Cotton Links


Itís Just Around The Corner

By Andy Jordan
Memphis, Tenn

Recently, three un-related events motivated me to take a pensive look at the future of agriculture. The events were related to a Science magazine article, a career shift and a small child.

In a journal abstract published in Science, anthropologists reported finding in Peru 9,000-year-old macrofossils of cotton plants (Gossypium barbadense) – the commercial species is Pima.

They also found fossil parts of peanuts and squash plants and garden plots complete with irrigation canals and farm tools. The glimpse of a distant past is a clue that structured agriculture, as primitive as the techniques might have been, has been around for many millennia and gives testimony to the resilience of agriculture.

With a foundation in engineering and science and stints in telecommunications, aerospace and cotton, I recently made another career turn. This shift allowed me the opportunity to join like-minded agricultural scientists, agribusiness professionals and respected wildlife conservation groups in an alliance for sustainable agriculture.

My motivation is to do my part to see to it that the planet is capable of feeding and clothing 9.2 billion people by 2050. That’s three billion more than today. In the next 40 to 50 years, food and fiber needs will double. During that time, farmers will produce more food and fiber than they have in the past 10,000 years combined.

Why do I choose 2050 as the target date for sustainability? Most population models agree that the world population will level off at about 9 to 10 billion people. To make the challenge of feeding and clothing 9.2 billion people even more interesting, this must be done with diminishing oil production and reduced access to fresh water while maintaining healthy and ample wildlife habitat.

The question is not should it be done or can it be done. It simply must be done. The alternative is not attractive. That’s the driving force behind the coalition in which I’m involved called, Field to Market – the Alliance for Sustainable Agricultural Solutions. The National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated are charter members of this coalition.

Colombe, my newest great-grandchild, came on this planet a year ago. Her arrival put a keen sense of urgency for us to get this sustainability thing right. I try to envision the world through Colombe’s eyes when she is my age – to imagine agriculture that will produce the food and fiber for her and nine billion other earthly residents. That’s rather like my grandparents predicting in 1900 what was in store for my parents.

Automobiles, rural electrification, airplanes, mechanical cotton harvesters, herbicides, radio, television, satellite communications and hybrid crops were unknowns. Chances are that most of them were not even thought about. Each of these became reality during my parents’ lifetime.

I recently was on a church mission taking water disinfection technology to poor people in Ghana. In a van driving deep in the hinterlands of West Africa, I received and sent e-mail on my handheld Blackberry phone instantaneously to my family and business in Tennessee. Could my parents have imagined anything like that? Probably not.

The world will experience another green revolution. Farmers will grow oil crops that produce 10 times more bio-diesel on an acre of land than our current oil crops like corn, soy and rapeseed. Solutions won’t happen just by chance. They will be met with appropriate investments in agricultural research to educate the populace on the urgency of charting a path for future agriculture.

We must face the environmental challenges with a proactive program. In the meantime, there is no group of people I would rather have care for the environment than farmers.

– Andy Jordan, Memphis, Tenn.

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