Yesterday’s Guardian carried a very encouraging report from India, where rice farmers are multiplying their production figures by carefully and methodically managing their crops. This has nothing to do with genetic modification, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers, and no need for “protecting” “intellectual” “property.” Of course it may require more labor per acre than other methods, but growing population means growing supply of labor. And it may work best on relatively small, owner-operated farms. The method, known as System of Root (or Rice) Intensification, can be applied to other crops. It’s based on a French Jesuit’s observations of practices in Madagascar, promoted by Cornell’s International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development.
The Guardian article asserts that Cornell’s work was funded by “an anonymous billionaire,” altho links from the Cornell site imply that “actor Jim Carrey” is somehow involved. At this writing, there are 205 comments on the Guardian article, some of which are insightful. One suggests that the reported results are quite exaggerated, but to read beyond the abstract of the source cited seems to cost $19.95.
I have no idea whether this particular method is as beneficial as described, but just last week I spoke to an Illinois farmer who reported that four adults were gainfully employed, supporting themselves, by intensively cultivating an acre of vegetables. One way or another, people will find ways to coax more food from the earth, if they have a need (or desire) and are permitted to do so.