Counting on science for future food and energy needs

While I appreciate there are those who have begun to doubt science, I for one am a believer that our future as a planet lies solely with what science can create in the coming years to deal with whatever issues we face.

That will be particularly true in agriculture.

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Unless some disaster arises to alter the course, we know the population of earth continues to trend upward. And there is not even a whisper of discussion that the world needs to address that trend in some meaningful way. So there will be a growing number of mouths to feed. That means a continued need for world food stocks to grow. Food production only occurs by the scientific development of better crop varieties and the development of better cropping systems to enhance yields at an affordable cost of production.

It’s the same thing when it comes to our energy needs.

Science will open doors to producing energy in ways we can barely imagine.

We know, for example, that animal waste creates methane. It is a by-product of intensive production that has been red-flagged as a concern in terms of producing greenhouse gases, although whether a big dairy herd produces more than the millions of bison which once roamed North America is another column altogether. Clearly there is a need to deal with methane production from livestock today in the face of concerns over climate change.

So it was with great interest that I read a recent Western Producer article regarding the methane from a 2,900 cow dairy herd in California being collected and ultimately used to power a fleet of trucks.

Using methane to power a truck is not new, but connecting its production to a cattle farm is at least a rather innovative approach, and one that could reasonably be copied at other farms, or even municipal sewage plants, if the cost can reasonably be recouped.

Of course innovative energy production is popping up all over the place.

There has been work incorporating solar panels into asphalt highways, an idea that on the surface is brilliant in the sense black asphalt attracts heat and the potential, if it works could be immense. Of course it only works if science works out the idea.

Then there is the idea of energy from flowing water in a place that is not exactly on the top of anyone’s list.

Since 2015, the city of Portland has been partnering with Lucid Energy to install electricity-generating turbines in its gravity-fed water pipes.

Again, it’s innovative and something which could be replicated across multiple municipalities.

Challenges will be many as we move forward and we need to be supportive of the scientific community in finding the answers.