The first thing needed to be an environmentalist is honesty. The human race (my farm included) needs to alter the environment to exist and given enough time we will consume the earth. Most of what we need is renewable but they are a few elements that we will run out of. P, K and Cu in farm fertilizers are mined and will run out. We must populate other planets or face extinction. According to various reports there is a planet much like earth 1700 light years away, most people would say we cannot get there. 100,000 years ago our ancestors left Africa for Europe, many surely died trying over many generations, spreading without any plan. 10,000 years ago a man in a primitive boat would have never consider crossing the atlantic ocean. Our consumption based society is economically stagnant, attempting space travel could change that. World war 2 was our last great science project, the prosperity and advancement lasted for decades, attempting space travel could give us the same effect in a peacefull manner. We are top of the food chain so if the bottom gets destroyed we are wiped out. It is just a matter of time before a meteor hits the earth. Science has come up with other doomsday ideas, earth changing orbit, disease, nuclear war, invasion by other species etc. Real enviromentalists push science and technology as hard as they can.
If one studies enviromental disasters such a BP in the gulf coast, it is clear no worker takes ownership of the process. I worked for a few large companies and that is normal so government produces volumes of regulations. More regulations promote a more lethargic workforce, a really bad cycle is formed. I take complete ownership of all process on my farm.
There is much debate about the sustainability of modern grain farming techniques that I use. My family has farmed some of my land since 1900. Our soil is becoming better each year, our farm is a CO2 sink, production per acre increases, energy and cost per unit of production decreases. So the trend is to feed more people for less money even while taking the best environmental care of land in our possession.
As a farmer I want to feed people but I must admit the ignorance of some people really make me angry. Nothing is taught about farming in schools, in a vacuum the worst spin is put on my style of farm. Most self-appointed enviromentalists really do not have a clue, mother nature is not kind, survival of the fittest is normal for her. I operate under her laws.
The strangest things happen when you mention environmentalism. David Suzki flies around the world with a private jet, probably using more fuel in a year than my farm does. Movie stars from different countries violate our laws, break and enter to strap themselves to smokestacks, in the process endanger our workers and cost tax payers money. Native peoples are automatically considered experts on the environment, a trip thru a reserve makes one wonder how that could be, they have the least education even though their education up to 5 years of university is free and most live in poverty. It is impossible to feed the earth’s population with a hunter/gather based society. The Indians present such a society as heaven, to live thru a Canadian winter as a hunter/gatherer without modern equipment is almost impossible. My great grandfather came here about 1900 only with a few of his sons. The women who were tough pioneer women did not believe a winter of -40 deg could be survived. Somehow being non-productive makes one an environmentalist, political parties elected by unions and freaks are projected by our media as the saviours of the environment. Most environmental plans from the left are nothing more than wealth transfer from the productive to the non-productive, which will cause our society to fail. As our society fails social order will break down, without social order we will destroy our environment fighting wars. I am all for renewable energy. However many half -truths exist in regards to getting off fossil fuels, the largest is the electric car, many of which are really inefficient coal cars as the power plants are burning coal..
It is impossible for us to go back in time without mass starvation. We are trying so organic farming, we think it would yield 2/5 on my farm. If you truly believe in organic farming, ask yourself if you can eat 2/5 of normal. Somehow us farmers get blamed and portrayed as evil for our modern farming techniques, I can say I would organic farm if every other farmer would agree, prices would sky rocket, farmers would benefit and society would starve. I can barely find workers for large computer controlled machinery so a horse society would be an absolute joke. Some of the pioneer knowledge has been passed thru the family to me, I could probably survive but life would be hard. The city people would do much worse than me..
We are no till farmers, at present that means non-organic, that has huge implications, the largest of which is more and more production at a lower and lower price. We will try organic farming, I am very nervous about it, I do not think we can grow enough to be economically viable. My great grandfather, grandfather were organic farmers, they produced very little. My father started out as an organic farmer, had he not adopted modern practices I would not be farming. I do not know of an organic Canadian farmer so I am amazed how the stores are full of organic produce. Until I met Ulf Leanders who has a race car (NHRA TAFC) that I sponsor modestly I had never met a credible organic farmer. We have discussed farming methods and I would be very interested in hearing from other organic producers.
If no herbicide is used extensive tillage must be used to control weeds or the weeds push out the crop. Extensive tillage is terribly expensive, my large tractors cost more than ½ million each and wear out quickly doing tillage. The tillage equipment costs another ¼ million per tractor and also wears out quickly. A tractor pulling very hard doing tillage burns a terrible amount of fuel, up to 40 gallons/hr. Tillage destroys the organic material in the soil and in the process releases the CO2 that the plants absorbed when they grew, contributing to more green-house gasses. For every 1% increase in organic material due to no till practices, the soil will hold 40,000 gallons/acre more of water. This sounds high however it takes 6000 gallons of water to grow a bushel of wheat. So 1% increase of organic material equals 6 bu/acre more of wheat production.
If no fertilizer is used the soil gets depleted to the point where almost nothing grows. Few people know how N is put into the soil, there are 2 ways, lightning storms crack N in the atmosphere and legumes pull N out of the air because of bacteria in their roots. Animal manure is just recycled N as an animal has no way of pulling N out of the atmosphere.
If no pesticides are used an insect population will consume the crop. I am fortunate not to have to use much pesticide because our harsh winters kill many of the bugs. We seed treat canola with a pesticide.
If GMO products are not used we must use even more herbicides in more passes as the natural mechanisms are not as absolute as glysosulfate,(“Monsanto Round Up”), most chemical companies make some glysosulfate product, which I use for spring burn off instead of tillage. In crop we use a natural herbicide on wheat (non GMO), Liberty Link on canola (GMO) and a natural herbicide on peas (non GMO). There are varieties of GMO wheat, I do not use them as wheat is a competitive plant and would turn into a “weed” in my rotation.
At present all GMO plants are using a chemical for weed control. In the future GMO will be used for other reasons, next is a GMO wheat or canola will fixate N out of the atmosphere like a legume. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. That would allow me to stop using chemical N in the form of fertilizer. Places that have been polluted with excessive N application would recover. GMO bug resistant plants will allow us to stop using pesticides. GMO plants will allow us to use little or no herbicides, “Quack Grass” is a root spreading perennial weed that tillage will not kill. The root system produces a chemical that pushes out other weeds. If we can hook this genetic material to wheat, canola, peas we get a plant that does not need herbicide and grows multiple years. The GMO possibilities are endless.
Modern farming methods such as no till are actually making the land more productive as the land is gaining organic material. Organic material holds moisture, agriculture is really a proxy for water. Sand lets water and minerals leach thru, clay does not absorb water and is impermeable. We take on average 3000 lbs/acre per year from the soil, we add about 200 lbs/year of fertilizer. When I was young I wondered why the soil level does not decline and people have asked me if the soil is declining. The basic chemical formula of wheat is C6H10O5 and canola CH2-O-CO(CH2)n-CH2, notice only CHO, water and carbon dioxide from the air. I am told that P,K and S are used to bind the basic CHO together.