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Author Topic: Could this be a solution to feed millions?  (Read 4242 times)

Offline Airthumbs

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« on: 04/05/2011 01:38:22 »
After releasing this onto this forum intellectual property falls out the window but I am feeling slightly Tesla today so here goes;

Certain species of grass have amazing tolerances to extreme conditions and can adapt very quickly within a few generations to allow the species to occupy zones that other species cannot survive in.

One of these species is called Red Fescue (Festuca Rubra

Without going into too much detail you find some Red Fescue growing near the shoreline of an ocean.  These plants have already adapted to saline conditions as they are so close to the sea.  You plant them all inside and feed each generation with ever increasing concentration of sea water.  By selectively breeding you can pick the most robust plants and continue the process.  To speed things up you can also grow them under 24hr lighting.

At some point you will have a species of grass that you can feed with 100% sea water or at least very close to that.

Now you can plant this species all along coastal areas, they can be watered from the sea.  One benefit of using this species is that the salt is excluded from the part of the plant above the roots by a membrane.  So this means that grazing animals could feed on the plant.

Not only would you be able to feed animals on this but the plantations would act as a buffer.  The buffer would help prevent soil erosion in coastal areas and also absorb at least some of the runoff from over use of fertilizers.

If anyone is interested in providing me with a little bit of help and funding I already have the experimental design set up and ready to go  ;D



 

Offline Bill.D.Katt.

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #1 on: 04/05/2011 04:58:42 »
Interesting idea, but I do see potential environmental catastrophes depending on how much land is used -say goodbye to sea turtles.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #2 on: 04/05/2011 07:16:33 »
"Monocultures used in agriculture are usually single strains that have been bred for high yield and resistant to certain common diseases. Since all plants in a monoculture are genetically similar, if a disease strikes to which they have no resistance, it can destroy entire populations of crops"
from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoculture
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #3 on: 04/05/2011 10:03:57 »
Interesting idea, but I do see potential environmental catastrophes depending on how much land is used -say goodbye to sea turtles.

This is a good point and salting the ground is not a very good thing for most other plants.  That is why this would be restricted to coastal areas.  With species already at threat such as the Sea Turtle it has been found that these animals regularly use the same nesting sites around the world and most of these have been identified.  What this point does highlight is that there would need to be studies of the proposed sites to use for this Salt resistant species of grass to minimize the impact to the local ecology.  Having said that there are several places in the world where the application of the grass species would have enormous benefits, one I can think of straight away would be desert regions.

"Monocultures used in agriculture are usually single strains that have been bred for high yield and resistant to certain common diseases. Since all plants in a monoculture are genetically similar, if a disease strikes to which they have no resistance, it can destroy entire populations of crops"
from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoculture

Interesting point and one that I have given much thought about.  You would not necessarily have to use the same species of grass although my research has led me down the path of Red Fescue.  Monocultures are susceptible as you say but this would be a very cost effective solution to starvation especially if different species of grass can be incorporated, hopefully preventing total crop loss in the event of disease or pests.
 

Offline Bill.D.Katt.

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #4 on: 04/05/2011 15:26:37 »
Even though plants are at the bottom of the food chain, they have survived because they are better at one thing than every other species -reproducing. No matter how well it was contained, seeds would get out and spread to unintended areas.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #5 on: 04/05/2011 16:14:55 »
Even though plants are at the bottom of the food chain, they have survived because they are better at one thing than every other species -reproducing. No matter how well it was contained, seeds would get out and spread to unintended areas.

I don't sea that as a problem, excuse the pun!  The grass itself would not salt the land, that is down to the method of watering them using sea water.  If they did spread to areas where the species was not fed this way I expect they would quickly revert back to requiring fresh water and in areas that I propose to use this species they would quickly die off due to lack of fresh water especially in desert regions.

 

Offline Bill.D.Katt.

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #6 on: 05/05/2011 05:04:48 »
Of course it would continue to evolve, but if there is no fresh water available, environmental pressures will force the grass to evolve to need less water, and/or survive saltier water. And few things would be preventing the grass from spreading along the beaches, or to the beaches; thick clumps of grass are impossible to dig in, which is my concern regarding the turtles and other animals. I just think that if we get a plant that is hardened to survive in the harshest places, then it could spread to anywhere, and force out native species.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #7 on: 05/05/2011 12:48:27 »
Bill.D.Katt.  I think the issues you raise are of concern but please also consider this:

Huge area's of land are currently going through a process of desertification, attributed to climate change.

People are dying from starvation!

We have irrevocably changed the Eco-system of the Earth already.

Grass species are often the foundation of complex Eco-systems with large diversity of life.

 

Offline Bill.D.Katt.

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #8 on: 05/05/2011 17:04:31 »
All very true, and some very good points. But just because we have irrevocably changed the eco-system already, doesn't mean we should push it further. In fact I think the opposite.
And, this may sound a bit harsh, but if food is supplied to the areas with the worst starvation, and the worst desertification -namely Africa (which also has the highest population growth rates), then tomorrow even more food will need to be produced. Eventually, either the population will drop for some reason, or the population will get so high that we will be facing the same starvation problems as we are now, only with several billion more people.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #9 on: 05/05/2011 18:36:13 »
Oregon has a big problem with European Beach Grass.

It was imported a long time ago to stabilize the beaches and dunes.  And, it has done a very good job at doing so.  However, it has changed our beaches forever, and is almost impossible to get rid of.  And, it is believed to be damaging to shore birds such as the Snowy Plover.

And, it is not a particularly palatable grass.

Somebody also imported Gorse which is like living barbed wire.  Also a big pest in the coastal regions.

Anyway, I second the opinion that care should be taken. 

Some crops such as wheat and corn do not seem to spread very widely without planting and harvesting.  Other crops such as many grasses tend to grow wild.

I assume there are already native grasses that flourish in Tidal Swamps, although they may not be great for grazing.

One does have to move from theory to application.  There may be other issues limiting the application of the technology.  Does it truly like sea water?  What about sand?  Can it tolerate shifting sands?

One could pump sea water at least a few miles inland in a desert region.  However, as mentioned, it could change the land forever.  Do we really want to do it?

Nevada and Utah have salt contaminated soil that might also be worth exploring.  I'm not sure about the water access, although I  believe that some of the areas had rising salt levels after irrigation. 

The solution, of course, to too many people is fewer people rather than more extreme forms of agriculture.

 

Offline Airthumbs

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #10 on: 06/05/2011 19:01:21 »
Hello CliffordK,

I doubt very much if this species of grass would tolerate shifting sands and I have not been particularly clear in where the best place would be suited for this species.  I expect it would be inland somewhat away from the dunes.

You are absolutely right about the population problem but it continues to grow so we really have to try and provide solutions.

I like the idea of trying to grow this species on sites that are already contaminated with salt in the soil as nothing else grows in these areas. 

As you say, theory can be quite different to practice so further investigation is required. 
 

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Could this be a solution to feed millions?
« Reply #10 on: 06/05/2011 19:01:21 »

 

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