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Produce More Food?

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Hello everyone and everybody!

The worldwide harvest of cereals was bad in 2021 due to drought and Covid. Now, war in Ukraine will hamper or impede agriculture there and may hamper the exports by Russia, so we risk to lose two essential exporters.
  aljazeera - aljazeera
The rich countries will pay more, and the importing poorer countries risk to starve: Lebanon, Bangladesh, Egypt...

So what do you propose?

I know zero dot nothing on the topic, so my suggestions are probably unrealistic.

If I'm not too wrong, much of the best lands grow cereals to feed cattle, which is inefficient. Something like 5-15kg cereals to grow 1kg meat. My suggestion for the coming year:
grow cereals for human consumption on the best lands and send the cattle pasture grass on the bad lands.

Cattle and humans seem to eat different vegetables. We won't eat soya every day, and possibly we dislike cattle's maize. So different plants must be sown, and in the Northern hemisphere (middle West, Rhine valley...) it's largely too late. But in the South it's still time, for harvesting around January 2023. Sow wheat or maize for humans in La Pampa, send the cattle graze in Patagonia, Scotland, New Zealand.

Comments, criticism, counter-proposals are highly welcome!

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy

Fertilizers have become too expensive but are necessary for yield. Their production consumes natural gas in big amount to obtain hydrogen for ammonia. Then urea and others are produced
181 Mt in 2020!

Guano extraction is negligible. With 70g consumed per human and per day, forget pee. Saltpetre extraction seems abandoned. Phosphate extraction was 136 Mt in 2006, but I doubt it can increase at once and replace sources of nitrogen.

The least bad alternative I see would extract more coal from the mines, transport it, use it at the urea plants instead of methane to obtain hydrogen. But can can this succeed quickly?

Ideas welcome!

In one more heartbreaking decision, we could sacrifice some forest area to cultivate more fields, for few years until Ukraine and Russia again produce and export food, and fertilizers become available somehow (... not from gas nor coal please). Then forest can be planted again.

I've no idea how fertile forest soil is for agriculture, especially the first year.

The cut wood can replace some gas and petrol the first year. Additional chipping machines are quickly built. Forest harvesters are more difficult.

The existing cultivated area will produce less due to the lack of fertilizer, but the available seeds sown on more area hopefully produce as much or more.

The EU would produce more wheat, maize, sunflower... while French Guyana would produce rice. Neighbouring Surinam was a huge rice producer before the civil war.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy

Vegetable oil is short here. First corn oil became expensive as local maize harvest was poor, then sunflower oil (imported from Russia and Ukraine) got scarce, only olive oil was still abundant. Today I've seen the last little bottle of linseed oil disappear, only walnut oil in tiny bottles was still on the shelves.

Do you know if palm seed oil is healthy? It's much saturated but thin because the acids are short. This one must still be abundant, and once refined, its colour and smell are reportedly acceptable.

Palm oil (the one with long saturated acids) must still be abundant, especially if we don't torch it as biodiesel, but it's bad for the arteries. So if you chemists find a way to introduce cis double bonds in palm oil, it's useful and profitable. Or if you can synthesize cis fatty acids from an other commodity, like butadiene.

When corn and soya feed poultry and cattle, is oil already extracted?


Producing rice in French Guyana wouldn't even need to cut trees. Just use the swamps along the coast.

Palm oil production was 74Mt worldwide in 2019, with half the European imports converted to biodiesel, while sunflower oil production was 18Mt in 2018.

A proportion of fatty acids in palm oil is: 48% saturated palmitic and stearic, 37% monounsaturated oleic, 9% polyunsaturated linoleic, etc.

I propose to convert the complete palm oil to methyl ester or to the free acid, crystallize the saturated ester or acid, then recreate triglycerides with the unsaturated acids mainly. The resulting oil nears the composition of high-oleic sunflower oil: 10% saturated, 83% monounsaturated, 4% polyunsaturated acids, etc.
  Palm oil - Sunflower oil - Vegetable oil at wiki

Palm oil is already fractionated, but acids mixed in triglycerids hamper the operation. Methyl esters or free acids must separate far better. The operation looks cheaper than introducing cis double bonds.

The fraction of saturated ester or acid not used as food is good enough for biodiesel, biokerosene, soaps.


Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy


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