Please Tell Me This “Famine of 2009” Stuff Is Wrong

Via !='s entry, aptly titled Rural terror, I'm sent to The Silver Bear Cafe where someone named Stranded Bear Wind has an account of how the economic mess is going to harm this year's harvest in two ways, one overt, one covert. He calls it The Famine Of 2009. The overt problem is that spot shortages of fuel may mean that some crops in the Dakotas don't get harvested fully:

The die has already been cast in the Dakotas, they'll either get the crop in or they won't. If they don't and it winters in the field they not only lose 40% of the yield on that ground they lose 20% of next year's yield in soy beans. The corn makes an excellent snow fence, trapping drifts six feet high, and they're slow to clear in the spring. The farmers have to wait until it's dry enough to plant before they can finish bringing in the corn crop, then they plant their soy, and that delay cuts into the growing degree days available for the soy beans and thusly we see the yield drop.

The covert problem, writes Stranded Wind, is that how nutritious grains are depends on how much they are fertilized

Wheat that gets enough ammonia is 14% protein, if it is unfertilized closer to 8%, and that 43% reduction in total plant protein is going to cause unimaginable suffering in places like Egypt, where half of the population gets subsidized bread. Global end of season per capita wheat stocks have been about seventy pounds my entire life, except the last three years where they've dropped to only forty pounds. One mistake in this area and one of the four horsemen gets loose, certainly dragging his brothers along behind. That mistake may already have been made in the lack of wheat fertilization this fall.

The fall nitrogen fertilizer application has been 10% of the norm. A typical year would see 50% put on in the fall and 50% in the spring. During fertilizer application season the 3,100 mile national ammonia pipeline network runs flat out and the far points on the network experience low flow both fall and spring. If they try to jam 90% of the fertilization into a period of time when the system can only flow a little more than half of the need much of our cropland will go without in the spring of 2009.

Finances as much as weather are the issue with regards to fertilization this fall.

Scary stuff. Please tell me it's wrong.

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5 Responses to Please Tell Me This “Famine of 2009” Stuff Is Wrong

  1. wcw says:

    It’s wrong. In the US, roughly the last thing we need is more protein in our diet.

    As for Egypt, I am open to argument, but I don’t see what Egypt has to do with upper-midwestern wheat.

  2. Melinda says:

    You may want to take a look at this, which quotes the new WASDE report on wheat production. I haven’t gone to the original report.

    Can’t speak to the Dakotas but here in NY corn is being left in the field because of overproduction, and the ethanol plant in the Tug Hill area is just plain not buying any more corn. I try to stay on top of ag news and I haven’t seen any discussion of this in the usual quarters, although I’ll certainly allow for the possibility that it’s really happening but the news isn’t out yet. On balance and until I see additional coverage I tend to doubt Stranded Wind.

  3. Melinda says:

    It seems to me that if we’re facing a global wheat glut, and apparently we are, problems in the Dakotas will tend to be localized.

  4. wcw says:

    Jeepers, make a fella use google.

    Please see for a nutrition profile of Egypt. There doesn’t appear to be an issue with adults. There does with children, but I assume they are not big consumers of bread.

    I am curious, though, why do Egyptian children get too little protein? Not enough milk-drinking?

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