INFORMATION-BASED FARMING

S. A. Modena samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu
Wed Sep 30 02:48:13 EST 1992


In article <1992Sep29.180540 at IASTATE.EDU> rjsalvad at IASTATE.EDU (Ricardo J Salvador) writes:
>In article <1992Sep12.210032.1713 at NeoSoft.com>, claird at NeoSoft.com (Cameron
>Laird) writes:
>> In article <1992Sep11.183716.1512 at u.washington.edu>
>toby at milton.u.washington.edu (Toby Bradshaw) writes:
>
>> >Along these lines, should we ban tractors because
>> >they are expensive and give the large farmer higher returns than someone
>> >who uses a mule to plow and a hoe to cultivate?
>
>> Without trivializing at all the topical questions
>> you raise, please note that the historical process
>> of mechanization does *not* necessarily procede in
>> the direction you imply here.  A number of studies
>> (none of which I now have handy) of US operations
>> of the early 20th century concluded that tractors
                                       ^^^^^^^^^^^^
>> gained ascendancy on small farms first; in crude
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>> terms, mechanical power is more fungible, and re-
>> quires less (!) specialized care.  Teams of horses
>> held out longest on farms with multiple employees,
>> and of course where there were "sentimental" reasons.
>> I think it would surprise you even today how expensive
>> a good draft ox is, compared to the delivered price of
>> a small mechanized platform.
>
>I was curious about this a few years ago and calculated a few
>estimates of my own.  I utilized a well-documented system (Barret et al.
>1982.  Animal traction in eastern Upper Volta: A technical, economic,
                        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>and institutional analysis.  Michigan State Univ., Int.'l Development
>Papers, No.4) and computed that, energetically, an ox costs 592 MJ per
>937 MJ foodstuff produced (sorghum grain), or 63.2% of the human
>metabolizable E produced.  The equivalent calculation for a maize system
>yields an efficiency of 45%.  Such calculations need to be used with care.
>They do not include other aspects of the utility of oxen in a subsistence
                                          ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
                                                               ^^^^^^^^^^
>system, however these data are applicable to the example discussed here
^^^^^^^
              with emphasis on "subsistence"

>since they are restricted to that aspect of mechanized production systems
>(traction) that is directly comparable to the utility provided by tractors. 
>
>........[    ] .......
>-Ricardo
>

In a heterogeneous World, some people, upon hearing that not everyone
does stoop labor in a rice paddy, summon the courage and daring it takes
to escape what they see as slavery.

Other people, from the very same village find contentment in their
traditional way of life.

The arithmetic on traction is interesting...and predictable.  However,
it has nothing to do with the way farming systems are...or will be.

Tote up as I may the caloric wisdom of recycling dung, it isn't persuasive
to the teenagers of Somalia once they've discovered the "power" of the
AK-47.  

Myth building, not science, explains "sustainable" systems completely....
because myth building is what it takes to get a massive of people to
all think in the same direction long enough to change the direction
of a river.

And I'm not mocking Ricardo: my personal philosophy is that systems of
people, culture and "things" are based more on myth-building than anything 
that could remotely qualify as an intellectual/scientific rationalization.
Except of course, in the case where you have enough firepower to overcome
conventional wisdom and get your way, no matter what. 
(How else could Kirosawa have so brilliantly
adapted the "Magnificent Seven" to the "The Seven Samurai" except that
the myths, the peasantry and the firepower are so 'constant" everywhere?)

Steve
---
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|     In person:  Steve Modena     AB4EL                           |
|     On phone:   (919) 515-5328                                   |
|     At e-mail:  nmodena at unity.ncsu.edu                           | 
|                 samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu                |
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---
+------------------------------------------------------------------+
|     In person:  Steve Modena     AB4EL                           |
|     On phone:   (919) 515-5328                                   |
|     At e-mail:  nmodena at unity.ncsu.edu                           | 
|                 samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu                |
|                 [ either email address is read each day ]        |
|     By snail:   Crop Sci Dept, Box 7620, NCSU, Raleigh, NC 27695 |
+------------------------------------------------------------------+
         Lighten UP!  It's just a computer doing that to you.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
         

Steve



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