Sunday, November 25, 2007

Perennial problem

"Perennial crops have great potential. Yet they hardly figure in the world's calorie consumption.

The world's major grains, food legumes and oilseeds - including all of its wheat, rice, corn, barley, soybeans, cottonseed and dry beans - are annuals. These crops covered 80 percent of harvested cropland in 2004.

A food system based upon plants that start each growing season anew from seeds is inherently risky.

Farmers' efforts to reduce the risk often degrade soil and water and accelerate the buildup of greenhouse gasses." (thanks Leila)

My friend Leila sent me this article from the SF Chronicle. This reads like a simple summary of a longer article that has appeared in scientific american a few months ago, and was sent to me by Rania, but I've lost the link. The point it makes is clear and very interesting: instead of relying on annual crops for most of our food and feed (wheat, rice, corn, soybean, cotton, and common vegetables), one should look at using perennials (plants that do not die every year). They are more efficient in capturing all moisture, they do not need as much soil preparation and therefore reduce erosion risks, and they use soil nutrient more efficiently. This is why, in the Land and People program, we try to promote as many perennials as we can; zaatar (thyme), olive, carob, grapes, sumac are central elements of our agricultural extension program. Next, we will be looking at pomegranate (if my friend Nayla gets her act together), almonds and cherries. in brief, native, dryland perennial plants. They save on energy costs (for plowing), fertilizers, water and labor. Only issue is that they need extensive cultivation, and more access to land by farmers. The problem in Lebanon is that those who want to plant do not have free access to land, and those who own land (1% of the lebanese own 50% of the land) do not want to grow crops. They just want to feel powerful because they own so many hectares, and, from time to time, sell it in small parcels to those who want to construct architectural monstrosities. I tell them: 1) no one owns the land, 2) those who work it have a right to it, and 3) neither the constitution made by the rich for the rich nor the corrupt legal system that favors the plutocracy will protect you from land reforms. That said, I'll be happy with a good land use planning legislation and adequate zoning, and a penalty on those owning farmland and who do not work it. Just as a start.

1 comment:

A B said...

Very true and well said:

"The problem in Lebanon is that those who want to plant do not have free access to land, and those who own land (1% of the lebanese own 50% of the land) do not want to grow crops. They just want to feel powerful because they own so many hectares, and, from time to time, sell it in small parcels to those who want to construct architectural monstrosities."