Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 336
Posted on: May 29th, 2017


This week’s quote of the week comes from Bendigo Bank and Adelaide’s Rural Bank publication Australian Farmland Values 2016, regarding the surging farmland values across Australia.

The national median farmland price increased by 9.3% in 2016. This follows a 5.3% increase in 2015 and a 6.8% increase in 2014…Favourable seasonal conditions in the second half of 2016, combined with strong beef, lamb and wool prices drove land values higher on the east coast of Australia…In all states, the median price has trended higher over the past decade with average annual growth exceeding 3% in most states.”


China’s 1.4 billion people are building up an appetite that is changing the way the world grows and sells food. The Chinese diet is becoming more like that of the average American, forcing companies to scour the planet for everything from bacon to bananas.

But China’s efforts to buy or lease agricultural land in developing nations show that building farms and ranches abroad won’t be enough. Ballooning populations in Asia, Africa and South America will add another 2 billion people within a generation and they too will need more food.

China’s agriculture industry, from the tiny rice plots tended by 70-year-old grandfathers to the giant companies that are beginning to challenge global players like Nestle SA and Danone SA, is undergoing a revolution that may be every bit as influential s the industrial transformation that rewrote global trade.

The change started four decades ago when the country began to recast its systems of production and private enterprise.

Land reforms lifted production of grains like rice and wheat, and millions joined a newly wealthy middle class that ate more vegetables and pork and wanted rare luxuries like beef and milk.

The breakneck pace of the country’s development brought some nasty side effects. Tracts of prime land were swallowed by factories. Fields were polluted by waste, or by farmers soaking the soil in chemicals.

It takes about 1 acre to feed the average U.S. consumer, China only has about 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen, including fields degraded by pollution.

So China’s government has increasingly shifted its focus to reforming agriculture, and its approach divides into four parts: market controls; improving farm efficiency; curbing land loss; and imports. China lost 6.2 percent of its farmland between 1997 and 2008, according to a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation.  The nation is spending billions on water systems, seeds, robots and data science to roll back some of the ravages of industry and develop sustainable, high-yield farms. China is shifting from building grain stockpiles to focusing on quality, efficiency and sustainable development, said Tang Renjian, a former official at the Central Rural Work Leading Group.


The world’s thirst for clean drinking water is vast and growing. It is also unslaked, particularly in poor countries. The WHO estimates that more than 660million people rely on what it calls “unimproved” water sources. A quarter of this is untreated surface water. Across the planet, 1.8billion human beings drink water contaminated with faeces. Every year, more than half a million people die from waterborne diarrhoea alone. Howard Stone of Princeton University and his colleagues have an idea for a new and cheap way to clean water up by mixing with a substance normally regarded as a pollutant in its own right – carbon dioxide.

There are many existing ways to make water safe to drink, but each has drawbacks. The first step is usually sedimentation…the second process is filtration.

Dr Stone’s alternative is to abandon the idea of filtration altogether. Instead he plans to apply a phenomenon called diffusiophoresis to the problem. When CO­2 and water meet at the liquid’s surface they react to make carbonic acid…He and his colleagues therefore created an experimental apparatus through which a channel of water flowed in parallel with two channels of gas, one on either side of it, separated from the water channel by gas-permeable membranes. One of the gas channels carried CO2. The other carried air. CO2 thus dissolved into the water on one side of the stream, and out again on the other side, entering the airstream and keeping the gradient constant.

In a working system it would simply be a question of splitting the water stream into three as it left the processor, with the two outer branches being recycled and the inner one tapped and piped to consumers. Dr Stone’s apparatus removed all but 0.0005% of the target particles, and it used less than a thousandth as much energy to do so as membrane filtration would have required. A full-scale version would not need additional chemicals beyond the CO2. And it should, Dr Stone thinks, be easy to maintain.


CHART OF THE WEEKThis week’s chart of the week comes Bloomberg’s Feeding China which visualizes the changing levels of average protein consumed per capita across various nations.






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