Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 364
Posted on: January 25th, 2018


This week’s quote comes from Michael Gove, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference. In the wake of Brexit and calls move away from the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) under the European Union, he had the following to say:

“I want to develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods.”

He intends to shift the focus to providing funding for farmers who ‘enhance the natural environment’ through the provision of measures such as returning cultivated land to its natural state, improving water quality and encouraging biodiversity.

The critics of Gove counter that such environmentally focused measures could undermine food security in post-Brexit Britain.

Source: Buchan, Lizzy. 4 January 2018, Independent.



The problem with being a cow is you have to eat all the time just to stay alive. The problem with being a cow farmer is that you need a lot of land so that your cows can keep eating.

Scientists think they might have a solution to both issues, by engineering a cow superfood of more digestible grass. In doing so, they could make bioethanol power stations more efficient too.

Grass […] is extremely successful in part because it is so difficult to digest. It has evolved robust cell walls that make it hard to eat, making it less desirable to herbivores. This is […] why animals that do eat it often need an extra stomach.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research in England have identified the gene that creates this cellular stiffness and, working with colleagues in Brazil, shown in a laboratory that grass can grow well without it. They now want to see if they can create a commercial version, either using genetic engineering or with more conventional plant breeding techniques.

[Dr Rowan Mitchell] said, “Their main interest is more digestible pasture grass, so they can have less land dedicated to it with more cattle per unit of land.” That in turn would reduce pressure on the rainforests, which are being cut down across South America to create pasture.

[Further] the methane produced by cow flatulence is a big driver of global warming. Although the present change in digestibility would not alter that, Dr Mitchell said that it could also be possible to engineer grasses with other desirable traits, including a lowered methane output.

If grasses can be made more digestible for cows, the chances are that they will also be more digestible for bioethanol plants. To do this, the sugar cane needs to be pretreated with enzymes to release its locked-up energy – a process much like what happens inside a cow. Only after this can the sugars be fermented to make bioethanol. “Our hope is that this would enable us to cut down the energy in the first steps,” Dr Mitchell said.”

Source: Whipple, Tom. 8 January 2018, The Australian.


“Climate change could crumble the global chocolate industry in 30 years, but Australian farmers are future-proofing their produce.

More than half the world’s cocoa is grown in Côte d’Ivoire, known as Ivory Coast, and Ghana. But drying conditions and rising temperatures are making the West African countries less suitable for cocoa cultivation.

There is a steadily growing interest in cocoa and it has a good future in Queensland, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said. But suitable growing areas are limited to the wet tropics in the far north. Cairns generally [has] “ideal” conditions for cocoa trees, which need consistent rain, warm temperatures, and shade with dappled light.

Global chocolate giants appear to be feeling the cocoa crisis. Last year, Mars unveiled a sustainability charter which targeted climate change and the scarcity of resources, as well as poverty in its supply chain. The company plans to reduce its annual emissions by 27 per cent by 2025 and by 67 per cent by 2050, from 2015 levels.”

Source: Eddie, Rachel. 7 January 2018, The New Daily.


This week’s chart of the week comes from Business Insider’s Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Market Analysis – Industry trends, companies and what you should know which indicates the predicted value of UAVs or drones by industry. The prediction indicates the value of ‘current business services and labour that are likely to be replaced in the very near future by drone powered solution’. Agriculture is shown to have a significant value of US$32.4bn.  Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts that in time 80% of the drone market will be agriculture. The increased use of UAVs and robots in agriculture will likely have a positive effect on agricultural profitability and productivity as in many developed economies agricultural labour is diminishing as people move toward higher paying urban jobs.


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