grains, better infrastructure, basic mechanised farm tools and the development of agricultural research.

In the longer term, demand for rice will carry on growing in Asia but land for paddies is already saturated and it may decline as Asian megacities encroach on farms and Delta areas are swamped by a rising sea and increasingly severe storms because of climate change, Zeigler said.

"If you look at Subsaharan Africa there are areas, very, very large areas that have a lot of land, very good land, that have a lot of water and there are hardly any people who live there," he said.

"These are areas that could be future sources for global food supply," Zeigler said, citing areas in the Sudan, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, and along the Niger Delta.

China was already investing in some of these areas in Africa, he said. Such investments should be properly managed, the research chief said, but not refused.

"It could be that 25 years from now, India and China will be sourcing a significant amount of their staples from Subsaharan Africa," Zeigler said.

"If that is managed properly that could be a tremendous boon to the farmers in Africa, take pressure off land in Asia and if it is done properly everybody wins."

The Manila-based IRRI, which has programmes in Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda, has teamed up with Africa Rice, which is a formal linkage of over 20 Subsaharan countries to push rice output in the continent.

Rice grains in Africa have deteriorated over time, and new varieties are needed with shorter growing seasons and resistance to drought and disease, including the endemic African virus, Rice Yellow Mottle Virus.

But African countries also need to build better roads between farms and markets, and develop water irrigation, which is particularly crucial to rice farming, Zeigler said.

Also, in Africa much of the farming is done by a woman using hoes, often while carrying babies.

In rice farming, where level fields are crucial to proper water distribution, fertilization and impeding weeds, farms will have to start using simple two-wheeled ploughs with small diesel or gasoline engines.

Finally, Africa would have to develop a network of agricultural researchers.

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Putting nature back into agriculture: FAO

Save and Grow farming model launched by FAO
FAO 13 Jun 11;

13 June 2011, Rome - FAO today announced the launch of a major new initiative intended to produce more food for a growing world population in an environmentally sustainable way.

FAO's call for sustainable crop production intensification, more than half a century after the Green Revolution of the 1960s, is contained in a new book, Save and Grow published by FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division.

Smallholder farmers

The new approach calls for targeting mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries. Helping low-income farm families in developing countries – some 2.5 billion people – economize on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education.

Green Revolution technology saved an estimated one billion people from famine and produced more than enough food for a world population that doubled from three to six billion between 1960 and 2000.

New millennium

However, the present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium. In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save.

The Save and Grow approach draws partly on conservation agriculture (CA) techniques which do away with or minimize ploughing and tilling, thus preserving soil structure and health. Plant residues provide cover over fields and cereals cultivation is rotated with soil-enriching legumes.

Precision farming

Other techniques developed by FAO and its partners over the past several years as part of the Save and Grow toolkit include precision irrigation, which delivers more crop for the drop, and "precision placement" of fertilizers, which can double the amount of nutrients absorbed by plants.

Integrated pest management, whose techniques discourage the development of pest populations and minimizes the need for pesticides, is yet another key element.

Such methods help adapt crops to climate change and not only help grow more food but also contribute to reducing crops' water needs by 30 percent and energy costs by up to 60 percent. In some cases crop yields can be increased six-fold, as shown by trials with maize held recently in southern Africa. Average yields from farms practicing the techniques in 57 low-income countries increased almost 80 percent, according to one review.

Ecosystems approach

The Save and Grow model incorporates an ecosystem approach that draws on nature's contribution to crop growth – soil organic matter, water flow regulation, pollination and natural predation of pests. It applies external inputs at the right time and in the right amount – no more and no less than plants need.

The approach builds on lessons learned from the Green Revolution of the 1960s which focused on raising crop production without much attention to the environment.


Decades of intensive cropping may have degraded fertile land and depleted groundwater, provoked pest upsurges, eroded biodiversity and polluted air, soil and water and it can be noted that the yield growth rate of major cereals is declining.

To feed a world population projected at 9.2 billion in 2050, which involves meeting double the demand for food in developing countries, there is no option but to further intensify crop production. To eradicate hunger and meet demand by 2050, food production needs to increase by 70% in the world and 100% in developing countries.

The key to meeting the challenge lies in sustainable crop production intensification, or Save and Grow. But this will involve a shift from a homogeneous model of crop production to farming systems that are knowledge-intensive and adapted to specific locations.

Support to farmers

It will also require significant support to farmers so they can learn the new practices and technologies, while governments will also need to strengthen national plant-breeding programmes so as to deploy new seed varieties that are resilient to climate change and use external inputs more efficiently.

Policymakers must provide incentives for adoption of the new model such as rewarding good management of ecosystems. The key is boosting agricultural investment. Developed countries should increase the share of agriculture in official development assistance to the developing world. Developing countries themselves should allocate a larger part of their national budgets to the agriculture sector. And domestic and foreign private investments need to be increased.

UN calls for eco-friendly farming to boost yields
Yahoo News 13 Jun 11;

ROME (AFP) – The United Nations food agency on Monday called for greater use of environmentally sustainable techniques by poor farmers in order to increase crop intensity to feed the world's growing population.

"The new approach calls for targeting mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries," the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement accompanying a report entitled "Save and Grow".

"Helping low-income farm families in developing countries... economise on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximise yields and invest the savings in their health and education," it said.

"In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save," it said, pointing to lower crop yields in recent years despite an increase in environmentally unsustainable farming practices aimed at increasing intensive farming.

The eco-friendly techniques recommended by FAO include using plant residues to cover over fields, rotating cereals cultivation with soil-enriching legumes, more precise irrigation for fields and better use of fertilizers.

"Such methods help adapt crops to climate change and not only help grow more food but also contribute to reducing crops' water needs by 30 percent and energy costs by up to 60 percent," the report said.

"In some cases crop yields can be increased six-fold, as shown by trials with maize held recently in southern Africa," it said.

"Average yields from farms practicing the techniques in 57 low-income countries increased almost 80 percent," it added.

FAO called on governments both in the developed and in the developing world to increase investments in order to provide incentives for poor farmers to adopt the new, more environmentally friendly farming techniques.

Farmers Must Boost Sustainable Crops To Feed World: FAO
Svetlana Kovalyova PlanetArk 15 Jun 11;

The ravages from half a century of intensive farming must give way to a more sustainable approach if farmers are to feed the world in 2050, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.

Global farm output must increase 70 percent, including a nearly 100 percent jump in developing countries, to feed the world in 2050, the FAO said.

At the same time, farmers must conserve resources and protect environment, said the FAO, which expects the world's population to rise to about 9.2 billion in 2050 from 6.9 billion in 2010.

Climate change and growing competition for land, water and energy with industries mean agriculture can no longer rely only on intensive crop production.

That approach has caused land degradation, excessive water use, pest resistance and other problems in many countries, the FAO said in its Save and Grow report.

"It is also clear that current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world," it said pointing that the total number of undernourished people in 2010 was estimated at 925 million, higher that it was 40 year ago.

The goal of feeding the world is further complication by the shortage of new arable land for crop expansion, the agency said.

A new approach based on sustainable intensification of crop output is necessary to allow farmers produce more from the same area of land by raising yields and at the same time conserve resources and cut the negative impact on the environment, it said.

Required steps include the use of high-yield seeds, including genetically improved ones, as well as mix of mineral fertilizers and natural sources, efficient water use and limited use of pesticides alongside crop rotation.


This should help small farmers increase their incomes by raising output and reducing costs, the report said.

Small farmers, especially in the developing world, would need financial, technical and educational support from governments and international organisations, it said.

The world needs to invest a total gross $209 billion, at constant 2009 prices, a year in agriculture in developing countries to achieve the needed increases by 2050, the FAO said, reiterating its 2009 estimates.

The figure includes primary agriculture and services, such as storage, processing and marketing.

The FAO reiterated that current investment in agriculture in developing countries is "clearly insufficient."

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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