One thing we have learnt this week – harvest

harvest finished in autumn_optI’ve watched two programmes this week of a three parter called “Harvest”.  Its a look at harvest time from the perspective of different crops and farmers in widely different parts of the UK.   “Harvest” has been really interesting, but also very revealing.  Whilst the harvest has been good, many farmers are struggling.  The weather has been weird as per usual, but the main problem is food prices have fallen with those of oil and the supermarkets under pressure themselves, are squeezing prices even more.

One of the problems our planet’s increasingly urban population face is the fact that we are out of touch with nature and the seasons.  This is one reason there is so little action on climate change.  Programmes such as “Harvest” help to remind us of how dependent we are on nature.  However there are a number of things that “Harvest” did not draw to my attention.  The first is oil and energy dependency of food.  This oil dependency seemed to vary to a certain extent with crop.  It was at its most obvious with wheat and oats.  Yes there were huge combine harvesters (very impressive) etc. but the real eye opener for me was that the wheat was dried using gas and then stored on the farm.  This latter process involved blowing air at regular intervals over a period of up to a year.  Another issue was that of fertilizer.  The grain yields on the farms in Perthshire are described as the highest in the world.  This was put down to soil, however no mention was made of the vast amounts of fertilizer modern varieties of wheat are dependent on.  Nor was there any mention of any future food security problems due to peak oil or climate change something we have covered in our book.  There was some mention of sustainability in a in the third harvest programme when it had a look at an aquaponics farm (which looked very interesting) and the whole niconoids question.   (In the first year of the ban this has largely had no effect on yields of oil seed rape).   So 10/10 BBC for taking an interest in where our food comes from but 3/10 for questions about the problems facing us in the future.

Neil

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