Author: Robert Cook

Plastic film in agriculture and horticulture: risks and benefits

Robert Cook
The article by Professor Changrong Yan (1706) follows one we published in 2014 (1416) which addressed some of the challenges which this technology presents. Use of plastic film is certainly not new; it was used to establish maize in early trials in Britain in the 1970s and is widely used in Europe today, e.g. for early carrot production on sandy, dry land, for the same reasons as in China – warming of the soil under the film allows earlier and better crop establishment. This is …

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India: Potential based on tradition

Professor Parkash Toky,
Robert Cook
Anyone who has visited India two or three times in the last decade cannot fail to be impressed by the huge economic progress made in recent years.   Dual carriageways and regular flights now link most major cities and traffic becomes more frenetic by the day, as new cars, motor cycles and lorries crowd onto the congested roads.   This is a reflection not just of economic activity, but of increasing affluence, especially amongst an expanding middle class, whose spending power provides …

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India: Potential based on tradition

Professor Parkash Toky,
Robert Cook
Anyone who has visited India two or three times in the last decade cannot fail to be impressed by the huge economic progress made in recent years.   Dual carriageways and regular flights now link most major cities and traffic becomes more frenetic by the day, as new cars, motor cycles and lorries crowd onto the congested roads.   This is a reflection not just of economic activity, but of increasing affluence, especially amongst an expanding middle class, whose spending power provides …

1603

What do we mean by Sustainable?

Robert Cook
Should we not in editorials pose areas in which solutions might lie and indicate the problems associated with their implementation? In the last issue we published some estimates of how the world might be able to avoid mass starvation without reducing biodiversity (destroying the environment,), by use of balanced and constructed vegetarian diets.   That article demonstrated that the world could feed itself in 2050, assuming the population changes envisaged by the UN.  It also …

1411

World Food Production – will it be adequate in 2050?

Robert Cook,
Dr David Frape
Summary A system was devised to help understand some of the problems likely to be encountered in feeding the world in 2050. The system assumed that by 2050 the world population would be approximately 9.4 billion, as predicted by FAO, that all women on average had two offspring and that life expectancy at birth would be constant. A simple set of fifty-four vegetarian diets was formulated to meet the FAO dietary requirements for energy, protein and dietary limiting amino acids, for …

1407

Thoughts on GM crops

Robert Cook,
Professor Sir John Marsh
In our last issue we published two articles which provided evidence of agronomic and environmental benefits from the use of GM crops. These demonstrated significant cost savings to growers and that those financial benefits were greatest for farmers in the developing world. A role of this journal is to provide evidence based information into the public domain to help decision makers and practitioners reach rational decision, driven by facts rather than emotion. With that in mind we …

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Book and report reviews - The Hay on Wye Literary Festival, 2011

Robert Cook
The Hay on Wye Literary Festival, 2011 The festival is an annual event held in late spring. This year the main sponsor was the Daily Telegraph, a leading UK newspaper. The festival format allows presentation and discussion of a wide range of topics from historical, social and financial events to books and literature. In recent years there has been an increasing level of interest in how and where our food is produced. To reflect these trends, in 2011, the Festival organisers included …

1320

Whither technology

Robert Cook
The debate about the potential benefits and public acceptance of biotechnology in agriculture continues unabated. The debate seems to have clear polarisations, irrespective of evidence, no matter how robust. There are about 1500 Mha of land worldwide devoted to crop production and about 10% is now allocated to crops with traits derived by various genetic techniques. As a paper in this issue identifies, most of these are the primary food and commodity crops, soybeans, maize, cotton and …

1313

Is there a problem?

Robert Cook
When the leaders of the six core nations of the European Economic Community (EEC) established the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) they did so against a background of the periodic starvation of their peoples and the wish to avoid future military conflict in Europe. At that time, almost 60 years ago,the agriculture in Europe was far less intensive than today and yields were substantially lower. The industry operated on principles which today would be described as ‘Organic’, simply …

1301

Food for thought on farming systems

Robert Cook,
Dr David Frape
The nitrogen-cycle (N-cycle), discussed in detail in this Issue, is a key to the difference between “organic” and so-called “conventional” farming. Synthetic N- fertilisers depend for their production upon the Haber process for the fixation of atmospheric N in the form of ammonia by reaction with hydrogen gas. Despite the fact that 78.1% of the air we breathe is N, this gas is relatively unreactive because the molecule (N2) is held together by a strong triple bond. Hence, the …

1202

The ‘Organics’ Debate

Professor Sir Colin Spedding,
Robert Cook,
Dr David Frape
We make no apology for publishing more articles and an editorial on the general subject of ‘organic’ farming in this issue of World Agriculture . The subject gives rise to extensive and often polarised discussion, especially in Europe and the developed world generally. The reasons for the popularity of produce from organic systems often derive from the belief that they are better for the environment, or have health or other personal benefits. This is often a genuine response to real …

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