Fertilizer shortage here

Fertilizer shortage

Because of the high price of oil and peak oil, serious times are ahead. Food shortages will get more severe for much of the world. It is time to eat local food and end the scandalous subsidies we give to farmers and biofuels.


Shortages threaten farmers' key tool: Fertilizer

By Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin

Published: April 30, 2008

XUAN CANH, Vietnam : Truong Thi Nha stands just four and a half feet tall. Her three grown children tower over her, just as many young people in this village outside Hanoi dwarf their parents.
The biggest reason the children are so robust: fertilizer.
Nha, her face weathered beyond its 51 years, said her growth was stunted by a childhood of hunger and malnutrition. Just a few decades ago, crop yields here were far lower and diets much worse.
Then the widespread use of inexpensive chemical fertilizer, coupled with market reforms, helped power an agricultural explosion here that had already occurred in other parts of the world. Yields of rice and corn rose, and diets grew richer.
Now those gains are threatened in many countries by spot shortages and soaring prices for fertilizer, the most essential ingredient of modern agriculture.

Some kinds of fertilizer have nearly tripled in price in the last year, keeping farmers from buying all they need. That is one of many factors contributing to a rise in food prices that, according to the United Nations' World Food Program, threatens to push tens of millions of poor people into malnutrition.
Vaclav Smil, a professor at the University of Manitoba, calculates that without nitrogen fertilizer, there would be insufficient food for 40 percent of the world's population, at least based on today's diets.
Initially, much of the increased production of fertilizer went to grains like wheat and rice that served as the foundation of a basic diet. But recently, with world economic growth at a brisk 5 percent a year, hundreds of millions of people began earning enough money to buy more meat from animals fattened with grains. That occurred at the same time that rising production of biofuels, like ethanol, put new pressure on grain supplies.
TheseA barometer of the pollution is the rising number of dead zones where rivers meet the sea. In the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, nitrogen runoff from fields in the Corn Belt washes downstream and feeds plant life in the gulf. The algae blooms suck oxygen from the water, killing other marine

More than 400 dead zones have been identified, from the coasts of China to the Chesapeake Bay, and the primary reason is agricultural runoff, said Robert Diaz, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
"Nitrogen is nitrogen," Professor Diaz said. "If it's on land, it produces corn. If it gets in the water, it produces algae."
This month, a United Nations panel called for changes in agricultural practices to make them less damaging. The panel recommended techniques that offer some of the same benefits as chemical fertilizer, like increased crop rotation with legumes that naturally add some nitrogen to the soil.
But others say those approaches, while helpful, will be not be enough to meet the world's rapidly rising demand for food and biofuel.
"This is a basic problem, to feed 6.6 billion people," said Norman Borlaug, an American scientist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in spreading intensive agricultural practices to poor countries. "Without chemical fertilizer, forget it. The game is over."

Keith Bradsher reported from Vietnam and did additional reporting from Hong Kong. Andrew Martin reported from New York and Iowa.
Scott Free
We are having food shortages because a few big companies have the seed, logistics and food markets cornered IMO.
Scott Free, no no no. I wish you were right. Those monopolistic practices have increased productivity and profits. But now people are eating more food. The price of prosperity is more consumption, more gobbling of resources. Our nice Cdn houses consume a lot of resources. The world wants to live more like us. Economic growth is rapid now, the political restraints like communsim are now gone. Now its full speed ahead for success and capitalism. Which is creating problems.

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