Top Crop Manager

Features Biodiesel Bioenergy
Introduction. There is a place for professionals

I am going to borrow a statement to illustrate a point:

February 16, 2008  By Peter Darbishire


I am going to borrow a statement to illustrate a point: “Major scientific breakthroughs must occur in basic plant physiology, ecophysiology, agroecology and soil science to achieve the ecological intensification that is needed to meet the expected increase in food demand.”

That was the conclusion of a paper presented to the US National Academy of Sciences in 1999 by Dr. Kenneth G. Cassman and it also provides the introduction to the feature by Tom Bruulsema included in this issue of Top Crop Manager. He made that statement before the biofuels boom we are experiencing in agriculture, but at that time Top Crop Manager was carrying numerous stories about the future markets of specialty foods, biofuels, pharmaceuticals and other bio-products derived from agricultural crops.

I’m sure there were many who did not buy in to the idea they would be producing more than food as I’m sure there are still naysayers out there.


In the same week I read the quote from Cassman, I learned of workshops that were to be held in Alberta in January to address what have been dubbed ‘the Four Western Canada Value Chain Initiatives’ and for the more advanced participant, the ‘Customer Focussed Collaboration’ program offered in March 2008. Coincidentally, I received notice of a Food Traceability Symposium at the Guelph Food Technology Centre in Ontario. Speakers there, from all corners of the world stressed how consumers are becoming more concerned about food safety and quality.

If we cast our minds back 10 or even 20 years, there are few of us who can claim to have predicted where agriculture has led them and even fewer who foresaw the potential it now has. Many, however, grasped opportunities as they came along, learned from mis-steps along the way and prospered as a result.

What’s next? Those that remain in the long-term will be the individuals who not only challenge conventional thinking and the then-new-but-now conventional methods, products and techniques. They will approach their farming operations as professionals. They will use professional advice and expect professional service, and they will sell their products to professionals.

Farming is a commercial enterprise and it will react to market forces and demands: whether the end product is ethanol, biodiesel, life-style or medical drugs, healthy fresh or processed food, or feed for livestock, the entrepreneurs who are involved, from the farm to the elevator to the processor and even the marketer, also know they carry a responsibility to do so in a safe and profitable manner.

As the demands for greater bio-production increase, it will be ever more critical to use inputs wisely. -end-


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