Russian Wheat Burning

The Grains ETF Graph Goes Ballistic

Grain ETF JJG Goes Ballistic

Grain ETF JJG Goes Ballistic

I hesitate to put this posting up. It is a true catastrophe that is unfolding in Russia. My heart goes out to the folks there. Facing a brutal winter and watching your food burn is a very wrenching place to be.

Russia has announced a ban on wheat exports for the rest of the year. They must. Though they are now a major wheat exporter, the recent drought had caused a large shortfall, now wild fires are burning many fields of what remains.

I think these folks do a good job of covering the story, and with the proper balance when looking at the likely outcomes:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Money/The-Reformed-Broker/2010/0805/Wheat-does-the-Malthusian-shuffle

In this Saturday, July 31 file photo a field of unidentified cereals burning near the town of Voronezh some 294 miles south of Moscow, after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. A severe drought destroyed one-fifth of the wheat crop in Russia, the world’s third-largest exporter, and now wildfires are sweeping in to finish off some of the fields that remained.

Mikhail Metzel/AP/File

And while there is a drought in Russia, Canada has problems from too much water:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/07/30/mb-wheat-board-crop-outlook-manitoba.html

‘Severe effect on production’

However, the production outlook for the coming crop year is projected at 18.45 million tonnes — the lowest since 2002.

“All that rain and all those unseeded acres are having a severe effect on production,” White said.

The board estimates that the excess rains have left 4.25 million hectares unseeded and ruined the prospects for another one million hectares that did get in the ground.

Allen Oberg, chairman of the wheat board’s board of directors, said the unseeded land and low production forecast have put Prairie farmers in a dire situation.

“Farmers are resilient, but when you cannot even get seed into the ground, it’s devastating,” he said.

With every hedge fund around doing a “pile on” as nothing else is moving, with a ‘beyond parabolic rise” in the grain prices, and with RSI at 80 I would NOT jump on this trade. But I would be willing to go to the store and buy a couple of bags of flour, pancake mix, and noodles. I figure about 4 months supply before the next wheat crop hits. (There are both Spring Wheat and Winter Wheat in two hemispheres and with different planting schedules based on latitude; so we have a shot at recovery soon.) I just hope this is not the “new normal” during a cold turn.

When it gets cold, you do get more drought. One can only hope this is a “one off” or the world will become a very hungry place.

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Economics - Trading - and Money, Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Russian Wheat Burning

  1. PhilJourdan says:

    What amazes me is that Russia has gone from a literally a basket case (in terms of feeding themselves) 20 years ago, to being a net exporter (most of the time).

    There is a lot of animosity between the US and Russia, but you have to admire their drive.

  2. Don’t forget the future Argentinian droughts, usual during Solar Minimums,

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/argentine-drought-crop-failure/

  3. Edward Spalton says:

    Russia suffered a catastrophic COOLING event in the early Seventies, during the communist era. The whole of the 1972 Autumn-sown wheat crop was destroyed by severe frosts. I don’t recall seeing reports of that event at the time. It was probably a state secret then.

    I was in the English grain trade which had just suffered the convulsion of joining the Common Agricultural Policy of what is now the EU. This approximately doubled wheat prices by the imposition of import tariffs when we joined on January 1st 1973.

    A few months later we woke up to find that the price had doubled again. The Soviets had conducted a very sophisticated, large-scale buying operation on the Chicago market to make up for the loss of their 1972 Winter sowing. The world looked to be very short of wheat although much of the price hike later turned out to have been speculative.

    At the time, scientific opinion was forecasting imminent, catastrophic, man-made global cooling. Some of the most influential people in the global warmist camp today were ardent coolists then!

    The CIA produced a report in 1974 which said “Scientists are confident that, unless man is able to effectively modify the climate then Canada,the European part of Russia and major areas of northern China will again be covered with 100 to 200 feet of ice and snow”. They also reported that a “scientific consensus” had been achieved and that science was developing ” a successful climate prediction model”. All very familiar.

    What are nowadays called “extreme weather events” are not that uncommon. What is new is the rapidity with which pictures and reports reach us from remote areas.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @PhilJourdan: I have tremendous admiration for the Russian people. They have one of the most harsh places in the world to live, yet do so with gusto. They have had a variety of bad governments over the centuries and that has led them to many ills, so the folks have a cynical sense of humor.

    But if you want clear eyed inspection of how to solve hard problems, they have a directness about them (and their designs) that is just amazing. Russia has done things we could just barely do (or not do…) and done it using half as many parts and half as much “advanced technology” by using clear and direct designs that did not need those things.

    You don’t want finicky sensitive equipment in the middle of a Russian Winter. You want something that just works.

    I have several Russian guns. They are among the most reliable I’ve ever shot. Time after time after time. Yes, some of the finish (especially in interior parts) can be a bit rough. But where it matters, their machining is as good as any other.

    And they look at “bad times” with a clear understanding of what needs to be done. Major cities have major parts underground. Food and food storage as strategic needs are understood (if not always acted upon). The need to have power, even during a Grand Minimum, is understood and they are taking steps to assure they survive a coming cold turn.

    I am glad they were our allies in W.W.II, as without them we would have lost. We exist as a free world only because Hitler was stupid enough to attack Russia, then stupider enough to leave whole armies in the Russian Winter to die. 20,000,000 Russians died in The Great Patriotic War. It makes our losses look like a minor battle on the outskirts in comparison.

    I’m just glad the Cold War animosities are a thing of the past. (And hope new ones do not arise. We need friends like Russia in what is coming.)

    @Adolfo:

    I’m trying desperately to not get too worked up about this, but I’m of the opinion that we are going back to the significant crop failures of my childhood. Argentine and Australian droughts. Canadian cold and wet. Russian chaotic yields year to year.

    If that fear manifests, we’re literally in for “a world of hurt”.

    But now, instead of having a year or two of grain stored in silos all over the world, we have a few weeks in transit. Not good. Very very Not Good.

    Some I’m hopeful that nothing much will come of it. I’m hopeful that we’ll manage to use better farming techniques, global shipping, more fertilizers, better genetic selections for drought and cold tolerance in seeds, etc. to avoid an “aw shit”. But hope is not a strategy…

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/food-storage-systems/

    The Bible says to store a few years on a community wide basis. The Mormons say to store one year against a crop failure. I’ve got about 3 months that I use as a convenience inventory (avoids a lot of trips to the store, lets me grocery shop once a month). Most folks have about a week in the cupboards and a too-full credit card.

    Very “Double Plus Un-Good”…

  5. Tony Hansen says:

    How reliable is the information we are given?

    Some media reports in the last month have the Russian drought as the worst in 38 years.
    Others have it as the worst in 50 years.
    Some as the worst in 100 years.
    And some as the worst in 130 years.

    Only a week ago I was reading a report that stated Russian wheat exports would be 11 – 19 million tons, down 50%.
    Now Putin has placed a ban on the export of wheat and wheat products from Aug 15 to Dec 31 (including contracts already signed).
    There are also suggestions that Russia has been talking to Khazakstan re. not exporting any Khazak wheat.

    So what do the Russians normally export?
    If 50% down is 11 to 19 M tons, is the number 22M or 38M?
    Is the 16 M ton difference signicant?
    If it is 38M and then you add on potential Khazak exports is that number significant?

    Do they use computer grain models (a cousin to climate models) to derive these numbers?

  6. P.G. Sharrow says:

    When I was young, storing food for the comeing winter was a part of the summer and fall chores. Haven’t done that for many years, but I still feel better with a full larder of dried unperishables and canned goods. With no rent, a wood stove, 20 acres of woods,gardens and vineyard we can get by fairly well if the balloon goes up. pg

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G.Sharrow: I envy you. I have 1/8 acre, with most of it house and lawn, but do have a wood stove and some trees (though it would be wet wood…) and do ‘put food by’ …

    @Tony Hansen: they would not forgo the lost revenue without cause…

  8. Tony Hansen says:

    EM,
    ‘…they would not forgo the lost revenue without cause…

    Agreed.
    It was not the data ‘from the Russians’ that I was writing about.
    How closely do the figures we are given tally with reality, eg world grain stocks, and how close are ‘national’ yield predictions to reality?
    At any given point in time are the ‘new’ figures just a guesstimate of conditions 60 days ago? Are they out of date before they are issued?
    ( How far is Putins data ahead of Cargills or any of the national bodies eg US, Aus? I’ll put my money on Vlad for the Russian stuff.)

    If world grain stocks are 25-30 days (with some putting the number above or below that range) and our ‘new’ data is older than that…… could things go critical before we are even told that they are a bit crook?

    My gut-feel is that the grains data is very rubbery and is essentially un-verifiable. But this will not be highlighted until we have a black swan.

  9. Wayne Job says:

    This sudden turn around in wheat stocks reminds me of the ant and the grasshopper. Not only have our nations been spending our future like grasshoppers, thinking the good times would last forever. They have also neglected our national larders.
    With old Sol on vacation, all we need is a couple of large volcanoes and the world will go hungry.
    In Australia we have just come out of prolonged drought and our farmers some what poorer for the experience, are celebrating the increased prices and the prospect of bumper crops.
    We do however live next door to Krakatoa and a few other bits that occassionly blow their top. That said, I have noticed over a long period, that when the North suffers we have a better time of it, in regard to the clemency of our environs, and visa versa.

    I do feel for the Russians, they have been tormented for most of the last century by isms. They are the new frontier of freedom unencumbered by political correctness and may help as they did in WW2 to save us from our own foolishness.

  10. A williamson says:

    @Wayne Job: Not all of Australia is having a good production year. Australia’s largest (by tonnes) wheat exporting state, Western Australia, is in drought. If rainfall forecast for the end of next week doesn’t eventuate production will be nearer 5 mill tonnes than the normal 10 mill tonnes of wheat. West Aust exports more than 90% of the grain produced due to our small domestic market.
    We have rainfall records for our farm going back to 1912 and this year is the driest to this date of the year, so far.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Edward Spalton:

    I remember those times. The USA had a grain support program then, with about 1 1/2 YEARS of grain in storage. We were trying to get the stocks down (as we were out of space to put the NEXT batch to be harvested…) and then woke up one day to discover that the Russians had bought almost all of it.

    There was a big stink and changes were made to how the process was handled. (It had been distributed and with no central control / reporting until well after the fact).

    I also remember the “Ice Age Coming” days… some folks just cant resist turning a 1/2 cycle into a trend line…

    @Tony Hansen:

    Grain production numbers are better than in the ’70s by a long shot. Satellites and all that. At one time I saw promotions for a service that will observe in IR and tell you what part of your field is under producing and needs more fertilizer.

    The fact that we no longer have grain stabilization silos filled with grain is also very clear. The program was wound down after Soviet Russia benefited from it but we did not.

    The rise of global shipping is also well tracked. Ship loadings are pretty much known real time. (Sugar recently rose in price due to reduced ship loadings in Brazil from too wet / rainy weather. This was reported near-real-time on the financial news)

    What is “rubbery” is the planting / yield numbers.

    We have seed production information from folks like Monsanto. And we can assume it will all get planted. Year to year variation in quantity planted for most crops is not that great. But it does vary. For example, next year more wheat will be planted. This price rise pretty much assures it. Somebody somewhere is going to see his neighbors new truck from the big wheat sales he made, look at his hay field, and decide he wants a new truck too…

    But by far the biggest issue is the weather. Just the kind of crop failure we used to have often in the ’50s-70s and that we are starting to have again. While it’s nothing new; the fact is a lot of the world is under 25 years old and has never seen one. They have no idea a world exists where a whole continent worth of grain production can fail.

    The “30 days” estimates come from some reports I’ve seen on the new, more efficient, grain systems of today. I’m sure it has errors in it (though not sure how much). The stories were describing the present ‘just in time’ harvest and delivery systems with minimal inventory carry. It will also be the case that each grain will be different. So grains like spelt, as a specialty grain, are likely silo stored on the farm much more than wheat.

    There are also still seasonal swings. So just after the N.H. major grain harvest season, the inventory will be longer, then it will start dropping. I expect the “30 days” is the minimum point. Just before N.H. harvest starts again. I would also not be surprised to find that the Russian numbers are poorly reported… something like “Russian projected harvest minus strategic reserves”…

    As per when it “goes critical”: That happens while you still have grain in the silos… The crop fails. Then comes the long wait while it does not get harvested, does not get milled, does not go to the baker, then finally does not become bread on the shelves. So right now we have crop failure in Russia. That harvest would have been happening over the next couple of months. The “problem” will show up about November. Russia is betting on the Winter Wheat crop to recover, so if next spring we have “part two”, that’s the SHTF moment.

    At the same time, folks here are planting Spring Wheat. Higher prices mean some of them will plant more. Will it be enough to make up for the difference? Who knows…. but most of the time it does. It’s when we get a “2 fer” or a series of events like Canada and Russia that we will find the limits. When we have a 3 or 4 sigma weather event globally. That is when we will miss that couple of years of stored grain.

    On the positive side, something like 1/4 of stored grain in places like India was lost to rats and other rodents, mold, and similar issues. If you don’t store it, that doesn’t happen. So we’ve had more total available to people via reduced storage losses.

    Farmers learn pretty quickly. If we start having a lot of ‘odd weather’ they adapt. The use of “catch crops’ will pick up again. (A crop like buckwheat that grows very fast an isn’t very picky about conditions; so you can grow it in the time remaining in a season if your main crop fails and gets ploughed under…) Common in subsistence farming, not so common in industrial farming today.

    Similarly, barley is more cold tolerant, so a couple of frost kills and more barley goes in next time… I’ve got some tepary beans that are very drought tolerant (they grow in the desert of the Southwest…) Were I a farmer and had my black-eyed peas fail for lack of water a time or two, I’d shift to tepary beans for at least part of the fields.

    So it’s all about the timing. Is there enough time for those adaptations to happen? Do we slowly enter a ‘time of troubles’ and adapt faster? Or do we have a sudden “Black Swan” and wake up to find the global inventory of grains is near zero and the next harvest is on fire? I’m hoping it is the former and not the latter. But… “Hope is not a strategy”…

    @Wayne: BINGO! But it’s only ONE volcano that’s needed. One Big One. My personal favorite speculation is a modest rock from space splashing into the Pacific. One that makes a couple of hundred foot tall wave, but does not destroy the planet. It would sink the shipping. Then you get to wait a few years while you build more bulk cargo ships… You could easily still have lovely harvests in Australia, Argentina, Canada, USA… but how would you get the grain across the ocean to where the people are hungry? Such a rock fall WILL HAPPEN. It’s just a matter of when.

    FWIW, in looking at the GHCN data I noticed a pattern of the type you described. A polar oscillation. In particular, the early 1930s were very hot in the USA, but not hot down near Antarctica. That was the first time I noticed the pattern. Given our crappy coverage of the Southern Hemisphere, that caused me to wonder how much we really knew about the “Global Average” temperature as opposed to just projecting a N.H. temperature cycle to be a global state. Were the ’30s really “hot” or were we just lacking coverage of the great southern oceans?…

    But that oscillation doesn’t save us from crop failure. The bulk of the land in in the North, so a bad weather cycle there can’t be made up by the south. There just isn’t enough land in the S.H. to replace it all. It helps, but does not fully substitute.

    At any rate, we’ll see. It’s a 30 year cycle, so there ought to be enough time for gradual onset and folks deciding to “provision” better. We’ve got plenty of total land to convert some ‘field corn’ to other crops and feed everybody (just eat a bit less beef and pork and more grains to people instead) even with some increased crop losses. It’s only if dramatic failure happens in a single year or two that there would be big problems. So all folks ought to need is enough ‘provisions’ to get through 6 months to a year of shortages.

    Heck, if we’re smart about it ( I know, no evidence of that to date ;-) we could even adjust to a crop failure in near real time. As Russian wheat fails, the USA and Australia plant more and feed less corn to cattle…. and folks in Russia learn how to make American Corn Bread ;-) So I’m not panicky about it all. More like “watchful waiting”.

  12. j ferguson says:

    From an earlier Smith:

    “The scarcity which prevailed in England, from 1693 to 1699, both inclusive, though no doubt principally owing to the badness of the seasons, and, therefore, extending through a considerable part of Europe, must have been somewhat enhanced by the bounty. In 1699, accordingly, the further exportation of corn was prohibited for nine months.”

  13. twawki says:

    With Svensmark’s theory about cosmic ray increase during low sunspot activity (L&P theory) it could be cold and wet meaning a lot more snow in both hemispheres which could be even more devastating. Here in Australia we are seeing our rural sector start to recover from previous dry conditions so we will see a significant increase in food (incl. wheat) production here.

    I am just getting set up on my farm – about 80 acres, with straw bale cottage to be finished by christmas. Have good supply of fruit but need more timber trees and nuts etc

  14. Dennis says:

    It may be of interest that there is so much wheat in Montana this year (highest yields in 23 years), and I suspect throught the northern Great Plains, that prices, while they spiked up on the Russian news, are dropping precipitously now. The rains this spring and summer were such that for those who fertilized assidulously ,protein content is 11% and better and stocks are high enough that those farmers with protein levels below that are having trouble selling thier grain. farmers with protein levels down around 9% (that can usually be blended with higher levels) have been told their wheat is not needed and that if they want it stored in the elevator, they will have to pay rent until the market sorts itself out. Also, much of the winter wheat is already in the silos producing a further downward pressure on price.

    A further indication, if anyone needs it, that climate/weather conditions are not worldwide average phenomena and will present to us in widely disparate ways.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Dennis: Might I suggest the folks in Montana call up the countries that bought the most Russian grain last year and offer a deal…

    @Twawki: I planted a “Timber Bamboo” (Bambusa Oldhami) and now get 3″ dia 30 foot poles in abundance. Anyone worried about our ability to suck CO2 from the air has never seen Bamboo grow 8-)

    There is also a Black Poplar hybrid (cottonwood) that will make 50 tons / acre /year of wood; and decent enough to use for construction. As long as you have the water for it. I planted a poplar once. It was adding about an inch of radius per year. ( 2 cm or about 4 cm of diameter). Just amazing trees. From sapling to full sized tree in a few years. ( 4 or 5 …)

    Straw bale construction is quick, easy, very energy efficient and takes little scarce resource (lots of hay in the world ;-) but you do need to make sure the rodents don’t get a home in it and the water is kept out. Nice and quiet, too.

    I really really need to get me a couple of acres somewhere…

  16. ROM says:

    Just some comparisons in prices received by Australian grain farmers starting in 1932, the years of the Great Depression.

    1932;
    The state wage setting tribunals set the weekly wage.
    Minimum weekly Wage; 3 pound 10 shillings , later in the year, reduced to 3 pounds.
    [ 20 shillings = one pound ]
    Wheat slumped from 1 shilling and 9 pence [ 3 pounds / tonne ] to 1 shilling and 6 pence / bushel [ 2 pounds 15 shillings / tonne ]

    The value of One tonne of wheat was worth approximately the weekly minimum wage in 1932

    1948;
    Starvation in Europe in the chaos of the aftermath of WW2.
    Minimum weekly Wage; 7 pounds 10 shillings

    Wheat reached an all time high of 25 pounds / tonne

    The value of One tonne of wheat was equal to about 3 weeks minimum wage in 1948.

    1968;
    Huge surpluses of wheat in the world and no apparent future for Australian grain farmers, a very bad time??

    Basic [ minimum ] wage = $60 [ ? ] / week
    Tradesman’s wages = $75 / week.

    Wheat = $62 / tonne under limited tonnage [ quota ] government guaranteed price down to < $40 / tonne for non Quota wheat

    In 1968 the Value of One tonne of wheat equalled a Tradesman's weekly wage.

    1973;
    Following the Russians raid on US grainstocks, The Great grain Robbery.

    Weekly minimum wage = approx $90 / week.

    Wheat = $150 / tonne

    In 1973 the Value of one tonne of wheat was approx 1.5 times the minimum weekly wage.

    2009;
    Weekly minimum wage = $620 / week [ including 9% compulsory superannuation levy.]
    Average wage = $1250 / week.

    Wheat = $165 / tonne.

    2009 / 2010 harvest; It took 4.5 tonnes of wheat to equal one week's "minimum" wage.

    Alternatively, in 2009 / 10 it took 7.5 tonnes of wheat to equal one weeks "average" Australian wage.

    Even today with wheat again reaching a "high price " [ ?? ] perhaps a little over AUD $ 300 / tonne, it still takes at least 2 tonnes of wheat to equal the Australian minimum weekly wage.
    Or put it another way, with today's "high prices" for wheat , Australian grain growers are still only getting half the price, relative to the statutory minimum weekly wages, that they did in the depths of the Great Depression some 80 years ago.

    There are no subsidies of any note or guaranteed income or government insurance backed schemes in Australia for Australian grain farmers.
    [ The internationally owned Australian vehicle / car manufacturers get a billion dollar subsidy every two years ]
    Even when wheat went to the "record" $400 / tonne AUD in 2007 and there were food riots in many countries , the farmer was still way, way behind everybody else in his earnings especially with the enormous risks he takes with weather, prices and bureaucratic and political pressures every time he plants a crop.

    A five day heat wave late in 2009 entirely destroyed what was going to be our one million dollar value Lentil Crop,
    No insurance and no help from any source so with a loss of that magnitude on top of some 12 years of dry and continuous drought in what was formerly a highly regarded wheat and grain growing area, our farming days are finished along with many others in the district.

    If the world wants food then the whole attitude to farmers and farming will have to change. I don't believe the casual and denigrating attitudes of the city elitists latte drinkers and the city based bureaucracies will change one iota until a massive world food shortage happens and then the poorest on this planet will pay and they will pay a very dear price indeed.
    And the city elitists and politicians will ring their hands and demand that somebody does something. [/ sarc]

    And some of the more ignorant might wonder why [ grain ] farmers are leaving in droves and why there are no young farmers coming into a dying profession.
    The world, particularly the western world, will pay and the price will be very high in human costs but it will pay and pay dearly for the neglect and casual denigration of it's farmers and the farming profession.

  17. Edward Spalton says:

    Thanks for the memories, ROM.

    My father could remember the grain price levels of the Thirties which you mention – also how they were further depressed when the Communists seized all the grain in the Ukraine and dumped it on the world market, starving 7 million people to death in the process.

    After the war, Britain adopted a very sensible system for a (then) industrial country. The world could send food supplies here without any customs duties but the British farmers were supported by a system called “Deficiency Payments” to guarantee a level of home-grown food security. We had come very close to starvation as a result of the Nazi U-boat campaign and also had very little post war in the way of foreign currency to pay for imports.

    Throughout the SIxties, when I joined the family business, wheat prices ranged from around around £18 to £28, depending on quality and market conditions. I remember clearly that a farm worker’s basic wage at the beginning of the Sixties was just under £10 per week. Some highly paid workmen might earn as much as £20 to £30 per week in (say) the motor industry. As we approached the European “Common Market”, grain prices rose in anticipation. From 1 January 1973, wheat went up to £50 -60 per ton behind the European tariff barrier. Britain paid far more in taxes to keep food dear for the housewife than it had paid to keep it cheap under the old system.

    One thing still rankles with me. We made a range of animal baby foods and had a very happy 25 year trading relationship with New Zealand. That was cut off entirely as NZ milk powder did not qualify for the European subsidy which we got when we “denatured” milk powder and wheat by turning it into animal food and so rendering it unfit for human consumption. We have been in that madhouse ever since.

    A little bit off topic of the weather, I’m afraid!

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Edward Spalton: But not off topic from food production…

    I remember when New Zealand lamb was suddenly ‘outside the system’ for Britain rather an inside. We suddenly got a much better deal on N.Z. lamb in California ;-)

    Such economic market manipulations have done far more harm that good, IMHO. All based on the irrational belief tha petty bureaucrats can do better than markets. Theoretically they can, but in practical application much is left to desire…

    @ROM: A wonderful series of prices that shows the impact of the advance of ‘intensification’ in farming. (Of fertilizers, genetics, mechanization, you name it).

    The thing that I worry about most in food production is not weather nor prices nor ‘shortage’. It’s that loss of farmers. With them goes a wealth of expertise that can not be replaced. A lifetime on a chunk of land and a knowing of what to do that’s ‘just so’.

    It’s turning into agribusiness where a farm manager makes blanket decisions for ‘good enough’ results with little sense of each bit of land and each local need. And even worse, with a complete destruction of diversity of crop and method.

    We are losing see varieties at a rate that is astounding. From thousands of varieties down to hundreds and now, in come cases, to tens and less. The Matters. As ‘when things change’ it is that diversity that lets us respond quickly. The Maze that makes more roots produces less in times of good rain, but more during times of drought. It is lost during the “average time spread sheet analysis” then is not available when the droughts come. The family farmer is more likely to have a field of “Grandpa’s drought corn” that can be used as seed corn if needed. It’s been the work of millions of family farmers over 10,000 years that has endowed us with a collection of heirloom seeds for all conditions.

    And we are literally throwing it away.

    In some cases, deliberately destroying it. The big agribusiness seed / GMO companies have bought up (are buying up) traditional seedsmen and replacing the heirlooms with hybrids and patented GMO seeds. Attempting to make a market subject to monopoly pricing. They have no desire to preserve the heirloom competition.

    So, for example, the Black Spanish Radish. It grows well in cold and winter. Yes, hot as can be when you eat it (but a lot of folks like ‘hot food’). But it grows during winter when nothing else grows but kale. Don’t see them in the stores anymore. Haven’t seen seed in about 6 years. We get “French Breakfast” year round via shipping from other places and greenhouses.

    The “Fodder beet”. Almost extinct.

    None GMO sugar beets. Almost extinct.

    Traditional non-yellow sweet corns? On the skids.

    “Garden” varieties that produce consistent yields over a long season are falling to commercial varieties that ripen all at once for ‘pick once and plough’ commercial operations. Good luck with that ‘plant once and pick all summer’ home gardener goal…

    So the heritage of thousands of years of work and wisdom of family farmers is hanging by a thread. Kept alive by a small group of survivors, some native Indians preserving some of their heritage, and a band of hobby gardeners.

    That’s a real “running out” problem. But we’re ignoring it.

    http://www.seedsavers.org/

    FWIW, I have a ‘small freezer’ full of various seeds. If I had the space, I’d have a very large freezer with two packages of every variety I could get. Seeds packets packed in jars then put in a freezer (especially one that is NOT frost free – those temperature cycle. OK, but not quite as good as steady cold.) Seeds stored that way keep for at least a decade. I’m awaiting my second decade trials… I’ve grown out some after 16 years.

    Native old growth forests, species, heirloom seeds, family farmers (and their expertise). Those are things we do lose and things where we can have a shortage.

  19. LarryOldtimer says:

    Great Drought, as it was called in 1930 – USA. Dust Bowl in the midwest and plains states as a result. – Didn’t rain a drop in OK for 8 or 9 years, can’t recall which. Topsoil blew entirely from farms in 17 states. Farmers learned to irrigate properly in plains states and use commercial fertilizer.

    When I was studying hydrology, I read that the runoff basin for the Colorado river received some 5 times the rainfall as present, prior to 1930.

    I was reared on a 240 acre farm near Sioux City, Iowa, from when I was 3 (spring of 1938) through the summer of 1949.

    The world turns, and things, including the weather, change (radically).

    Farmers in the Midwest have been building large, interior temperature and humidity controlled buildings to store grain for future sales, well over a year. Takes a good bit of electrical energy to do that. The huge cost of carbon “emissions” reduction will put paid to that.

    Weather changes can cause horrible happenings. Politicians, as of now, are going to do nothing but compound those natural severe weather events (and weather “events” may go on for a good many years).

  20. tonyb says:

    Hi EM

    You write here about the searing heat affecting the Russian grain crop.

    I had read that the supposed hottest ever year in 2010 was due to hottest ever recordings from only 17 countries and I asked on Steve Goddards new thread where these were

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/20/giss-shaping-up-to-claim-2010-as-1/#comment-461974

    In response to my query as to where the records were being set I was sent this

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/12/heatwave-record-temperatures-world

    I responded as follows

    “Thanks for the above. So we have heat records from some 8% of all the countries in the world which then supposedly makes 2010 the ‘hottest ever.’

    Of those mentioned Niger doesn’t even seem to have a reliable record. Saudi has a highly disjointed record going back to 1965. We have been reading of record cold in such places as Argentina and Brazil so how come they now appear to be record highs?

    Is the heat record actually skewed towards Russia due to its large land mass and its presumed weighting therefore in the global record, combined with its very substantial increased anomaly due to the blocking high? Even then not everywhere in Russia has been warm.

    Hmm Steve, if you have the time, a closer examination of the record seems in order. Also posted this to Chiefio in the hope he might investigate this further.”

    Well EM you have good knowledge of Giss, so I am hoping you might find the time to investigate the world record further with particular reference to the 17 countries named.

    Best regards

    Tonyb

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    Haven’t done much with records. Supposed I could come up with some kind of metric for ‘hottest out of how many’… or completeness of data metric… It’s also interesting to see ‘hottest by how much’. If it’s 1/10 C hotter somewhere, then either:

    1) It could be in the error band.

    2) It really isn’t much different than it has ever been before.

  22. Edward Spalton says:

    The combination of heat wave, drought, forest and peat fires suffered by Russia this year appears to be not all that uncommon historically. One record I have seen shows similar happenings in
    1298
    1364
    1431
    1735
    1831
    1839-1841
    1868
    1875
    1917
    I have not been able to check this.
    In 1735 the Empress Anna wrote to General Ushankov “Andrei Ivanovich, here in St Petersburg it is so smoky that one cannot open the windows and all because JUST LIKE LAST YEAR (my emphasis) the forests are burning. We are surprised that no-one has thought how to stem the fires which are burning for the second year running”
    The scientists of the day appear not to have recommended wind turbines and carbon trading.

    In 1875 the composer Tchaikovsky wrote “I am writing at 3 o’clock in the afternoon in such darkness you would think it was 9 o’clock at night.. For several days the horizon has been enveloped in smoke haze…..I fear we may even die of suffocation”.

    And, of course, great floods like the present one in Pakistan are usually widely spaced in time but not uncommon in the river systems of India and China.

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