Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 367
Posted on: February 5th, 2018


The quote for this week’s edition is taken from a press release quoting Xu Nanping, China’s vice minister of science and technology:

“The future of China’s agriculture sector lies in agricultural modernization, and the key to advancing agricultural modernization lies in the development of technology”

This was said in conjunction with the release of a set of guidelines for the future of agriculture. The document emphasised the integration of technology with agriculture as a means to overcome some of the challenges faced by China. Factors such as efficient land use, pollution minimisation and labour productivity are all noted as areas where technology could benefit.


“There are lots of nutrients that cow’s milk has in abundance that other milks, derived from soya, ­almonds or oats, don’t. These ­include calcium, for strong bones, and something that many people rarely consider: iodine. Cow’s milk is the greatest source of iodine in most Western diets and a move away from drinking it is likely to worsen the already high rates of iodine deficiency. […] A study carried out by the University of Surrey looked at the iodine content of 47 “healthy” milks (including soya, coconut, ­almond, rice and oat milk) and found that they had levels of iodine that were 2 per cent of those in cow’s milk.

In the bad old days, before we knew anything about vitamins and micronutrients, iodine ­deficiency was common and devastating, leading to goitres and cretinism. So it is disturbing that after a century of medical progress it’s back.

This matters because the ­effects of being iodine-deficient can be profound and long-lasting. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroxine, a hormone that controls all the metabolic processes that go on in your body and, in particular, your metabolic rate. Low iodine leads to low levels of thyroxine, which in turn leads to a lower metabolic rate, weight gain and mood swings. In other words, a lack of iodine in your diet can make you fat […]. More worryingly, even mild iodine deficiency in a pregnant woman can have a significant impact on the brain of her developing foetus.

A long-running study in the West Country, called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, has followed a large group of women going through pregnancy and beyond. It found that most of them were iodine-­deficient. It also found a strong link between the women being mildly or moderately deficient prenatally and their children’s reading ability and IQ score when they were tested at the age of nine.

Other studies carried out by WHO have found an IQ difference of up to 13 points between communities that have adequate amounts of iodine in their diet and those that don’t. WHO’s ­response to this global problem has been to encourage the ­addition of iodine to salt, a campaign that has been remarkably successful […].”

Source: Mosley, Michael. The Australian. 29 January 2018.


“Valuable traits from the wild rice – such as drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance – can be bred into commercial rice strains, said Professor Robert Henry from the Queensland Alliance of Agriculture and Food Innovation.

“Northern Australia’s wild rices contain a wealth of untapped genetic diversity and at least two species are very closely related to domesticated rice, so they can be cross-bred with this species,” he said. “The wild rices could contribute resistance to diseases such as rice blast, brown spot and bacterial leaf spots.”

Professor Henry said the research showed that in the era when the ancient human ancestor known as Lucy lived in Africa, a genetic divergence occurred in the rice variety that is now found only in northern Australia. This divergence led to the Asian and African rice species commonly used in commercial rice production today. Professor Henry said that in addition to boosting global rice production, Australian wild rice offered the opportunity to be cultivated as a tasty and nutritious product in its own right.

A UQ doctoral thesis study on the grain quality of Australian wild rice showed the species had the lowest “hardness” of cooked rices, and a higher amylose starch content. “The higher the amylose content, the longer the rice takes to digest,” Professor Henry said.

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for much of the world’s population and it is the third-largest worldwide agricultural crop.

Professor Henry said the study provided a comprehensive insight into the rice family tree and confirmed that wild Australian rice was the most directly related species to the ancient ancestor of all rices.”

Source: University of Queensland. Phys.org. 22 January 2018.


This week’s charts come from the Economist. The chart indicates the breakdown of daily calories by food type and indicates the projected increase in the amount of vegetable oil, meat and dairy over the forecast period. Interesting too is the projection of the average daily intake exceeding 3000 calories by 2050.

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