It defies imagination. A biblical-scale plague of locusts an estimated 500,000 square kilometres in size swept across the U.S. Midwest and into parts of Western Canada in 1875. The ravenous insects ate virtually everything in their path from crops to cloth. Described as a living eclipse of the sun, it is believed to have been the largest insect swarm in recorded history. Perhaps even more extraordinary, within 25 to 30 years of this legendary natural event, the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) was declared extinct.
A number of questions have been raised during the ongoing consultations on Responsible Grain. The new code of practice for Canadian grain production is now being developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC). Farmers ask, why is the industry doing this and why now? There are three broad drivers behind the development of Responsible Grain: to build public trust, support market access and prevent excessive regulation.
Canada participates in a web of global food supply chains that is one of humanity’s greatest trade success stories. We remarkably enjoy products from across the globe due to the expertise of farmers, processors, logistics companies, retailers and many others that comprise this complex system.
The practice of strip farming—alternating cropped and summerfallow strips—particularly across the southern Prairies, was a common sight for several decades early in the last century as farmers applied strategies to reduce wind erosion of soil.
Recently, I gave a talk about the future of agriculture. The most difficult segment was addressing how our sector balances individuality with its dependence on systems. Systems are now part of every conversation and “systems thinking” is all the buzz.