“As the human population on the planet grows our demand for resources continue grow with them. However growth on the scale that our species has experienced in the 20th Century and into the 21st century is not sustainable and we are rapidly approaching our planets carrying capacity using modern agricultural practices which have been proven to be unsustainable.” – Robert Davis, Blogger, country Rep (USA) & team member @ Tech4Agri
This week we feature the thoughts of team member and country representative for the USA, Robert Davis. You met him on our Instagram page. Rob hails from Texas, in the USA and has quite the impressive academic background in experimental archaeology involving agricultural methods.
He also has experience in environmental management & sustainable development. As a blogger he expressed interest in Tech4agri on his own accord and felt that he could contribute every so often.
For Tech4agri this is another milestone as in the past five years we never had a writer specifically for our blog other than its creator. We’re happy to have rob with us!
“Robert’s writing style is a bit different from my own however that is sort of the point of a blog. To each his own opinion and style. In any case I think he did a great job!” – Keron, creator and editor, Tech4agri.com
I remember witnessing the effect of such a situation on the savannah grasslands at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro first hand during the summer of 2006 when I was attending a field school near the Amboseli National Reserve in Kenya.
What we were witnessing was desertification brought on by water being drained from the hydrologic system in the region being used for agriculture and other human activities in what traditionally used to be pastoral land used for cattle grazing by the Masai.
While in base camp we studied and interacted not only with the ecosystem but the cultures of the people who inhabited it. One of my biggest thrills was waking up on a clear morning and being blessed with a full view of Mount Kilimanjaro covered in snow.
It is a view however, that in our current day, was becoming less common. We would listen to stories from the local Masai about how the snow used to be visible almost year round and the Glacier at the Mountains peak used to be much more massive but as the times have changed and the way the land is being used with more and more water being demanded from the system the land is changing.
The land is drying up.
As stated in an article in Science & Technology News:
“Through a combination of climate change, drought, overgrazing and other human activities, desertification across the world is on the march. It’s a process defined by the UN as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions”. Given that around 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is occupied by drylands – home to around two billion people – the potential for desertification to impact the planet is huge. A recent report from the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative claimed that it’s a problem costing the world as much as US$10.6 trillion every year – approximately 17 per cent of global gross domestic product’.”
And According to the United Nation’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the process could displace as many as 50 million people over the next decade.
But what if there were solutions for these issues? What if there were ways to we could innovate change and turn dry deserts into arable farm land? What if we didn’t exactly need land for farming?
A new Norwegian start-up company called Desert Control is claiming to have developed a technology that can transform “deserts into blooming, fertile ground.”
This technology known as Liquid Nano Clay, is a mixture of water and clay mixed which uses a panted process that transforms sandy desert soils into arable soil ready for planting.
According to Ole Morten Olesen, CEO of Desert Control – “The mixing process splits the clay particles into individual flakes and adds air bubbles on both sides of the flakes. The mix is then spread over the land and allowed to saturate down to root level – about 40-60cm deep. This requires around 40 liters of water and 1kg of clay per square meter.”
In nature clay is a fundamental component of arable land as it acts as a water holder while providing elasticity and allowing non-clay elements to bind to the soil. Olsen goes on to state that “The treatment gives sand particles a nano-structured clay coating, completely changing their physical properties and allowing them to bind water. The process, which does not involve any chemical agents, can change poor-quality sandy soils into high-yield agricultural land.”
On site the water and clay are mixed using Desert Controls patented process and is then dispersed using traditional irrigation systems like sprinklers or water wagons.
The “Liquid NanoClay” has been found to bind to the surface of sandy soil which increases the ability of the soil to hold water and nutrients and acts as a catalyst for Mycorrhizal fungi which in turn is responsible for increased crop yield.
The average time it takes to turn dry sandy soil into arable soil is usually between 7 to 15 years depending on climate conditions but for just $4,800 US Dollars per hectare this treatment can may just yield benefits that far outweigh the cost.
The technique has been studied by the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) in Ismailia Egypt and in the Imperial College London with promising results for sustainable development and has the potential for enormous applications in fragile environments around the world.
This technology combined with adjustments in land practices could very well have the potential to stave off the desertification I witnessed in Amboseli.
Now to take a look at another question do we even need land to grow crops…?