Grains, and why food will stay plentiful

Now “plentiful” does not mean everyone on the planet will have enough food no matter what. There will still be Evil Politicians who want people to starve and there will still be Stupid UN Food Programs that either let those Evil Ps drive the process or just are so poor at getting food where it needs to be that folks still die.

No, what I mean by “plentiful” is that on a global basis there is plenty of ability to grow food. We can still be expected to ‘cock it up’ in lousy distribution, “power first” and “people second” politics, and general stupidity. But that’s because of us, not because of any natural “limit” placed on food supply.

Feed Ratio

First off, realize when going through these numbers that, from time to time, a given grain will be talked about in terms of how much is used for “animal feed”. That still ends up in the mouths of people, but after being in the mouths of animals. Each animal has a particular feed conversion efficiency (as does each grain and feed process). But, in general terms, some animals are more efficient than others.

So, worse comes to worse, we can just eat the animals AND the grains we would have fed to them.

Realize that does not mean going ‘vegetarian’ is better for the planet. Many parts of a plant are not edible by people. Like leaves and stems of grain grasses. Feeding those to animals (called “forage”) increases the total food supply. “Feed conversion ratio” is only a benefit to the extent that we feed grains to animals. So even in a complete food panic, you want some ruminants around dealing with the forage and slash. (Slash is stuff cut off a plant that isn’t quite up to forage quality. Like letting goats eat weeds you have cut down, or plants toxic to cows that the goats don’t mind.) There are also some lands where attempting to grow a grain crop is just not going to work, but letting some animals range over it gives you a cow or two per acre, or a couple of goats. Not surprisingly, that kind of ground is called “range land”. It can even be “free range chickens” for smaller areas.

So when I say we can stop feeding cows and eat them and then just eat their grain, I’m not suggesting doing that now. That’s an ’emergency strategy’. And even after that, we need some number of cows and other ruminants to eat the slash, forage, and work the range land. Being omnivorous is the best and most efficient approach.

OK, on to feed conversion efficiency.

Just a couple of quick rules of thumb. First off, feed is “dry weight” while animals are “wet weight”. That means that a pound (or kilo) of grain is about 1 pound (or kilo) of real food. A pound of beef steak is about 75% water.

Then you need to allow for the fact that the animal used some of the feed energy staying alive, moving around, making fur or feathers. Just staying warm. In the end, there are some ‘rough rules of thumb’ that net it all out.

Animal   Efficiency feed:meat
Cow      10:1
Pig      3:1
Chicken  3:1
Fish     1:1

That means that, roughly, to get a 1 lb beef steak, you need to feed 10 lbs of oats to your cow. THEN you need to allow for that 75% water… In the end, it’s really about 30 : 1 in terms of food value. Similarly, that pork chop is about 10 : 1 as is the chicken. Fish is interesting as the 1 : 1 looks almost magical. Remember that fish are cold blooded, so not using food to keep warm. They are also ‘wet vs dry’, so that 1 : 1 is more like 4 grains per 1 unit of fish calories (on a good day).

Still, you get the idea. In a food crisis, just shifting to ‘grass fed beef’ and fish means we suddenly have a lot of grains that were going through 30 : 1 loss of gross calories or a 10 : 1 for pork or chicken are now available for people. We can support 10 to 30 people on the animal grains if we feed it to people instead of the animals.

Do realize, this is not an argument for going meatless now. In fact, it’s better to eat more meat now. That keeps the farmers employed growing all the grain, the grain dryers built and working, the whole infrastructure in place. If we all went vegetarian now, in a food crisis, we would only be growing ‘just enough for now’ and could not swap to eating the excess grains that it takes to keep animals growing.

That may sound strange, but it is a strategy that has been used for thousands of years during times of flood, drought, famine, whatever. Eat all but the minimal breeding stock of farm animals and the grazers; then eat the animal grains. Anything less is sub-optimal.

OK, that’s the basic “bad times” strategy. Downshift the grain fed animals, eat their grains, and keep the range and forage animals for future breeding stock and normal food purposes.

But about those grains…

Some general comments on ‘options’

People eat a lot of things. Fruits. Vegetables. Nuts. Berries. Salads. That, it turns out, doesn’t really take much land. California is the “Salad bowl of the nation” for the USA. This State alone supplies most of the salad fixings and things like Avocados and Broccoli. Peaches and almonds and citrus are big here too. So the first thing to realize is that most folks in the suburbs can grow enough in a garden to cover all of those needs if they so desired. We just collectively would rather watch TV and pay someone to mow a lawn. Folks actively avoid fruit trees in their yard so as to avoid the ‘work and mess’ – otherwise known as food supply.

I grew up in a farm town where most folks had a fruit tree or two. They were not so lazy then. Let me tell you, one tree gives more than you can eat. You learn to can foods and make jams quickly. So in a real ‘hard time’ as long as we had some ‘lead time’ we could all put in a garden and plant a couple of trees. I’ve done that as a ‘toy farm’. So I have a Dancy Tangelo tree that makes way more fruit that we can ever eat. Most goes to feed the local squirrels and opossums through the winter. I also put in two small apple trees. My family doesn’t touch them either. (The critter thank me in the fall…) But in an ’emergency’ both the squirrels and the fruit would keep US fed for a couple of months (though we might get tired of ‘apple stuffed roast squirrel’).

The point here is pretty simple: We are up to our eyeballs in land that could produce food. So much so we use it for entertainment. I watch a fairly large number of squirrels and enjoy them a lot. Also a variety of birds and such.

In W.W.II, there was a Victory Garden program. It basically taught folks to garden in their yards so the farm produced food could be used for the war. Many folks made a lot of food. Remembering that program, I have a nice stash of seeds just in case.

It does take about 6 years to get a fruit or nut tree to start bearing, so it’s best to start them long before you want one. I’ve thought of putting in a nut tree, but our squirrels are fat enough already ;-) Some trees, like beech, make an edible nut but are usually thought of as landscape trees. So it’s not like you need to commit to looking like a farm. And don’t worry about cleaning up the nut drop if there are any squirrels in your area. They will keep it cleared “until that day” ;-)

If anyone is worried about a crop failure, or about hard times in the future, I would suggest simply planting a couple of cold tolerant fruit or nut trees now. They will be cute and decorative for about a decade before they get big enough to be a concern in terms of fruit or nut drop. Then you can decide you are glad to have them, or say “never mind” and feed them to the fireplace. (Though I think once someone tastes their own apricots they will not give them up easily!) Similarly, a ‘grape arbor’ in the back yard can be both decorative, and give fruit and leaves (also edible). There are whole books written on how to plant decorative landscape plants that are edible.

So the first thing to realize is that anyone living in a semi-rural or sub-urban environment is already being extravagant about food and can make quite a lot if they just wanted to. Heck even folks in an apartment can get portable herb gardens (even hydroponic ones) and grow a variety of thing indoors. (Marijuana growers get many tons per year out of ‘grow houses’ that are entirely inside a suburban house. Now that’s a bit extreme, as the whole house is converted to a small farm, but it shows what can be done with dirt and grow lights.)

But say you don’t want to do that kind of thing and are happy to buy fruits and vegetables and all from the store, but are just a bit worried about total global food supply of the grains sort…

Overview of Grains

First off, look at your dinner plate or lunch bucket. The “grains” in it are usually modest. A couple of slices of bread. Some cookies. Maybe a side of rice or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. In reality, we don’t eat nearly as much grain as we grow in the “Modern World”. In places like Africa, the grains are a food staple and central to the meal. In poorer parts of Asia as well. But for most of the ‘advanced western world’, we get our grains in the form of beef steaks, pork chops, chicken and eggs, etc.

That’s why that “feed efficiency” point matters. In any sort of ‘food emergency’ it is the 3rd world that “has issues”, not us. We can just do a “Meatless Monday” and be fine. (But don’t start that now! You want that extra grain being grown now…) And remember that on Tuesday you can have range or forage fed beef anyway ;-)

But on a global level, what about the grains?

Large swathes of North America, Australia, Argentina, Russia, China, etc are planted to grains. And Soybeans (that are largely fed to animals too). We mostly think in terms of corn (maize) in the USA. Wheat in Europe and Australia. Rice in Asia. In reality, most grains are grown on most continents. But there are favored areas for particular grains. Barley, for instance, grows where it is very cold. You find a lot of barley in Canada and northern Europe. (All the better to make beer and whiskey with ;-) Which brings up the point that in a real food emergency, all that grain fermented to make beer and hard liquor could instead be eaten by people. (One hopes we never become that desperate!)

In Africa, sorghum and millet are more common (though maize is making inroads). They are more tolerant of low and fluctuating rain levels. While millet is also found in Asia and sorghum in the USA, we don’t typically think about them. Yet we ought to. The same “drought tolerance” that makes sorghum and millet so good in Africa near the Sahara also makes them suited to the USA in times of drought. We can fairly easily shift from maize to millet if desired. (Cows are happy to eat both, by the way…) It is mostly a mater of what grain yields best in which place, so you find sorghum grown in parts of Texas that are just a touch too dry and hot for great corn yields. That practice can easily spread ‘at the margin’ if things become drier and hotter. Similarly, barley can spread more southward if things become more cold.

So that’s our first lesson: Modest changes in rainfall or temperature are easily accommodated by known and modest changes in what we choose to grow.

Agronomy departments at schools all over the planet are also busy making new varieties, finding new plants to domesticate and hybridize, and improving yields and environmental tolerance of all sorts of food plants. Every year, they make the world a better and more secure place. We’ll see a stellar example of that under “Rice” below.

In fact, they are so good at their job that I can’t even come close to listing all the kinds of grains and related food plants, never mind talk about them. Teff. Celosia. Amaranth. There is a very long list of things we could use as foods if we needed their special abilities.

I’m just going to list one of the “pseudo grains” below. Buckwheat. Due to the very fast growth and great cold tolerance, it was commonly used as a ‘catch crop’ in older times (before mechanized commercial industrial mono-cropping). It can have growth periods that are very short, so if your main crop fails, you can seed it and harvest in whatever time remains. There are several wild type buckwheats in California adapted to dry lands and there are efforts to develop dry land buckwheat based on some of them.

I have made a nice ‘corn bread like bread’ with teff mixed with other flours and I have “Hopi Red Amaranth” growing in my garden. It self seeds nicely and the leaves, when young, are edible too.

We have hardly begun to find the limits to all these various food plants. Some are fairly salt tolerant and grow in brackish water, so there are efforts to develop salt water tolerant varieties of food plants too. There is already a tomato that can be grown in semi-saltwater irrigation. So the food future is bright.

But what about now?

The major grains that I’m going to mention are: Barley, oats, Rye, Wheat, Triticale, Rice, Corn / Maize, Sorghum, Millet.

Those are roughly in order from cold and wet to hot and dry. Rice is in the middle as hot and wet ;-) though there are varieties grown on mountain sides not flooded (flooding isn’t needed. Rice just tolerates it so it can be used to drown weeds). I’ll cover rice last below, as it is the most important and interesting so I have the most to say about it.

There are also a lot of non-grains grown such as field peas, soybeans, peas, beans, fava beans. Someday I’ll put them in their own page. Just realize that they, too, come in a range. From Fava beans that I can grow in California in the winter to Tepary Beans from the Sonoran desert where my biggest problem here in desert California (and we are a marginal desert) is soils that are too wet and cold. “We have choices”…

But first, the pseudo grain, buckwheat.


There is a good write up here:


Buckwheat is an unusually fast-growing crop with a variety of uses. Its flexibility and wide adaptation led it to be grown on more than a million acres in the U.S. in the late 1800s, even though it is not native to our country.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were two of the first American farmers to grow buckwheat and recognize the benefit to their crop rotations. With increased focus on specializing in the major commodities during the 1900s, buckwheat become much less common. In recent years, some farmers in north Missouri grew buckwheat under contract with a major buckwheat processor. Overall acreage in the U.S. has climbed to more than 70,000 acres, with millions of acres grown worldwide. Russia, where buckwheat is native, has the largest acreage of buckwheat.

Notice first that the commercial buckwheat is native to Russia. Very cold adapted. That is why it has such a short growing season and can be used as a ‘catch crop’. We used to grow a lot of it, then other things became more interesting. Nothing prevents us from growing it again.

Lately some growth is picking up again. Folks have started to realize they can ‘double crop’ in places they had not done before (or perhaps the demand has just finally developed to support that much production. It’s hard to know.)

U.S. buckwheat production has been concentrated in the northern Plains in the last couple of decades, where it is planted in early summer. The long growing season available to Missouri producers provides an opportunity to grow buckwheat as a double crop after wheat harvest. Buckwheat can be planted much later than soybeans, as late as August 1st in many parts of the state. The crop matures in a little over two months, allowing it to be used for double cropping farther north than other crops such as soybeans. Buckwheat can also be grown as a double crop after spring crops such as oats, flax or spring canola.

Notice that? Double crop AFTER wheat? Two months? 60 days? So if in a marginal 100 day corn area and the growing season shortens, you can grow buckwheat instead and have 40 days left over. (Radishes can be picked in 25, so one could do a radish crop as well…)

There are thousands of such decisions that professional farmers make all over the world every single day. We have no shortage of ability to ‘double crop’ more areas if the demand is there. We grow single crops of corn and soybeans in places because that is what is profitable. Raise the prices a little, we can grow much more on the same land. In some cases by changing which crops, in other cases by double cropping. In yet more by just putting on more fertilizers.

Some buckwheats are used for range restoration too. So even the range cows and goats can benefit from buckwheat. IF we need it or want to use it.

Native American groups had several medicinal uses for this plant. It was used as a remedy for colds and cuts. The roots of this plant and Eriogonum heracleoides were brewed into a tea which was taken to treat diarrhea. This plant grows on grassy plains, sagebrush deserts, and ponderosa pine forests mainly east of the Cascade Range. It is a pioneer species, taking hold in thin, dry soils where other plants have not yet established. Other plants in the habitat may include Artemisia tridentata, Purshia tridentata, Juniperus occidentalis, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Sporobolus airoides, Elymus wawawaiensis, Poa secunda, Achnatherum hymenoides, and Nassella comata.

This plant can be cultivated. It can be planted in areas that have little soil, such as mine spoils
. It can be used in xeriscaping. The cultivar ‘Umatilla’ is used for rangeland restoration and soil stabilization.

In the wild this plant provides food for mule deer and bighorn sheep.

At present there isn’t a lot of call for farming “mine spoils” and “areas that have little soil”. But if we ever wanted to reclaim them and run some sheep or goats on that land, this is your plant…

Then, as animal ‘poo’ and windborn dust build up a nicer soil, you can transition to more productive plants. (My ‘parkway strip’ had about 6 inches of soil trucked away when I first moved in as I wanted a flat parkway to mow and it was enough above the sidewalk to make problems for the mower. Now, 25 or so years later, it is back up to that height. I’ve not added any fertilizer, just mowed it with a mulching mower. Soils just build up over time if you let them. For buckwheat, it doesn’t like a rich soil, so as the soil improves, eventually you will swap to a plant that needs that added nitrogen.

Ask yourself: When was the last time someone was going on and on about soil degradation or mine wastes or depleting the soils or shortening growing seasons. Did they ever once say the word “buckwheat”? Why not? Perhaps because they are not a farmer or not very aware of choices in agronomy…


When was the last time you thought of Alaska as a grain growing region? Most folks think of it more as a frozen ice cap with polar bears grading into sporadic pine trees and grizzly bears eating salmon. It rarely gets much above normal room temperature, and then only really in mid summer mid day. Winters tend to “below” where it doesn’t matter if you call it -40 F or C as they are the same.

Crop Profile for Cereal Grains in Alaska

Spring-planted cereal grains (Barley, Oats and Wheat) are best adapted for production in northern latitude areas. Barley (6-row feed grade) is the most common cereal grain produced in Alaska because of its low heat unit requirement for maturity. Multipurpose oats (grain or forage) are the second most popular cereal grains grown. Winter wheat crops have not proven successful due to their long growing season requirements. This makes winter wheat prone to winterkill and snow mold losses. Profitable yields of quality cereal grains require considerable cropping experience, biological knowledge and exceptional managerial skills. Growing conditions in the sub-arctic of Alaska present unique challenges. Long-day photoperiods (20+ hours of daylight in June) and a frost-free growing season of 100-118 days in length characterize the growing season.
The average yield of barley for the 1993-2000 period was 34.3 bu/ac with a range of 19-51 bu/ac. Oat yields for the same period ranged from 28-60 bu/ac with an average yield of 41.6 bu/ac. The Alaska barley crop has averaged 199,213 bushels per year from an average of 5,775 acres for the period of 1993 – 2000. Oat production from the same 8-year period has averaged 46,888 bushels from 1,100 acres. Alaskan barley and oat crops have an 8-year average production value of $669,625 and $118,375 respectively (Benz and Roos, 2001). In 2000 barley sold for $3.36 per bushel in Alaska while the price averaged $2.13 in the rest of the country. Alaskan produced oats sold for $2.52 per bushel in 2000 compared to $1.43 in other states. Few cereal grains are ever exported from Alaska.

No, not a lot of volume. Then again, not a lot of people in Alaska either. Most of the State is still wild lands and forests.

The key point here, though, is just that even in a place as cold and with as short a growing season as Alaska, you can grow barley. Up to 50 bushels per acre. (If that bothers the “fraction challenged”, I’m sure you can find a decimal system converter for the units. A bushel is 8 gallons, so 32 quarts. Convenient units for dividing up a pot of grain for each worker to get their share without resorting to a calculator. There are 2.47 acres in a hectare). So I can get up to 1600 quarts of barley off ONE acre in Alaska. That will feed a person for about 2400 days (or a family of 4 for about a year and a half on good rations) if all you eat is cooked grains. In Alaska.

What this says is that, in a world getting colder, you really only need to worry about WHICH grain to produce. Only once other States get as cold as Alaska, do you need to worrying about SOME grain to produce. (Even then, you can swap to non-grain crops).

Barley can be grown in much warmer areas. In fact, I have a wild barley that grows in my yard as a weed. We call it “foxtail” locally, but it is a barley. Try as I might, I can’t kill it. Barley can be a perennial for some types / species. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in the following link you will find Arizona Barley harvest and production data listed. So it’s not like this plant is restricted to “high cold places” only… Yes, the yields do go up. Then again, it is likely irrigated and fertilized more. It may even be two crops per year. Arizona is like that. Hotter is better.

Barley Area Harvested, Yield, and Production - States and United States: 2009 and
August 1, 2010
                :  Area harvested  :           Yield            :     Production      
      State     :        :         :        :       2010        :          :          
                :  2009  :  2010   :  2009  :-------------------:   2009   :   2010   
                :        :         :        : July 1  :August 1 :          :          
                :   1,000 acres      -------- bushels --------       1,000 bushels    
Arizona ........:    45        53    115.0     125.0     125.0      5,175      6,625  
California .....:    55        70     54.0      50.0      50.0      2,970      3,500  
Colorado .......:    77        67    135.0     140.0     136.0     10,395      9,112  
Idaho ..........:   510       480     95.0      95.0      95.0     48,450     45,600  
Maryland .......:    48        35     70.0      70.0      72.0      3,360      2,520  
Minnesota ......:    80        70     61.0      57.0      62.0      4,880      4,340  
Montana ........:   720       550     57.0      58.0      57.0     41,040     31,350  
North Dakota ...: 1,130       790     70.0      63.0      65.0     79,100     51,350  
Oregon .........:    32        40     60.0      45.0      55.0      1,920      2,200  
Pennsylvania ...:    45        50     75.0      77.0      75.0      3,375      3,750  
Utah ...........:    30        25     85.0      87.0      90.0      2,550      2,250  
Virginia .......:    43        60     74.0      75.0      71.0      3,182      4,260  
Washington .....:    97        77     64.0      65.0      72.0      6,208      5,544  
Wyoming ........:    64        60    105.0      90.0      86.0      6,720      5,160  
Other States 1/ :   137       119     58.4      52.5      54.4      7,998      6,471  
United States ..: 3,113     2,546     73.0      71.6      72.3    227,323    184,032 


There’s a reason oats and Scots / Irish are historically found together. Oats do well in the cold and wet. So well, in fact, that they grow here in California as wild oats in the winter. In the quote below, note the tendency to pause in hot weather, so best planted when cooler. If it gets cooler in the lower States, we can just plant more oats. Notice, too, that the use for hay / straw and bedding is a significant use. We grow a lot of hay for animals that could be grown as grains if we needed it, but we don’t.

When reading this, remember we’re talking about a county in Wisconsin. It’s pretty cold in Wisconsin…

Mike Rankin
Crops and Soils Agent
UW Extension – Fond du Lac County

The recent warm weather has many farmers feeling the itch to get out on the land. Typically, one of the first crops to be planted is that of oats. Although oats harvested as grain is not the prominent crop that it once was, there are still many producers who grow the crop for a supplemental feed source and straw for bedding.

Because oats do not comprise a large agricultural retail market share, nearly all of the plant breeding and research efforts are carried-out by public universities rather than private industry. Badger state farmers are fortunate in that they benefit from a strong small grain research program at the University of Wisconsin.

The ideal planting date for oats in Fond du Lac County is April 15-30. Practically speaking, oats should be seeded in the spring just as soon as the soil is dry enough to till. Oat seed can germinate when soil temperatures are above 34 degrees F. With early planting dates, flowering and seed development can occur before the high temperature period of late June to early July.

In most years, we see a yield penalty for late planting of oats. A recent research effort by UW-Extension Agronomist, Ed Oplinger, revisits the planting date issue with some of our improved Wisconsin varieties.

The study was conducted at the Arlington research station beginning in 1992. Oat yields declined 0.5 bushels per acre per day when planting was delayed from April 18 to May 14. After May 14, yields decreased by 6 to 7 bushels per acre for each week planting was delayed. The early maturity variety, ‘Dane’, had less yield penalty for late planting than the medium maturity variety, ‘Prairie’, or the late maturing variety, ‘Bay’. Maximum oat yields of 73 to 79 bushels per acre were produced by Prairie planted between April 18 and May 14.

Often times we see that oat plants are able to adjust to somewhat later planting dates by shortening the time it takes to head and mature. However, as planting date gets later, the risk for lodging also increases.

Oat forage yields were also measured in the Arlington trial. Yield of forage, harvested when plants were in the boot stage of growth, ranged 0.8 to 2.6 tons per acre of dry matter depending upon variety and planting date. In most situations, forage yields of small grains will not be as influenced by planting date as grain yields.

Where producers are forced to plant oats for grain later than desired, it’s recommended to plant early maturing varieties and increase seeding rates by 25 to 30 percent to offset reduced plant tillering.

So oats are interesting. They just don’t like it all that hot. The “tillering” is the tendency to send out additional stalks from a single plant (and so more yield in longer growing conditions). So if you have to plant it too late and warm, more seeding can be done to make up for that. If things are cooler, you can seed less.

So this is another plant that is good for animal forage, or for us to eat the grains, that likes to grow in the cooler times and will germinate at just above freezing. If it ever gets too cold for corn (about 50 F germination) we can swap to barley and oats. (Oatmeal stout and barley Scotch instead of Bourbon. I think I’ll live! ;-)


Another cold hardy grain, this one is a close relative of wheat. So close, in fact, that they can be crossed to make a hybrid called triticale (covered after wheat).

A Production Perspective on Rye

As the European Commission Expands the Common Agricultural Policy Eastwards, Europe Faces Hard Choices

Rye production in the European Union is well in excess of demand, with unused product piling up in ever increasing stocks (see figure 1). Germany is currently the largest producer. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) has helped maintain Germany’s level of rye production over time while consumption has decreased (figure 2). Germany produces some 2 million metric tons of surplus rye annually that is either stored in government (intervention) facilities or exported to countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China.

That’s enough rye just as excess and just from Germany to feed 4,000,000,000 people for a day. 12 Billion meals. Just the excess from Germany, as a subsistence ration of 1 dry pound per person per day (and 2000 pounds / metric ton – shading it 200 for losses and trivial math ;-) So 2000 lbs (or people days) times 2,000,000 tons. 4 Billion. Now that’s only 11 Million people for the whole year. Still, that’s the ‘leftovers’. Rye can be fed to cows, pigs, chickens, whatever…

Rye once was a primary food and feed source in Germany, however, utilization has been decreasing since the early 1960’s. Non-feed consumption (which includes use in food, seed, industrial and waste) decreased 60 percent over the last thirty years. Feed use dropped 24 percent.

Although rye is inferior in many ways to the predominant cereal crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, rye remains the third most important crop in Germany. Planting rye has significant advantages over other crops. It is considerably more winter hardy than wheat and produces economical yields on poor sandy soils where no other useful crop can grow. It is grown in many areas that have no alternative and is a good rotational crop because of its ability to compete effectively with weeds. Rye used as livestock feed has a low feed value compared to other feed grains and is mixed only in small proportions in feed. On occasion, the international market price of rye, generally below milling wheat prices, makes it an attractive feed grain despite its low feed value.

Germany produces an average 4.5 million tons a year with an average yield of 5.5 tons per hectare. The area for rye has been on an increasing trend over the past ten years from a three-year average 0.66 million to a three-year average 0.81 million hectares, with a record area of 0.94 million hectares in 1998. Yield trend has been increasing in the past decade with a record yield in 2001 (6.13 tons per hectare). For 2002, Germany is forecast to produce 4.5 million tons of rye.

So another cold and crappy soil tolerant crop, being displaced by other crops that pay better or can be made to grow with enough added fertilizers. Yield is about 6 tons / acre, so about 12,000 person-days of grain per acre. 32 people can have subsistence rations for a year off of one acre. An “8 to the acre” small urban home lot would feed 4 people. Yet we plant those lots with ‘rye grass lawns’ and throw away the ‘forage’ we mow…


Wheat is interesting as it comes in a few types. I won’t spend a lot of time on it as this is already too long, but there is ‘winter wheat’ and ‘spring wheat’. Winter wheat is planted so that it is started before winter, then gets really going as soon as the snow melts. Spring wheat is planted later in places where you wait for the land to get warm and dry prior to planting. Some wheat is better for pasta and other wheat is better for bread. (Pasta wheat has more protein, bread about in the middle, cookies and cakes have more starch.)

So really this ought to be divided into two parts based on the two major families (and ignoring specialty wheats), but that will have to be for some other time and posting. Just realize that it is very adaptable. Recently some dork was bleating that Global Warming was going to threaten pasta due to the heat. I posted a link to an Arizona site that was bragging about their superior Pasta wheat. We need to worry about pasta wheat when the entire North American Continent is hotter than Arizona. I’m not worried.

Has some interesting production figures.

Country	Wheat area, ha	Wheat production, Mt	Yield, Mt/ha
WORLD	225,437,694	681,915,838	        3.02
China	24,210,075	114,950,296	        4.75
India	28,400,000	80,680,000	        2.84
Russian Fed.	26,632,900	61,739,750	2.32
USA	20,181,081	60,314,290	        2.99
Australia	13,507,000	21,656,000	1.60
France	5,146,600	38,324,700	        7.45

First off, notice that the yields are all over the place. As low as 1.6 tons / ha. Now remember that rye? Now look at France, 7.45 tons / ha. There is clearly plenty of room to either add fertilizer or shift to a plant, like rye, that is more tolerant of poor soils. (Down below we will see grains more tolerant of low moisture too, so ‘we have choices’). To me this just shouts “minimal cost production of most expensive product”. Folks are choosing to grow the grain that gets the better price, not the one that produces the most gross calories. And why not? We use wheat directly for human bread and noodles. Most barley and rye and oats end up in animal feed or fermented. Prices for “crud to shovel to the pigs” is not as high as “select French bread wheat”.

But clearly we have a lot of ways to get more total food, if needed. For many places, like Australia, it is likely water limited. A colder wetter climate would potentially increase yields there. (If not, we do have those dry climate grain choices).

Now look at total production. That’s about 1.353 Trillion pounds of wheat. That feeds 3.7 Billion people if cooked as whole grains. Just the wheat. No other calorie source. Some is lost to milling as we would rather eat bread than cooked grains. Some is fed to yeast as we like fluffy bread. Some wheat goes to animal feeds. Some is thrown away. There isn’t any shortage of wheat. So where does it go? The wiki on wheat says:

In 2003, global per capita wheat consumption was 67 kg (150 lb), with the highest per capita consumption of 239 kg (530 lb) found in Kyrgyzstan. In 1997, global wheat consumption was 101 kg (220 lb) per capita, with the highest consumption 623 kg (1,370 lb) per capita in Denmark, but most of this (81%) was for animal feed.

You see, the problem isn’t too little food, it’s too much. So much that Denmark feeds wheat to cows and Germany doesn’t know what to do with their surplus Rye. A person can live on on dry pound of grains or legumes (or noodles or…) per day. So even in Kyrgyzstan that 530 lbs says some of that wheat is not going into human food. The ‘global average’ would require the entire population of the planet to be eating nothing but wheat about 40% of the time. Do you eat nothing but wheat 2 out of 5 days? So a lot of that wheat is going to various animals, wheat beer, and who knows what.

Wheat likes a climate that is a bit warmer than the other grains so far discussed. It grows well from Europe to the Levant and in many parts of the USA. Australia is a bit dry, but because wheat sells for a higher price, grows it instead of grains with less water demand and higher yields, but lower prices. Argentina also grows wheat for export. Still, wheat can be grown in warmer places. One summer I found it growing inland from San Francisco in California. There isn’t any problem with wheat until the world is colder than Patagonia or hotter than California Central Valley in the summer.


Mostly of interest as an example of an inter-species cross. Remember, it isn’t really a “species barrier”, only a “species strong suggestion” (and clearly not always strong enough! ;-)

The name also shows up in Star Trek The Original as part of the fictional grain QuadroTriticale. Named when triticale was a trendy new grain and seen as a ‘wonder grain’ to solve world hunger or some such.

It has properties in between wheat and rye and has many opportunities for continued improvement as it can draw on both sets of parental gene pools. Being a polyploid (double chromosomes) you can also chose to ‘mix and match’ between the duplicate chromosomes.

Triticale (trit-ih-KAY-lee) is a crop species resulting from a plant breeder’s cross between wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale). The name triticale (Triticale hexaploide Lart.) combines the scientific names of the two genera involved. It is produced by doubling the chromosomes of the sterile hybrid that results when crossing wheat and rye. This doubling produces what is called a polyploid.

Hybrids between wheat and rye date back to 1875, but until recently there was little effort to develop high yielding triticales as a field crop. Plant breeders originally wanted to include the combination of grain quality, productivity, and disease resistance of wheat with the vigor and hardiness of rye. The University of Manitoba began the first intensive program in North America about 30 years ago working mostly with durum wheat-rye crosses. Both winter and spring types were developed, with emphasis on spring types. Since Canada’s program, other public and private programs have initiated both durum wheat-rye and common wheat-rye crosses. The major triticale development program in North America is now at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, with some private companies continuing triticale programs; however, the University of Manitoba has discontinued its program.

Even though triticale is a cross between wheat and rye, it is self-pollinating (similar to wheat) and not cross pollinating (like rye). Most triticales that are agronomically desirable and breed true have resulted from several cycles of improvement, but are primarily from the durum-rye crosses with some common wheat parentage occasionally involved.

In the 1960’s, approximately 250,000 acres were grown annually in the United States, however markets did not develop as expected, particularly as a food. Today, there are only a few thousand acres grown and much of it is sold as a feed grain. Most of the production is in the western states. The southern states grow winter types which are grazed in the fall. In the Midwest there is some interest in using triticale as a forage crop.

If you look way down the table at that link you will find that triticale has about 1.3 times the yield of wheat. But it’s a little less good at making bread and noodles, so we mostly grow wheat instead. Still, for a bowl of cooked groats, that doesn’t matter. I’ve had bread with modest amounts of triticale in it. It was fine. So even at ratios up to 1/2 we could use it in bread (and I’d bet most folks wouldn’t notice).

So, just sitting on the shelf is a grain that gives about 1/4 to 1/3 more yield and could be easily improved to give more. If anyone cared. But we don’t. Remember that 3.7 Billion people if we fed them on wheat? Make that 4.81 on triticale, or about a Billion people more we could feed. Just from using triticale instead. But we don’t need to, so we don’t.

Corn / Maize

More corn is grown that the other grains. Why? Do YOU eat more corn than bread or rice? Well, maybe indirectly. Mostly it gets fed to cows, chickens, pigs, etc. etc. About 40% of the US crop is fed to cars and trucks. (again)

Country	Maize area, ha	Maize production, Mt	Yield, Mt/ha
WORLD	159,531,007	817,110,509	         5.12
USA	32,209,277	333,010,910	        10.34
China	30,478,998	163,118,097	         5.35
Brazil	13,791,219	51,232,447	         3.71
India	8,400,000	17,300,000	         2.06
Mexico	7,200,000	20,202,600	         2.81
Argentina	2,337,175	13,121,380	 5.61

Once again, look at the yields. The USA runs at 10 tons / ha while most are at 1/2 that or below. Some nearer 1/4. The difference? They don’t spend a lot of money to do it intensively. Loads of fertilizers et al and high growth hybrid / GMO seeds.

Now look at that total tonnage. 817 Million. So about 1.6 Trillion lbs or 4.4 Billion people worth of food. Add that to wheat, and between the two of them we’re at 8.4 Billion people of food for fully grown adults. Just in wheat and corn alone we can feed the entire world. Clearly we have a lot more than that which is produced. We don’t have a limited supply of food, we just use it badly and don’t get it to the people who are hungry.

Also note that we could dramatically increase total corn production just by having a few more countries grow it as intensively has the USA does. Then again, we’re mostly feeding it to farm animals and cars so maybe we just don’t really need to do that.

Corn is a relatively hot season crop. It likes summers in the USA. Global Warming isn’t any kind of problem as the worst that happens is that the corn belt moves into the oats and rye belt and we move UP to 10 tons / ha instead of 2 to 6 tons / ha. If global cooling happens, we can stop feeding corn to cars and have more bread and pancakes. Decisions decisions… There is also one Indian corn (at least one that I know of) which has a ‘tap root’. Most corn has shallow radiating roots. The tap root corn was developed in the Pueblo desert southwest. IF we ever need a drought tolerant corn, it exists. There is work underway to move that gene into commercial hybrid corns, but we’ve not needed it yet.


Sorghum is the old grain that most folks in the “developed world” rarely think about. It is more of an African food grain. In the USA we mostly grow it for bird seed and cattle. It is a very drought tolerant grain. When rains are sparse, it slows down and waits. When rain returns, it takes off again. If times are really good, it puts out more ’tillers’ and makes more grains. In poor times, it just makes a few less and still produces. Millet does the same, but with even less water.

There are two major branches of sorghum. One is sort of like sugar cane and is used to make pancake syrup. The other makes a grain (that looks like large bird seed since a lot is used for bird seed…) I’ve eaten sorghum. It’s not bad.

So we mostly find Sorghum in places with marginal soils and less reliable rains. As corn has become trendy (and subsidized more) we’ve grown less sorghum and more corn. It’s a choice. Cars or chickens…

The big takeaway for sorghum is just that when we go to a more meridional jet stream (as now) it would be better to grow more sorghum. It does quite well with less rain and more sporadic rains. It doesn’t have a ‘crop failure’ like corn, but instead just adjusts to the available rain. Some kinds are even perennial so you don’t have bare dirt to dry and blow away in a drought.

Why are we still planting corn in a meridional flow pattern drought? Well, who has the better lobby in D.C.: The corn ethanol folks or the sorghum folks? … It’s a choice, perhaps a stupid one, but a choice all the same.

As there are several races, varieties and ‘species’, the genetics have a lot to work with for improvements. It will even grow in heavy clay soils that can be problematic for other crops.

The cropping system in the Sorghum Bowl is unique. Instead of growing the crop in the warm summer rainy season it is sown after the rains end in September/October, and harvested in January/February. Farmers plant the crop on heavy clay soils that retain large amounts of the season’s excess rainwater; the sorghum roots then extract that water to support plant growth. The new varieties have been especially taken up by the poorest farmers because they depend the most on rainfed cropping, being least able to afford irrigation water.

The sorghum varieties that are delivering these impressive gains were developed by Indian institutions by improving the traditional ‘Maldandi’ type of varieties cultivated in this area. These new varieties are well adapted to the cold temperatures and short daylength of the winter months, and are tolerant or resistant to drought and to the pests and diseases prevalent during this season such as aphids, shoot fly and charcoal rot. Varieties are currently being developed that will yield larger, brighter grains to attract higher market prices. They derive from crosses made at ICRISAT between the Maldandi types and ‘durra’ sorghum types from East Africa. Hybrid varieties also under development are expected to raise yield by another 20-30 percent. Dr. William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, explained that “Our international role is to encourage South-South sharing of promising technologies such as the durra sorghums of Africa, and the hybrid sorghum technology of India. The benefits flow both ways.”

Has yields similar to corn (though not clear how they compare to the metric yields above)

                Hancock (sand)	Janesville (silt loam)	Lancaster (silt loam)
Corn	        53	         111	                 118
Grain Sorghum	75	         93	                 105

Clearly doing better in sandy soils and falling behind a bit in the better soils. This link has it in ha:

Seed yields may be as low as 200 kg/ha, or as high as 6,000 kg/ha, depending on cv and growing conditions; below 2,000 kg/ha considered not profitable. Average forage yields for silage; Sorgo, ‘Start’, 54.3 MT/ha; ‘Honey’, 48 MT/Iha; ‘Atlas’, 42 MT/ha; Sorgo hybrids, 43.4–71.4 MT/ha. (Reed, 1976) Sorghum is the fourth most important world cereal grain, following wheat, rice, and corn. Worldwide, grain sorghum is grown on more than 40 million hectares, especially in China, India, and Africa.

So about 6 tons / ha with good conditions and fertilizers. Comparable to most of the other grains, but a bit behind the most hyper turbo charged USA corn. Still, lots of production available and with lower risks in volatile rain environments. Plenty of room for genetic improvement too. Oh, and you get silage (forage that is stored / fermented like corn).

So clearly even if rains drop off and become more irregular, we can just swap from corn to sorghum. Sorghum is a bit less ‘digestible’ for cattle, so mixing the feed would require some blending / treatment. Or we can develop sorghum that is more digestible.

Though sorghum is used largely for forage in the US, it is very important in the world’s human diet, with over 300 million people dependent on it (Bukantis, 1980). Grown for grain, forage, syrup and sugar, and industrial uses of stems and fibers. Grain sorghum is a staple cereal in hot dry tropics, the threshed grain ground into a wholesome flour. Stalks used as animal feed. Important summer fodder where temperatures are high and rainfall insufficient for corn. Most important for silage or green soiling, or for hay when grown irrigated in very dry areas. Pearled grain cooked like rice or ground into flour. Sorghum, with large juicy stems containing as much as 10% sucrose, used in manufacture of syrup; sugar can be manufactured from sorghum. Broomcorn used for making brooms. The seed is used as food, in brewing “kiffir beer”, the kiffir corn malt and cornmeal is fermented to make Leting (a sour mash), the pith is eaten, and the sweet culm chewed (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). Arubans make porridge and muffins from sorghum meal. Parched seed are used as coffee substitutes or adulterants (Morton, 1981).

When very young, some kinds have HCN in the leaves and stems, so one must be careful with letting animals graze it. That also, though, reduces some pest problems… As you can see above, it is a very flexible grain. I have sorghum in my ’emergency seed package’. Both some sugar kinds and some seed kinds. Even a ‘broomcorn’ so I can make brooms.

Here’s a pretty good site that describes how to grow it and what pests and risks there are in Texas:

“tamu” is Texas A&M University. As in Ag and Mechanical. As in farmers.

I have one little patch where I have some sorghum growing that has been naturalizing for a couple of years now. We’ll see if it survives this winter. (It is growing shaded by tall kale / collards hybrids…) I’m about to ‘reward it’ with it’s own square and then work on yield. My first selection is usually for “can’t kill it”, then I work a plant back up on other characteristics.


This is the classical small yellow / white “bird seed” for most Americans. In much of the rest of the world it is a staple food. The most interesting thing about it is that it doesn’t need much water. In fact, it is the last grain you can grow before you end up in the sand of the Sahara Desert. If worried about drought and heat, this is your grain.

I use millet flower to make a corn bread analog (as I’ve developed a corn allergy. Nothing serious, I just never need to buy Exlax..) It has a slightly bitter flavor. Not much, but noticeable. That can help keep birds from eating it, so it has it’s place. The coating can be washed off, so it may just be that the commercial millet flower I bought had not fully washed the seeds.

It also makes a nice porridge and cooked grain. There are a few varieties and types, each with there own special features and needs. I’m only going to give a broad idea what it is like.

Pearl millet is one of the two major crops in the semiarid, impoverished, less fertile agriculture regions of Africa and southeast Asia. Millets are not only adapted to poor, droughty, and infertile soils, but they are also more reliable under these conditions than most other grain crops. This has, in part, made millet production popular, particularly in countries surrounding the Sahara Desert in western Africa.

The key point here is that on the very edge of nowhere, you can get a reasonably reliable crop out of millet. Like barley at the far cold north, millet is the other extreme, the hot dry edge of the desert. Tepary beans and millet vs barley and fava beans. In any condition in between too, you can grow a grain and a legume.

Millets, however, do respond to high fertility and moisture. On a per hectare basis, millet grain produced per hectare can be two to four times higher with use of proper irrigation and sustainable soil supplements. Improved breeds of millets improve their disease resistance and can significantly enhance farm yield productivity. There has been a virtuous cycle of cooperation between poor countries to improve millet yields. For example, ‘Okashana 1’, a variety developed in India from a natural-growing millet variety in Burkina Faso, doubled yields. This breed was selected for trials in Zimbabwe. From there it was taken to Namibia, where it was released in 1990 and enthusiastically adopted by farmers. Okashana 1 grew to become the most popular variety in Namibia, the only non-Sahelian country where pearl millet – locally known as mahangu – is the dominant food staple for consumers. ‘Okashana 1’ was then introduced to Chad. The breed has significantly enhanced yields in Mauritania and Benin.

India is the world’s largest producer of millets. In the 1970s, all of the millet crops harvested in India were used as food staple. By 2000s, the annual millets production had increased in India, yet per capita consumption of millets had dropped by between 50% to 75% in different regions of the country. As of 2005, the majority of millets produced in India is being used for alternative applications such as livestock fodder and alcohol production.
Indian organizations are discussing ways to increase millet use as food to encourage more production; however, they have found that some consumers prefer the taste of other grains over millet.

In 2010, the average yield of millet crops worldwide was 0.83 tonnes per hectare. The most productive millet farms in the world were in France, with a nationwide average yield of 3.3 tonnes per hectare in 2010

So here we see the typical pattern. As the economy and productivity develop, folks start feeding grains to animals and eating higher valued foods themselves. The French yield of 3.3 tons / ha is low compared to peak corn and high yield sorghums, but comparable to many wheat and similar grains. So, worst case, if widespread drought starts, we shift to more millet and less grains that fail in drought. The average low yield of less than one ton reflects the difficult conditions under which most millet is grown, not the potential of the plant under good conditions.

Millets are some of the oldest of cultivated crops. The term millet is applied to various grass crops whose seeds are harvested for food or feed. The five millet species of commercial importance are proso, foxtail, barnyard, browntop and pearl. In China, records of culture for foxtail and proso millet extend back to 2000 to 1000 BC Foxtail millet (Setaria italica L.) probably originated in southern Asia and is the oldest of the cultivated millets. It is also known as Italian or German Millet. Its culture slowly spread westward towards Europe. Foxtail millet was rarely grown in the U.S. during colonial times, but its acreage increased dramatically in the Great Plains after 1850. However, with the introduction of Sudan grass, acreage planted to foxtail millet decreased.

Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) was introduced into the U.S. from Europe during the 18th century. It was first grown along the eastern seaboard and was later introduced into the Dakotas where it later was grown on considerable acreage. In North Dakota acreage has ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres while in Minnesota only a few thousand acres have been grown.

Today, foxtail millet is grown primarily in eastern Asia. Proso millet is grown in the Soviet Union, mainland China, India and western Europe. In the United States, both millets are grown principally in the Dakotas, Colorado and Nebraska.

Barnyard or Japanese millet (Echinochloa frumentaceae L.), is a domesticated relative of the seed, barnyard grass. It is grown for grain in Australia, Japan and other Asian countries. In the United States, it is grown primarily as a forage.

Browntop millet (Panicum ramosum) is a native of India and was introduced into the United States in 1915. It is grown in southeastern United States for hay or pasture and bird and quail feed plantings on game preserves. It is sometimes sold to Minnesota sportsmen for this purpose. Seed and forage yields of browntop millet have been low in Minnesota tests and it did not compete well with weeds.

Pearl or cattail millet (Pennisetum glaucum) originated in the African savannah and grown since prehistoric time. It is grown extensively in Africa, Asia, India and Near East as a food grain. It was introduced into the United States at an early date but was seldom grown until 1875. It is primarily grown in southern United States as a temporary pasture. It is preferred over sudangrass as a forage crop in the south. Varieties planted at Rosemount, Minnesota produced very little seed, and their forage yield was low compared to foxtail varieties.

In particular, note the mixed use as both food an fodder. Some millets doing a poor job of setting seeds in cooler wetter places. This is not the grain for high cold places, but for hotter dryer ones. Yet there are many millets to choose from and some are better than others in different places. I find the “prehistoric times” reference interesting. So much for the dawn of agriculture with Egypt…

Consider, too, those places in Australia with water limited lower wheat yields. Here is a grain that would do rather well in hot dry places. If we ever really needed more gross production, it can be had. But we prefer fluffy wheat bread at lower production per acre to millet bread or porridge. Again, it is driven by choice, not need, and certainly not a limitation of land or water.

Which brings us to rice.

If, at this point, you’ve got the feeling we’ve fed the world a couple of times over, you would be right. It’s all those beef steaks and chicken eggs… We would still have some of them even if we were just using forage and fodder, since there is a lot of primary productivity in the stems and leaves of the grains too. But we have more grains that we can use, so feed it to more animals. And we still have rice to go.


Rice comes in a bunch of kinds. From short and fat to sweet and sticky. White, brown, black and red. Valley and mountain. It is grown in rice paddies flooded to kill weeds and on mountain hillsides in high terraces. It is one of the most widely grown grains in the world. It grows best in temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates with fair to high humidity. Unlike high cold deserts or dry desert edges, rice does best in hot wet to medium wet. It is so wet adapted you can get it to grow under flooded swampy conditions. This is used as a cheap easy way to kill weeds, but you can get higher grain yields by other means. Rice does not need a flooded rice paddy.

Has a lot of nice information along with some maps and charts. Yet of particular interest is the Rice Intensification Institute.

In particular, note these points from there ‘methods’ page:

SRI Principles

SRI methodology is based on four main principles that interact with each other:

Early, quick and healthy plant establishment
Reduced plant density
Improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter
Reduced and controlled water application

Based on these principles, farmers can adapt recommended SRI practices to respond to their agroecological and socioeconomic conditions. Adaptations are often undertaken to accommodate changing weather patterns, soil conditions, labor availability, water control, access to organic inputs, and the decision whether to practice fully organic agriculture or not. The most common SRI practices for irrigated rice production are summarized in the following section.

In addition to irrigated rice, the SRI principles have been applied to rainfed rice and to other crops, such as wheat, sugarcane, teff, finger millet, pulses, showing increased productivity over current conventional planting practices. When SRI principles are applied to other crops, we refer to it as the System of Crop Intensification or SCI (see SCI section of the website for details).

So all of this is applicable to the other grains we’ve already seen.

What all does ‘intensification’ get you?

OK, the “typical” rice yields are about the same as other grains. 4 tons / ha. In Australia, up to 10 tons / ha (rather like USA corn). Under intensification?

World's most productive rice farms and farmers

The average world yield for rice was 4.3 tonnes per hectare, in 2010.

Australian rice farms were the most productive in 2010, with a nationwide average of 10.8 tonnes per hectare.[69]

Yuan Longping of China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center, China, set a world record for rice yield in 2010 at 19 tonnes per hectare on a demonstration plot. In 2011, this record was surpassed by an Indian farmer, Sumant Kumar, with 22.4 tonnes per hectare in Bihar. Both these farmers claim to have employed newly developed rice breeds and System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a recent innovation in rice farming.
SRI is claimed to have set new national records in rice yields, within the last 10 years, in many countries. The claimed Chinese and Indian yields have yet to be demonstrated on seven-hectare lots and to be reproducible over two consecutive years on the same farm.

So we're looking at about 4 times the typical and twice the best.

How much rice is grown? About the same as wheat.

Country 	Rice area, ha	Rice production, Mt	Yield, Mt/ha
WORLD   	161,420,743	678,688,289	        4.20
India   	44,100,000	131,274,000     	2.98
China   	29,932,292	197,257,175     	6.59
Indonesia	12,883,576	64,398,890      	5.00
Bangladesh	11,500,000	45,075,000      	3.92
Thailand	10,963,126	31,462,886      	2.87
Viet Nam	7,440,100	38,895,500      	5.23

So just by using Rice Intensification we could feed the entire world. 3.7 Billion people before intensification. 14 Billion after. Ignoring ALL other food.

In Conclusion

So this is a pretty happy note. We can feed the world a couple of times over as things stand today. With some modest effort, we can quadruple that. Anyone who is not fully fed is hungry due to the choices of people about what kinds of food they prefer and political decisions about power and greed. We can simply change our choices and feed everyone.

Furthermore, we have in hand plenty of methods to increase productivity for a couple of more doubles of population. All without “meatless days” or any kind of deprivation.

Beyond that, there are even more choices. Reclamation of marginal lands (remember that buckwheat?). Multiple cropping of more lands. Heck, we haven’t even begun to look at exotic techniques like hot houses, green houses with added CO2 and multiple layers of plants with artificial lighting, home gardens and rooftop gardens (green roofs) or aquaculture. Algae can give another 10 x primary productivity increase as well.

If the climate changes; hotter, colder, wetter, drier, or even just more variable, we have a plant for that.

In short, there’s plenty of head room and we don’t need to worry about a thing.


I’ve added an interesting calculation. There is a ‘rule of thumb’ for calculating survival rations. It works pretty well. That rule of thumb is one pound of dry goods per person per day. So a single pound of rice can give you three meals. In many ways this is generous. (Just try cooking a pound of rice and eating it. I put one cup of rice in the rice-cooker and it is more than two of us can eat in a meal.) Then again, we don’t really like to eat parched grains or steamed rice and nothing else.

But still, to figure out the “just surviving” level of food to store, it is a useful metric. It doesn’t really matter if you are looking at rice, corn, beans, lentils, millet, whatever. Yes, for a farmer figuring profit and loss on cattle feeding it is horribly insufficient. There you need to know within pennies what the yield / lb of each individual grain will be. Yes, for a nutritionist it is horribly insufficient, as you need to know that all the individual amino acids, starch and sugars, fatty acids, etc. have been provided by any one ration. Just eat polished rice, you get beri-beri from vitamin deficiency and likely scurvy too.

Yet it is sufficient to measure “how close to the edge are we”? on gross calories and foods.

So here’s my rough cut numbers. I used 10 tons / hectare as the yield. Since we can get that from both corn and rice (and likely others with some intensification). Part way through I’m going to transition form metric to American units. Why? Because I find each one useful for different things. By that point the Metric folks can do the rest on their own anyway, and I doubt most folks care that the yield is in metric tons / hectare at the start. So, unless I’ve had a “NASA Moment” with the numbers, it ought to look like this:

1	Lb  / person day
365	Days / year
10	Tons / hectare
22000	Lbs / hectare

60.27	people years / hectare

2.47	Acres / hectare
24.40	people years / acre

10,000,000,000	people / earth
165,909,091	hectares  to feed everyone
409,795,455	acres to feed everyone

640,305 	sq miles
800	        Miles / side

800 Miles on a side fits comfortably inside the USA without going past the Rocky Mountains. Texas is about 908 miles ‘edge to edge’ IIRC the mile markers as a waited desperately for them to count down to “out of Texas” on so many road trips. (Interstate 10 goes ‘the long way’ from El Paso to Houston and on out the east side. It can seem like a lifetime some times. It is 1/3 of the drive from California to Florida.)

So what this is saying is that the land area needed to give everyone a “survival ration” can be placed smack dab in the USA Corn Belt and not slop out of it on either side, nor into Canada nor Mexico.

Now think about that just a minute. That is the TOTAL land area needed to feed the entire world. No, not on steaks and fried chicken. On emergency “aw shit” rations.

Two necessary conclusions come from this.

1) The only reason anyone starves is not a productivity reason.

2) In any sort of global calamity, as long as one patch that big is still doing OK, folks can eat.

Or the corollary that we can take the equivalent yield loss around the planet and get enough from much reduced yields to live.

We don’t need to clear the Amazon to feed a starving planet. We don’t need to watch people in Ethiopia starve in a drought. We don’t need to choose “Meatless Mondays” to “save the planet” or starving folks in Asia. If we got the same level of productivity from other major farming areas around the planet, we end up with massive grain surpluses that can’t be soaked up even if we fed it to cattle and all ate steaks.

It is a choice for our own personal reasons to have anyone starve, to have or not have meat (and it will do nothing to ‘save a starving person’ nor the planet), or to feed grain to cars. It would be, IMHO, far better to fix whatever political and economic problems do leave some folks in poverty. It would be far better to reverse the trend from mechanized advanced farming to subsistence farms with low yields in places like Zimbabwe. But those are essentially political acts, not technological.

Technological answers say nobody need go hungry, even in horrible crop failures and that all of us can have meat, eggs, and balanced meals with grains every day in normal times. Everything else is a choice…

(I hope I’ve not messed up the numbers. I’m doing this having just woke up and pre-coffee ;-) The things that come to me while sleeping… Did I mention the brain doesn’t quite ‘shut off’ ;-)

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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...
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109 Responses to Grains, and why food will stay plentiful

  1. EM, just for interest, the BBC had a news item about food wastage. A UK study has said that half the food produced is thrown away because it’s out of date or has deteriorated in storage. If that is true, then we could feed twice the number in the world by keeping production the same and improving distribution/storage. Then another doubling/quadrupling again by the methods you’ve outlined. If things get really bad, then the 100 billion world population may need to start thinking about giving up meat or using a substitute, but that seems a long way in the future.

    You pointed out in a few posts how “stuff” wasn’t going to run out. Food shortage is just another myth.

  2. DirkH says:

    Remark about Germany: We have huge fields of corn now. They used to be only in Bavaria mostly for animal feed but now corn is cultivated all over Germany, as farmers have found out that subsidized biogas converters love corn as feedstock. The technology was originally intended to use only the slash but it works much better with the good parts of the plant added…

    Of course this leads to the usual outcry from people who fear that it makes people starve somewhere in Africa – well, if their protests help to abandon the subsidy regime I won’t mind, but starvation in Africa insofar as it still happens is not related to exactly how much we overproduce. They could have our rye any day as you point out…

  3. Julian Jones says:

    Excellent overview very many thanks; and as SD points out productivity is not the problem. But there is more to this than just productivity. Whole-cycle economics maybe important here, including social consequences … (bread & circuses?).
    Obesity is one flip side of our grain focussed food system … other unaccounted externalised costs ranging from contamination of aquifers, loss of fisheries, acceleration of flood / drought cycle, and I believe significant thermal effects too.
    Here in the Cotswolds those unaccounted costs include soil erosion losses of upwards of 60/tonnes / Ha / per annum – of material that once in our rivers has a nutrient value of upwards of £100/tonne as fertiliser – where our topsoil is so thin now many field areas are more rock than soil (and still planted each year) – and my hopes of good fishing ever more trashed (perhaps I’m just selfish) :

    Click to access Stroud-Soil-Erosion-Risk_Water21_170311.pdf

    Maybe, those recent fires raging in Australia are as much to do with the results of 50+ years of similar aridification & dessication of landscapes by ‘modern’ farming as any real climatic variability, natural or otherwise …
    There are some great things going on ‘down-under’ food wise (and elsewhere) a growing minority of ‘carbon farmers’, not because they’re signed up to some notional global warming scheme (or your ‘Church’) – quite the opposite, precisely because they are not – free-thinking pragmatic people interested in better, more economically viable food production (lack of subsidies in Aus helps such thinking).
    I was able to visit some of these great people a few years back, at the end of the last drought. If you want to see how to germinate barley in a drought and a range of other views, not just organic, some chemicals still used by some – here is link to a rough edit film I made of this (45mins – broadacre farming from mid point) :

  4. BobN says:

    This was a great overview and close to my heart. I am a retired Engineer that has been working on some free energy ideas that look very promising. My goal is to take the free energy and prove that year round fish and shrimp farming is possible and profitable, indoors and in a cold climate. I have 300 acres here in Oregon and a huge steel barn. I have plans to stack tanks and heat the water to produce shrimp year round. I am far along on the design and how to automate everything, just need the free energy to happen, which could be as early as this year.
    I have talked to a shrimp distributor and he would take 5000 pounds a week, to start. I can automate the whole thing and will need only a couple people to run the day to day. My biggest expense is the Fish food. I’m trying to figure out what I can grow on my 300 acres to produce food for the fish.
    Your write up has given me some ideas to research – thank you
    Getting rid of the disease in shrimp shipped from Asia should help the food chain greatly.

  5. nemesis says:

    Cows not just for meat;;
    Byproducts from cattle:Hides- Shoes, bags, gloves and other leather goods,- Footballs- Baseballs
    Fats; – Manufacture of Oleomargerine, Soaps, Animal Feeds, Industrial Oils, Lubricants, Leather Dressing, Candles, Fertilizer, Cosmetics (lipstick, facecream, hand cream)
    Horns and Hooves; Napkin rings, Knife and Umbrella Handles, Combs, Buttons
    Blood; Refining of sugar, Blood Sausage, Stock Feeds, Making Shoe Polish
    Bones and Cartilage; Bone China, Stock Feed, Fertilizer, Glue,
    Other foods; Lard, Cheese, Milk, Gelatine.
    Other stuff; Surgical sutures, Strings for various musical instruments, Strings for Tennis rackets.
    Pharmaceutical preparations,Collagen, photography, culture for bacteria media, Lots of medical treatments etc etc etc.

  6. Zeke says:

    Regarding the system of rice intensification, I would scrutinize this very, very rigourously before accepting any of its scientific claims, or its implementation. If you examine the actual methodology, it is sugar-coated organic farming. Some of the rice growing method studies coming out of China are actually disruptive, like transplanting, and draining fields in mid growth, or changing the traditional planting day.

    In fact, the agreements for sustainable agriculture that China has aggressively been seeking with the EU and with the Dept of Agriculture in the US involve tighter water controls, fewer approved cultivars, organic fertilizers, and elimination of pest and herbicides. It basically sets farming practices back in time, all in the name of “sustainablilty.” The Sec General of the Rio Sustainability summit Sha Zukang is a Chinese Communist who openly despises our country.

    This effort by China and the sustainability scientists should be considered a possible effort at economic espionage. This is the unlawful effort by one country to gain access to and undermine sensitive economic policies. This should rationally be considered, because the alternative is that China really loves the planet earth and just wants to save the world by setting back farming to the Medieval period.

    I will provide ample references, but links have triggered the spam filter today. And one final thought, China to this day does not allow internet searches or discussion of what happened during the Great Leap Forward. This was another grand scheme by government and scientists to “improve farming yields” which resulted in 35 million deaths by starvation and forced the peasants off of their land. So until China is honest about that, I would not accept any sustainability plans for growing rice from the Communists.

  7. Power Grab says:

    What a great review! Thanks! As usual, there were many nuggets of information in that review that I did not know before.

    However, until about 5 weeks ago, I would have just about hurled at the idea of using even more grain. The reason for that is that, not only do many of the health writers I follow look askance at our excessive use of grains (and sugars), but I also had gotten to the point in December 2011 of trying to eliminate wheat from my diet. It had become a reliable source of gastric distress for me to the point where I could count on having to spend three days close to the loo if I ate wheat. So I have been leaning towards a gluten-free existence for the past year or so.

    In the last 5 weeks, I believe I have figured out that the real problem was the water (or rather the chloramine in the water, and the dichlorophenol in the water and the wheat and the Triclosan) that were at the root of the situation. Since I used a particular probiotic to replenish the “good bugs” and have been avoiding the tap water, I have been able to eat amazing amounts of wheat and avoid the digestive distress. I can even eat commercially-prepared wheat foods, as long as I avoid the tap water and foods made using tap water. I like spring water and have been using it, along with some well water from a friend’s farm. However, I am confident that simply switching water would not have been enough. The specific probiotic was a crucial piece of the puzzle.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve added an ‘update’ on how large a square of dirt can provide survival ration level of grains to the people of the planet. If I’ve not messed up the numbers (no coffee yet ;-) it is a square about 800 miles on a side. The USA ‘corn belt’ alone is about that size.


    A lot of the “out of date” comes directly from substituting government regulation for noses.

    I’ve seen packages with things that take years to really ‘go bad’ with ‘use by’ dates in months. The manufacturers have an interest in you tossing stuff…

    I regularly use food stored for far longer than the package ‘allows’. Yogurt, for example. I’m sorry, but it is a fermented food product. When it gets older, it just ‘yogs’ more (and not enough to notice either). I’ve made my own. You let it set at 100 F for more or less time, rotting away, to suit your tastes. Yet each little store bought tub has a ‘toss date’ on it that is just weeks away. Crazy, really.

    But yes, in a real food shortage folks would learn to ‘sniff and eat’ pretty quickly instead of saying “Yesterday this cheese was fine, but today it is crap, as the date changed.” (Talk about crazy. Cheeses that ‘age’ for a couple of years in cool storage with ‘use by’ dates of weeks…)



    @Julian Jones:

    Oh boy, more to watch! (After coffee though… just woke up ;-)

    Yes, the ‘mining of the soil’ is just dumb. Some folks in the midwest USA have started doing more “organic” farming and rediscovering that normally soil builds, not erode away. Animals help in this. Just feed them the slash, forage, Distillers grains, etc. and put the poo back on the land. (The US FDA seems hell bent to ban manure…) It’s not hard at all to start the virtuous circle that improves the land.

    One of the reasons I like sorghum and millet is that come kinds are perennial. Don’t need to till and dry. My garden squares were first dug in ‘hard pan clay’ under a layer of thin topsoil. Now the are about 2 feet deep of nice soil with good tilth. Just turn in the ‘left overs’ and the bunny poo ;-)

    But at least once the present ‘crop’ of soil miners are done with it, it can be bought cheap by the real farmers. Start with buckwheat and beans and work it back up…


    Um, trout love cold water. Idaho has a natural advantage in trout farms. Biggest issue is a source of clean fresh water… Not a problem growing trout year round up north.

    FWIW, an interesting shrimp farming method is to take an open pond (ought to work in a tank too) and pile farm ‘waste’ in one corner. Lots of little bugs live on the waste. Shrimp eat what ventures from the ‘waste corner’ into the rest of the pond. Essentially free shrimp food.

    You could likely standardize that system for tanks with selected things to break down the ‘waste’. An algae to soak up the nitrogen et. al. Just need sunshine (or LEDs ?)

    Shrimp are basically just scavengers, so no need to feed them ‘fish food’ really.


    Don’t get me started on all the things you can make with ‘animal parts’… it will be 5 dozen pages and several industries!

    I used to say “they use everything but the Moo” then realized that on TV shows someone has to provide the recorded Mooo sounds…

    But yes, it’s not like the only product is a nice cut of meat. Fish and chicken too. “Fish meal” is fed to chickens (all the parts we don’t eat) and bone meal goes back on the soil. It’s a cycle that never ends.

  9. Zeke says:

    But then again, the system of rice intensification (SRI) could be farming heaven:

    “Non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam, Africare, and Worldwide Fund for Nature have been instrumental in the adoption of SRI, says Levine. “NGOs are working with the farmers and have been important in building relationships with other organizations.”

    One of those organizations is the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, which has an SRI Group that facilitates research, global market development and information sharing and maintains a global SRI website.

    More recently, the World Bank has taken a proactive role in promoting SRI, Vent says.”

    What could go wrong?

  10. Zeke says:

    If anyone is not up to speed yet, NGOs stands for ‘non-governmental organizations,” who operate as charities, non-profits and scientific advocacy groups who are going to save the “fragile planet” earth from the terrible future “tipping points” caused by humans in the Anthropocene Age. In particular, scientists have determined incontrovertibly that the crops, cattle, fire, electricity and water used by free people is destructive to any one or all systems in the natural world.

  11. R. de Haan says:

    History (well documented example, the Irish famine triggered by the potatoe disease) shows it’s not the lack of food that triggered the Irish famine and the following mass immigrations but the lack of money, read poverty. Even today in Africa, Asia and the Middle East this is true. Hiking fuel and food prices make poor people and poor countries extremely vulnerable. In this regard we have to oppose the mandate of turning food crops into bio fuels. It is a stupid mandate that is going to hit the wall short term. Will Eshenbach in a respone at WUWT claimes that the biomass we need to fuel our economies is 10.000 times the biomass we need to feed the planet. It;s a dead end street. He refered to for his figures. Recently carried an article claiming that if it wasn’t for the biofuel boom global farmland would have decreased by 4% over the past 10 years. Instead precious tropical forrests were cut down to make place for palm oil plants for bio fuel. Now if you look at the effects of Agenda 21 that only in the Netherlands has turned tensof thousands of hectars excellent agricultural lands into nature resorts (Natura 2000 program) I come to the conclusion that the bankrupting of entire nations, the bio fuel mandate, the CO2 taxes putting a penalty on distribution costs and Agenda 21 have one single objective: population reduction by reduction of the economic basis and the tightning of the food production and supply. The fact that we have almost 1 billion of people on the brink of starvation is evidence enough.. Just read the series of articles Spengler wrote about the Arab Spring and the upcoming food and energy crises in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt etc. at for more insight in what’s going on. According to Spengler over 40 million people in Egypt alone are on the brink of a famine epidemic, the biggest famine since the Pharao’s.

  12. BobN says:

    @ EM – I have a lot of well water and good water rights, plus I have a stream running through the property. In reality, I need very little water as I filter the water and reuse it, so water only needs to be added as part of the normal losses. I will use the well water as tapping into the stream water opens a whole new regulatory door I do not want to walk through.

    I selected Shrimp and Tilapia based on grow time and market price. You need to select something that can turn over quite fast to be profitable. Down the road Trout may indeed be added in. I read that a large Tuna fish just sold in Japan for 1.8 million, hmmmm!

    Your suggestion on the food is good, but may have real issues with regulators. I called the state office on food regulations and posed a few questions. Any fish raised for public consumption is regulated and watched very carefully, so real caution is warranted. The regulations requirements may dictate what is used. In the open pond systems used in the South and Asia suffer high fall out rates because diseases. By clean filtered water and a pure food supply and possibly boiling the recycled water I hope to have 90% efficiency compared to 60% on open air systems.

    Technically your right on the food and it would be great as my son-in-law on the next farm up raises cows, so it could be ideal. I am looking at various ground grain assortments and have looked into bug growing. The government is crazy about regulating the food source, Oregon is as bad as California, if not worse. I’m finding the engineering being the easy part, the regulatory issues are huge. Its “mind blowing” to talk to the state and Federal regulators. I spent 2 hours on the phone chatting with one of these guys, I found a friendly ear on the subject. He said I should approach the University and see if I can be used in their Ag research. If I get the university involved, the regulators tend to go easy on you. Its too bad its not just about the business of making and selling a good product.

  13. A short note on “sell by” and “use by dates”. I have a pack of Himalayan pink salt that was laid down, fairly obviously, when the Himalayas were under the ocean and rising out of it. Mined and ground as-is without preservatives added. Best before April 2015.

    Normally, yoghourts only taste good after the “use by” date, and Livarot cheese (“le colonel” because of the three bands of straw around it) takes a while to achieve the true piquancy and aroma expected. They should have a “wait until” date, really.

    My stepdaughter threw out my bit of Stilton once because it was mouldy. Oh well….

  14. R. de Haan says:

    Just read Spengler’s “Hunger to come to Egypt:

  15. John F. Hultquist says:

    An interesting post. Thanks. I’ve got just a couple of thoughts to add.

    I had a dry rocky spot years ago and hand broadcast buckwheat just to get some cover and roots started to hold it down. I suppose the birds and mice were happy (and on up the food chain). My only problem then was finding a local source for the seed. I like a little such flour in my pancakes. But until “the day comes” I’ll source grain products at the local grocery store. Many fruits – as you mention – take up little space and produce more than a small family can use. Many things are easy to give away. Okay, maybe not Zucchini.

    Fruits, such as apples can be dried, then frozen if you want them to last years. I like fresh frozen things better, such as berries. When growing the latter (or anything for that matter) a little forethought is good. Folks love strawberries but raspberries are less demanding. Peaches are not good keepers while some apples (Winter-Banana: yellow with a blush) will keep for months. I like fresh crisp pears but have little desire for them otherwise, but do have a few dried. I’ll add a plug for Carpathian walnuts.

  16. Julian Jones says:

    R. de Haan : You make very valid points about Agenda 21; which, ‘mug’ that I am I have tried to work within throughout the last 20 years. It’s premise of ‘community led’ development is what might be called at least twaddle – at the worst a sinister top down controlled mechanism for the sort processes you describe. You may be right.
    It certainly is naive to think a ‘community’ actually could lead anything much; such processes just become controlled by bureaucrats & party political activists. A locally oriented diverse free-market approach is far the best approach of course. Scale is all. Big is not beautiful, its often not efficient & brutal.
    … and much the same for agriculture – family scale farms with mixed cropping and as EM says, good supplies of manure & clean organic trash etc. Where the farmer is allowed to do what they know best with little regulation, (which, if farming can be weaned from its many toxic inputs should be more feasible) and the other tyranny, that of big agribusiness in its many forms, prescribing homogenous processes that mostly benefit agribusiness.

  17. BobN says:

    @ John f. Hultquist – Batter Fried Zucchini slices, Hum!

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Just did a small experiment. Decided to test my ‘dry pound a day’ rule of thumb. Breakfast was a bowl of rice.

    First off, I ran into an interesting and unexpected thing. “A pint is a pound the world around.” This is something of an Americanism as the English pint is bigger. “”A pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter” is what my Mum said before she was Americanized.

    But there is a deeper history behind it leading back to Tower Pounds. That will have to wait for another day and another posting.

    So I’m using the American pound and the American pint. I take my rice and pour 1/2 cup. Yes, that’s only 1/4 of an American pint. But I figure based on trying to split one cup of dry rice between the spouse and me that I’m going to be a bit challenged eating it. As I’m weighing that 1/4 cup, it comes to exactly 4 ounces. Nice round unit, I think. Into the rice cooker it goes.

    So when it’s cooked, I put it into a medium bowl. It’s a pretty good bowl full. I did “cheat” and sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on it and added an ounce or so of milk, but one could have them in dry storage as well… and it WAS only 4 ounces, not 16/3 ounces… 16/4 instead.

    Well, I finished it, but I had to work at it. I had about 1/3 of a cup left and just was not hungry any more. Still, I got it all swallowed. I could do that 4 times a day, but I would not be hungry. So I’m pretty sure my “one pound dry per day” is a decent metric / rule of thumb. More for folks doing a lot of physical labor, less for those just sitting and waiting for the storm to end.

    But back at “4 ounces”… While it was cooking I was thinking… Mum called that a ‘gill’ (Jill). There’s 2 of them to a cup. That’s 4 of them to a pint. 4 x 4 is 16. That’s a pound. WAIT a minute… That’s one pound of dry grain in a pint?!

    Yes, density varies with the grains. Barley and maize will be different. But not all that different for casual use. Often ancient units of measure were based on real grains. (Thus the ‘grain’ unit of very small weight). Could it really be that simple? Is “a pint is a pound the world around” really about measuring dry grains? (Water is 8 1/4 lbs / gallon, so it’s not exactly water…)

    Two things learned, then. Think about grain when measuring ancient measuring systems. A dry pound of food is a lot of food. Probably ought to figure out the calories, but realistically, in an emergency if I used up a dozen pounds of body fat while being stuffed full of grains 4 times a day, I’m not seeing the problem… ;-)


    Oh Gawd, what great examples! Like tossing out ‘mouldy blue cheese’… that’s the whole point behind blue cheeses, the blue mold…


    Look into UV water sterilizers. Much less energetic than boiling and likely already regulatory approved. Oh, and ozone treatment too. Recycling the water ‘has issues’ with quality but can be done. I used a gravel bed with circulation / spray so the nitrogens would be degraded (ammonia build up is a killer, literally. Before building anything large, make a 250 gallon tank and experiment as a ‘hobby’ – thus no regulators… I had Tilapia in my garage for a few years ;-)

    Tilapia are territorial and ‘mouth breeders’. You rapidly get a massive number of small fish if you don’t keep the reproduction down. Bottom ‘structure’ encourages nest building and territorial fights. Having a ‘nest tank’ for breeders and a non-structure grow out for production is better. In some ways it’s easier to do egg layers as the two operations can be divided.

    Get a good book on Aquaculture and study it. I did. It was worth it. Most of these things, and more, have been thought through. Even if you do it another way, knowing where the traps are helps.


    Yeah, I’m worried about the paranoid kleptocrats too. Frankly, that’s part of why I dabble in DIY toy farming. So when they screw things up, it doesn’t stop my dinner…

    @R. de Haan:

    Yes. It is a deliberate man-made destructive assault on human life. It is part of their belief system and fundamental philosophy. “Population Control” as absolutely first and most important. All based on a broken Malthusian world view.

    That is why I do the “not running out” postings and postings like this one. I hope that in some small way it can help stop the incredibly brain dead thinking that we are “running out” and the answer is to kill off a few Billion people.

    With that said, the Muslims have an insanity of their own in wanting to have unlimited births and a ‘war of the womb’ with population pyramids that look like squat chocolate drops (Hershey’s Kisses). That is a recipe for disaster as it IS a Malthsian wet dream. See here:

    for ‘bad, but not so bad’ and here:

    for really really bad…

    IMHO, we have an engineered “disaster for effect” underway. If “Never let a disaster go to waste” is your mantra, it is a short step to “engineer disasters as needed”.

    So, want world government? What better than a food shortage due to ‘global warming’ and a need to better ‘redistribute’ the food to ‘avoid the famine’?

    Catastrophist thinking is a catastrophe! ;-)

  19. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    11 January 2013 at 11:53 pm
    “Catastrophist thinking is a catastrophe! ;-)”
    100 % Right, but despite the fact that we know what their plans are we behave like sitting ducks.

    The time has come to stand up and confront them.

  20. Zeke says:

    “Tyranny” is an interesting word. Perhaps we would all benefit by discussing the use of the term “tyranny.” When I buy rice or any other food voluntarily at a store, or I buy gas from a gas station, or electricity from a coal-fired power plant, I do not regard that as tyranny. I happen to buy rice from growers in the US; in fact, the largest US miller and distributer feeds my family affordably. I do not regard this in any way as a form of tyranny, and I also do not seek in any way to compel any hippies or eco-puritans to buy it. I also buy frozen vegetables from 3 different continents for 1.62 per bag and do not consider it a form of tyranny to purchase food from other countries, or even from other states. How do we manage to stretch the term tyranny to apply to this process?

    A government mandate to use “renewable” energy against my will, on the other hand, or to purchase expensive organic products, or sneaky back door restrictive water legislation based on scary, bogus water models is much, much closer to what most of us understand when using the term “tyranny.” – That is, the use of the force of government to coerce me to purchase what I do not want, and further, to diminish my purchasing power altogether through rising costs.

    Anyone who does not prefer to eat GM foods or who prefers organic foods, or who is a vegetarian, is free to research growers on the internet and live under their privately held dietary preferences, just like religious people always do in our free society, for many have dietary restrictions.

  21. BobN says:

    I watch the insanity of the world and government and see an obvious effort on self destruction, so they can rebuild it anew, there way.
    I sit and do nothing and wonder why no one does anything – here in lies the problem.
    Its always hard to be the first, just ask the vets hitting Omaha, or Iwo Jima, but at some point you have no choice and must act.

  22. Julian Jones says:

    Zeke : Tyranny – ‘Cruel and oppressive government or rule.’
    If what you purchase has a grossly inflated price or spurious value, you are being oppressed.
    As you suggest “bogus water models” is an excellent example. How does this work out ? In UK, fail to protect the public interest in protection from flooding by not bothering to implement any level of government planning for the intensification & accelerated rain run-off effects of farming & built development for decades (mostly commercial developments, implemented poorly by mainly large scale corporations) – when the inevitable effects of this occur, allow a theory about CO2 in the atmosphere to prevail as the cause, hey presto, we have a tyranny – the less well off (who most often live in flood risk areas) are then forced to buy ‘IPP’ – individual Property Protection (throw some limited grants around to soften the blow), the clots in the govt Treasury think this is great because it creates economic activity, but actually it’s just unnecessary ‘social complexity’ (that creates just another industry to support the CO2 theory) … and because the IPP doesn’t actually provide any useful protection, insurance rates have to keep rising, as do serious stress levels of the householders at risk (and sorry EM), for whom catastrophe can be a regular occurrence. In the UK Govt is now suggesting a 10% flood levy be placed on all households : I call that ‘Cruel and oppressive government or rule.’
    Whereas, Govt with any competence or basic understanding of land planning would compensate for these effects – most sensibly by putting back some of the wetlands that have been lost – not as some top down imposed solution, but simply by enabling those farmers to do what they want (many many of them) who have always wanted to store water on their land (but were stopped from doing so) for a load of uses; irrigation reservoirs mostly to dramatically increase productivity & profitability – but of course that would then compromise other major commercial interests who are keen to use a sort of food scarcity scam to corner more business by patenting dubious crops to resolve illusory problems (and whose real whole-cycle costs are not accounted for), and so we go on.

    Click to access Individual-Property-Protection-and-Flood-Insurance_Water21_March-2012.pdf

  23. John Robertson says:

    Thanks for the food posting, you are right there is far more food than we need, as has been the case in recent famines, plenty of food but no will to transport it where needed nor move the people to the food.
    Any international shortage will be artificial.
    As a last resort I do not discount Puha & Pakeha, a dish you covered on your Chatham Island post.
    Vegans, especially eco-righteous vegans, top my list.

    The irony of these schemes to rule the world never seems to occur to the would be rulers.
    Government barely works, bureaucracy destroys society and human nature never changes.
    Yet they figure more govt,with rigid bureaucracy and more force will create their utopia.

    First off , when you collapse society all bets are off, people are not predictable .
    Then what, the elite are gonna retreat to their bunkers and wait out the chaos?
    But bunkers need security staff and attendants, who do not need the elite when the troubles hit.
    And when your whole premise for wishing harm on the rest of mankind is based on delusion and inbred stupidity, causing an irrational fear, who you gonna trust? How can you trust?

    Competent psychiatric help would be so much cheaper for them and perhaps when cured of the self loathing and fear, these people could go enjoy their wealth.
    Now reasonable people are slow to react, hence are always one step behind the obsessed in the beginning, but these obsessions create there own blindness.
    Defund the UN, if necessary defund our own governments, by pulling taxable labour.
    As govt greed bites deeper the underground economy grows.
    I am still snickering about using nano grams of plutonium as the new legal tender.

  24. crosspatch says:

    All it takes is for the federal government to suspend biofuel requirements and we will have plenty of grain with no shortages. Half of our corn crop currently goes to biofuel. That means that simply suspending those mandates doubles the amount available for food use. Also, if temperatures cool, much land will be taken out of corn production and shifted to wheat/barley/oats anyway. Cattle can be finished on barley/oats rather than corn. Corn requires a rather long, warm growing season. Barley, wheat, and oats will grow where corn won’t because they have relatively short growing seasons. So what we would see is the corn belt shift South with wheat, barley, and oats expanding to fill in that difference.

    If the biofuel requirements were suspended, the first thing that would happen is the price of corn would plummet, this would cause some land to be taken out of production (depending on when the mandates are suspended). For example, cutting the mandate in half in the fall of one year and then lifting the other half the following fall is probably the best way to do it. Some fields will be “stuck” growing corn (or soy) for 5 years, though, because they will have been treated with a chemical that allows only corn (or soy) to germinate. The number of such operations are in decline now, though, because of the introduction of “Roundup ready” varieties that allow Roundup to be used to control weeds without harming the crop. Roundup resistant weeds may force farmers back into those chemicals, though.

    The only problem we would have is if we had a massive killing frost in spring that kills a first planting and then an early killing frost in the fall that kills the second planting before harvest. This happened in 1816 in New England and could happen in the upper Midwestern US.

  25. Pingback: Grains, and why food will stay plentiful « GreenSky

  26. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice summary. That double frost issue, btw, is why I mentioned buckwheat and barley. While in one year (the first one) it doesn’t do much good (as folks are not prepared for it); in the long run farmers can re-lear the art of the buckwheat catch crop.

    FWIW, Dad used to ‘finish’ two vealers or ‘rolled oats and molasses and put them in the freezer each year. You can taste the molasses in the meat. Cattle loved the oats… Oats is a cold weather short cycle crop. Germination is at 34 F. Frost hardy down to something like 26 F. Rye is even better.

    So IFF we are expecting it and ready for it, even a year with frosts isn’t an issue of much worry. The problem, of course, is that folks won’t be ready and won’t have the barley / oats / rye seeds ready to go nor the buckwheat ready in an ’emergency’. After a couple of years they will… so the goal is make it 2 years…

  27. Chiefio,
    You point out that food conversion efficiencies for fish can be very high as unlike mammals they do not have to maintain a constant body temperature. I spent several years raising rainbow trout in Greenwich, London using Thames water and later Atlantic salmon. Both of these species are “Salmonids”, very similar genetically. They are predator fish with relatively simple digestive systems, requiring a high protein diet to thrive.

    Here is a “Mass-Energy Balance” for rainbow trout seen from the perspective of a fish farmer. This was developed by Harry Fischer and this camel while building our water recirculating fish farm in Eastport, Maine:
    Food = 100 pounds, composed of:
    Protein…………41 pounds
    Carbohydrate…29 pounds
    Ash…………….10 pounds
    Water………….10 pounds
    Oil………………5 pounds
    Fiber……………5 pounds

    Non-food = 46 pounds, composed of:
    Oxygen………..40 pounds
    Water…………….6 pounds

    Fish……………..67 pounds
    CO2…………….24 pounds
    Nitrate………….12 pounds
    Solid waste…….43 pounds
    Heat……………205 kBTU

    Note that our (measured) conversion rate was 67% (67 pounds of fish from 100 pounds of food). We tried tinkering with the food composition to arrive at higher conversion rates but the cost of doing it outweighed the benefits. Looking closer at the numbers one finds that the fish “burn” 24 pounds of the protein. Only 17 pounds of the protein produces the measured 67 pound gain in body weight owing to 50 pounds of water being bound to that protein.

    How on earth do I know how inefficient the fish are in using protein? The #1 problem for intensive acquaculture is ammonia toxicity that arises from the fact that (in our case at least) 24 pounds of the protein content of the food is consumed by the metabolism of the fish. The nitrogen in the food acccounts for about 6.25% of the protein by weight and that initially shows up in the fish tanks as ammonia. Fish pee contains ammonia rather than urea.

    Ammonia is intensely toxic to fish. How toxic? Sensitive species such as salmonids can be killed by ammonia concentrations below one part per million depending on pH. If you want to grow salmonids you should start with an adequate quantity of ammonia free water as on the Snake river.

    Those of us who don’t have a Snake river in our back yard can get rid of the toxic ammonia by oxidizing it to Nitrite (NO2-) which is almost as toxic as Ammonia and then to Nitrate (NO3-) which is safe in concentrations up to 5,000 parts per million. If anyone wants to know how to do that I will be happy to tell you “off line”.

  28. Ian W says:

    I like the information on the differing food crops but I feel that you may have wandered into the ‘averaging’ trap. If we look at the history of ‘The Great Famine’ at the end of the Medieval Warm Period, it was not caused by the grow line moving south so OiK we’ll grow oats and barley. It was caused by rapid changes in the weather and heavy rains. As I write this California is worried about losing its citrus and soft-fruit crop due to a sudden stratospheric warming sending really cold air down the West coast.

    If the jetstreams become meridonal and loopy, then one year could be very cold spring scorching hot summer and drought all year, the next wet warm spring drenching flooded summer and early frosts. then the next year different again..and so on There would then be insufficient predictability for the farmer to know what crop to plant and even if he gets that right the harvest of grasses or root crops is impossible in a quagmire. In the Great Famine NW Europe had heavy rains of the type UK had this year, for seven straight years starting in spring 1315AD.

    There is a danger in having large monocultures and reliance on single specialized areas of the country for those monocultures. We have become used to a benign predictable climate if this changes to an unpredictable often hostile climate then the way civilization has specialized in ‘production areas’ may cease to be a good working model. It would be better to have general arable farming of mixed crops/animals of the type you suggest in this post as perhaps one or two of the crops at some of the farms would survive. At the moment the entire civilization is betting on Red.

  29. R. de Haan says:

    Zeke says:
    12 January 2013 at 12:49 am
    “That is, the use of the force of government to coerce me to purchase what I do not want, and further, to diminish my purchasing power altogether through rising costs.”

    And the transfer of Federal powers to the UN, military en economic interventions like the use of tax payer money for export of arms, subsidized food stocks etc. to shape foreign policy as well as the government supported export of know how and manufacturing jobs to China and other low wage countries creating an unsustainable concept of trade deficits, the hike of electricity prices in combination with insane emission requirements for cars, industry and energy production which now results in the total destruction of the entire middle class. And what about the unsustaibable deficit in combination with the banking crises?

  30. adolfogiurfa says:

    In the end we “eat” electrons and protons….

  31. Steve C says:

    EM – Those assorted Imperial units:
    Descriptions of, tales about, comparisons between, all sorts. This site hijacked me a couple of months ago. ;-)

  32. crosspatch says:

    The problem, of course, is that folks won’t be ready and won’t have the barley / oats / rye seeds ready to go nor the buckwheat ready in an ‘emergency’.

    Actually we do have the seeds ready. The US is a major exporter of seed to the rest of the world where many of these crops are grown regularly. We will see a reduction in exports of this seed and using them more here at home. We export seed to both hemispheres. US barley seed exports peak in March, June, and August. Oat seed exports peak in March and August with August the larger. Another good forage is Sudex which is a combination of sorghum and Sudan grass. We used it for hog forage. Have to get the animals out of it after a killing frost, though, but it is good cheap summer forage. Japan buys most of the buckwheat produced in the US for noodles (97% of US buckwheat exports went to Japan).

    What we would see is a change in exports of US grains and seeds. If we decided we needed buckwheat here, Japan would be in a world of hurt.

  33. E.M.Smith says:


    Yes, trout are one of the ‘inefficient’ fish. But also less demanding in terms of life cycle and ‘habits’ than tilapia. There is also a well established fish farming culture (in the sense of people who do it) in the US northern areas. So someone wanting to learn and with a lot o spare water will find it in some ways simpler.

    The 1:1 average feed conversion for fish (really for all aquacutured species) includes a variety of metabolisms. Some actually have been measured at 0.9 : 1 so over unity. In particular, catfish are more efficient (as they tend to just sit on the bottom rather than swim in a current) and shrimp / crayfish have spectacular “purchase feed” numbers in some cases; but often from scavenging things that “grow in the muck”. The Asian practice of ponding crap in the corner of the pond being an extreme example.

    So for someone trying to make the most volume of protein and calories, any animal that does not graze its own food is a net looser. But if you want the most quality of protein, fatty acids, flavors, and calories; fish are one of the better ways to go. (But you must already know that if you wanted to farm them to make more ;-)

    In a nutshell, that’s why we grow so much grain, then don’t eat it. We feed it to cars and animals to change to form of what is in it to something we desire more. (Meat, motion, leather…)

    On the ammonia front: That’s why I’d suggested folks wanting to do aquaculture start with a 250 gallon aquarium ;-) on another thread.

    At one time I had a half dozen tanks and a ‘wading pool’ pond of various fish as I was trying to work out ‘mini-scale’ aquaculture. Why? Well, it was fun. I also wanted to see if I could get it working well enough for the single home self sufficiency angle (both for ‘the good of the planet’ and for myself in ‘bad times’.) Well, never ate a single fish, but did learn a lot.

    Catfish were easiest to ‘grow out’. Then again, the “blue” catfish I had were a bit large for the tank. (After a while…) Didn’t get to the point where they could reproduce. (They can grow to the size of a person…) The Tilapia were near trivial to grow and reproduce. So much so I ended up with ‘wall to wall fish’ in some tanks. Of ever decreasing size generation to generation… (They also wanted heat, which can be a costly input outdoors).

    The biggest issue, though, was just what all it took to keep the water quality good. For a few decorative fish in a tank, that’s easy. For a high density grow out tank you are essentially finding a way to provide a mile of river ecology in a 10 gallon can. After a while you get tired of dumping fish poo from filters and constantly being a water nitrogen hawk. (That was when I had my experiment with chickens that discovered one was not a hen and had a 6 am fetish ;-)

    So I ramped down my mini-aquaculture operation, thankful I’d not done it ‘at scale’, and put the books on the shelf. IFF I had a few dozen acres and a good water supply, I’d be doing it as we speak, though. Run the water through the fish, then out onto a garden area. “Win-win”. Use the plant waste to grow insects for fish food. (That was to be my next step. Make a closed system where insects consumed the crap and fish ate the insects. Had a few ‘insect farms’ in jars along the way… You can grow fruit flies on grains, BTW, if made into something like oatmeal ;-) But not enough land, nor time, nor patience for fish poo.

    All in all, I think tilapia are likely the easiest (once you learn how to reduce the reproduction rate and provided you have cheap warmth ) but catfish are not that far behind. (Having a breeding pond with ‘structure’ for them and then transplanting the fry from the shallows to grow out tanks). But if just starting, doing it at scale, and in a cold climate trout are the better choice (just due to the heat issue and local support structures as they are already farmed in cold places).

    Then again, my eventual conclusion from my backyard scale operation was that a crayfish pond would be easiest of all ;-) That some S.E.Asia shrimp farms have zero “commercial feed” input was also interesting. Not much cost for ‘yard trash’, algae and bugs ;-) It does require sunshine, though….

    I’d also pondered trying some of the herbivorous fish like the algae scraping carps and such. Salmonids are predators with short meat oriented guts (as you discovered / pointed out) and not efficient at all with protein. Other species have long gut length and eat ‘crap’ like algae. As you can grow 10 x the algae per acre as most anything else, and it consumes the ammonia, looked like a ‘best direction’ in terms of ammonia and energetics (and protein). I was researching various carp and all. That was about when the 2nd child arrived and I was faced with “which poo to change first” one too many times, so packed it in on the “vegetarian fish” research ;-) Still, sometimes I think about finding that “Mushroom fish” that grows well in the waste of other processes. Shrimp ponding is likely it, but I’m still holding out for an algae eater. Just watching plecostomus cats working the tank walls was compelling. Some grow fairly large too. Don’t know what they taste like…

    Oh, and had a tank where some kind of wild type small snail got into it. Little thing, about the size of a small bean. Well, so I had a dozen, then I had an experiment. They eat algae too, so I let the tank get a bit of sun… Eventually the inside was covered in a layer of snails. While it would take some work to find a snail that was edible by people and did NOT harbor all sorts of evil diseases, it isn’t hard to ‘farm’ them. Or just put a bigger fish in the tank than the one I had and let it ‘do lunch’ on them for free ;-)

    Ah, well. I better stop now or I’ll have a pond started in the back yard again ;-) But the real professional fish farmers do a great job of it. Trout here dropped from over $16 / lb (and that was in dollars worth more each than now) to about $2.40 / lb (retail ! ) in just a couple of decades. Catfish, too, became cheap and plentiful. Now it’s happening to shrimp as the aquaculture of them blossoms. They all let us turn excess grains into scarce fish. Until a new equilibrium is reached. Read an article where a guy has worked out, at last, how to culture abalone. Another on lobster. Complicated life cycles and habits. But I’m sure hoping for that day when lobster is at the store for less than the cost of lamb ;-)

    @Ian W:

    Using something for an example / sanity check is not an endorsement of it for production.

    I’m also pretty well aware of the famine(s):

    which caused me to notice an odd thing about even earlier great famine in Ireland:

    OK, I’d deliberately left out “how to cope with weather volatility” as a main topic and just stuck in a couple of hints (mostly as this is already a long posting), It’s not that hard on a global basis. It can be lethal if you are in a pre-industrial economy with poor transportation.

    First off, the world isn’t “all betting on red”. We in the USA grow a lot of corn, but also a lot of rice, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, etc. etc. Not to mention all the range fed cattle. We have large chunks of land that make the same bet at the same time, perhaps enough to be stupid about it, but not all. In the area south of Dallas you will find mixed corn and sorghum blocks. It is “on the edge” between where you get enough rain for corn, and not. The farmers there know this. How much sorghum is planted shifts, year by year, based on their best guesses about likely rains in the next season.

    I trust those farmers more than anyone else to know when to swap.

    But that is why I included sorghum in the list of grains above (and millet). Two grains the average American or European doesn’t think about much. Precisely because they are very “change tolerant”. I thought I said (but it could be in a comment somewhere else ;-) that the first year or two would likely be hard as folks learned they needed to use more flexible crops, but that it was “doable”. In fact, the folks ‘on the margin’ already are looking at those issues.

    (It was driving around south of Dallas with a ‘local’ and hearing about who was choosing how much sorghum that year. and why. that first got me thinking about the utility of sorghum. Then I started listening to the morning farm radio station on the drive across Texas. Yup, they had a report on choosing corn vs sorghum that year and likely prices and volumes of each…)

    Now the place most likely to “have issues” is Europe, and in particular, France. Just like back in the Little Ice Age and year without a summer. The French want their wheat and bread. Potatoes not so much. Which points out potatoes. Far more accepted now than in the French Revolution (that happened starting as bread riots… note the word “bread”… and didn’t happen in England and Germany as they substituted more barley, oats, rye, and yes, potatoes.

    So right out the gate, we are way ahead of the 1300s in that we have a boat load more species, many specialized and better adapted, know about what it needs to change, and can change much faster. For example, very short stem wheat doesn’t blow over in a heavy rain like the wheat of “back then”.

    We also saw that the cold / wet there comes with better warmer weather in Florida and more rains in the ‘desert southwest’. Unlike then, when if your crop failed in France, the French died, now we just ship some stuff from the places that didn’t have such a problem. Australia, for example, or Argentina, or Brazil, or… So a 100% wheat failure in France no longer means the French have a famine. It means they sniff and condescend to use Argentine wheat to make their baguette…

    Then, the final point, part of WHY I did the calculation of “how large a patch to feed the world?”. I wanted to know just how big an area had to be “problem free”. IF Europe was screwed and a loopy jet stream was playing hob with droughts in Texas. How much land had to be “better off” somewhere? (While I compare the SIZE to Texas, my ‘thought model’ to drive the question was actually Brazil. How much unaffected tropical or semi-tropical land need there be? My guess had been “Most of South America and South Asia with Australia”. My guess was ‘way wrong’. When it was 800 miles, I immediately ‘flashed’ on the mile markers driving across Texas and decided it was the size poster child.)

    It is the fact that you can drop 2 or three areas of that size into the USA alone that was startling. A few more in Brazil. A couple in China and India. (And don’t even get me started on Russia and Rye / buckwheat…) So, you see, it takes a 100% simultaneous crop failure on every major grain growing area of the world to have a major global famine.

    (We will still have famines as people are not going to realize this, and not going to just swap from meat to grains in a crisis so that the folks of one region can eat; while the folks in that region are not going to want ‘beans and rice’ anyway. I’m not saying “There will never be famines”, only that “There need not be famines.” People, being incredibly stubborn and stupid, will continue to create famines.)

    But specifically to your point: Yes, grain prices (so meat and egg prices) are likely to rise during “loopy jet stream” times. Especially as it will take a couple of years for the more stubborn and youngest farmers to “catch a clue”. The older farmers will be telling them what they used to do back in the ’50s and in short order it will be sorted out (and the cows will be eating more sorghum and less corn…)

    On drought: That one is a bit more tricky. For the USA the “corn belt” gets drier, but the “desert southwest” and Florida get wetter. Florida grows more tomatoes and condos than grains. The desert southwest more hay. Getting them to swap to new crops is not easy (nor likely all that smart). But the fact is we COULD grow rice in Florida and millet in New Mexico. (Heck, or expand the wheat production in Arizona). Most likely, though, is that we would just feed less corn to cars and cows.

    Per California: The threat to “our citrus” isn’t the weather. We’ve paved over most of it. My Son went to UC Riverside in Orange County. They have a few hundred (thousands?) of acres of citrus on campus as it is an Ag School. It’s also now surrounded by an ocean of pavement and houses as far as the eye can see and the car can drive before you get hungry.

    The central valley, too, is filling up with houses. It’s just not a place to make much money farming. So now a lot of foods we used to grow are imported from Mexico. Nothing to do with the weather (which is not significantly different from when I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s and we were growing loads more food…) A whole lot to do with Mac Mansions and freeways and surfer dudes and folks not liking dust in the air from ploughing and cropdusting noise or overspray and… But the reality is that we CAN turn California into a giant theme park and import as much food from Mexico… so we do.

    More later, have a spouse call now. “Honey dear”… can you…

  34. crosspatch says:

    I’d say carp and catfish are probably the easiest to grow simply for meat. They’ll eat darned near anything. You can feed them with waste from breweries or ground up food scraps. Heck, if I were some sort of veggie producer, I would take all my veggie waste, grind it, dry it, pelletize it and sell it for carp food … or maybe start my own carp operation in ponds on my own site.

  35. crosspatch says:

    Oh, by the way, wheat that gets hit with frost before maturity is still useful for hay. That has been done in Canada before when they lose a crop from time to time.

  36. DirkH says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    12 January 2013 at 10:21 pm
    “Now the place most likely to “have issues” is Europe, and in particular, France. Just like back in the Little Ice Age and year without a summer. The French want their wheat and bread. Potatoes not so much. Which points out potatoes. Far more accepted now than in the French Revolution (that happened starting as bread riots… note the word “bread”… and didn’t happen in England and Germany as they substituted more barley, oats, rye, and yes, potatoes. ”

    Ahem… the French LOVE potatoes – as Pommes Frites – which is FRENCH for “deep-fried potatoe”… and you talked about eating snails… now I know only one people that actually does that… the French.

    From my visits in France I can tell you they’ll be the last of the European peoples to have problems finding stuff that they find tasty.

  37. Graeme No.3 says:

    Aquaponics? Recycle the fish/shrimp tank water through a hydroponics set-up growing green leaf vegetables (which like lots of nitrogen).

    I am no expert, but it seems to work. Needs warm water so outdoor installation may be a problem in your neck of the woods. Have you room for a greenhouse? Such would also solve predatory bird problem. Tank size need to be fairly substantial, 1,000 Litres minimum and 3,000 litres better to reduce temperature and pH fluctuations.

    Some work going on in Australia using native fish, which tend to be resilient to climate changes from evolutionary experience. Carp are also less fickly. Cherax destructor, (the common yabby) is an Australian freshwater crustacean in the Parastacidae family, which reputedly can tolerate higher pH water (7-7.5). Mostly vegetarian, so a customer for green leaf vegetables? Delicious, so can’t be grown with fish, which eat them. They grow outdoors in ponds, lakes, rivers in southern australia. Perhaps you have something similar in your rivers?

  38. BobN says:

    Using fish poo as a fertilizer is great for your own garden or hydroponics, but anything sold must be sterilized and any volume business has some strict regulatory issues.
    I’m hoping to filter the tanks and recycle my water. I’m hoping to stack the waste and several times a year run it through a purifier process, bag and ship.
    Just getting everything approved will take about 2 years I’m estimating.

  39. Gail Combs says:

    ChiefIO, it is January, it was below freezing this week (25F) and my blasted Abruzzi grazing rye is bolting to seed heads! I am going to have to mow the stuff.

  40. Gail Combs says:

    nemesis says:
    11 January 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Cows are not just for meat….The Back Bay of Boston was filled in using Oxen in 5 months. Assa Sheldon used more than 250 men with oxen to cut off 70 ft of Pemberton Hill and dump it into the bay (a nasty swamp) link

    Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t seem capable of doing what Sheldon did in 1835.

  41. John F. Hultquist says:

    This is interesting (WSJ, Jan. 11; by Amol Sharma &):

    Bad Roads, Red Tape, Burly Thugs Slow Wal-Mart’s Passage in India

    “In the world of perishable goods perishing, India has few rivals. Lacking proper storage facilities, enough refrigerated trucks and adequate highways, . . .”

    Photos and a couple of other images. If you can’t find it, say so.

  42. John Robertson says:

    Too Bad for France, if they need fed how are we gonna ship them food? Nuclear freighters?
    France is in the heart of this EU carbon scare,Bad oil, bad coal, so sorry France, better boot up them sailing ships so the food to keep you from starving can be eco-friendly.
    Or is that the attitude of a curmudgeon?
    John.F , yes the inability to move it before it perishes is always the kicker, I was wondering if the , soon to be ready, airships would help there.
    Trouble is the rigid airship keeps getting headlines and vanishing.

  43. Chiefio said:
    “Catfish were easiest to ‘grow out’. Then again, the “blue” catfish I had were a bit large for the tank.”

    I never tried to grow catfish on a commercial scale. I did try eels but they proved to be finnicky feeders and they did not like the low turbidity (highly transparent) water produced by my recirculating system.

    My greatest success was with carp. I started with 3,000 fry and lost only three. None of them died form natural causes; it was clumsiness in netting and handling that killed those three fish. So why did we not expand the carp production? We carried out marketing trials for fish from pan size (~14 ounces) to fish weighing several pounds. Nobody liked the flavor and texture so we gave up after only one batch.

    I kept about 50 rainbow trout to see how big they would grow. They started to die of old age after 4 years so I smoked them and held some taste trials. Everyone thought they were eating smoked salmon as these fish averaged about five pounds and were salmon pink owing to the special feed we used for two weeks prior to harvesting.

    It would have been fun to try catfish or tilapia but the money ran out before I got round to it. When my fish farm went “belly up” in 2008 it took all my savings with it so I had to find a job. The telecommunications industry was not interested in 50 year old engineers so I ended up in academia at the Duke University Free Electron Laser Laboratory. The pay was not great but at least I got to sleep in my own bed every night.

    If you have $600,000 to spare I would like to try again with the Atlantic salmon. It will work this time.

  44. E.M.Smith says:


    Tell the French their will be no bread. Go ahead. Just try… My point was relative preference, not absolute.

    @Graeme No3:

    We have Crayfish farms, that are similar to your Yabby. Not as bit as the 12 inch ones, but 4 inch is common.

    The “mixed operations” and integrated operations are always attractive conceptually, but in reality most folks find it easier and less risky to just pick one step and do that. So few really integrated operations are done. (It’s hard enough to run a fish farm with known commercial feed, put in ‘trash recycle’ and you rapidly have consistency issues. Folks want consistency. It’s more the hobby farm and small operations that does the complicated stuff.)


    Good luck with it. I know I’d not want to try it these days. Not commercially. (Be fun to do it for personal use though…)


    I’ve been planning to try growing a block of ‘winter rye’ or ‘winter barley’ as it ought to love a California winter, but I’ve mostly found out I don’t like to garden in the cold and rain ;-)

    looks like an interesting grain. Can’t you just let it head and feed it seeds and all? (Never grew rye… so don’t know…)

    My Dad told me that beef was a ‘luxury’ as the traditional use of oxen was for ploughing. To consume your oxen was to destroy your tractor… a great extravagance. Also many of the wagon trains to the West were not pulled by horses, but by ox. Thus “strong as an ox”… We still see beef called ox in “ox tail soup”… The ‘mixed use’ cow was for milk, meat, and work.

    @John F. Hultquist:

    The word “thug” comes from an Indian cast… just sayin’…

    @John Robertson:

    At least France has a load of nuclear power. They will be warm and with working trains no matter what. At that point, ships can unload at many ports of call. Also there is now pretty good rail from Russia all the way in.

    The French will have their baguette, even in a new LIA, it will just use imported wheat.

    Airships… yeah… another of those perpetually just around the corner things…


    I tried eating carp once. Didn’t like the Y bones… Taste was “OK”, but I’ll take catfish ;-) Don’t know how the Asians cook them; they seem to eat a lot of them. An introduced Asian carp is rapidly becoming a pest in the Mississippi drainage basin. So many they leap in the air as boats pass and cause a hazard. If you can find a way to make them into a commercial product you will be in big demand… not growing them, just hauling them out of the rivers and disposing of them!

    If I had $600,000 I wouldn’t need to farm fish ;-)

    @Steve C:


    @R. de Haan & John Robertson:

    At some point The Several States need to tell THEIR Federal Government that it can not delegate powers to the U.N. Otherwise, it will be up to the people, and that will be messy.

    We have a load of hyper rich folks who have egos so large and lives so empty that they only find “fulfillment” in screwing around with the rest of us. Don’t know how to reduce and constrain their avarice, but the historical “fixes” have not worked out well for the Aristocracies…

  45. Graeme No.3 says:

    Charlie Carp is a commercial (liquid) fertilizer available in Australia. Made from carp removed from a river being purged of them (section by section).

  46. BobN says:

    We used to bow and arrow shoot carp back home, but most people threw them away because of all the bones. A few people smoked them and they were very good eating when smoked.

  47. E.M.Smith says:


    Supposedly there are ways to cook them such that the pin bones are reduced. I’ve not found one.

    That said, canned fish has the bones so soft they just mush. I’ve thought of trying canned carp. I’d need a carp though ;-0

    My recipe for canned “Anything like fish, meat, stews” is to put it in an 8 ounce wide mouth flat jar and process at 240 F / 15 PSI for 1 1/4 hour plus ( to an hour 1/2 sometimes). Seems to work. Had not found any decent home canning times for things like stew and fish. Just a lot of “don’t do it it’s hard.” Did find someone who canned, iirc, deer and moose? in Alaska and used their time of “over an hour”. Seemed to work. YMMV. If worried, add bit of vinegar. The formula is time / temperature / acidity as a product of the three. Saw it once in a book on food production at Stanford book store, but it was about $100 for the book and I was still a poor-college-student then… so I didn’t buy it. At any rate, carp with a tsp of vinegar and canned / processed out to be OK. No idea how the flavor would work out, but most fish seem the same after cooking to death ;-)

    A ‘tomato canned carp’ ought to work too. Wonder if they sell carp at the fish store… I’m curious now… (Oh Dear… He’s curious… you know what he’s like when he gets curious…)

    He searches… It looks like times have moved forward in the last 20 years ;-) The Internet Provides:,1-0,canned_carp,FF.html

    Has a link with:

    Fresh carp (scaled and dressed)
    1 c. canning or plain salt
    1 gal. water

    Wash fish thoroughly in fresh cold water, make sure stomach cavity is clean. Cut fish into chunks that will fit into quart canning jars.

    In a non-metal container, dissolve the salt into the water to make a brine. Soak the fish in the brine 1 hour. Remove the fish and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Pack into clean sterile quart jars to within 1 inch of top, do not add any liquid. Seal jars with sterilized lids and rings. Process in pressure cooker for 100 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

    Fillet carp. Cut in approximately 1 1/2 inch cubes. Pack in pint (or quart) jars. Pack tight. Add:

    1 tsp. salt
    1 tbsp. vinegar
    1 tbsp. bar b que sauce

    Seal jars. put in pressure cooker. 10 pound pressure for 100 minutes. (Water enough to cover jars before sealing pressure cooker.) Do Not add water to fish in jars. They will form their own juice if packed tightly enough

    Take large carp or buffalo and cut into pieces and place in pint or quart jars add for quart 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, for pints use 1/2 fill with water to cover fish seal and cook in pressure cooker for 1 1/2 hour at 15 lbs. pressure. Carp will be pink fix later like salmon use buffalo like tuna.

    I think ‘buffalo’ is a kind of fish too.

    “Early market studies indicate that a particular Chinese carp called the bighead carp is readily accepted for its taste, but it’s too bony to eat fresh,” says Freeman, who is in the ARS Aquaculture Systems Research Unit at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. “Canning softens those bones, just as it does for salmon.”

    Fish farmers have already made a place for Chinese carp in their ponds—primarily as maintenance personnel.

    Arkansas alone has more than 69,000 acres of water devoted to aquaculture and leads the nation in production of bighead carp. While its cousin, the grass carp, polishes off pond-clogging aquatic weeds, the bighead carp feasts on plankton that flourish naturally in catfish ponds.

    So 1.5 hours at 15 psi looks good or a bit longer at 10 psi. My smaller flatter jars ought to be done sooner anyway.

    OK… looks like caning carp is the way to go and you can flavor it up if you like. Looks like they are being used to clean the ponds, too. Nice idea…

    Note to self:

    Rant on not running out and food here:

  48. Gail Combs says:

    Yes, the ‘mining of the soil’ is just dumb. Some folks in the midwest USA have started doing more “organic” farming and rediscovering that normally soil builds, not erode away. Animals help in this. Just feed them the slash, forage, Distillers grains, etc. and put the poo back on the land. (The US FDA seems hell bent to ban manure…)
    Actually the ‘mining of the soil’ is not dumb it is the result of terrible farming practices like growing corn with out rotation to other crops. Not using cover crops like clover/rye/winter wheat in the winter, not rotating your crop fields back to pasture. Fifty years ago farmers grew crops had chickens, pigs, and cows. They spread manure and rotated their fields. The idea was to also use grass filter strips and windbreak hedge rows as a result of the 1930’s dust bowl.

    Now we have mono-culture with very large fields with no wind breaks and the latest craze of ‘sterile’ fields. ( Sterile Farming – The Scorched Earth Policy)

    And if that is not bad enough Big Money has decided farming is where to park their cash for big earnings. Soros, Rothschild, The World Bank are grabbing farmland. The goal is to make money not to farm with an eye towards passing a legacy down to your grandkids.. We saw during the 1980’s what the leveraged buyout craze did to US mid size and small corporations. Well run companies like Gillette with no debt were targeted, dismantled and the assets sold off. Whole factories were boxed up and shipped overseas. US manufacturing was decreased from 24% of the labor force in the 1970’s to less than 9% now. The wealth/equity in our corporations was transfered to the corporate raiders and banks as the corporations were liquidated, Reverse-Capitalism if you will and the USA has not recovered. Farmland is the next target of big money and that is what ‘mining of the soil’ means at least to me. I am sitting on 100ac of wornout LEASED farmland that was sold cheap because it would no longer produce a crop and therefore the farmer leasing it moved to another piece of land. (It was 100% clay with no organic) In 17 years I have added 4 inches of topsoil by turning the worn out fields into pasture. Now the guy wants to lease it again….
    Here is some interesting info on meat:
    Meat Eating Behind Evolutionary Success of Humankind, Global Population Spread, Study Suggests

    Role of red meat in the diet for children and adolescents.

    You can also look up these titles:
    Study finds vegetarians have smaller brains, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford,

    Scientific substantiation of a health claim related to docosahexaenoic acid
    (docosahexaenoic acid, and arachidonic acid)

    Intelligence, Evolution of the Human Brain, and Diet

  49. Gail Combs says:

    For fruit, I like, strawberries, raspberries, black berries and blue berries. I want to try kiwi too since I am far enough south. This time around I am going to grow them in raised beds (Concrete block and the holes can be used for herbs) with cattle panel ‘hoops’ to make it easy to keep the goats out and if I wish to spread a bird net – simple.

    T- posts and cattle/livestock/goat panels are something I would keep on hand as ’emergency equipment’ They, with the addition of a few tarps are very versatile.

    Edible Landscaping has a very nice bush cherry and an edible crab apple that was a favorite of Tomas Jefferson. And do not forget mulberries. Edible Lanscaping was very helpful to me ~ 20 years ago when I planted my MA/NH border property. (We lived a couple miles from Johnny Appleseed’s birth place)

    Peaches, pears, apples and cherry trees are high upkeep. The plum curculio wiped out 98% of our apple crop and the peach tree borer (thanks to my neighbor stacking infected wild cherry on the fence line) wiped out my peach trees and even the wild cherry over 6″ in diameter.

    The crab apple and bush cherry are more hassle free.

    OH and do not forget the edible rose hips, very high in vitamin C.

  50. Gail Combs says:

    Zeke says:
    12 January 2013 at 12:49 am

    “Tyranny” is an interesting word. Perhaps we would all benefit by discussing the use of the term “tyranny.” When I buy rice or any other food voluntarily at a store, or I buy gas from a gas station, or electricity from a coal-fired power plant, I do not regard that as tyranny. I happen to buy rice from growers in the US; in fact, the largest US miller and distributer feeds my family affordably. I do not regard this in any way as a form of tyranny…..
    You are on the other end of it. The “Tyranny” is from Monopsony or one buyer on the farmer end who sets the price. I suggest you read:
    The history:

    Agriculture and Monopoly Capital:

    Purdue University Dept. of Agricultural Economics. ( John Conner) has a whole bunch of papers on the Ag Cartel.

  51. John F. Hultquist says:

    Buffalo fish (aka Ictiobus) were in the Coralville Res. (Iowa) when we used to use the adjacent areas for dog training. Dead fish would wash out of the lake and a buddy’s Black Lab would roll on them. We had to go home with our heads out the window as we only had a small car.

    The Buffalo seems to be a member of or related to Suckers:

    We used to catch a few of these in western PA when fishing trout streams. I think they congregated where a warmer water tributary (maybe coming off of fields or pasture land) entered. Thus, easily avoided.

  52. Gail Coombs said:
    “When I buy rice or any other food voluntarily at a store, or I buy gas from a gas station, or electricity from a coal-fired power plant, I do not regard that as tyranny.”

    When you buy something and have a choice of vendors you are “Voting with your pocket book”, a healthy way of encouraging vendors to deliver good value for money.

    On the other hand, when there is only one vendor it is a form of tyranny that has been around since monarchs first sought to control the economy by granting monopolies. In modern times the evils of monopolies are well understood, so laws exist to limit them. Nevertheless they keep popping up so we need to be vigilant. One particularly pernicious monopoly is proving very resistant to restructuring, namely government K-12 education in the USA.

    It seems that Gail has a choice of electricity vendors in sharp contrast to the UK where the supply of electricity was a government monopoly. We broke up the monopoly so now you can buy electricity from many retail vendors although the high voltage distribution network is still under direct government control. It has not worked as well as was hoped:

    Click to access 124newbe.pdf

    One of the conclusions of the above report implies that the UK is importing too much electricity from France. It does not take a genius to figure out that would not have happened but for the wrong headed government policies that subsidized wind and solar in defiance of common sense.

  53. BobN says:

    @EM – Thanks for the canning Carp information. I had never thought of doing that, but it sounds interesting. If I get my Fish/Shrimp thing going, this is something to think about. I don’t fish much any more, but a couple of friends here do, so I will check if there are Carp here and maybe I can get the throw away. Hmmmm – wonder if people can Shrinp?

  54. BobN says:

    @ Gail Combs – I applaud your efforts on what you have done with the soil.
    Not only has big money started buying up the farm land, many of the grain elevators have been bought up by Soros. To me, food is control and I don’t trust Soros. I was thinking it may be an agenda 21 effort, get the people off the land and reduce the population. What better way than starvation.

  55. P.G. Sharrow says:

    While living in Alaska I home canned salmon, like in real cans. Don’t recall that it was too difficult or required a pressure cooker. The bones dissolved with cooking and during storage, The pressure cooker allowed for quicker cooking as the cooking pot is run at a much higher temperature. As long as the product exceeds 180F for over 20 minuets. The USDA considers it cooked, IIRC?
    Raise Koi for food and money. They are just fancy carp, will feed on most anything and big fancy ones fetch rather large amounts of money.
    20 years ago I remember a Koi operation at Tri-Cities between Fremont, Alviso and Milpitas. The guy was leasing a small parcel that no one could build on and had it covered with all kinds of salvaged “tanks”, plastic swimming pools and a rats nest of piping. :-) LoL quite a sight!
    I have built two small Koi ponds into my house landscape. Bridge over the River Koi leads to our front door, a Feng Shui thing. Emergency food as well. pg

  56. Paul, Somerset says:

    It’s the harvesting which is the problem in eras of cold and rain.
    The field behind my house was ripe with 6-row barley last year, yet the only yield was straw. At no point was it possible to get in the field to harvest the grain.

  57. Gail Combs says:

    crosspatch says:
    12 January 2013 at 6:56 am

    All it takes is for the federal government to suspend biofuel requirements and we will have plenty of grain with no shortages…..
    Unfortunately the US government is headed in the other direction. You will notice it does not matter whether you are talking democrat or republican they are both headed in the same direction.

    November 2006
    *Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, Research Associate, Research Associate, Programmer/Analyst, Professor, and Adjunct Professor, respectively. Department of Agricultural Economics, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville,

    Study funded in part by the 25X’25 Work Group.

    …Several policy initiatives to spur the development and use of bioenergy and bioproducts
    using starch, cellulose, oil, etc., have been enacted in recent years.

    President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13134 calling for tripling the use of
    bioproducts and bioenergy in the U.S. by 2010.
    The Agricultural Risk
    Protection Act of 2002 provided for the research and development of biobased
    industrial products.

    • The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 established, among other
    provisions, a Federal agency program to purchase bioproducts, provide
    biorefinery grants to support development of bioproducts and fuels, extend the
    termination date of the Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000, and
    expand the feedstocks list for use of Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC)
    payments to eligible producers to purchase biomass feedstocks.

    President George Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, encouraging the
    development of more renewable energy
    and expediting the development of
    environmentally responsible renewable energy projects on federal lands. In
    addition, the Act established a renewable fuel requirement for the nation,
    mandating 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012. Ethanol and biodiesel
    were defined as eligible renewable fuels.

    In 2006, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman set a goal of making cellulosic
    ethanol a practical and cost-competitive alternative by 2012 (at $1.07/gal) and
    displacing 30 percent (60 billion gallons) of gasoline by 2030

    Click to access REPORT%2025×25.pdf

    25 X 25 America’s Energy Future
    …On October 15, 2007 the U.S. Congress formally adopted the 25x’25 vision when the House of Representatives joined with the Senate in passing a resolution setting a goal of deriving 25 percent of our nation’s energy use from agricultural, forestry and other renewable resources by 2025….

    Quick Facts:
    * Renewable energy made up 9.3% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2011.
    In 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided almost 12% of domestic U.S. energy production.

    * Ethanol now accounts for 10% of the nation’s gasoline supply.

    * The U.S. biodiesel industry produced nearly 1.1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2011 – a new industry record – surpassing the RFS2 mandate of 800 million gallons…

    * U.S. ethanol production capacity is 14.906 billion gallons per year. Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production at 3.7 billon gallons per year….

    * U.S. installed biopower capacity was 13,000 MW in 2010….

    As long as the guys donating big bucks to politicians want 25 X 25 we will have it whether or not food prices soar. Why in heck do you think big money is moving into farmland??? It is another big boondoggle to suck money from the poor and middle class into the pockets of the rich.

    Dwayne Andreas, former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) has been the top contributor to the Democrat and Republican parties for years. (Now you know why everyone is on the same page.)

    Dwayne’s World: Dwayne Andreas has made a fortune with the help of politicians from Hubert Humphrey to Bob Dole. But, he says, their talk of “free markets” is just wind.

    …no other U.S. company is so reliant on politicians and governments to butter its bread. From the postwar food-aid programs that opened new markets in the Third World to the subsidies for corn, sugar, and ethanol that are now under attack as “corporate welfare,” ADM’s bottom line has always been interwoven with public policy. To reinforce this relationship, Andreas has contributed impressively to the campaigns of politicians, from Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey to Bill Clinton and Bob Dole….

    …Andreas announces that global capitalism is a delusion. “There isn’t one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country.”

    It might seem odd that a man with personal assets well into nine figures would be so quick to hoist the red flag of socialism over the American heartland. But Andreas is essentially right….

    ADM profits soar 550 percent as ethanol margins improve

    2007 Monsanto posts record $8.6B in sales: For the fourth consecutive year, Monsanto Co. reported record sales, the company said Wednesday.

    Cargill reported record profits of $4.24 billion, beating the previous high of $3.95 billion from 2007-08, and a 63% increase of the $2.6 billion it earned last year…

  58. Gail Combs says:

    Ian W says: @ 12 January 2013 at 3:24 pm
    Well said and unfortunately the jets have gone ‘loopy’ the last few years. I no longer can count on the winds and weather coming from the west in mid North Carolina.

    For example.
    It was 24F (high of 45F) a week ago and today it is a high of 75F. Depending on where the loop in the jets are we go from below freezing to shirt sleeves. The rain pattern is just as crazy. Drought then deluge. I planted rye the first of September and it sat for a month being eaten by the crows. It is just now starting to grow. I should have had grass for grazing from mid October til sometime in December. No such luck.

  59. crosspatch says:

    So why did we not expand the carp production? We carried out marketing trials for fish from pan size (~14 ounces) to fish weighing several pounds. Nobody liked the flavor and texture so we gave up after only one batch.

    There are other uses besides human food. They could be used as “fish emulsion” or “fish meal” for fertilizers or pet food. Carp are actually high in Omega 3 and their oil could be sold as “fish oil”. Today we have what I call “Hoover ships” that prowl the Gulf of Mexico sucking up just about everything they come across, grind it up, extract the oil, and sell the remaining “fish meal” to pet food companies. Ever wonder how millions of pounds of dry catfood gets made? It starts with “Hoover” ships vacuuming up just about everything they find.

  60. Gail Combs,
    Those ADM guys are really scary. They have made mincement of the idea that public opinion and voting matters. We should also hold them at least partly responsible for the “Arab Spring” in view of the way their lobbying has raised the price of grain world wide.

  61. Gail Combs says:

    John Robertson says:
    13 January 2013 at 4:28 am

    Too Bad for France, if they need fed how are we gonna ship them food? Nuclear freighters?…
    Japan had an interesting concept to power cargo ships with mini Thorium Molten Salt Reactors. They were being called Mini Fujis

    Fuji Project Seeks $300 Million in Funding for Thorium Molten Salt Reactor Development

    U.S. Researcher Preparing Prototype Cars Powered by Heavy-Metal Thorium

    General Info

    So it is not beyond possibility. The USA – Oak ridge had the proto-type aircraft reactor running for four years ~ 1954 I think.

  62. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gail Combs:

    I think we are “in violent agreement” ;-)

    By “mining the soil is dumb” I had two things in mind. One, that it is dumb to think that is inevitable and the only way to farm. Two, that it is dumb to run a farm that way. That is, that in old fashioned “normal” farming soil builds up, so fixating on ‘mining soil’ ought be instead the same complaint you have about stationary monoculture sans traditional fertilizers.

    So I wasn’t saying so much that “soil mining” did not exist nor that it was “dumb” to think that some folks do it. I was saying it is dumb TO do it and dumb to think that is the only way to farm and feed folks.

    Sorry for the unclarity.

    Thanks for the ideas on fruit bushes. I’m hoping to get a grape trellis done “some day”…
    On “rose hips”, when I was a kid (on our 1/4 acre lot my Dad loved) we had old style roses on the whole 50 foot length behind the garden. LOTS of big rose hips. We didn’t eat them (but ought to). It’s on my “todo list” to find an old style rose I like and put some along a fence…

    So much to do, so little dirt ;-)

    BTW, it is “Monopsony” for the economic thing. Monosomy is genetics. I fixed it…

    You might want to look up what crops where grown there, and methods, in the 1950s and early 1800s, as it looks to me like those are the kinds of conditions returning.

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Thanks! Looks like a kind of carp to me… I’d treat it as one…


    Yes, it doesn’t matter if it is a monopoly seller or a monopsony buyer, both are evil. In fact, when we studied that part, it was covered in the same unit. The ideal tyrant wants to be the single buyer of all inputs and single seller of all product. They often settle for oligopoly and oligopsony. A few of each. Typically in a cartel or as the selected few anointed by the government under Market Socialisms / Fascism. It is “happening now” all over the planet. Gail’s grain example is a good one. Does anyone REALLY think there is $4 of milled grain in a box of ‘Malto-meal’ cerial? Corn flakes?


    Yup. It’s written right into Agenda21. Clear the people off the land and out of small farms. Use laws and “regulation” and what all else to do it.

    Shrimp can be canned (as seen in the store).

    Click to access pnw194.pdf

    says 45 minutes at 10 psi or above 1000 ft use 15 psi.


    I’d bet you were using a pressure canner and didn’t notice ;-)

    At 180 F it takes a very long time to can things, and even then some pathogens survive. “Somewhere” I have archived the ‘home canning in an emergency’ directions from the USA during W.W.II when they where having folks do victory gardens and making a few million pressure cookers was not an option. A boiling water bath will work for acid foods, but not “neutral high protein foods” like fish.

    It was something like 2 hours for neutral vegetables like corn, and even then it’s a bit risky for botulism.

    So either you put a bit of vinegar / tomatoes in with the fish, or you pressure can it. Pressure canning is pretty darned easy anyway. The limit case on acid is a “pickle”. The limit case on no-acid high bacteria load is sardines. They are in the flat can for better heat flow. 240 F and an hour minimum. In between, it’s a nomograph of time, temperature, acidity and the lines are not straight, but gently curved…

    Formula here:

    @Paul Somerset:

    Hmmm… interesting point… Is there a case where the “solution” runs through different tractors and tires and grain driers so it is a decade scale $Trillion fix and not likely short term?… (As there are tractors used in swamps for some crops it can be done… but specialized…)

    On vegetarians:

    My family did a short tour through being vegetarian (for reasons I could not justify … but one does what the spouse demands…) First thing I did was get the book “Transition to Vegetarianism”

    It is fascinating and very well written. Does help if you have a science background.

    So he goes, one step at a time, from mixed diet to every tighter levels of vegetarian. Details what you lose. What “bad things” happen. What vegetarian source you can use to patch over that problem.

    So it is possible to not have a smaller brain nor suffer omega-3 fatty acid deficit. It just takes some work. (Real work. Not just “Oh, I’ll have a pill”…) So putting flax seed in the diet. Making sure you know exactly what oils you eat and their composition. (Easiest fix is just eat fish or fish oil… for those quasi-vegetarians…)

    One of my greatest heart-sinking moments is when someone says “I’m a vegetarian” when I’m cooking dinner. Not because I’m against it. Because I know I’m now into a 10 minute 20 question search for “What LEVEL of vegetarian?”. Ovo-Lacto? Vegan? Fruititarian? the list goes on…. I’d wager that 80% of them have never heard nor understand how their omega-3 fatty acid levels are impacted nor what to do about selected B Vitamins nor what anti-nutrients in grain husks can do to block nutrient absorption nor…

    Luckily, the “kid” decided to stop at “ovo-lacto” (and never liked fish much anyway). So since the eggs are ‘in the mix’ most of the ‘problems’ are gone too. The spouse decided that it “wasn’t working for her” (even though I had very well designed meals with all nutrients accounted…) Then again, she eventually developed kidney stones that undoubtedly were not being helped by the spinach (that fixes some iron and protein issues in a vegetarian diet).

    So as of now, I’m a wide ranging omnivore as I have always been. ( I have joined friends on various crazy diets from strict vegetarian to all-carbs-all-the-time to meat only to… with not much noticeable effect. Seems my Neanderthal genes and long gut length can get what I need out of just about anything…) The spouse is a “no beef” omnivore. (Beef causes her arthritis to flare up. Mine too, but I’m good for one beef meal a weak and ice cream on Sunday. So I do ;-) And the Kid has decided that the occasional chicken stock or bits in soup is ‘close enough’ to vegetarian… and eats a lot of eggs and cheese and drink milk, by the gallon. Oh, and uses real cow butter. (The other kid worked at In-N-Out Burger and never even thought of not downing 2 at a time ;-)

    So we are ‘tepid vegetarians’ at best, and only 1/2 to 1/4 of the family at that…

    But back at the book. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of being a vegetarian. We are adapted to a meat diet. Yes, we can find ways around it, but it is not simple nor natural. You need to know your biochemistry. Honest. (Frankly I think everyone ought to know how their machinery works, but a ‘burger and fries’ with the toppings will keep just about anyone going OK. Not so vegan noodles and corn casserole.)

    The book is ordered as a “drop this category of food, get this issues, here is the fix” process. So you find out in increasing order of difficulty what each level is, and realize pretty darned quick that the difference between “ovo-lacto” and “vegan” is huge. Any study just classing folks as “vegetarian” vs “not” is broken. They are way different metabolically. I could live (not happily, but live…) forever on an ovo-lacto diet. I can make it about 6 months on a vegan diet in an emergency if that’s the only choice, then health issues will show up. I know that because I looked at what it takes and realized I just can’t keep the meal plans balanced such that it will work. If you devote your life to it and buy all sorts of special products, sure. Just cooking and eating foods? “Has issues”… And as most vegetarians plan their meals based on ‘trendy and social pressures’ instead of “detailed biochemistry” near as I’ve been able to observe, I’m not seeing how this going to work out well…

    At any rate, rather than recapitulate the book, just realize that at each step of ‘more toward vegan’ you get new metabolic problems to solve. Vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and more. One beef steak pretty much fixes them all (grass fed preferred for the omega-3s).

    FWIW, the stroll down vegetarian lane wasn’t all a waste. I now have much better “side dishes” as a result and when there’s no meat in the fridge can make a decent dinner anyway. I have a killer “spinach lasagna” now too… that I don’t get to make due to the spousal kidney stones ;-) Maybe “killer” isn’t the right word choice there…. ;-)

    I need to work up a pork or chicken lasagna…

  63. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    13 January 2013 at 5:42 am
    ….The telecommunications industry was not interested in 50 year old engineers so I ended up in academia at the Duke University Free Electron Laser Laboratory….
    The don’t like 50 year old technical writers either. Is that Duke as in NC? Are you still there? If so you are not far from me.

  64. BobN says:

    @EM – Thanks for the recipe on Shrimp Canning. I asked my wife if see had seen canned shrimp and she gave me one of those, what planet do you live on looks. Guess I need to go to the store more. Thanks, I will give it a go if I ever get the thing going.

  65. Gail Combs says:

    looks like an interesting grain. Can’t you just let it head and feed it seeds and all? (Never grew rye… so don’t know…)
    I want it for pasture. If you keep grass clipped and do not let it go to seed it keeps producing nice tasty high protein grass. I run common bermuda/ bluestem/ lespedeza for the summer and grazing rye/ white clover overseeded for the winter. I am thinking of adding pastures with fescue that I can stockpile. Stockpiling Tall Fescue for Winter Grazing I am far enough south with enough land that there is no real reason to have to feed much hay.

    I have 10 ac on the top of the hill you can safely run a tractor on and another 12 down by the river where you can get a tractor stuck thanks to the &^%$ beaver flooding a tributary stream. I had several ac. logged off and I hope to get it fenced and the goats and sheep on it to kill the weeds. Everything has to be hand done though. I have flipped the riding mower and the tractor so forget that. We got a bulldozer stuck too thanks to the beaver. It really needs to be pasture. It is clay topside but gravel as you go down the hill (ancient lake bed) Growing trees means you get a lot of erosion. I already have some decent size gullies. Hand digging post holes is a royal pain. That is why I spend a lot of time on the computer so I can let my back take a break. Once all the corners and gates are done then the line posts can be driven with a post pounder. I have 4″ in diameter 8 ft recycled plastic posts pre-drilled for eight wire high tensile as my line posts so once we get the corners up I can hire a strong guy for a day or two to finish the job. I have two sides done so I am half way there in putting in the posts. We gave up trying to get anyone to do the corners. Hubby didn’t like how they were done so we are re-doing them.

  66. Gail Combs says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    13 January 2013 at 12:26 pm


    Supposedly there are ways to cook them such that the pin bones are reduced. I’ve not found one.
    You are just not a scandahoovian or married to one. Inlagd Sill could easily be adapted to carp I would think. (I have two jars in the frig.)

    For those who want to find a tasty way to consume vinegar try sill.
    (I used fresh not salted.) I think you could substitute raw honey for the sugar for a ‘more healthy’ food. Inlagd Sill

    The vinegar dissolves the bones so de-boning is not necessary. If you make soups dump in a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. It will soften/dissolve the bones and thereby add minerals to the soup.

  67. Gail Combs says:

    OH, I should mention one of the characters from my neck of the woods. The Granny Warriors have an old fashion putting food by cook book they came out with a couple of years ago for those interested in survival skills. They also have heirloom seeds.

  68. BobN says:

    @EM – Pickled, I love pickled, but rarely get it to eat, not a bad idea to try.
    I am Swedish & German and grew up with a grandmother that made Lutefisk for special occasions. I never cared for it, as it seemed to mushy to me, but it could be worth a try to see what the lye would do to the bones.

  69. crosspatch says:

    Pickled carp recipes. Oh, and I have heard that “cut out the dark meat and discard” in a lot of other recipes, too. It called the “mud vein” and if you don’t remove it, the fish isn’t fit to eat.

  70. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    14 January 2013 at 12:00 am

    Gail Combs,
    Those ADM guys are really scary….
    Yes you start looking into what is happening to our food supply and it scares you witless. I did a quicky Synopsis:

    (It is long but it would take a book and I only hit the high points) I would not be surprised to find the USDA/FDA starts ‘regulating’ home gardens within the next couple of decades…. or maybe not even that long…

    When the government regulates your garden
    Jeff Gillman and Eric Heberlig have written a sweetly provocative book, “How the Government Got in Your Backyard,” about the ways officialdom dictates what we can and cannot do in our gardens.

    If the authors wanted to write a sequel, Julie Bass could suggest the title: “How the Government Got in Your Front Yard.”….

    Bass wanted a more active use for her real estate. After her front lawn was excavated to repair the sewer this spring, she replaced the grass with five raised beds for vegetables. If she was going to water the yard, she figured, she might as well raise food for her husband and six children. Within a few days, the garden police came calling.
    She said she was told to remove the offending garden and replace it with the municipal code’s demand of “grass, ground cover, shrubbery or other suitable live plant material.”

    “We are sticking to our vegetables,” she said in an interview. This disobedience, inevitably, brought the might of the municipality down upon her. Facing more than 90 days in jail, she hired a lawyer. The charge was dismissed while the city studies its law. Bass says the case could be reopened. Meanwhile, she is harvesting tomatoes, basil and cucumbers.

    Gillman said people get “outraged” by such cases, “and they should.”…………..

    Does government belong in our gardens? Absolutely. Who wants neighbors with extremely toxic pesticides or who create public nuisances that degrade a whole community? …..

    Lawn and Order: The Silly War on Home Gardening Escalates
    Home-grown veggies are the new battleground in the fight between local governments and those citizens with a green thumb.

    Believe it or not, it may be illegal to grow your own food: Recent cases where home gardens were considered illegal…

    So much for Victory gardens and property rights….

  71. Gail Combs says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    14 January 2013 at 12:21 am
    ….If you devote your life to it and buy all sorts of special products, sure. Just cooking and eating foods? “Has issues”… And as most vegetarians plan their meals based on ‘trendy and social pressures’ instead of “detailed biochemistry” near as I’ve been able to observe, I’m not seeing how this going to work out well…
    I do not think it has worked out well

    US babies mysteriously shrinking
    Birthweights in the US are falling but no one knows why, according to a study of 36.8 million infants born between 1990 and 2005.

    A 52-gram drop in the weight of full-term singletons – from an average of 3.441 to 3.389 kilograms – has left Emily Oken’s team at Harvard Medical School scratching their heads. It can’t be accounted for by an increase in caesarean sections or induced labours, which shorten gestation. What’s more, women in the US now smoke less and gain more weight during pregnancy, which should make babies heavier. Oken suggests that unmeasured factors, such as diet or exercise, could explain why babies are being born lighter….

    Thanks for fixing Monopsony, my spelling is terrible. I was one of the experimental kids for one of the ‘John Dewey decrease literacy campaigns’.

  72. Gail Combs says:

    Speaking of recipes, a favorite of mine is Turkish Mousaka I have used ground lamb, venison and beef. Haven’t tried pork but don’t see why not (Just don’t tell the Arabs) I love the stuff because it can be eaten hot or cold. For trips pop some in a plastic container with a snap lid and stash it in the cooler. Veggies and meat all in one dish and you can eat it with a fork or spoon.

  73. Judy F says:

    For those of you in northern climes, I have found this to be a good nursery. They have all kinds of hardy fruits and heirloom varieties. .

    In our part of the country,(northeast Colorado) the farmers pull rye out of their wheat fields. After the wheat and rye have headed out, it is easy to see rye in the fields. Rye is about 4-6 inches taller than the wheat, so it is easy to pull by hand. Most farmers don’t want rye mixed in with their wheat, so they get rid of it.

    Our fields here are dryland fields, which get no irrigation at all and only the 14 inches of moisture a year that falls from the sky. The farmers leave half their acres fallow every year, so they only get one wheat crop every two years. If they plant millet, it is on a three year rotation, or it can be planted if the wheat crop is hailed off early enough. Wheat is combined but millet has to be swathed and then it finishes drying/maturing and is combined later using a special pick up attachment on the combine. The wheat grown here is winter wheat, which is planted mid-september and harvested the following July. Millet can go in early to mid June and is swathed in late August and picked up mid september. Of course, this would be the ideal schedule. A few years ago we had a wet fall, and many farmers never got their millet crop harvested. Millet leaves very little residue on the fields, so it is not good to catch snow or keep the dirt from blowing. Every part of the country has it’s own quirks and issues for farming. It is interesting to read how everyone else deals with those issues.

    One of my big fears is for the government to start regulating our ability to keep or trade our own seed stock or plants. . It scares me to death.

  74. Gail Combs says:
    14 January 2013 at 12:25 am
    “Is that Duke as in NC? Are you still there? If so you are not far from me.”

    Yes it is! When this paper was written, HIGS (High Intensity Gamma Source) was the brightest source of 11 MeV gamma rays available.

    I lived in Orange county (Carrboro and Hillsborough) for 17 years and one of my six sons still lives there so I visit whenever I can. Although very ancient I still teach on a part time basis so I usually visit a couple of times per year. I was supposed to give a course at NCSU last week but it was cancelled owing to insufficient students. My course next week at UCF has been confirmed:

    My main leisure interest is setting up K-12 schools, six in North Carolina and one in Florida where I currently live. Another four schools are “In Process”.

    If my next course in Raleigh, scheduled for June 3 “Makes” I will let you know in the hopes we can meet informally. I was fortunate enough to meet “Chiefio” in person in September 2011:

  75. John F. Hultquist says:

    I noticed the “I have a killer “spinach lasagna” . . .”

    My spouse has a “porcine” Mitral valve and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and takes a daily dose of Coumadin (warfarin, aka rat poison). A little spinach likely wouldn’t hurt her any but a “killer” amount is to be shied away from. I’d have some sausage in mine.

    Anyway, the post and all the comments reminds me that we live in a complex and wealthy society, and being such, we can cope and adapt in ways those in poor areas cannot. This evening it is 15 degrees F. outside and heading lower. We’ve just baked chocolate chip & walnut cookies and the house is warm. The house is ‘all-electric’ from hydropower from the Columbia River. I’ve just read the latest post on “NoTricksZone” regarding the cold in Asia, specifically Bangladesh. Then there is the deforestation near Greek cities as they try to keep warm. These are striking contrasts – just saying. I won’t write more for it would be off topic.

  76. Gail Combs says:

    Judy F says: @ 14 January 2013 at 3:40 am

    One of my big fears is for the government to start regulating our ability to keep or trade our own seed stock or plants. . It scares me to death.

    This is long because it includes a lot of my research on the subject over several years

    Well they got their blasted Food Safety bill through although it was a watered down version. This will not stop them from adding amendments that will eventually give them the law they wanted in the first place. That is what happen to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Over 100 amendments later and the US government lost all control of the US money supply. See A PRIMER ON MONEY COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WRIGHT PATMAN Chairman 1964:

    The really dangerous amendment is the commerce clause amendment they put into the Animal welfare act a few years ago. A lawyer’s take on the Commerce Clause: link

    Rosa Delauro had it written in HR 875 this way:

    “in any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction SHALL BE PRESUMED TO EXIST.”

    The 1942 case Wickard v. Filburn is one of the central precedents for expanding the centralized government. FDR threatened to pack the US Supreme Court and that is the reason they ruled for the increase in the Federal Government’s power. Wickard v. Filburn got to the Supreme Court, and in 1942, the justices unanimously ruled against the farmer. The government claimed that if Mr. Filburn grew wheat for his own use, he would not be buying it — and that affected interstate commerce.

    The Court’s opinion must be quoted to be believed:

    [The wheat] supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce.
    As Epstein commented, “Could anyone say with a straight face that the consumption of home-grown wheat is ‘commerce among the several states?'” For good measure, the Court justified the obvious sacrifice of Mr. Filburn’s freedom and interests to the unnamed farmers being protected:
    It is of the essence of regulation that it lays a restraining hand on the self-interest of the regulated and that advantages from the regulation commonly fall to others.

    Now the US Supreme Court has gone even further:

    Even “if we assume that it is never marketed, it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market,” Justice Robert Jackson wrote for a unanimous court in Wickard v. Filburn. “Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce.”

    The two well-known conservative judges who upheld Obama’s health care law, appeals court judges Jeffrey Sutton and Laurence Silberman, put great weight on the wheat case.

    “If, as Wickard shows, Congress could regulate the most self-sufficient of individuals — the American farmer — when he grew wheat destined for no location other than his family farm, the same is true for those who inevitably will seek health care and who must have a way to pay for it,” wrote Sutton, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia. (link)

    Unfortunately, Wickard v. Filburn has morphed far beyond its original purpose of upholding Roosevelt’s New Deal price-fixing schemes. Even Justice Scalia concurred with the majority opinion in Gonzales v. Raich (2005) that “Wickard thus establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself “commercial,” in that it is not produced for sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity.”

    The commodity to which they referred was marijuana, and the ruling upheld Congress’ authority to criminalize the cultivation of a handful of medicinal houseplants in compliance with state law. This case is interesting because it introduces federalist tensions into the debate over the limits of the commerce clause; 26 states are now challenging the healthcare law based on the idea that Massachusetts can do what it wants with regard to individual mandates, but a nationwide mandate is unconstitutional. Gonzales v. Raich is a sort of anti-circumvention decision, that the government has the blanket privilege to regulate any activity that might have an impact on the government’s ability to regulate interstate commerce.

    However, the 1995 ruling U.S. v. Lopez affirmed some limits on the commerce clause, deciding that if Congress could regulate an activity as distant from interstate commerce as the transaction of a handgun between two individuals, then the power would effectively be unlimited. As the Politico headline snarkily put it today, “Gun-free schools: a bridge too far.” Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion laid out three broad categories covered by the interstate commerce power; the channels of interstate commerce, its agents, and activities that “substantially relate to” or “substantially affect” it….

    Unfortunately the Supreme Court will have Justices retiring that Obama will be replacing so there is scant hope that the US Supreme Court will actually curb the growth of the Federal Government.


    (Unfortunately all my links to this data from ‘official sources’ have gone dead so I removed them)
    1961 PVP is the Plant Variety Protection: The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants: Gave seed companies a monopoly on only the commercial multiplication and the marketing of seeds. Farmers remained free to save seed from their own harvest to plant in the following year, and other breeders could freely use any variety, protected or not, to develop a new one.

    1980 the Supreme Court decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarthy, 447 U.S. 303 enabled living organisms to be patented

    1986 Global commodity prices slumped in the mid eighties, triggering a five fold increase in farm subsidies in the USA and the EU subsidy to double. Pressure from commodity exporters inspired a decision to pursue Agricultural Policy reform at Uruguay round of GATT. It was lead by Under Secretary of Agriculture Dan Amstutz.,+1986&source=bl&ots=g_NvagIp9r&sig=iNU3jWVgC7LkAjkzuSQt6LyINfI&hl=en&ei=XF-gSavhGY-EtgeXjZz_DA&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA68,M1

    1986, the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round of international trade talks has been dominated by a confrontation between the US and the EC over farm policy reform. Both sides proclaim their commitment to devising a GATT regime which will bring an end to the anarchy in world agricultural markets, yet neither is willing to address the underlying cause of the present malaise: structural over-production in their own farm sectors and the resulting accumulation of surpluses. The use of export subsidies to put these surpluses on to world markets caused developing countries severe trade and food security problems in the 1980s; and a Uruguay Round deal is unlikely to bring any relief. What it will do, however, is introduce new regulations which, enshrined in international trade law, will restrict the right of developing countries to manage their own food systems. Most importantly, the use of trade measures to control food imports and price support measures to promote staple food production could be severely constrained, or banned, by a ‘farm superpower’ GATT agreement.

    1991 PVP monopoly has applied to seed multiplication and also to the harvest and sometimes the final product as well. Previously unlimited right of farmers to save seed for the following year’s planting has been changed into an optional exception. Only if national government allows, can farm-saved seed still be used, and a royalty has to be paid to the seed company even for seeds grown on-farm.

    1993 Published: International HACCP guidelines developed by the Codex Alimentarius, a joint Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)and the World Health Organization (WHO). revised in 1997.

    1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

    1995 WTO ratified: Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was the introduction of intellectual property rules on plants, animals and seeds under the WTO’s Agreement.

    1996 HACCP replaced the US food safety system. Government test labs were shut down. Inspectors inspected paperwork not food and the incidence of food borne disease doubled. and

    This now applies to crops too:
    1996 The destruction of animals, (Depopulation) Disposal procedures and Decontamination operation procedures published

    April 16, 1999 A veritable who’s who of corporate agribusiness writes a letter to Clinton about WTO meeting in Seattle: They want to establishment a three year goal, and a more effective set of trade rules for the agricultural sector

    You will get a real laugh out of this one ChiefIO
    2001 Issues for the Agricultural Talks and WTO Trade Round: “The un-scientific so-called “precautionary principle” is unfortunately being successfully and constantly misused as justification to immobilize science and its applications, as well as to confuse the public. ..The so-called principle, which is in fact a concept rather than a principle, is indeed a wonderful tool to avoid delicate political decision. .. the so-called precautionary principle – in reality a concept rather than a scientific principle – should not be used as a tool to stop innovation, even under the guise of a moratorium, which is what has happened in the EU today. There will always be scientific uncertainty in any scientific field and reasonable approaches to risk management must be adopted to manage this uncertainty. Prohibition must only be used as an extreme risk management tool. Abuses of the precaution concept to justify political positions, or to cloak distorting import restriction policies, should equally be avoided and expressively exposed. The European Commission’s recent white paper was helpful in clarifying the limits to be set on the use of the so-called “precautionary principle.” Original is missing but a copy is at skip to Protracted Introduction of New Technologies In European Agriculture: Plant Biotechnology

    July 2000, USDA officials claimed in court hearing that, “The farmers have no rights. No right to be heard before the court, no right to independent testing, and no right to question the USDA. ”Linda Faillace: Mad sheep

    May, 2003, the European Patent Office in Munich granted a patent to Monsanto with the number EP 445929, with the simple title “plants”, even though plants are not patentable in European Law.

    January 30, 2004, Bush signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive-9, “to defend the agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.” USDA’s Jeremy Stump, says, “It’s from farm to fork.” The order covers animals and crops – the entire food supply chain – and includes shared operations with the CIA.

    January 2005: Guide to good farming practices: This draft guide to good farming practices for animal production food safety was taken from the Report of the Meeting of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission (Paris, 17-28 January 2005)

    June 2006 Global Diversity Treaty: Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) a standardized contract that will enable much easier access to crop diversity. [ germplasm for patenting] royalty payment (1.1% of sales) is paid only if product is unavailable for further breeding and research. funds will be devoted to conservation efforts. Translation: Bio-techs Corporations steal seed from third world farmers, patents it and pay money to Bioversity International

    December 2006 “In the EU, there is now a list of ‘official’ vegetable varieties. Seed that is not on the list cannot be ‘sold’ to the ‘public’ To keep something on the list costs thousands of pounds each year…Hundreds of thousands of old heirloom varieties (the results of about eleven thousand years of plant breeding by our ancestors) are being lost forever.

    Monsanto actually infiltrated one of the European seed clubs and stole hundreds of old heirloom varieties so they could be patented….

    Feb 2007 GRAIN press release USA: Seed companies want to ban farm-saved seeds
    A new report from GRAIN reveals the new lobbying offensive from the global seed industry to make it a crime for farmers to save seeds for the next year’s planting.

    FAO is supporting harmonization of seed rules and regulations in Africa and Central Asia in order to stimulate the development of a vibrant seed industry“…An effective seed regulation harmonization process involves dialogue amongst all relevant stakeholders from both private and public sectors. Seed quality assurance, variety release, plant variety protection, biosafety, plant quarantine and phytosanitary issues are among the major technical areas of a regional harmonized seed system. The key to a successful seed regulation harmonization is a strong political will of the governments involved…”

    April 2007 Monsanto, Cargill and Maseca-ADM sign agreements to establish regional seed banks in the center and south of Mexico.

    September 2007 Arctic Seed Vault

    January 8 2008 ~In the UK Defra has dropped the word ‘farming’ from its title. “Defra and the Treasury’s joint vision document of 2006 presented to the EU argued that supports for farming should be completely abandoned..”

    May 2008 Bio-tech companies lobby to lift ban against terminator gene


    Livestock is also scheduled for patenting. Monsanto already has a pig patent.

    Hilary Clinton by opposing the updating of the Plum Island foot & mouth disease lab so the lab was relocated to Kansas, has made sure that US livestock WILL be wiped out in the future thanks to the OIE rules on containing an outbreak. What is DEPOPULATION?

    “Crimson Sky was a simulation run in 2002 to characterize the ability to protect against, prevent, or effectively deal with an attack on agriculture and its infrastructure,” Johnson explains. “This simulation demonstrated that a deliberately staged bioterrorism outbreak of a highly contagious animal disease presents a threat to the security and economic stability of the nation.”
    The simulation was intended to demonstrate a worst-case scenario in which the country responded too slowly to an FMD outbreak, Thornton says. Worst-case indeed, the exercise produced disturbing results, reportedly ending with fictional riots in the streets and a ditch 25 miles long to bury animal carcasses.

    Click to access plumisland.pdf

    The UK had a real world run of that scenario.

    A vet who worked during two outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in 1967 and in 2001 has told members of a European Parliamentary committee the administration during last year’s crisis was “complete chaos”. “It was brutal, wasteful and bloody – the nearest thing Britain has seen to what Europe saw in the Second World War,”

    History of UK 2001 foot & mouth disease:

    More on the Plum Island fiasco

  77. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says: @ 14 January 2013 at 6:27 am
    Let me know and I will try to be there.

    ChiefIO I just posted a long post with links that got booted into the ether. (seed control time line) If you can not fish it out I have a copy.

    The ‘boiling a frog’ method is interesting in the case of seed and animal patents.

  78. Beth Cooper says:

    Re fruit trees as back up food sources for hard times.
    I plant native trees along the waste land by the local
    railway line as a wild life habitat and include the
    occasional fig tree. A fig tree will grow in a cleft of rock,
    needs no tending and fruits twice a year. Good back up
    for hard times like yr apricot tree, ChiefIO.

  79. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    13 January 2013 at 5:42 am
    ….If you have $600,000 to spare I would like to try again with the Atlantic salmon. It will work this time.
    Here is your fish farm as a going concern for a tenth that amount!

    FISH FARM FOR SALE – $55,128 (Marion, SC.):
    Acreage: 8.9 Acr.

    4 Fish Ponds
    3 Wells
    500 feet of road frontage
    Tilapia and Channel Cat Fish
    Nets and automatic fish feeders
    Electricity on premise
    2 Sheds

    Will consider owner finance with considerable down payment.

    Call Jim for more information at : (843) 516-3479
    Malcolm Road at Near Hwy. 501

  80. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, Gail, how could you do that? I could sell the house and own a going operation…

    Now there will be an argument with the spouse tonight for sure…


    Oh, yes! As a kid, we used to climb in a fig tree behind the school… Literally “forbidden fruits”.

    Some fig or other sprouted from a seed in the back yard. The bunnies tormented it for a couple of years, but it kept gamely putting up new sprouts. I took pity on it and it is now in tub out of bunny reach. When it is big enough, it will be planted in a back corner of the yard (in a place to ‘share’ limbs with neighbors, should they desire it… ) I hope it is a good kind of fig ;-)


    I have the filter set to a large number, but over IIRC 7 or 8 links it gets sucked to the SPAM queue. I fished it back.

    That seed patent thing, BTW, is part of why I have a freezer full of seeds on my porch. It is cheap and easy to do. About $100 for the freezer, some old jars, and seeds. I’ve had onions (normally a 1 year only seed) spout and grow after 8 with good germination percentages. It doesn’t take some fancy set up to have a seed archive…

    When the EU law passed, there was a Noah’s Ark kind of effort to get the EU seeds saved over here before destruction over there. One can only hope someone there has just said “up yours” and keeps seeds in the freezer too.

    Monsanto is another of those companies, like GE, that is on my “shit list”. Never will buy one of their products if I can find a way around it. Just evil in how they are run.

    Does sound like you need goats for that land! Goes where a tractor can’t… Don’t suppose an electric fence would be an option for you, eh? At a local “organic membership farm” on the “visitors day” when folks who bought the ‘regular basket’ share had a big ‘ol pot luck, one of the ‘demonstrations’ was a small goat herd being moved from field to field as ‘clean up committee’. Just a single strand of electrified wire and 4 poles. Move them to an area, let them take it down to ‘near dirt’, move on… Seemed to work and the goats didn’t look to be ‘testing’ the wire at all.

    Granny Warriors! I love it! ( I think a half dozen books just went on my list ;-)

    AND a mousaka recipe to!

    On ‘smaller babies’ I think it is at least in part due to higher use of drugs (of all kinds including legal) and alcohol. Also the tendency of women to be on a ‘slim’ fetish. How can you build up a large reserve of the right EFAs (fish oils anyone?) if you are ‘slim’ when first getting pregnant? There is a reason that skinny doesn’t lead to fertility but above a certain body fat does. The process needs an inventory to work from. Eating a load of carbs and veggies once pregnant is not going to make up for that.

    I have this growing suspicion that some kind of centralization induced collapse is in the wind (may take another 30 years…) but that the ‘salvation’ is going to be a bunch of folks “back in the hills somewhere” with a freezer of seeds, a few heirloom goats, a shelf of books, and the knowhow to keep the well working…

    Some of them things my Dad taught me (we dug a well in the back yard together. 14 foot down had 4 foot of water… The city had put a meter on the city water and we had a big garden ;-)

    @Judy F:

    You have reason to be scared. I can only hope there are still enough independent farmers in the USA to keep that kind of thing shut down.

    There is a fundamental evil from matching Agenda 21 (with the ‘drive people off the land’ goal) with the likes of corporate agri-business (Monsanto / ADM / Cargil /…) wanting to own every aspect of life. I suspect it will only be stopped by repeated “civil disobedience” efforts. Put a wall of tractors around DC (“Hey, I wasn’t here to protest, I just got caught in a traffic jam!” – keep that lawyer handy… ;-) and let them know what the pointy end of a pitch fork is for…

    One of the reasons I ‘rail against’ large corporate operations on farms is exactly that ‘every place is a bit different’ issue. Big ops “hire a guy” to do it “by the book”. That ends up damaging places, then they just move on. More “miners” than “farmers”. No idea about things like keeping that frog pond so they eat the bugs or that one scrap of the land has a water logging for an extra week so plant it later or with a different patch of crop. Everything gets standardized. Sprayed (to excess) on schedule not on need. And so it goes.

    These folks will bring a global famine just from their “all the same all the time” mindlessness. We almost had a corn famine back in the late ’60s early ’70s IIRC. A “rust” was sweeping the corn belt. It could do that since they were all mostly identical genetics. Just incredibly dumb. A patchwork of farmers with local adapted varieties would not have that kind of catastrophic failure mode.


    I have a great admiration for ancestral foods, and a great love of traditional methods, but somehow I never could quite get past the idea of lye on fish ;-)

    Scandinavians are interesting people… One ‘great great’ someone or other was a Viking, per family lore… Blond and readhead in the family…


    I’d do a ‘test eating’ of the two colors before discarding. Most fish have a band of darker meat. It is from more mitochondria in the most used muscle. (Same reason chicken have light and dark meat and why a pheasant that flies a lot has a lot of ‘dark meat’ even where it is ‘white meat’ in chickens…). Now it could be some metabolites there taste less good, or it could just be ‘folk -er- wisdom’ that isn’t so much… Worth validating…

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Nice idea for a posting though… where you could comment more fully. Probably tomorrow before I can get one put up. But yes, we can cope in so many ways that a poor person in the third world can not. Say some guy in sub-Saharan Africa who swapped to maize as it was pushed for higher yields, then the historic ‘more variable’ pattern comes back. We would say “well, just plant some sorghum”, but he might well find he had not saved sorghum seeds from last year as he had grown corn then… and for want of 50 cents of seeds, can not adapt.

    Me? I’d go to the garden shop and spend $40 on a variety of interesting packets and trial them all, but mostly just as a hobby…

    Quite a contrast.

  81. Judy F says:

    @Gail Combs, @ EM
    Here is a newsletter from a potato grower in Maine, who is trying to fight Monsanto. They sell great potatoes too.

  82. BobN says:

    I had an old goat that I started tying up on a rope, but that didn’t work well and didn’t seem humane. I tied a tire to a rope that he drug around. The tire was just heavy enough to keep him from running all over the place, yet gave him the freedom to move to new grass or shade. It worked pretty well.

    The Pond growing of fish is fraught with disease issues, the future is tanks and troughs. More money to set up, but a higher yield of product with less health issues. Its not too feasible unless there is cheap energy, that’s the magic to make it work.

    @ EM – A lot or Blonds in the family, not so much on red heads. I agree the Lye in foods is no good.

  83. Gail Combs says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    14 January 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Oh, Gail, how could you do that? I could sell the house and own a going operation…

    Now there will be an argument with the spouse tonight for sure…
    And just think, it is NOT in California! I have lived in SC and it is nice. Now that I have been in NC for several years I wish we had moved to SC instead. NC has too many Taxachusett transplants and is therefore a bit too much like MA and CA for my taste.

  84. Gail Combs says:

    The eight wire high tensile (electric) plus donkey is to keep out the dogs and coyotes, not to keep the goats in. My goats are not too good about electric fences but if they or the sheep do get out they end up on the porch looking for dinner. I keep my old girls until they die of old age so they are all pretty much big pets. It is the excess boys who end up in the freezer not my girls. My ram and my buck are big babies too.

    I generally bottle raise a few each year and that makes the rest of the weanlings much more likely to not be skiddish of me. I do not use dogs to ‘herd’ I use a feed bucket and a catch pen.

    Electric fence is really no problem because of the solar charged fence chargers now available.

    For anyone getting into goats or sheep I highly recommend
    Premier Supply (more general)
    Priemer also has garden stuff.
    Caprine supply:

    The nice thing about both are they are owned by farmers with experience and the staff will help you. Premier designed my coyote proof fences for me, that is why I have 8 wire high tensile.

    For portable fence/training fence there is electronet. Premier: Training sheep to electric netting

    For what it is worth, I have bought several ‘farm store’ fence chargers and I keep having to have them repaired. My Premier charger is still going strong and has never given a day of trouble.

    On the seed saving do you seal tight in a glass jar or allow some air?

  85. Gail Combs says:

    Judy F says:
    14 January 2013 at 10:25 pm

    @Gail Combs, @ EM
    Here is a newsletter from a potato grower in Maine, who is trying to fight Monsanto. They sell great potatoes too.

    There is a guy in Vermont who has been fighting for years, Walter Jefferies:

    Gisella has really good documentation:

    Another guy, Darol:

    Barb Peterson:

    The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund:

    John Munsell is a real fighter:
    (A humorous account of his fight with the USDA – Five minutes with John Munsell & a trip to the woodshed with the USDA )

    Marti Oakley, Linn Cohen-Cole, and Doreen Hannes have also done a lot of writing too.

    As has Nicole Johnson:

    Me? I do research and hand it off to the above people.

    By the way the people I just named are in large part the core group who fought HR875 like crazy so we are still allowed to have home gardens.

    Linn was a leader of the group. Here is some of the opposition:

    Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything from her in three years.

  86. Gail Combs says:

    Raw Honey/fresh lemon Lemonade:

    I would cut way back on the honey though since I have not had sweets for three years and always liked my lemonade very tart to begin with. I also make my lemonade dilute because I am trying to make sure I drink enough water and a bit of flavor makes me more inclined to drink.

    Generally I stick with unsweetened Ice tea but this might make a nice change once in a while. Anything to get away from soda.

  87. agimarc says:

    Re raising trout: there is a worrisome parasite found in a number of Western US trout streams called whirling disease. Test for is is pretty flaky, but you can tell when the fish are infected.

    Storage of rye worries me a bit – based on that magic little psychedelic fungus called ergot, blamed by some for the Salem witch trial hysteria.

    We have an organic gardening guy up here that did a book on what he calls the soil food web – the combination of fungus, bacteria and minerals necessary to be sustainable. I’ve been applying some of the concepts for over 5 years with reasonable success. This might be worth your while to look up:

    Cheers –

  88. Gail Combs,
    That fish farm sounds quite a bargain! Located in wonderful South Carolina!! Oh, to be young again!!!

  89. agimarc says:

    And all of this great info merits the requisite awful pun:

    What do vegetarian zombies eat? Grains!

    Shoot me now. Cheers –

  90. agimarc,
    You have to worry about those fish diseases. Thankfully I did not have to deal with the whirling disease or the much worse PKD (Piscine Kidney Disorder). Every summer in London, the water temperature would approach 20 Centigade, highly stressful for Rainbows. Each year we would cut the feed rate to maintenance level or below and then keep our fingers crossed. Most years we would get an outbreak of Furunculosis, so call the vet and he prescribes Tetracyclines. Dissolve the anti-biotic in corn oil and add it to the feed. Problem solved.

    This ritual played out with my salmon smolts in Maine but this time there was no happy ending. Fish farmers in Eastport have abused Tetracyclines for so many years that they have created a Tetracycline resistant strain of Furunculosis. While it does not kill all your fish, the survivors have lesions that make them unsaleable. Back in 1988 a salmon smolt weighing 65 grams sold for $2.50 (~$18/pound) and my pilot operation had 100,000 of them.

    The sad thing is that the furunculosis would not have developed but for the temperature induced stress. When building the Eastport fish farm we could have installed a temperature control system. Hindsight is 20/20; we lacked the money to correct our mistake and try again.

  91. Gail Combs says:
    15 January 2013 at 12:29 am

    “The eight wire high tensile (electric) plus donkey is to keep out the dogs and coyotes, not to keep the goats in.”

    Are there coyotes in North Carolina? I came across some foxes…………………..

  92. Tim Wainwright says:

    @ Powergrab….

    Your story lands close to home re. the wheat alergy. My father suffers in the same way, and maybe eventually so will I.
    Your possible solution is very intersting to us, can you share the details of the probiotic that may be effecting the ‘cure’

    Victoria, Australia.

  93. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    15 January 2013 at 2:43 am

    Gail Combs,
    That fish farm sounds quite a bargain! Located in wonderful South Carolina!! Oh, to be young again!!!
    Youth is definitely wasted on the young and the young think we older folks are dumb and not ‘with-it’ or what ever the newest jargon is. The young are much more easily brain washed so it is quite useful to remove the parental and social guidance of the older folks and substitute that of the government. We are seeing that at work today.

    Lenin, founder of the Russian revolution said it best.

    ‘ The Socialist Revolution in the US cannot take place because there are too many small independent farmers there. Those people are the stability factor. We here in Russia must hurry while our government is stupid enough to not encourage and support the independent farmership.’
    Quote provided by Anna Fisher

    It would seem the elite here in the USA took him at his word and preceded to wipe out US farmers and thereby our cultural stability.

    …With World War II, America saw its agricultural system intentionally subjected to political policies that radically transformed it. What was once a decentralized system that provided a means to self sufficiency and independence for tens of millions of farmers was purposefully centralized….

    This transformation was the result of organized plans developed by a group of highly powerful — though unelected — financial and industrial executives who wanted to drastically change agricultural practices in the US to better serve their collective corporate financial agenda. This group, called the Committee for Economic Development, was officially established in 1942….

    Composed of chief executive officers and chairmen from the federal reserve, the banking industry, private equity firms, insurance companies, railroads, information technology firms, publishing companies, pharmaceutical companies, the oil and automotive industries, meat packing companies, retailers and assisted by university economists — representatives from every sector of the economy with the key exception of farmers themselves — CED determined that the problem with American agriculture was that there were too many farmers. But the CED had a “solution”: millions of farmers would just have to be eliminated….

    Some of the report’s authors would go on to work in government to implement CED’s policy recommendations. Over the next five years, the political and economic establishment ensured the reduction of “excess human resources engaged in agriculture” ….

    Their plan was so effective and so faithfully executed by its operatives in the US government that by 1974 the CED couldn’t help but congratulate itself in another agricultural report called “A New US Farm Policy for Changing World Food Needs” for the efficiency of the tactics they employed to drive farmers from their land.[5]

    The human cost of CED’s plans were exacting and enormous.

    CED’s plans resulted in widespread social upheaval throughout rural America, ripping apart the fabric of its society destroying its local economies. They also resulted in a massive migration to larger cities. The loss of a farm also means the loss of identity, and many farmers’ lives ended in suicide [6], not unlike farmers in India today who have been tricked into debt and desperation and can see no other way out….
    source ( 10 pages with half the essay is footnotes/references)

    So lets look at another bit of information on the USA. The incarceration rate in the USA
    graph and prison population, inmates per 100,000 people. comparison to other countries graph. You can see the results of the destruction of the cultural stability of the USA.

    There were two other contributers.
    Desegregation busing: In the 1971 Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had the discretion to include busing as a desegregation tool to achieve racial balance. This moved the underage drug pushers from the inner city to the much more lucrative suburban playgrounds. In the 1970’s my school went from no drugs to drugs in first grade almost overnight. (A friend’s six year old sister was stealing from her parents to support her habit and my friend was catching the flack for the stealing.)

    Deinstitutionalisation of the mentally ill: In the US most deinstitutionalization occurred after 1972, as a consequence of the availability of SSI, long after the anti-psychotic drugs were used universally in state hospitals. – American psychiatrist Loren Mosher.

    I won’t bother with all the supporting documentation. However the courts ruled people could not be committed against their will. The mental institutions were emptied and halfway houses set up. Then the courts decided forcing adults to take the medication that made them able to function in society was not legal. Involuntary Treatment of Mentally Ill Vagrancy laws have also come under constitutional attack as have the county homes/farms where those without homes used to be placed. (Mom taught art at a local county home in the 1960’s)

    So we now have a country where the very fabric of our culture has been intentionally ripped apart and we add in the trend of immigrants not becoming ‘Americanized’ but of keeping their own culture. Dick Lamm the former Governor of Colorado did a good essay on that issue, Eight Steps To Destroy America

    And that does not even get into the government controlled Daycare con job. Another ‘Crisis’ that very much reminds me of the use of the food ‘safety’ scare to get farms regulated so independed food production can be wiped out and the CAGW scare to tax carbon. Both very useful in pushing us into Agenda 21 via impoverishing us all the while telling us it is EVIL to be ‘wealthy’. The “Problem-Reaction-Solution” technique works like a charm every single time.

    Starting to feel like you are being herded? I am.

  94. E.M.Smith says:


    The thing that does in seed is heat, moisture and oxidation. So the more seed in the jar the better. In theory, even a ‘seal-a-meal’ vacuum out the air in the jar. (Though the seed is alive, so I wonder about having zero air…) In practice, its just stuff the packets into a jar, but the usual canning lid on it, and tighten. Put it in the freezer.

    At those temps, so little is going on that the air doesn’t seem to matter. Heck, I “expanded” into a small ‘fridge’ (personal sized that was ‘left over’ when I moved out of an office job where it was under my desk – cost me something like $56 bucks when I bought it. Those little cube things) for the over flow. Figured I get a season, maybe two. Just at fridge temps I’ve had seeds going on 5 years do fine. ( Some that were 12 years old didn’t have good germination though, only about 20%…) So just getting from 80 F down to 40 F makes a big difference.

    So now I treat the fridge as my ‘working stock’ and the freezer as my “archive”.

    FWIW a seed saving article (somewhere…) said it was defrost cycles that mattered more than absolute cold, so it’s better to package smaller jars and that way you don’t need to defrost the darn things 20 time, pulling out one packet each time…

    Since moisture starts the germination wake up cycle, you don’t want a lot of ‘dew’ forming on the seed packets. So on ‘defrost’, take the jar out and let it just sit in a cool place. I use the fridge. That way when you open the lid, not a lot of moisture is condensing on the inside of the jar.

    As it stands now, I’m so efficient with seeds that both are chock full and the excess is in the bottom of the vegetable crisper in the house ;-) Oh, and a couple of jars of beans in the house freezer to kill any bean weevils in them… freezing does a great job of getting rid of pest eggs in the seeds.

    I let some “yellow mangle” heirloom run to seed a couple of years back and got about a quart of seeds. More than I can use in a lifetime. Same thing with some parsnips and some collard / kale hybrids. Planting 20 plants and harvesting a quart of seeds you end up with a lot of ‘extras’. Then when that quart lasts a decade or two…


    It’s pretty well shown that plant roots make a commensal ‘deal’ with selected fungus fibers. The plants get more ‘reach’ to their roots and better supply of minerals and water, the fungus gets a bit of lunch. “win win” ;-) Sterile soils doesn’t work as well as live soil.

    (Then again, I have a little white speck of some kind of bug that likes to get into my potato patch. Doesn’t seem to hurt anything, but just looks wrong…)

  95. gallopingcamel says:

    Gail Combs points out how farming is being increasingly centralized. Only in a centralized system could you have a mandate forcing people to buy gasoline with 10% ethanol so that the Archer Daniels Midland folks could make billions while driving small farmers our of business.

    That telling quote from Lenin tells us why we need to fear the Agribusiness oligarchy or any other oligarchy/monopoly. The same malady afflicts government K-12 schools where the control is steadily being “Elevated” so that fewer and fewer people have a say in what will be done. I have started to write a book on this subject entitled “The Power of Failure”. Wish me luck as I am going to need it!

  96. p.g.sharrow says:

    @gallopingcamel; good luck hell! GOOD SPEED sir. ;-) School systems should be very locally controlled and operated. Educated young people are too important to be treated as if they were cattle to be managed by remote control from some distant central office. pg

  97. Power Grab says:

    Re the incredible shrinking babies –
    I tend to think it has a lot to do with the fact that skinny women are the ideal. To be skinny today (as a young woman, anyway), usually involves avoiding real food – especially real, healthy, natural fats.

    I am a HUGE fan of the work of Weston A. Price. In his travels, he documented the impact of diet upon the shape of peoples’ dental arch and other aspects of their physiques. He believed that diet had a strong impact on these features, even at the point of conception. If you haven’t read “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, you need to read it. It has lots of photos of both healthy and unhealthy people that he examined during his travels. He also took samples of their foods and analyzed them for nutritional value. Bottom line – the healthy groups’ diets had around 10 times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins (compared to Americans’ diets at the time), and they had an average of 4 times the amount of water-soluble vitamins and minerals (again, compared to Americans’ diets at the time, which was in the 1920’s and 1930’s).

    He found that the diet of the father as well as the mother impacted on the health and normality of their babies. He found that many cultures had rules for how to eat when you were going to have a family, and they spaced their children several years apart, to allow the mother to regain what she had lost during pregnancy.

    One of the things you see over and over in the photos in the book is that a diet that was lacking in traditional nutrition tended to yield a similar pattern of deformity. Not only the dental arch was narrow, but the nostrils were “pinched” and narrow, the face was narrowed, and even the upper body tended to be more flattened and prone to maladies like tuberculosis.

    Once I read Dr. Price’s book, I could not look at faces the same anymore. Whenever I see someone who has the extremely narrow nose, face, and dental arch, (usually with the two front teeth looking somewhat like the bow of a boat), I consider how their parents probably got very little of the fat-soluble vitamins in their diet.

    Even in my family, I seem to see the pattern. My oldest sibling has (IMHO) the most normal-looking features and teeth and has never struggled with weight issues. I was conceived when Mom was only 5 months post-partum. That’s way too close, according to traditional child-spacing rules. My teeth are not bad at all (especially compared to many today), but I never had what I would call a “normal” figure. I always wonder if my mom had gone on a reducing diet between her 1st and 2nd children. The next child was born 3 years after me. The teeth were a little less straight, but otherwise normal physically. The 4th child was born 4 years after the 3rd. By this time, the fat-avoiding dogma had firmly taken root. The 4th child’s teeth are quite crooked, and stature is small, but otherwise normal. None of us had braces, but child #4 complained one time that they might have helped.

    Dr. Price noted that many times the first-born child was the most normal-looking. If the mother’s diet did not include plenty of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, then each child thereafter tended to be a bit less normal – even to the point of having club feet, a split palate, or having what we now call Down’s Syndrome.

    I met a man one time who was the 10th child in a Hispanic family who lived in southernmost Texas. His mother was still alive when I knew him. He looked like a first-born to me, since his features were so broad. It really surprised me when he said he was the 10th child! He said that his mom was still active and vital and prepared most of her own food. She even rendered her own lard. No wonder she was able to have 10 healthy children! Her only health issue was some cataracts, and those were easily dealt with.

    You mentioned thinking that drugs (both legal and illegal) might be contributing to the number of small babies being born. That could be a factor in both the mother’s and father’s situation. Also, many drugs cause depletion of nutrients. Pesticides and herbicides can deplete vitamin A and make you feel like you have the flu. Birth control pills deplete the B vitamins (hence the modern-day admonition to women to take folic acid they could get pregnant). Soy also depleted the B vitamins and minerals.

  98. Tim Clark says:

    In CO when I was much younger the CO Game and Fish had a contest every spring. You could bowhunt carp in the spring when they were in the shallow headwaters of eastern CO irrigation impoundments. They had an area set aside to put the fish if you didn’t want them, or if they weren’t big enough (over 20 lbs was a potential winner). They would collect them with a skid steer loader into a bobtail truck and took them god knows where. The Game and Fish Dept wanted them out. They gave a prize (gun or bow, etc. usually donated) to the largest fish and got the lake cleared of a bunch of carp. Good program. One time my college roomates and I went to Pruit, Lake McConaughy, and Jumbo reservoirs and bow hunted for about three days. At Jumbo, we’d been hunting for about three hours early in the wee hours and had a pile of well more than 50 good sized fish. Probably over 500 lbs. There was this nice older gentleman in a camper pickup with Denver plates about 100 yds down the shoreline who had been fishing all morning but didn’t have much to show for it. When we were tired (about 9 AM) and were packing up, he sauntered down the shore and asked us what we were doing. After explaining, he asked, “What you going to do with the fish.” “Leave em for the game and fish.” “Can I have them?” “Sure!” He went back to his pickup, drove to a trash container a-ways off, emptied out a trash can he had in his camper (I’d guess about the 33 gal. size), rinsed it out and we helped fill it with carp. Couldn’t get them all so he was selective. Took the biggest. We asked, What are YOU going to do with them?” He said “Can’em in a pressure cooker.” Gave us his recipe, wished I had written it down. I know it had vinegar, lemon, basil, and some cajun spices (He was a man of color from La.). They also do the same with alligator gar in Ar. It’s not bad. I had some once at a crayfish boil when I was with the U of A.

  99. Tim Clark says:

    { selected fungus fibers. }
    mycorhiza (sp?)

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  101. Tom says:

    Remembered this posting upon reading about quinoa, an Andean dietary staple pseudo-grain from non-grass lineage. At the moment cultivation outside its native range is limited; but, market demand has overtaken supply.
    As it is gluten free, possibly you have noted it, and are familiar with its balance of essential amino acids. For now it is prized as an acceptable substitute for meat.
    My interest is in its tolerance of cold and arid conditions if the northern continents revert to their normal climate {:^(>

  102. E.M.Smith says:


    I grew quinoa one summer. Has a bitter coating on it that helps keep birds off of it. Nice plant (related to beets and amaranth). Celosia is a relative too. (Cockscomb). I’ve tried celosia, but not got it worked out yet. Amaranth was much easier, so I’ve done more of it. Then about 2 yeara ago a ‘herd of birds’ showed up at harvest time and stripped it all. That was when I decided I ought to get back to trying quinoa again! ;-)

    Rinsed of the bitter saponen on the surface, ti’s a nice ‘grain’.

    @Tim Clark:

    Nice story about the carp! ;-)

    Yes, selected fungus types will send mycorhizomes out and help rooted plants.

    Beneficial mycorrhizae has been living with plants roots in a friendly relationship for at least 460 million years. Today, innoculating your potting soil mix or hydroponic reservoir with beneficial mycorrhizae has many benefits. With the chelating enzymes the fungus release, the plants uptake more useable nutrients. With the funal hairs acting as a secondary root system, plants grow big faster. Overall, with help from the fungus, plants grow up healthier.

    When fungal hairs, called hyphae, were first discovered surrounding plant roots on a 460 million year old ocean fossil, it was believed the fungus must be robbing the plants of their energy. Further research has since proved this to be false. In fact, these very fossils became the evidence that suggests a relationship existed between the plants and the fungus that benefits both. The evidence goes on to conclude that it was exactly this symbiotic relationship that allowed plants to begin successfully growing on land about 55 million years ago.

    It really is important to have “living soil” for your dirt…


    I’m doing a bit of a Weston Price experiment now. The dentist said I needed a specialist for a tooth with ‘issues’. X-ray showed some real problems (as did discomfort). I did an antibiotic triage of the mouth, and then a swap to more whole wheat et. al. Going on a few months now and the tooth is no long ‘in crisis’ and seems to be healing. At some point I’ll get an x-ray again and see if the Dentist hits the roof ;-) or if I do 8-{

    @G.C. & P.G.:

    Saw my first “Read 180” poster today (spouse’s classroom). Lots of push for PC left folks, not one bit extolling the virtues of engineers or captains of enterprises. NOTHING about how economics works, nor the key functions that make stuff happen. (Mining, farming, trucks, etc.). Couple of feature areas were civil rights (as disobedience) and MLK.

    Learn to read just enough to soak up the propaganda was what it looked like to me.

    Fixing the central political control of education is a critical part, IMHO.

  103. Jason Calley says:

    @E.M. “I regularly use food stored for far longer than the package ‘allows’. Yogurt, for example. I’m sorry, but it is a fermented food product. When it gets older, it just ‘yogs’ more (and not enough to notice either). I’ve made my own. You let it set at 100 F for more or less time, rotting away, to suit your tastes. Yet each little store bought tub has a ‘toss date’ on it that is just weeks away. Crazy, really.”

    I did an experiment with kefir a few years ago. Kefir, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a fermented milk about half way between buttermilk and yogurt. Anyway, I took some two day old kefir in a mason jar and poured in enough olive oil to just make about a half inch layer on the top. I put a lid on top slightly loose, and placed the jar on a counter top with a towel thrown over for a bit of slight darkness. I let it sit for six weeks. The kefir was still good — somewhat bubbly and carbonated, a bit more sour than usual, but palatable. I drank it. No ill effects. I might have let it sit longer, but as the kefir had developed more bubbles, it had finally reached a low enough density that the oil cover layer had slipped to the bottom of the jar. Figured maybe good to test it at that point. Not bad. Six weeks of milk with no refrigeration.

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  105. dbstealey says:

    PG Sharrow,

    I liked your description!

    There is no problem with storing food — only with the timing. If you could devise a method of permanently storing food, you would be a rich MoF!

    So, good luck to you!

    I wish you the best! Invent a non-perishable food source, and you will be able to hire folks to even chew your food for you! Nubile young ladies come to mind [if that is your preference…]

  106. Stefan says:

    @Power Grab

    Having so far felt good results myself, I’m glad there seems to be a culture growing around Weston Price, low-carb, Paleo, Primal, “The Vegetarian Myth” (Lierre Keith), High Fat Low Carb, and rethinking around cholesterol, heart disease, Syndrome X, inflammation, sugar & Lustig, etc.

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