John Gossop is an East Yorkshire farmer with over 45 years experience, author of the blog Peakfood and avid researcher of threats to food production. I am pleased to say that he has written a thought provoking article for farmingfriends entitled Efficient Farming.
Modern farms, with their giant tractors and gleaming machinery give the impression of being highly efficient. And so they are in terms of output per man. Each man now produces many hundreds of tons of food, much more than at any time in the past.
However, we must remember what it is that farmers do. Our job is simply to convert the sun’s energy into food energy, something we are now doing very inefficiently and unsustainably.
Up until WWII, most of the energy used in farming was collected by plants that used solar energy through photosynthesis to provide food for the millions of horses and men doing the work. Since then we have increasingly used the solar energy from millions of years ago, stored as fossil fuels to increase our labour efficiency but decrease our energy efficiency.
Amazingly, on average it now needs about 10 calories of finite fossil energy to deliver 1 calorie of food energy. It should be obvious that such a system can only work while supplies of fossil energy in the form of oil and gas are reliable and while fossil calories are cheap compared to food calories.
If we don’t plan now for the inevitable day when oil and gas are neither cheap nor plentiful, we will face a disaster.
Efficient Farming By John Gossop, author of Famine in the West(£6.49) and Peak Food.
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