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Alarming Signs Farmers Reduce Fertilizer May Wreck Crop Yields

By Tyler Durden | 1 May 2022

ZERO HEDGE — There is growing concern farmers worldwide are reducing chemical fertilizer, which may threaten yields come harvest time, according to Bloomberg. The repercussions could be huge: Lower yields may exacerbate the food crisis. 

There are alarming signs commercial farmers in top growing areas in the world are decreasing the use of essential nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Revealed last week, SLC Agricola SA, one of Brazil’s largest farming operations, managing fields of soybeans, corn, and cotton fields in an area larger than the state of Delaware, will reduce the use of fertilizer by 20% and 25%.

Coffee farmers in Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, some of the largest coffee-producing countries, are expected to spread less fertilizer because of high costs and shortages. A coffee cooperative representing 1,200 farmers in Costa Rica predicts coffee output could slip 15% next year because of soaring fertilizer costs.

The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) warned a reduction in fertilizer use would shrink yields of rice and corn come harvest time. Farmers in China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam — the largest rice-producing countries — are spreading less fertilizer, and may result in a 10% reduction in output, equating to about 36 million tons of rice, or enough food to feed a half billion people. […]

1 Comment on Alarming Signs Farmers Reduce Fertilizer May Wreck Crop Yields

    When the old wheat was harvested, the farmer could take 2 cuts of the stalks for cattle feed, but when Dwarf wheat was created and harvested only one cut could be taken!
    Even with the old wheat, after the Second World War, artificial nitrate fertilizer was used on farms. The nitrate would be found in the stalks, so one had to be very careful with the feed for the cattle, because the nitrate would make them sick.
    Now we have a bigger problem with Dwarf wheat!
    The nitrate would go higher up the stalks and even taking one cut of the stalk could make the cattle sick. The sensible thing to do would be to plough the stalk into the ground for next years fertilizer.
    The thing about bread made with this wheat is that it’s eaten 3 or 4 times a day, every day, every week, every month, every year!
    What was once good for us, is now bad for us!

    What’s Wrong with Our Wheat?
    in Gardening Advice /by Stephen Scott
    Today’s commercial wheat – a semi-dwarf, high-yield type – is causing many people to be sick. Gluten intolerance or celiac disease has skyrocketed since the 1970s and shows no sign of slowing down. A decade ago, gluten intolerance levels were at 1 in 2,500 worldwide. Today, it’s at 1 in 133! What has happened to the grain that has fed us for thousands of years is inedible for an increasing number of people? So what has happened? Why has bread, and by extension many grains, become bad for our health?

    First, let’s look at the differences between historical wheat and today’s modern hybrid. Then we’ll look at how the wheat is made into breads and the differences in how we do that today vs. historically. We need this groundwork to establish how and why wheat is not the same grain it once was.

    Bread is the “staff of life”, right? Well, it used to be. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered villages that housed the workers building the great Pyramids and found clay pots used to raise and bake ancient Egyptian sourdough bread. This bread was the majority of the diet, along with meat and milk, of the workers. These weren’t office or light duty jobs; these were brutally heavy jobs – moving huge stones over log rollers up dirt ramparts to place them into the pyramid. Bread, milk and meat kept them going for years.

    The grains that were used in baking the ancient sourdough are completely different than what we are eating today. Einkorn, spelt, emmer and dinkel are some of the ancient wheat cultivars that our ancestors ate. They are all “covered-wheat” grains, having thick husks around each kernel. The inedible husk must be removed by pounding or milling and then winnowing before the grains can be ground or eaten. Today’s modern wheat is considered to be a “naked-wheat” cultivar, with a much thinner husk that is easier to remove.

    The move toward today’s modern wheat began with hybridizing for smaller or dwarf varieties of wheat. Shorter wheat means more of the plant’s energy is put into seed production, increasing yields. This was very successful, producing huge increases in production. Dwarf cultivars are also more resistant to “lodging” or falling over. Lodging occurs when the stalks are too long for the plant’s roots, the stalk falls over (lodges) and rots. Heavy applications of nitrogen fertilizer, common in commercial agriculture, only make the lodging problem worse. The hybrid dwarf varieties were much less susceptible to lodging, allowing excess nitrogen to be applied without losing too much of the wheat crop.

    Happy with the increased production of the hybridized dwarf wheat, plant breeders began more hybridization experiments starting in the early 1960s. Extensive hybridization research, testing and experimentation went on, all with the objective of increasing the yields wheat produced. Repetitive back-crossing and crossing with foreign grass species were just two of several techniques used. What happened was a drastic increase in the production capability of the dwarf super-hybridized wheat. Unfortunately, the issue of digestibility was never examined. Another result of the hybridizations is that gluten levels increased in the new wheat, a good thing for making tall, fluffy breads that are appealing to consumers.

    The experimentation didn’t stop there however. In 2003 BASF, the chemical company, introduced Clearfield wheat, which is tolerant to their proprietary herbicide Beyond, much like Roundup Ready Corn is tolerant of glyphosate. They proudly proclaim that the wheat is not the product of genetic engineering, but of “enhanced traditional plant breeding” methods. What, exactly, are these enhanced methods that allows a plant to resist a persistent herbicide?

    The technique is called “chemical mutagenesis” and might be worse than GMO engineering. Using a highly toxic chemical – sodium azide – as well as gamma and x-ray radiation, the exposed wheat embryo mutates. After further experimentation, testing and development, Clearfield wheat emerges and is tolerant of the Beyond herbicide. Clearfield is now supplied in 20 varieties and nearly a million acres are planted with it in the US and Canada.

    So what we are now eating is a super-hybridized, chemically and radiologically mutated wheat. It’s no wonder we are having issues with digestion and allergic reactions that are becoming more common and more severe. Not all of the wheat that is commercially available is from Clearfield wheat, but more and more is coming onto the market. The rest of the wheat is from the super-hybridized semi-dwarf varieties.

    Now that we see the wheat we’ve been eating is different than what has fed us for a long time, let’s look at how bread is made today as compared to the past.

    Traditionally bread was made with a slow rise sourdough method, using native yeast from the air to raise the dough. Sourdough is a partnership between specific yeast and bacteria that support each other and make bread rise and develops the unique flavors. In the Egyptian example, leftover dough from the previous batch was added into the current batch of water and whole wheat flour, mixed and kneaded well and set out to rise for a day in terra cotta pots shaped much like flower pots we are familiar with today. The next morning, the pots were put into the oven and baked into the bread which fed the pyramid workers. This pretty much describes how bread has been made for several thousands of years, all over the world.

    Today’s bread is made with fast-rising yeast that has been cultured specially to raise bread dough faster and higher than any sourdough can. The wheat is milled to remove the outer layers of wheat bran and wheat germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm or white flour that we are all familiar with. Some of the nutrients that were removed with the bran and germ are added in the “enriching” process, where iron and synthetic B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid are added back in. Other agents are added to the dough which keeps the bread fresh and pliable for a longer period of time. The bread dough is mixed and kneaded, then left to rise for an hour or two and baked.

    The two major differences in these breads are the flour and the method of rising used. The flour in the sourdough bread is whole wheat, meaning the entire kernel of wheat is milled into flour. The white flour is stripped of most of its nutrients; with a few synthetic vitamins added back in after milling. The rising methods and times differ greatly, with the sourdough having time to break down some of the proteins and amino acids that are indigestible initially. The long ferment and rise of the sourdough, often more than 24 hours, allow the yeast and bacteria to make the resulting bread more nutritious and digestible for us.

    So now what? Now that we know the commercial wheat and breads of today aren’t as healthy or nutritious for us as those our parents and grandparents ate, what are our choices? Some people are so affected by wheat that they have to avoid it altogether, while others find they feel better once they are off of it for 30 days or more, and then slowly re-introduce it back into their diets. Most find that avoiding modern wheat and sourcing ancient grains, preparing them in the older, slower methods keeps the digestive systems happy. Learning to make sourdough breads with long fermentation and rise times, along with soaking or sprouting grains will make these foods easier to digest and tastier as well.

    One of the directions we have been working on is to provide the home gardener and small scale grower with grains that can be grown at home and prepared without milling equipment. The White Sonora Wheat is the grain we’ve started with, helping to re-introduce this heirloom and almost lost variety of wheat back to the Southwest, and the rest of the country. It has a papery husk that is easily hulled, has lower gluten content than today’s hybrid wheat and is well adapted to harsh climates. You can see other choices for the home grower in our Grains department.
    In a story that is very much like the rise of industrial, commercial convenience foods we are seeing that the traditional grains and methods of making our daily bread is much more healthy, nutritious and tasty than the modern methods. To our surprise, many people are seeing that sourcing long fermented sourdoughs are easier to do and baking their own bread is not nearly as hard we we’ve been led to believe.

    Modern wheat is dwarf wheat, a cultivar developed in the ’60s to massively increase yield per acre. But this dwarf wheat wasn’t the lovable, bearded, wisecracking, clownish, comic relief-providing, overly self-conscious Gimli of the Lord of the Rings films, nor was it the fearsome, highly respected, resolute dwarven warrior Gimli in the books. It was a high-yielding cultivar with larger seed heads and thick, short stocks that could bear the extra weight. Being shorter, it received less sunlight than traditional wheat cultivars, but it produced a lot of grains on less acreage. Agronomist Norman Borlaug pioneered the development of these high yield dwarf varieties, refining and perfecting already existing wheat strains, and received much acclaim (including the Nobel Peace Prize) for introducing the dwarf wheat and modern agriculture to developing countries. He certainly helped many millions of people find sustenance and livelihood through wheat agriculture, but what were the unintended consequences of his forays into genetic manipulation of wheat? How is modern wheat different? What are the problems – if any – of modern wheat?
    It’s less nutritious.

    In 1843, agronomists at Rothamstead Research Station in Hertfordshire, England began what would become one of the longest-running continuous agronomic experiments in the world: the Broadbalk Winter Wheat Experiment. For the last two centuries, generations of scientists involved in the experiment have grown multiple wheat cultivars on adjacent plots of land and applied different farming techniques and fertilizers to study the effect on yield, nutritional content, and viability of the crop. They’ve rotated crops in and out, switched up fertilizers, and tracked the change in mineral content of both soil and wheat grain. It’s a stunning example of a well-designed, seemingly never ending (it continues to this day, as far as I can tell) experiment.
    Between 1843 and the mid 1960s, the mineral content, including zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper, of harvested wheat grain in the experiment stayed constant. But after that point, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper concentrations began to decrease – a shift that “coincided with the introduction of semi-dwarf, high-yielding cultivars” into the Broadbalk experiment. Another study found that the “ancient” wheats – emmer, spelt, and einkorn – had higher concentrations of selenium, an extremely important mineral, than modern wheats. Further compounding the mineral issue is the fact that phytic acid content remains unaffected in dwarf wheat. Thus, the phytate:mineral ratio is higher, which will make the already reduced levels of minerals in dwarf wheat even more unavailable to its consumers.

    Increased yield leading to dilution of mineral density is one possible explanation for the reduction in wheat mineral content, but modern wheat has shorter root systems than ancient wheat, and longer roots allow greater extraction of minerals from the soil. Some people have proposed soil mineral depletion as the cause of reduced nutrient content of food, but – at least in the Broadbalk experiment – soil mineral content actually increased over time.
    It’s more damaging to celiacs and gluten-sensitives.

    One of the primary proteins in wheat, gluten provides the “viscoelastic properties” that allow wheat to be turned into bread, dough, pasta, and all sorts of processed foods. Gluten provides the chewiness of good bread, the bite of al dente pasta. Bakers, cooks, and foodies prize it – but some people fear it, and rightfully so. I wrote all about gluten sensitivity and celiac disease a few weeks back, but the basic gist is that for many people, consuming gluten inflames the body, perforates the gut, and opens them up to a whole host of health maladies.

    So what’s the deal with modern wheat? Well, celiac disease is on the rise, and some researchers have suggested that this is caused by the prevalence of certain gluten proteins that predominate in the new varieties of wheat. Namely, a gluten peptide known as glia-?9, which is nearly absent in older wheats but prevalent in modern wheats, is the most reactive “CD (celiac disease) epitope.” In other words, a majority of people with celiac disease react negatively to glia-?9. It’s a common trigger, and older wheat doesn’t have as much of it.

    Meanwhile, einkorn, an ancient variety of wheat, has been shown to cause less intestinal toxicity in patients with celiac. Einkorn and other related ancient strains of wheat still contain gluten, of course, but they do not appear to be as damaging to people sensitive to or completely intolerant of gluten and its related protein subfractions.
    It’s prepared differently.

    Consider how bread is made today:
    With refined, old (often rancid) white flour instead of freshly ground wheat.
    Using quick rise commercial yeast instead of slowly fermenting with proven sourdough cultures.
    On an industrial scale instead of in the home.

    Meanwhile, for the vast majority of our wheat-eating history, humans have been grinding whole wheat berries up fresh and fermenting them before baking and eating the stuff. Dr. Weston Price famously found several traditional cultures who thrived on wheat, but they weren’t eating refined white flour treated with quick-rising yeast. They were stone-grinding fresh wheat. They were fermenting it. They were doing all the things a person has got to do if they want to make wheat a staple of their diet and maximize the nutrition in the process. Later, Price conducted experiments in which he reversed dental decay and remineralized cavity-ridden teeth in refined white flour-eating people using wholesome, varied diets that included some freshly ground wheat.

    Fermentation effectively “pre-digests” the proteins in wheat, as I mentioned previously. If you have the right organisms, you can even break down wheat gluten to the point that celiacs can eat it without suffering symptoms.

    That’s not to suggest you should go eat wheat. It’s simply to suggest that if you do, fresh, whole, ancient wheat prepared the old way is definitely healthier.

    So, there you go: a few good lines of solid evidence showing why modern wheat – which is the only kind of wheat most people are ever going to encounter in the real world – should be avoided. Does that help? If you’re interested in more, check out Dr. Davis (of Wheat Belly fame), who’s made it something of his mission to rail against what he calls a “perfect, chronic poison.”
    Thanks for reading, folks. Lemme know what you think in the comment section. And don’t go rushing out to buy artisan einkorn bread and spelt fusilli or anything like that. Ancient wheat is still wheat, it’s still a grain, it’s still got gluten, and it’s still problematic for a lot of people.

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