Year 3, Month 10, Day 24: Hellzapoppin…

More on the agricultural disaster currently underway: the same article as yesterday, this time reprinted in the Mitchell Daily Republic (KS):

“I don’t have a place to store pinto beans, OK?” said Rowe, who has managed his community’s grain elevator for 25 years. “This is corn and soybean ground. The reason someone else is more diverse is because there’s more money in being diverse. It’s all economics.”

Still, the hotter, dryer weather pattern may change crop rotations even in the heart of the Corn Belt. “Wheat acres will be very high” next year, said Tabitha Craig, who sells crop insurance for Young Enterprises, an agricultural services and input dealer in New Hartford, Mo.

Climate change will probably push corn-growing regions north while making alternatives to the grain more important elsewhere, said John Soper, the vice president of crop genetics research and development for Pioneer, the seed division of DuPont. The company’s researchers anticipate more corn in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, traditional Canadian wheat-growing areas, while sorghum and sunflowers may experience a revival in Kansas as rainfall declines and irrigation becomes less practical, he said.

The company is developing new varieties of corn, both in traditional hybrid and genetically modified seeds, while boosting research in sorghum and other crops that don’t need irrigation in areas where they’re expected to make a comeback, he said.

Still, fighting drought with better seeds and new trade sources only mitigates the effects of climate change, said Roger Beachy, the first head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture and now a plant biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Revising yesterday’s letter…very busy today. Sent October 17:

Those parched cornfields are a preview of coming attractions. Scientists predict a 10 percent drop in crop yields for each degree of temperature increase; given that we’re on track for a six-degree rise by the end of the century, we’re looking at agricultural output that could well be cut in half. And that’s not just in America, but everywhere. History and common sense tell us that crop failures trigger food shortages, which can turn whole populations into refugees fleeing a land that can no longer support them.

Unfortunately one of our country’s two major political parties has rejected science, history, and common sense as guidelines for policy, which means that any government attempts to prepare for these environmental, humanitarian, and geopolitical crises will inevitably be hamstrung by irrational posturing and gamesmanship. When the coming century promises to uprooting millions of human lives, such a deny-and-delay strategy is intellectually and morally abhorrent.

Warren Senders

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