MARCH 2016 ISSUE (VOL 45 NO 1)
Abstract: The notion of adoption is central to efforts to measure technological change in African agriculture, and plays an important role in the evaluation of return on investment in agricultural research and technology development. However, the adoption concept, as it is commonly used in both the literature and development research practice, is seriously flawed and leads to inaccurate and misleading conclusions. The authors outline a design specification for a replacement concept that would provide a better basis for robust empirical research on the economic, social and environmental impacts of investment in agricultural technology development and promotion. They propose that this new concept can contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of the impacts of technology development interventions.
Abstract: This paper provides an analysis of the reporting of genetically modified (GM) crop varieties by newspapers across the globe between 1996 and 2013. The aim of the research was to explore whether the significant increase in GM crop area between those years had been paralleled by an increase in press reporting and, if so, whether this was linked to more positive or negative views of the technology. The results suggest that the increase in GM area has been paralleled by an increase in newspaper reporting, and the pattern over time is similar across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania. Topics typically associated with critiques of GM had significantly lower article counts compared with some that could be associated with more positive visions of GM. Indeed, the pattern suggests reporting that was, if anything, mildly positive towards GM up until 2013.
Abstract: New vegetable variety development is generally non-existent in most developing countries, with seed typically sourced from developed countries. This situation results in a dependence on developed countries to supply vegetable seed for most of the world’s demands. This dependence is troubling as it creates a myriad of problems, from improper recommendations of vegetable varieties to products growing in areas to which they are not necessarily adapted. This paper provides an overview and analysis of vegetable seed industries in developing countries, with a focus on Morocco, and the resulting influences on smaller subsistence farmers. The three types of vegetable seed materials (landraces, pure- line inbred and hybrid varieties) are discussed in the context of these farmers. The ongoing problems and issues related to the absence of vegetable seed industries in developing countries will undoubtedly affect food production, nutritional health and the resulting food security in these countries for future generations.
Abstract: The objective of this paper was to test whether investing activity in the futures markets of different commodities (grains, sugar, coffee, cotton, cocoa, livestock) could be identified as a source of the increasing level and volatility of agricultural commodity prices. The causal link between trading activity and market factors (returns, volatility) can be investigated using weekly data, usually derived from the Commitment of Traders Reports released by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), or daily data expressed as the ratio of volume to open interest (VOIR). To increase the power of the estimation process and investigate the role of causal variables to determine the trends of all the market factors, the authors tested the estimates obtained by seemingly unrelated regression (SUR). One innovation is represented by the evaluation of the inverse relationships between market factors and causal variables. The market factors were also tested as causal variables, avoiding giving priority to only one part of the relationship according to Granger’s causality. The lack of significance revealed by the Granger causality test on weekly models could be due to the inappropriate frequency of the information. The ratio of volume to open interest in futures contracts performs better than other parameters extensively adopted in the literature. The likely reason is that it depends on the daily frequency of this parameter, which provides statistical evidence of phenomena that include their effect in weekly intervals. The estimations for the daily model provide statistical evidence of a mutual relationship only between trading activity and realized volatility. No causal relationships were found for returns. The behaviour of all 12 futures markets examined is quite similar and uniform with respect to the scale of the coefficients and their temporal profile.
Abstract: Will the intensification of cattle-keeping lower the carbon footprint of milk production in resource-poor environments? The authors included the multiple functions of cattle in carbon footprint estimates of milk production in farming systems with different degrees of intensification in Kenya. The carbon footprints (measured in kg CO2 equivalents per kg of milk) of free-grazing with 2.6 cows (1.8 kg) and zero-grazing with 1.5 cows (1.3 kg) on smallholder farms were only slightly higher or at the same level as on large farms with 13.6 cows (1.1 kg) and on a very large farm with 107 cows (1.3 kg). These carbon footprints were comparable with those of milk producers in developed regions. Better feeding is often suggested as a climate change mitigation option; however, only small-step feed improvements can be made. In the debate on intensification as a major strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of milk production, the opportunities are overestimated and constraints for changes in smallholder farming are underestimated.
Abstract: Climate change, food security, water scarcity and environmental sustainability have all become major global challenges. As a consequence, improving resource use efficiency is an important aspect of increasing crop productivity. Crop models are increasingly being used as tools for supporting strategic and tactical decision making under varying agro-climatic and socioeconomic conditions. These tools can also support climate change assessment and the evaluation of adaptation strategies to limit the adverse impacts of climate change. In this paper, the authors report on a case study conducted to assess the potential impact of climate change on grain yield in sunflower under arid, semi-arid and subhumid conditions in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Experimental data obtained between 2008 and 2009 were used for model evaluation. The study focused on the impacts of incremental temperature change on sunflower production. The modelling suggests that grain yield could reduce by up to 15% by the 2020s with an average increase in temperature of +1oC, and by up to 25% if temperatures increased by up to 2oC for the 2050s. Adaptation strategies showed that, if the crop were sown between 14 days (for 2020) and 21 days (for 2050) earlier than the current date (last week in February), yield losses could potentially be reduced.
Abstract: Population growth, rapid cultural development and urbanization have led to increased food demand. However, in Iran, due to limited water resources, only about 50% of the total arable area can be used for horticultural purposes. Therefore, yield improvement is very dependent on high-efficiency horticultural technologies such as commercial greenhouses. Although better yields can be obtained in commercial greenhouses than in field-scale cultivation, the energy demand is considerably higher. Moreover, the investment and energy costs are correspondingly larger in commercial greenhouses compared with any other horticultural sector. Hence energy conservation in commercial greenhouses has been emphasized in recent years in order to sustain more cost-efficient crop production. A study on energy use in the commercial greenhouse sector can thus help to identify the challenges and options for improving profitability. In this paper, the authors assess the commercial greenhouse industry in Iran, including the number of existing and planned greenhouses, plus the range in yield and energy use in the sector compared with other agricultural sectors. The results are based on a ‘typical’ commercial greenhouse for the region. The results show that the solar blind system can reduce heating and cooling demand by 60% and 90% respectively. The solar blind system can supply 70 kWh/m2 of electricity annually, which can be used for supplementary lighting or cooling systems. The maximum electrical power that can be supplied by a solar blind system is estimated to be about 113 kW per m2 of photovoltaic module. The implications for the horticultural greenhouse industry are discussed.
Abstract: Frameworks to evaluate the sustainability of cropping systems in developing countries are scarce. This study proposes a framework to select easily quantifiable indicators that can be used to assess and communicate the sustain-ability of cropping systems in developing countries. The widely accepted social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability were covered using predefined criteria from which the indicators were then drawn. An initial list of indicators was established based on literature review and expert opinion, and through filtering reduced to 16 core indicators. Using the case of Irish potato-based cropping systems, a grower survey was conducted to collect data on production practices in four different cropping systems. The survey data were then used to calculate the sustainability indicators expressed as resource use efficiencies based on actual potato yields. The survey data also served as input into the Cool Farm Tool – Potato model to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from farm operations involved in potato production. With the help of local agricultural extension officers, focus group discussions were held with farmers of each production system to decide on sustainable and unsustainable indicator threshold levels. The participatory nature of the framework involving farmers and local extension officers secured buy-in from key stakeholders important for operationalization, monitoring and evaluation.
Abstract: In light of growing concerns about sustainable development, international sustainability standards are prevalent and are replicated by local governments to form country-specific sustainability standards. A consensus has been reached that local sustainability standards can be considered to underperform in view of their limited adoption. Supplementing the current literature, this study hypothesizes additional explanations of this phenomenon through a review of both the GlobalGAP (international) and Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices (MyGAP) standards. Through content analysis, the findings indicate that MyGAP provides a weak institutional framework and market opportunity structure. In addition, since it lacks transparency and accountability, its credibility is questionable. Although it is not clear whether such a credibility issue has a direct impact on the local market, sustainable produce is neither differentiated nor rewarded through premiums. The GlobalGAP standard was found to be an exemplar, and potential improvements are suggested to help support local sustainability standards.