[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 9: Re: Genetic improvement of jatropha

I am Donald Kugonza, an animal scientist in Uganda, but writing as a farmer of Jatropha.

I am happy to note that efforts are already underway to develop improved genetic material (e.g. message 6 by Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy). One key concern for potential farmers is the likely cost of the superior material, when/if it is released. Unless if governments invest in this area, not leaving it to the private companies of this world, who may get more interested in minting more from seed stock than from the oil production. This conference must clearly bring out the issue of energy security versus food security. In Africa, the establishment of forests to meet the carbon challenge is already in high gear, the biofuel efforts must seriously not jeopardize it.

Donald Rugira Kugonza
Department of Animal Science
Faculty of Agriculture
Makerere University
P.O. Box 7062 Kampala,
Uganda
Tel: 256-414-532269 (office),
256-414-389436 (home),
256-782-874551(mobile)
donkugonza (at) agric.mak.ac.ug

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 10: Bioenergy and agave

This is from Arturo Velez Jimenez in Mexico, I'm coordinating the Agave Project. This is a project in the R&D stage. The group fostering the project is formed by leaders of agave producers (two national organizations), one ethanol-related industry association, several biotechnology and energy researchers-scientists (so far eleven universities have been involved) and a couple of business developers. Our aim is to let the world know about the potential of agave to fight climate change, generate wealth and foster sustainable development, especially in poor semiarid regions. Our variety is not for sale. It hasn't even been patented yet. We are in the research stage.

Professor Remigio Madrigal Lugo at the University of Chapingo, Mexico, has developed 3 enhanced high-yield agave varieties (from 3 different species) after 29 years of research. These are not GMO. He also created and maintains the oldest germplasm centre in Mexico. His work is very relevant and we consider the scientific community and sustainable development oriented NGOs should know about it. We firmly believe that agave can play a very important role in providing hope and answers to the environmental and economic distress we are facing.

Agave can greatly contribute to the solution of mankind's worst problems: global warming, overpopulation, hunger, poverty, lack and dependence of oil, stagnation of the economy. The enhanced Agave tequilana weber cultivar developed by Professor Madrigal is the ideal feedstock for a truly sustainable bioeconomy. It produces 3 times more sugars than sugarcane (from 27 to 42 degrees Brix), 4 times more cellulose (26 tonnes/hectare/year) than the fastest-growing Eucalyptus, and 2 times more dry biomass (40 tonnes/hectare/year) than the GMO poplar tree designed in the USA for cellulosic ethanol production, hence fixing 2 times more CO2. No other plant in the world has such potential.

Agave has been used to produce tequila, an ethanol, for nearly three centuries, and can put an end to the 'food vs. fuel' dilemma: It is not food, doesn't disrupt commodities prices, it doesn't compete for farmland, thrives in semi-arid and marginal lands; needs neither watering nor agrochemicals; and needs very little labour. It is also the ideal feedstock for an integrated biorefinery that produces biofuels (ethanol, butanol, green gas, and a basic component for biodiesel production), co-generation of electricity and that produces biochemicals, biomaterials and bioproducts.

Arturo Velez Jimenez
Agave Project Coordinator
Alondra 76-1 Col. El Rosedal
Coyoacan, 04330
Mexico City
Mexico
proyectoagaves (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:34
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 11: Biotechnology experts for biofuel

I am Pablo Garcia Munoz from Mexico, I am an agronomist and I am doing my Ph. D. on Rural Sociology in the Chapingo Autonomous University, Mexico. I am taking interest in how the production of biofuels is going to change the rural society of Mexico and the consequences of it.

My participation has to do with Section 5.4 General questions of the potential topics on the background document to Conference 15 of the Forum:

In a developing country, the scarce available biotechnology experts for biofuel should not do their work independently from each other, neither should they investigate just based on parameters like publication of papers in international journals and in the pursuit of technological routes developed by research centers of the industrialized countries for their economic and rural conditions.

In the developing countries there should be integral bioenergy policies that are locally generated containing precise answers of what for producing biofuels and who is the main subject of the rural development. It is a matter of history that in the absence of those policies and regulations, the industries generate a boom with local feedstocks but finally smallholders are left and the devastated environment.

In this way, it is necessary that the experts in biotechnology of developing countries build their technological appliances considering the energy and market needs of the rural smallholders, considering how these appliances rebound in the relationship between producers and industry, how they can be made on a small scale, how this technology is going to be transferred, and to succeed in benefiting the rural producer with the transformation of their feedstocks.

The rural smallholder should be the beneficiary of the production of biofuels. Agricultural policies have displaced crops, generated degraded lands and marginalised regions, so the biotechnology element should answer the development needs of these regions, not to look at how these regions must adapt to, or be used by, the biotechnology appliances.

Biotechnology experts should work in common with agricultural scientists, extension technicians and learn with the rural people about the endemic germplasm, multiply materials with great potential for diverse agroecosystems, accelerate the process of selection of perennial crops, and offer excellent strains for full fermentation.

Developing countries should form personnel in specific endemic species, in specific processes for local lignocellulosic biomass, to improve small-scale biogas units and the transformation of local by-products for biofuels, assigning tasks to every entity to bring independence from the intellectual property rights of transnational industries as possible, so it is essential South to South co-operation.

In the trend of the nationalization of the oil resources by many countries, specially by democratic governments in Latin America, it makes feasible the introduction of biofuels based on their own needs and technological development.

Pablo Garcia Munoz, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student
Rural Sociology Department
Universidad Autonoma Chapingo
Mexico.
Km. 38.5 Carretera Mexico - Texcoco
C.P. 56230
52 595 952 16 27
Chapingo, Estado de Mexico.
Mexico
pablogarciamunoz (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 12: Indian jatropha contract farmers // energy security

My name is Paul Upham and I am a UK environmental social scientist at Tyndall Centre Manchester, University of Manchester. With colleagues at Manchester and Kings College London, one of the projects I am involved in is a study of stakeholder opinion of alternative feedstocks for 2030 UK biofuel and bioenergy supply.

Most contributors to this conference so far have been rightly concerned with food-fuel competition and latterly the issue of fuel/transport demand management was also rightly raised. I have a couple of questions and a comment.

Questions: What would the aforementioned contract farmers in southern India grow, if they were not growing jatropha? Does someone have information on this, please? Also, is the land that these farmers are using 'marginal' or not, and how is that being defined? [reference is to message 6, by Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy...Moderator]

A comment: Demand management, especially in the over-mobile, more affluent countries, cannot be the only solution to energy security, but it is nonetheless important. In the UK, one demand management option is enforcement of the 70mph (112kph) speed limit. Anable et al (2006) estimate that this could cut transport carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) per year (relative to 2006) and that a new 60mph limit could nearly double the savings, at 1.94 MtC per year (Anable et al, 2006). These savings compare favourably to the 1MtC net saving (calculated on a life cycle basis) originally expected annually via the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) by 2010 (DEFRA, 2006). In the UK, the RTFO is driving biofuel consumption and is incrementally obligating a 5% blend, though the UK government is now consulting on slowing the pace at which this 5% is approached (http://www.dft.gov.uk/rfa/reportsandpublications/reviewoftheindirecteffectsofbiofuels.cfm)

This is an interesting conference - thanks to FAO.

References
Anable, J, Mitchell, P and Layberry, R, 2006. Quick Hits 2. Limiting speed. (UK Energy Research Centre, Oxford), http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/Downloads/PDF/Q/Quick%20Hits/0610LimitingSpeed.pdf
DEFRA, 2006. Climate Change. The UK Programme 2006. (DEFRA, London), http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/ukccp/pdf/ukccp06-all.pdf

Paul Upham
Research Fellow
Tyndall Centre Manchester
Pariser Building
University of Manchester
M60 1QD
United Kingdom
paul.upham (at) manchester.ac.uk
Tel: 0161 306 3258
http://www.tyndall.manchester.ac.uk/
http://www.mbs.ac.uk/research/academicdirectory/viewprofile.aspx?sid=2273370&prev=2

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 13: Biofuel vs. food

This is from Bill Wason. I am president of an association involved in sustainable development in Northeast Brazil and also president of a new urban bio-alliance that is developing sister city relations between cities based on sustainability. I also do business development and finance projects in the biofuels sector in various locations globally, fuel and feedstock development.

I have been noting the posts with great interest. Some good ideas are expressed. However, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about food vs. fuel. It assumes that all land is being fully utilized, that we are getting good yields, that there is sufficient investment in infrastructure and that the only option is marginal land. In fact, in most developing countries the opposite is true. Yields are low due to lack of investment, irrigation, fertilizer, crop management and a whole set of agronomic issues. Very little investent occurs in agriculture because there is no structure to obtain long term offtake agreements and little investor interest in the sector because of risk, political and social issues and other factors.

The problem with growing biofuels in deserts is that you need water (except algae), risks are higher, yields are lower, leachate of fertilizer is more rapid, and there are poor soils. However, there are some crops that could do well in that environment and it is certainly a good idea to treat wastewater and use it for crops. Metals contamination can be dealt with in a good wastewater system or through source seperation.

The better view towards biofuels is to look at it as a huge source of investment funds that if directed in the right way will lead to production of both food and fuel on the same land. The production of oil for biodiesel leads to mostly meal (55-80% depending on type) and the meal or other by-products have high food value. Palm has less meal but other byproducts. Investors will invest in biofuel crops in developing countries and the resulting increase in meal can result in large improvements in food availability if this meal is used for meat or fish production. There is huge potential to put in simplified irrigation using small ponds and drip irrigation that is highly efficient and takes advantage of tropical fluctuations in rainfall. It is also important to feed to efficient meat converters (ostrich are much more efficient than cows and taste is similar), tilapia grows very fast, etc.

If you consider carefully good agronomy you will also understand that through either rotation of crops or co-planting you can get significant improvements in yields through co-planting of nitrogen fixing crops that result in fixation of nitrogen that reduces fertilizer inputs while producing valuable food crops. Examples include faba beans (up to 60% fixation of nitrogen), soy, black beans, lupens and other crops. With the right rotation (camelina, sesame, lupens and faba) you can eliminate the need for nitrogen while producing substantial volumes of oil. Other crops such as peanuts do well in sandy soil.

The most important consideration is productivity. Sugar cane has very high productivity per hectare (76 tons). While it is true that only 15% is used for ethanol, the balance can be used to produce 2nd generation fuels fairly easily and this will double the already good carbon balance of sugar cane ethanol. These fuels have better burning efficiency. Ethanol burning efficiency can also be improved if cars are optimized for it like in Brazil instead of optimizing for gasoline. Oil yields per hectare are very important and are a big drawback with crops like castor bean or jatropha, which so far have had poor yields. Anyone that assumes that soy acreage is expanding because of oil demand needs to consider its low yield when making that statement. Soy acreage is increasing only because we keep eating larger and larger amounts of cow meat and it is a good protein meal source. If you want good productivity, plant an oil seed tree with high productivity that does not require replanting every year and has high yields of oil per hectare. Palm meets that criteria but requires rainy areas that often create conflicts with rainforests (Indonesia), although new species of palm that are now being developed would allow doubling of yields on existing acres. Brazil has native trees (macauba) that can achieve 4 to 5 tons of oil per hectare and still allow food production between tree rows. All of these yields can increase if there is good irrigation in place and irrigation with small ponds allows for fish production.

There are also comments made about the inadequacy of biofuels as a solution. This is true if we do nothing about new cars being plug in hybrids or running on air or other options but this will come slowly. The problem is the transition period in new cars and the difficulty with trucks and other diesel engines. You are stuck with liquid fuels for a long time. You can get very large volumes of biofuels if you take existing yields and double them with irrigation and good science and then double the use of biomass with 2nd generation technologies. You also have solid waste that becomes possible with 2nd generation. In the US, conversion of all unrecycled waste could produce 18 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of about $2 per gallon.

If you want progress, insist that we burn liquid fuels more efficiently. Burning efficiency of fuels is only about 86% and much lower in developing countries. With additives, that number can move up to 98% and improve efficiency by 5 to 8%. With lube additives you can get another 5-7%. These solutions are cheap and very cost effective (additives at refinery level of 2.5 cents per gallon).

Biofuels are also blamed for rainforest destruction. While this may be true in Indonesia, it is not really true in the rest of the world. The destruction is occurring but it is mostly because of land grabbing, charcoal production, cattle farms or other factors. If you want to do something about it then make sure you actually get serious about avoided deforestation credits in the next post Kyoto period. It is unbelievable that in 17 years we have been unable to do this in UNFCC and it is time to work outside of it. Cut seperate deals to deal with large emitters like air and ship and tie up huge areas of jungles as carbon sinks. This is both possible and likely and much better than the EU response of trying to cut off all developing country biofuels from their borders with complex and very difficult sustainability and carbon calculations that are open to much dispute.

Bill Wason
biopure fuels
sustainable biobrazil
urban bio-alliance
17815 kings park #553
houston, TX 77058
United States
1 303 895 0249, 1 281 984 7225
brazil
55 61 8151 0665
55 98 3227 7439
willy_wason (at) yahoo.com
www.sustainablebiobrazil.com
www.biopurefuels.com
www.urbanbioalliance.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:36
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 14: Water security // biogas

I am Abdeslam Asehraou, professor of food microbiology and biotechnology at the Faculty of Sciences, University of Mohammed 1st, Morocco, and my research activity is mainly involved in food quality and processing based on microorganisms. And I am a member of organizing and scientific committees of the 1st national workshop on biofuels in Morocco, which will be held in Morocco next week (19-21 of November 2008).

I thank very much the FAO organisation for this conference allowing us, from countries with different levels of development to share our points of view on one subject, which is in my opinion: "security".

Because as it was stated, by Janaki Krishna from India, in message 1: energy security becomes equally important as food security. I agree with you Dr Krishna, but these 2 problems "food security" and "energy security" are separated geographically. When "food security" concerns developing countries, recently "energy security" appears as a new challenge for developed countries.

That's why; I think first of all, we have to share our knowledge on energy, particularly bioenergy. The most recent technologies, resources and benefits should be shared, without damaging the resources of the others. For example, wide number of cultivated lands in developing countries are suitable for biodiesel cultures, but water resources fail in these areas, leading to the statement said: exporting biodiesel is equal to exporting water resources. However, the introduction of adequate cultures in selected areas with high attention to water consumption should improve highly the livelihood of local population, leading to reduction of the rural exodus and illegal immigration.

The bioalcohols production competes directly with food supply, particularly the 1st generation. However, the 2nd generation may be accepted, but with high consideration to water consumption. This technology is more clean and safe for developing countries, in case it's based on microbial bioconversion of wastes to bioalcohols.

The production of biogas is well known as a source of bioenergy more than biodiesel and bioalcohols. This process, based on the fermentation of agricultural wastes to the methane, is experienced in certain rural areas of Morocco. The technology used is simple, and it's benefits are of great importance, since it reduces dependence of the rural population to the energy supply, and it reduces the forest degradation by population for energy supply.

These statements lead us to the other concept: "water security" which is universal for developing and developed countries. So, I think when we plan to produce bioenergy, we have to study the preservation of water resources firstly, food supply after and energy security at the end.

Therefore, in this context, developing and developed countries should act together to select the appropriate kind of bioenergy and technology, according to requirements and resources in water and food of the area in the same country.

Prof Abdeslam Asehraou
Department of Biology
Faculty of Sciences
University of Mohamed 1st
Oujda 60 000
Morocco
FAX: 212 36 50 06 03
e-mail: asehraou (at) fso.ump.ma
e-mail: asehraou (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 15: Molecular markers // Multidisciplinary collaboration

I am Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, working at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India. My areas of research interest are molecular markers, gene expression and regulation. We are currently working on Jatropha and Pongamia under various public and private funded projects towards germplasm characterization and genetic improvement.

Molecular marker technology is one of the important biotechnological tools that can help in increasing the productivity of biofuels per unit area of land. However, like other technologies, this technology has little value in isolation. When combined with conventional methods, such as breeding and selection, marker technology has the potential to reduce the overall varietal development time to nearly 50%. As most of the non-edible oil crops are those for which improvement programs have just started or yet to start, molecular markers can provide valuable genetic information to breeders in short time. Several groups working on Jatropha in India have reported extremely low genetic diversity in Indian accessions which may be indicative of large number of duplicate or genetically redundant accessions being treated as separate accessions for genetic improvement and field trials. The most immediate contribution that these groups could provide in genetic improvement of this biodiesel species is by identifying heterotic groups within the studied accessions based on genetic dissimilarity which should be then passed to breeders along with the germplasm for further evaluation of this germplasm for important traits and hybridization.

Sharing of specific information and germplasm is a major hurdle which needs to be removed by developing mechanisms based on reasonable benefit-sharing. As genetic improvement requires support from multiple disciplines, including but not limited to agronomy, biochemistry, pathology and genetics, a free flow of information across research groups from all these disciplines is a must.

I believe, the present conference will help in amalgamation of research groups with complementary strengths for genetic improvement of these non-edible oil crops.

Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, PhD.
Fellow
Biotechnology and Management of Bioresources Division
The Energy and Resources Institute
India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road
New Delhi- 110003,
India.
Tel. (91)-011-24682100 extn. 2528.
(91)-09811870528 (Mobile)
E-mail: sbhushan (at) teri.res.in
Website: www.teriin.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 16: Are soils and waters enough for feed and fuel?

I am Dr Naima Kolsi Benzina from Tunisia. I am working as an 'Associate Professor' (soil sciences) in the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia. My areas of interest are soil, soil and water salinity, soil fertilization, fertigation, organic and mineral soil amendments, soil pollution and compost agronomic use.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate FAO for coordinating this conference. Following are my views on some of the issues raised in the 'background document':

By increasing the area of fuel crop production, areas for food production are decreased and hunger in many countries can be increased. Before developing fuel crop production, we need to think about needs of feeding production; soil resources; water resources; and to evaluate such cost production competition with food production.

We have to think about water use for the fuel crop production. We have to keep on mind the absolute priority of feeding population against producing fuel. In some areas with limited water volume, one has first to evaluate if this water is enough to water crop production.

Soil resources in many developing countries are also limited. Some of us can think about using desert areas for this production. But we need to know that any vegetal production has both water and soil fertility needs. Deserts lackwater, but also and often they lack the good layer of the soil to produce crops.

Some may think to use these deserts as inert subtracts and to add any needs as fertilizers. Such production would cost a lot, and a liter of such fuel would cost a lot!!!

I think, humanity has to think more about economy of such fuel production. And all researchers have a big responsibility to point on these problems.

Solution of lack of fuel in the world could be in a better thinking on our use of the energy. Economy in this use needs to be adopted either at the industry level than at each person level.

Fuel crop production has to be developed on polluted soil or polluted subtract that never can be used for agronomic production.

Dr. N. Kolsi Benzina
Soil Science and Environnent Laboratory
Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie
43, Av. Charles Nicole
1082 Tunis Mahrajene
Tunisia
Kolsinb (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:38
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 17: Molecular tools and lignocellulosic ethanol

This is from Chitra Raghavan. I am a post-doctoral fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

This message is in continuation of concerns raised by Dr. KK Vinod (message 4) and Prof. PK Gupta (message 7).

What the scientific community is aiming at is to diversify the source of energy (renewable and sustainable) and biofuels is going to be one of the options. With regards to the comment in message 7 that "food crops should not be diverted for production of biofuels, and the land where food crops can be grown should not be used even for crops designated as second generation biofuel crops", I would like to bring to attention the concept of lignocellulosic ethanol.

The current project I am involved with and many other groups are aiming at using molecular tools is to make use of lignocellulosic matter (e.g. straw) from crop plants (post-harvest) for bioethanol production. Therefore, cultivated crops would be used for both food and fuel.

I look forward to comments on the use of lignocellulosic matter as a source for biofuel.

Chitra Raghavan, PhD
School of Applied Sciences,
RMIT University,
Bundoora, Victoria, 3083,
Australia
chitra.raghavan (at) rmit.edu.au

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 18: Biodiesel projects in rural areas

This is from Liaqat Hayat, Pakistan, again.

I have following comments in response to Uwe Bruenges in massage 8. From the discussion held so far, for countries with food security as an issue, cultivation of biofuel crops may focus on land that would not otherwise be used for crop cultivation. The use of non-food feedstocks such as Jatropha and Moringa trees may also be encouraged so as to have minimal impact on food prices due to biofuel production. Sugar cane and corn in developing countries as feedstock of biofuel may impact adversely food prices for the poor. Jatropha grows well on marginal lands and does not require more than 400 to 500 mm of rainfall per year and can withstand long draught period. Use of algae production, water hyacinth and human waste for production of biofuel in rural set up also need to be used with a multiple benefit scenario. Similarly, small scale development projects linked to biofuel can also play an important role and a key factor if an access to affordable financing is provided as small farmers need working capital for purchase of seeds, equipment, debt and equity financing to built up biofuel businesses.

In order to affectively contribute at small scale level in rural scenario, biofuel projects need following considerations in developing countries:

a) Use of energy crops that can be grown on marginal/desert/semi-desert land requiring limited output (water, fertilizer, equipment and skilled manpower)

b) Support small scale projects that focus on bioenergy and its development for rural communities for income generation.

The above approach may induce small farmers towards producing fuel for their own use or community application in this age of energy scarcity. Biodiesel production is the first step towards this end as it lends itself better to rural communities with biodiesel crops grown on marginal lands. The waste product can also be used as fertilizer, medicine etc. We therefore need to identify compatible technologies for biodiesel in phase 1 of our plans so that small farmers are able to start such ventures without much difficulty. Completion of 1 or 2 successful ventures may lead to more such projects or similar projects on other relevant aspects.

Mr. Liaqat Hayat
3-A, Street 70,
Sector F-8/3
Islamabad
Pakistan
liaqathayat5 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 19: Drylands myth

My name is Daniel McGahey and I work as a pastoralism advisor to SOS Sahel International UK which has been working to support the livelihoods and environments of people throughout the Sahel for over 20 years. A Geographer by training, I have been working on social and environmental problems in the world's drylands for most of my career (desertification, poverty, livelihoods), and recently completed my Doctorate at Oxford University. Most recently I have been working on what the biofuel land-scarcity issue and talk of expanding the production of inedible dryland feedstocks into wastelands or degraded drylands means for people living in these areas. There are several major points which we believe these discussions are missing.

First, the potential of existing dryland feedstocks such as Jatropha is being hyped up by bioenergy companies seeking investment in what they want us to believe is a sustainable feedstock. Recent research has been focused at improved varieties under intensive irrigated plantation conditions and we don't know what yields are likely under rainfed conditions in different dryland agro-ecological zones. The crop needs irrigating in areas with less than 500mm/yr rainfall and yields are poor on degraded soils. In reality these crops are competing for prime agricultural land and water needed for food crops.

More fundamentally, the idea that there are vast wastelands just waiting to be converted into biofuel plantations resulting in immediate carbon sequestration gains, increased economic returns and without competing for food security is flawed and refuted by over 20 years of social and natural science. Globally, drylands cover 25 per cent of the world and are home to between 100 to 200 million pastoralists. This land is vital to food security of millions of people for food, fuel, grazing and income.

The idea that these areas are economically useless has recently been challenged. There are direct (i.e. milk, meat etc) and indirect (i.e. environmental services) economic returns from the mobile pastoralists that graze their livestock on these lands and these need to be compared to the costs of converting permanent pastures to biofuels. Pastoralism contributes significantly to national GDP. In Kyrgystan it accounts for 20 percent of GDP. Pastoralism also provides environmental services and is now recognized as the linchpin to solving some global environmental concerns such as biodiversity, desertification, climate change (carbon sequestration in grasslands). As the focus for biofuels is currently resting on more favorable pastoral areas, the cost of losing these dry season refuges is that more degradation and overgrazing occurs elsewhere with resulting carbon losses.

Someone commented that dryland farming is inefficient and degrades soils. In fact many long-term studies have shown that under increasing population pressure and intensive use, dryland smallholders actually improve soil fertility, soil conservation and forests (See Tiffen and Mortimore). No one would deny that an agricultural revolution in Africa is desperately needed and could boost export earnings. There may well be some areas of degraded drylands where growing crops such as Jatropha could improve the environment, provide increased economic returns and rural employment. However, there are some major uncertainties regarding this approach and many questions need to be answered before we rush to back this idea. Unfortunately, as we speak some biofuel companies are exploiting weak policy contexts in Africa and clearing vast areas of pastoral land for Jatropha before clarifying these issues. Business models are also poorly understood and it may be financially unsustainable in the long term. Thus there may be other motives for expanding into drylands and as the crop is toxic to livestock and grows for up to 50 years these changes are permanent and the risks far higher than converting permanent privatized pastures which can be mechanically reseeded. We need to raise awareness of the fact that the world's drylands are not necessarily the panacea to problems created by our unsustainable, carbon hungry lifestyles.

Daniel McGahey
Research Consultant
SOS Sahel UK
The Old Music Hall
106-108 Cowley Road
Oxford
OX4 1JE
UK
DanielMcGahey (at) sahel.org.uk
tel: +44 1865 403305
fax: +44 1865 403306
www.sahel.org.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:40
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 20: Re: Some issues in background document

This is from Dr K Kumaran, Associate Professor in Forestry from Forest College India. My expertise is in the field of tree borne oilseeds and dyes from trees.

Responding to Liaqat Hayat (message 2):

Biofuel production is possible in semi-desert areas with species like Simarouba glauca which could tolerate drought conditions for a long period; but it also needs minimal water for establishment. However, the productivity is directly correlated to the moisture and nutrients only. As Jan Jansa (message 3) was mentioning, wastewater could be used for this purpose but there is a question whether the heavy metals will enter into the chain and finally may lead to more hazardous automobile smokes

Regarding Hanns-Andre Pitot's question (message 5) on sugarcane and palm oil, both the crops need more irrigation; already both are being utilized in India; but oil palm mostly for edible purpose. We have other options like Simaruba and Pongamia pinnata. Simaruba is suitable for varied climatic and soil conditions and it is more drought tolerant. Moreover the seeds contain around 55-65% oilcontent while Pongamia pinnata requires irrigation during peak summer and oil is highly suitable for biodiesel production (already in use in India).

Dr. K. Kumaran, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (Forestry)
Forest College and Research Institute
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Mettupalayam 641301
India
drkkmail (at) gmail.com
Phone: Off:04254222010 Ext. 202
Res:04254225795
Mobile:9443377970
Fax: 04254225064


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