Celebrating 100 Years of Norman Borlaug: The Father of the Green Revolution
By all accounts, Norman Borlaug, deemed the "Father of the Green Revolution," was a hardworking and humble man, reports CSA News.
When the phone call came to tell him that he had won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, he was working in his wheat fields, and his wife, Margaret, had to deliver the news to him. As he received other awards throughout the years, colleagues say he remained focused on the work.
“He had all these awards—the Congressional Gold Medal, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science," said Ronald Phillips, regents professor at the University of Minnesota. "Yet, in all my time visiting with him, he never mentioned one. Even up to his death he was still promoting agricultural science."
March 25 is the 100th anniversary of Borlaug's (1914-2009) birthday. It is also National Ag Day.
Through dedication and lifelong effort, Borlaug was credited with saving a billion lives. His nickname, Father of the Green Revolution, was coined after he helped facilitate the vast changes in agricultural practices that exponentially increased food production from the 1950s and onward.
After earning his doctorate in plant pathology in genetics, Borlaug began his research in Mexico. One of the first problems he addressed in the country was stem rust, which was killing off wheat crops and causing food shortages.
To solve the problem, Borlaug developed Mexican semi-dwarf varieties, which had multiple benefits. The shorter wheat produced stronger stalks and two to three times more grain than standard varieties. These new varieties transformed wheat cultivation in Mexico.
By 1963, 95 percent of the wheat grown in the country came from Borlaug’s breeding programs. The wheat harvest that year was six times larger than the harvest in 1944, when he first arrived in Mexico.
He then took his work to India and Pakistan, bringing new seeds to help feed the worlds’ poor. Between 1965 and 1970, India’s wheat crop went from 12 million to 21 million tons. Soon his ideas and principles were being copied in China and Africa.
“The greatest thing he did for the field of agronomy was to begin to show people that they had to think about multiple parts of the system,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture Lab Director Jerry Hatfield. “If you think about what he did in the Green Revolution, it wasn’t about genetics, and it wasn’t about fertility, and it wasn’t about water. It was about all of those different things together.”
Others credit Borlaug with an ability to get people to collaborate, as he spoke to scientists, politicians and farmers with the same ease.
“I cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that further progress depends on intelligent, integrated and persistent effort by government leaders, statesmen, tradesmen, scientists, educators and communication agencies … We can and must make continuous progress,” said Borlaug during his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture.
National Ag Day recognizes and celebrates the abundance provided by agriculture, according to the Agriculture Council of America, which organizes the annual event. On March 25, food producers, universities, corporations and other supporters will celebrate the contributions of agriculture.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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