October 16, 2011
"In only five African countries, there are now some 400,000 smallholder farmers using fertilizer trees to provide critically needed soil nutrients—and many report major increases in maize yields—which shows that it is possible to rapidly introduce innovations in Africa that can have an immediate impact on food security," said Oluyede Ajayi, lead author of the paper with the World Agroforestry Center, in a press release.
The trees drawn in nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil, boosting its nutrient-value. Researchers carefully evaluated several tree species to see which were the most effective 'fertilizers'. While the trees were used for their fertilizing-potential, researchers found they also helped with water usage and erosion.
"When farmers plant these trees, water efficiency improves," Ajayi said. "Farmers are getting higher yields from the same amount of rainwater. And the trees are helping reduce the run-off and soil erosion that is a key factor behind food production shortfalls in Africa."
Farmers employing fertilizer trees also saw significant income boosts, boosting incomes between 79 and 251 percent per hectare.
The study looked at the use of fertilizer trees in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
CITATION: Ajayi, Oluyede Clifford; Place, Frank; Akinnifesi, Festus Kehinde; Sileshi, Gudeta Weldsesemayat. Agricultural success from Africa: the case of fertilizer tree systems in southern Africa. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. 10.3763/ijas.2010.0554.
Five ways to feed billions without trashing the planet
(10/13/2011) At the end of this month the UN predicts global population will hit 7 billion people, having doubled from 3.5 billion in less than 50 years. Yet even as the Earth hits this new milestone, one billion people do not have enough food; meanwhile the rapid expansion of agriculture is one of the leading causes of global environmental degradation, including greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of forests, marine pollution, mass extinction, water scarcity, and soil degradation. So, how do we feed the human population—which continues to rise and is expected to hit nine billion by 2050—while persevering the multitude of ecosystem services that supporting global food production? A new study in Nature proposes a five-point plan to this dilemma.
Meat consumption jumps 20 percent in last decade with super-sized environmental impacts
(10/11/2011) Meat consumption and production remains on the rise, according to a new report Worldwatch Institute, with large-scale environmental impacts especially linked to the spread of factory farming. According to the report, global meat production has tripled since 1970, and jumped by 20 percent since 2000 with consumption rising significantly faster than global population.
Converting rainforest to cropland in Africa reduces rainfall
(09/19/2011) Converting West African rainforests into cropland reduces rainforest in adjacent forest areas, reports research published in Geophysical Research Letters.