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APES Notes - Chapter Nine: The Production and Distribution of Food

APES Notes - Chapter Nine: The Production and Distribution of Food

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Published by: irregularflowers on Jul 16, 2010
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Chapter Nine: The Production and Distribution of Food9.1 Crops and Animals: Major Patterns of Food ProductionThe Development of Modern Industrialized AgricultureI.Until 150 years ago, the majority of people in the US lived and worked on small farms.Humans and animal labor turned former forests and grasslands into systems that produced enough food to supply a robust and growing nation. Farmers usedtraditional approaches to combat pests and soil erosion: crops were rotated regularly,many different crops were grown, and animal wastes were returned to the soil.II.The Industrial Revolution revolutionized agriculture so profoundly that today, in the US,some 3 million farmers and farmworkers produce enough food for all the nation’sneeds, plus enough to trade on world markets.A.This revolution increased the efficiency of farming remarkably. Since the mid-1930s, therefore the number of farms has decreased by two-thirds, while the sizeof farms has grown fourfold.B.The revolution has achieved such gains in production that the US frequently hasto cope with surpluses of many crops.III.Virtually every industrialized nation has experienced this agricultural revolution. Crop production has been raised new heights.A.An incredible array of farm machinery handles virtually every need for workingthe soil, seeding, irrigating, weeding, and harvesting. This machinery has enabledfarmers to cultivate far more land than ever. However, the shift from animal labor to machinery has created a dependency on fossil-fuel energy.B.Agriculture has an enormous impact on the landscape. Increases in crop yieldsand consistent crop surpluses have taken the pressure off of additionalconversions to cropland, enabling farmers to be selective in the land theycultivate. The surpluses have also given farmers the opportunity to take erosion- prone land out of production. Under current farm policy, the ConservationReserve Program reimburses farmers for retiring erosion-prone land and plantingit with trees or grasses.C.Essentially all of the good cropland in the US is now under cultivation or held inshort-term reserve. Globally, agriculture occupies 38% of the land, and the netrate of growth of this land has been constant at around .3% per year over the past30 years. The expansion in cropland comes at the expense of forests and wetlands,however, which are both economically important and ecologically fragile.D.When chemical fertilizers first become available and began being used, farmersdiscovered that they could achieve greater yields. When levels of fertilizer are toohigh, the excess is washed away, resulting in groundwater and surface-water  pollution.E.Chemical pesticides have provided significant control over insect and plant pests; but, due to natural selection, the pests have become resistant to most of the
 
 pesticides. As a result, pesticide use has tripled since 1970, but the percentage of crops lost to pests has remained constant.IV.Worldwide, irrigated acreage increased about 2.6 times from 1950 – 1980. By 2003,irrigated acreage represented 18% of all cropland and produced 40% of the world’sfood.A.Irrigation is still expanding, but at a much slower pace because of limits on wateresources. Much of the current irrigation is unsustainable because groundwater resources are being depleted. In addition, production is being adversely affectedon as much as 1/3 of the world’s irrigated land because of waterlogging and theaccumulation of salts in the soil—consequences of irrigating where there is poor drainage.V.Several decades ago, plant geneticists developed new varieties of wheat, corn, and ricethat gave yields double to triple those of traditional varieties. This feat wasaccomplished by selecting strains that diverted more of the plant’s photosynthate tothe seed and away from the stems, leaves, and roots.The Green RevolutionI.The same technologies that gave rise to the agricultural revolution in the industrializedcountries were eventually introduced into the developing world. There, they gave birth to the remarkable increases in crop production called the Green Revolution.A.Within a few years, many of the world’s most populous countries turned thecorner from being grain importers to achieving stability, and, in some cases, even becoming grain exporters.B.The Green Revolution has probably done more than any other single scientificachievement to prevent hunger and malnutrition.C.The high-yielding modern varieties are now cultivated throughout the world andhave become the basis of food production in China, Latin America, the MiddleEast, southern Asia, and the industrialized nations.II.Because the technology raises yields without requiring new agricultural lands, the GreenRevolution has also held back a significant amount of deforestation in the developingworld.A.The crops do best on irrigated land; water shortages have begun to occur as aresult of this dependence.B.The modern varieties require constant inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, and energy-using mechanized labor, all of which can be in short supply in developingcountries.III.The CGIAR recently sponsored a study on the impact of the Green Revolution in thedeveloping world between 1960 and 2000. They came to the following conclusions:1.The early years of the Green Revolution were only the beginning; research onhigh-yielding crops has continued, and more varieties continue to be developed,released, and adopted by farmers.
 
2.More recent research has featured resistance to diseases, pests, and climatestresses. This work has been the key to the increased adoption of modernvarieties.3.The early Green Revolution contributed greatly to expanded food production inAsia and Latin America; the later years of the Green Revolution have benefitedAfrica and the Middle East, as a greater variety of crops was developed.4.If there had been no Green Revolution, crop yields in developing countries wouldcertainly have been lower, leading to higher food prices and an increase in lands brought under cultivation everywhere. Less would have been available, leading tohigher levels of hunger and malnutrition and higher infant mortality.Subsistence Agriculture in the Developing WorldI.In most of the developing world, plants and animals continue to be raised for food bysubsistence farmers, using traditional agricultural methods. These farmers representthe great majority of rural populations.A.Subsistence farmers live on small parcels of land that provide them with the foodfor their households and a small cash crop.B.Subsistence farming is labor intensive and lacks practically all of the inputs of industrialized agriculture. Also, it is often practiced on marginally productiveland. It is often practiced in regions experiencing the most rapid populationgrowth.II.The pressures of population and the diversion of better land to industrialized agriculturelead to practices that are often unsustainable and sometimes ecologically devastating.In many regions in developing countries, woodlands and forests are cleared for agriculture or removed for firewood and animal fodder, forcing the gatherers to travelfarther and farther from their homes and leaving the soil susceptible to erosion.A.The ensuring scarcity of firewood leads the residents to burn animal dung for cooking and heat, thus diverting nutrients from the land. Erosion-prone landsuited only to growing grass or trees is planted to produce annual crops. Goodland is forced to produce multiple crops instead of being left fallow to recover nutrients.B.All these factors tend to increase the poverty that is characteristic of populationsupported by subsistence agriculture, and, in a relentless cycle, the added povertyin turns puts increased pressure on the land to produce food and income.III.Because subsistence agriculture practice varies with the local climate and with localknowledge, it is difficult to draw sweeping generalities.Animal Farming and Its ConsequencesI.¼ of the world’s croplands are used to feed domestic animals. The care, and feeding of some 4 billion livestock and 18 billion birds constitutes one of the most importanteconomic activities on the planet.A.The primary force driving this livestock economy is the large number of theworld’s people who enjoy eating meat and dairy products.

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