Sunday, July 10, 2005

Comment on the previous article

It is perfectly possible to create a different type of agriculture. Cuba (referenced in the paper) did it out of necessity once they were weaned out off Soviet free oil.

Interesting article, although "Peak Oil" is an issue murkier than it seems to be. This article could serve as the base for an argument: Do it now, before you have to, and might not be able to do it at all...

Threats of Peak Oil to the Global Food Supply

Threats of Peak Oil to the Global Food Supply
by Richard Heinberg

A paper presented at the FEASTA Conference, "What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out?", June 23-25, 2005, Dublin Ireland

Food is energy. And it takes energy to get food. These two facts, taken together, have always established the biological limits to the human population and always will.

The same is true for every other species: food must yield more energy to the eater than is needed in order to acquire the food. Woe to the fox who expends more energy chasing rabbits than he can get from eating the rabbits he catches. If this energy balance remains negative for too long, death results; for an entire species, the outcome is a die-off event, perhaps leading even to extinction.

Humans have become champions at developing new strategies for increasing the amount of energy - and food - they capture from the environment. The harnessing of fire, the domestication of plants and animals, the adoption of ards and plows, the deployment of irrigation networks, and the harnessing of traction animals - developments that occurred over tens of thousands of years - all served this end.

The process was gradual and time-consuming. Not only were new tools developed, but, over centuries, small inventions and tiny modifications of existing tools - from scythes to horse-collars - enabled human and animal muscle power to be leveraged more effectively.

This entire exercise took place within a framework of natural limits. The yearly input of solar radiation to the planet was always immense relative to human needs (and still is), but it was finite nevertheless, and while humans directly appropriated only a tiny proportion of this abundance the vast majority of that radiation served functions that indirectly supported human existence - giving rise to air currents by warming the surface of the planet, and maintaining the lives of countless other kinds of creatures in the oceans and on land.

The amount of available human muscle power was limited by the number of humans, who, of course, had to be fed. Draft animals (bred for their muscle-power) also entailed energy costs, as they likewise needed to eat but also had to be cared for in various ways. Therefore, even with clever refinements in tools and techniques, in crops development and animal breeding, it was inevitable that humans would reach a point of diminishing returns in their ability to continue increasing their energy harvest, and therefore the size of their population.

By the nineteenth century these limits were beginning to become apparent. Famine and hunger had long been common throughout even the wealthiest regions of the planet. But, for Europeans, the migration of surplus populations to other nations, crop rotation, and the application of manures and composts were gradually making those events less frequent and severe. European farmers, realizing the need for a new nitrogen source in order to continue feeding burgeoning and increasingly urbanized populations, began employing guano imported from islands off the coasts of Chile and Peru. The results were gratifying. However, after only a few decades, these guano deposits were being depleted. By this time, in the late 1890s, the world's population was nearly twice what it had been at the beginning of the century. A crisis was again in view.

But again crisis was narrowly averted, this time due to fossil fuels. In 1909, two German chemists named Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch invented a process to synthesize ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen and the hydrogen in fossil fuels. The process initially used coal as a feedstock, though later it was adapted to use natural gas. After the end of the Great War, nation after nation began building Haber-Bosch plants; today the process produces 150 million tons of ammonia-based fertilizer per year, equaling the total amount of available nitrogen introduced annually by all natural sources combined.

Fossil fuels went on to offer still other ways of extending natural limits to the human carrying capacity of the planet.

Early steam-driven tractors came into limited use in 19th century; but, after World War I, the size and effectiveness of powered farm machinery expanded dramatically, and the scale of use exploded, especially in North America, Europe, and Australia from the 1920s through the '50s. In the 1890s, roughly one quarter of US cropland had to be set aside for the growing of grain to feed horses - most of which worked on farms. The internal combustion engine provided a new kind of horsepower not dependent on horses at all, and thereby increased the amount of arable land available to feed humans.

Chemists developed synthetic pesticides and herbicides in increasing varieties after WWII, using knowledge pioneered in laboratories that had worked to perfect explosives and other chemical warfare agents. Pesticides not only increased crop yields in North America, Europe, and Australia, but also reduced the prevalence of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The world began to enjoy the benefits of "better living through chemistry," though the environmental costs, in terms of water and soil pollution and damage to vulnerable species, would only later become widely apparent.

In the 1960s, industrial-chemical agricultural practices began to be exported to what by that time was being called the Third World: this was glowingly dubbed the Green Revolution, and it enabled a tripling of food production during the ensuing half-century.

At the same time, the scale and speed of distribution of food increased. This also constituted a means of increasing carrying capacity, though in a more subtle way.

The trading of food goes back to Paleolithic times; but, with advances in transport, the quantities and distances involved gradually increased. Here again, fossil fuels were responsible for a dramatic discontinuity in the previously slow pace of growth. First by rail and steamship, then by truck and airplane, immense amounts of grain and ever-larger quantities of meat, vegetables, and specialty foods began to flow from countryside to city, from region to region, and from continent to continent.

William Catton, in his classic book Overshoot, terms the trade of essential life-support commodities "scope expansion."1 Carrying capacity is always limited by whatever necessity is in least supply, as Justus von Liebig realized nearly a century-and-a-half ago. If one region can grow food but has no exploitable metal deposits, its carrying capacity is limited by the lack of metals for the production of farm tools. Another region may have metals but insufficient topsoil or rain; there, carrying capacity is limited by the lack of food. If a way can be found to make up for local scarcity by taking advantage of distant abundance (as by exporting metal ores or finished tools from region A to help with food production in region B, and then exporting food from B to A), the total carrying capacity of the two regions combined can be increased substantially. We can put this into a crude formula:

CC of A+B > (CC of A) + (CC of B)

From an ecological as well as an economic point of view, this is why people trade. But trade has historically been limited by the amount of energy that could be applied to the transport of materials. Fossil fuels temporarily but enormously expanded that limit.

The end result of chemical fertilizers, plus powered farm machinery, plus increased scope of transportation and trade, was not just a three-fold leap in crop yields, but a similar explosion of human population, which has grown five-fold since dawn of industrial revolution.

Agriculture at a Crossroads

All of this would be well and good if it were sustainable, but, if it proves not to be, then a temporary exuberance of the human species will have been purchased by an eventual, unprecedented human die-off. So how long can the present regime be sustained? Let us briefly survey some of the current trends in global food production and how they are related to the increased use of inexpensive fossil fuels.

Arable cropland: For millennia, the total amount of arable cropland gradually increased due to the clearing of forests and brush, and the irrigation of land that would otherwise be too arid for cultivation. That amount reached a maximum within the past two decades and is now decreasing because of the salinization of irrigated soils and the relentless growth of cities, with their buildings, roads, and parking lots. Irrigation has become more widespread because of the availability of cheap energy to operate pumps, while urbanization is largely a result of cheap fuel-fed transportation and the flushing of the peasantry from the countryside as a consequence of their inability to buy or to compete with fuel-fed agricultural machinery. Roads that cover former cropland are built from oil, and the erection of buildings has been facilitated by the mechanization of construction processes and the easy transport of materials.

Topsoil: The world's existing soils were generated over thousands and millions of years at a rate averaging an inch per 500 years. The amount of soil available to farmers is now decreasing at an alarming rate, due mostly to wind and water erosion. In the US Great Plains, roughly half the quantity in place at the beginning of the last century is now gone. In Australia, after two centuries of European land-use, more than 70 percent of land has become seriously degraded.2 Erosion is largely a function of tillage, which fractures and loosens soil; thus, as the introduction of fuel-fed tractors has increased the ease of tillage, the rate of soil loss has increased dramatically.

The number of farmers as a percentage of the population: In the US at the turn of the last century, 70 percent of the population lived in rural areas and farmed. Today less than two percent of Americans farm for a living. This change came primarily because fuel-fed farm machinery replaced labor, which meant that fewer farmers were needed. Hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of families that desperately wanted to farm could not continue to do so because they could not afford the new machines, or could not compete with their neighbors who had them. Another way of saying this is that economies of scale (driven by mechanization) gave an advantage to ever-larger farms. But the loss of farmers also meant a gradual loss of knowledge of how to farm and a loss of rural farming culture. Many farmers today merely follow the directions on bags of fertilizer or pesticide, and live so far from their neighbors that their children have no desire to continue the agricultural way of life.

The genetic diversity of domesticated crop varieties: This is decreasing dramatically due to the consolidation of the seed industry. Farmers on the island of Bali in Indonesia once planted 200 varieties of rice, each adapted to a different microclimate; now only four varieties are grown. In 2000, Semenis, the world's largest vegetable seed corporation, eliminated 25 percent of its product line as a cost-cutting measure. This ongoing, massive genetic consolidation is also being driven by the centralization of the seed industry (the largest three field seed companies - DuPont, Monsanto, and Novartis - now account for 20 percent of the global seed trade), which is in turn consequent upon fuel-fed globalization.

Grain production per capita: A total of 2,029 million tons of grain were produced globally in 2004; this was a record in absolute numbers. But for the past two decades population has grown faster than grain production, so there is actually less available on a per-head basis. In addition, grain stocks are being drawn down: According to Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, "in each of the last four . . . years production fell short of consumption. The shortfalls of nearly 100 million tons in 2002 and again in 2003 were the largest on record."3 This trend suggests that the strategy of boosting food production by the use of fossil fuels is already yielding diminishing returns.

Global climate: This is being increasingly destabilized as a result of the famous greenhouse effect, resulting in problems for farmers that are relatively minor now but that are likely to grow to catastrophic proportions within the next decade or two. Global warming is now almost universally acknowledged as resulting from CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Available fresh water: In the US, 85 percent of fresh water use goes toward agricultural production, requiring the drawing down of ancient aquifers at far above their recharge rates. Globally, as water tables fall, ever more powerful pumps must be used to lift irrigation water, requiring ever more energy usage. By 2020, according to the Worldwatch Institute and the UN, virtually every country will face shortages of fresh water.

The effectiveness of pesticides and herbicides: In the US, over the past two decades pesticide use has increased 33-fold, yet, each year a greater amount of crops is lost to pests, which are evolving immunities faster than chemists can invent new poisons. Like falling grain production per capita, this trend suggests a declining return from injecting the process of agricultural production with still more fossil fuels.

Now, let us add to this picture the imminent peak in world oil production. This will make machinery more expensive to operate, fertilizers more expensive to produce, and transportation more expensive. While the adoption of fossil fuels created a range of problems for global food production, as we have just seen, the decline in the availability of cheap oil will not immediately solve those problems; in fact, over the short term they will exacerbate them, bringing simmering crises to a boil.

That is because the scale of our dependency on fossil fuels has grown to enormous proportions.

In the US, agriculture is directly responsible for well over 10 percent of all national energy consumption. Over 400 gallons of oil equivalent are expended to feed each American each year. About a third of that amount goes toward fertilizer production, 20 percent to operate machinery, 16 percent for transportation, 13 percent for irrigation, 8 percent for livestock raising, (not including the feed), and 5 percent for pesticide production. This does not include energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retailers, or cooking.

Trucks move most of the world's food, even though trucking is ten times more energy-intensive than moving food by train or barge. Refrigerated jets move a small but growing proportion of food, almost entirely to wealthy industrial nations, at 60 times the energy cost of sea transport.

Processed foods make up three-quarters of global food sales by price (though not by quantity). This adds dramatically to energy costs: for example, a one-pound box of breakfast cereal may require over 7,000 kilocalories of energy for processing, while the cereal itself provides only 1,100 kilocalories of food energy.

Over all - including energy costs for farm machinery, transportation, and processing, and oil and natural gas used as feedstocks for agricultural chemicals - the modern food system consumes roughly ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food energy produced.4

But the single most telling gauge of our dependency is the size of the global population. Without fossil fuels, the stupendous growth in human numbers that has occurred over the past century would have been impossible. Can we continue to support so many people as the availability of cheap oil declines?

Feeding a Growing Multitude

The problems associated with the modern global food system are widely apparent, there is widespread concern over the sustainability of the enterprise, and there is growing debate over the question of how to avoid an agricultural Armageddon. Within this debate two viewpoints have clearly emerged.

The first advises further intensification of industrial food production, primarily via the genetic engineering of new crop and animal varieties. The second advocates ecological agriculture in its various forms - including organic, biodynamic, Permaculture, and Biointensive methods.

Critics of the latter contend that traditional, chemical-free forms of agriculture are incapable of feeding the burgeoning human population. Here is a passage by John John Emsley of University of Cambridge, from his review of Vaclav Smil's Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food:

If crops are rotated and the soil is fertilized with compost, animal manure and sewage, thereby returning as much fixed nitrogen as possible to the soil, it is just possible for a hectare of land to feed 10 people - provided they accept a mainly vegetarian diet. Although such farming is almost sustainable, it falls short of the productivity of land that is fertilized with "artificial" nitrogen; this can easily support 40 people, and on a varied diet.5

This seems unarguable on its face. However, given the fact that fossil fuels are non-renewable, it will be increasingly difficult to continue to supply chemical fertilizers in present quantities. Nitrogen can be synthesized using hydrogen produced from the electrolysis of water, with solar or wind power as a source of electricity. But currently no ammonia is being commercially produced this way because of the uncompetitive cost of doing so. To introduce and scale up the process will require many years and considerable investment capital.

The bioengineering of crop and animal varieties does little or nothing to solve this problem. One can fantasize about modifying maize or rice to fix nitrogen in the way that legumes do, but so far efforts in that direction have failed. Meanwhile, the genetic engineering of complex life forms on a commercial scale appears to pose unprecedented environmental hazards, as has been amply documented by Dr. Mae Wan-Ho among many others.6 And the bio-engineering industry itself consumes fossil fuels, and assumes the continued availability of oil for tractors, transportation, chemicals production, and so on.

Those arguing in favor of small-scale, ecological agriculture tend to be optimistic about its ability to support large populations. For example, the 2002 Greenpeace report, "The Real Green Revolution: Organic and Agroecological Farming in the South," while acknowledging the lack of comparative research on the subject, nevertheless notes:

In general . . . it is thought that [organic and agroecological farming] can bring significant increases in yields in comparison to conventional farming practices. Compared to "Green Revolution” farming systems, OAA is thought to be neutral in terms of yields, although it brings other benefits, such as reducing the need for external inputs.7

Eco-agricultural advocates often contend that there is plenty of food in the world; existing instances of hunger are due to bad policy and poor distribution. With better policy and distribution, all could easily be fed. Thus, given the universally admitted harmful environmental consequences of conventional chemical farming, the choice should be simple.

Some eco-ag proponents are even more sanguine, and suggest that their methods can produce far higher yields than can mechanized, chemical-based agriculture. Experiments have indeed shown that small-scale, biodiverse gardening or farming can be considerably more productive on a per-hectare basis than monocropped megafarms.8 However, some of these studies have ignored the energy and land-productivity costs of manures and composts imported onto the study plots. In any case, and there is no controversy on this point, Permaculture and Biointensive forms of horticulture are dramatically more labor- and knowledge-intensive than industrial agriculture. Thus the adoption of these methods will require an economic transformation of societies.

Therefore even if the nitrogen problem can be solved in principle by agro-ecological methods and/or hydrogen production from renewable energy sources, there may be a carrying-capacity bottleneck ahead in any case, simply because of the inability of societies to adapt to these very different energy and economic needs quickly enough, and also because of the burgeoning problems mentioned above (loss of fresh water resources, unstable climate, etc.). According to widely-accepted calculations, humans are presently appropriating at least 40 percent of Earth's primary biological productivity.9 It seems unlikely that we, a single species after all, can do much more than that. Even though it may not be politically correct in many circles to discuss the population problem, we must recognize that we are nearing or past fundamental natural limits, no matter which course we pursue.

Given the fact that fossil fuels are limited in quantity and we are already in view of the global oil production peak, the debate over the potential productivity of chemical-gene engineered agriculture versus that of organic and agroecological farming may be relatively pointless. We must turn to a food system that is less fuel-reliant, even if it does prove to be less productive.

The Example of Cuba

How we might do that is suggested by perhaps the best recent historical example of a society experiencing a fossil-fuel famine. In the late 1980s, farmers in Cuba were highly reliant on cheap fuels and petrochemicals imported from the Soviet Union, using more agrochemicals per acre than their American counterparts. In 1990, as the Soviet empire collapsed, Cuba lost those imports and faced an agricultural crisis. The population lost 20 pounds on average and malnutrition was nearly universal, especially among young children. The Cuban GDP fell by 85 percent and inhabitants of the island nation experienced a substantial decline in their material standard of living.

Cuban authorities responded by breaking up large state-owned farms, offering land to farming families, and encouraging the formation of small agricultural co-ops. Cuban farmers began employing oxen as a replacement for the tractors they could no longer afford to fuel. Cuban scientists began investigating biological methods of pest control and soil fertility enhancement. The government sponsored widespread education in organic food production, and the Cuban people adopted a mostly vegetarian diet out of necessity. Salaries for agricultural workers were raised, in many cases to above the levels of urban office workers. Urban gardens were encouraged in parking lots and on public lands, and thousands of rooftop gardens appeared. Small food animals such as chickens and rabbits began to be raised on rooftops as well.

As a result of these efforts, Cuba was able to avoid what might otherwise have been a severe famine. Today the nation is changing from an industrial to an agrarian society. While energy use in Cuba is now one-twentieth of that in the US, the economy is growing at a slow but steady rate. Food production has returned to 90 percent of its pre-crisis levels.10

The Way Ahead

The transition to a non-fossil-fuel food system will take time. And it must be emphasized that we are discussing a systemic transformation - we cannot just remove oil in the forms of agrochemicals from the current food system and assume that it will go on more or less as it is. Every aspect of the process by which we feed ourselves must be redesigned. And, given the likelihood that global oil peak will occur soon, this transition must occur at a rapid pace, backed by the full resources of national governments.

Without cheap transportation fuels we will have to reduce the amount of food transportation that occurs, and make necessary transportation more efficient. This implies increased local food self-sufficiency. It also implies problems for large cities that have been built in arid regions capable of supporting only small populations on their regional resource base. One has only to contemplate the local productivity of a place like Nevada, to appreciate the enormous challenge of continuing to feed people in such a city such as Las Vegas without easy transportation.

We will need to grow more food in and around cities. Currently, Oakland California is debating a food policy initiative that would mandate by 2015 the growing within a fifty-mile radius of city center of 40 percent of the vegetables consumed in the city.11 If the example of Cuba were followed, rooftop gardens would result, as well as rooftop raising of food animals like chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Localization of the food process means moving producers and consumers of food closer together, but it also means relying on the local manufacture and regeneration of all of the elements of the production process - from seeds to tools and machinery. This would appear to rule out agricultural bioengineering, which favors the centralized production of patented seed varieties, and discourages the free saving of seeds from year to year by farmers.

Clearly, we must minimize chemical inputs to agriculture (direct and indirect - such as those introduced in packaging and processing).

We will need to re-introduce draft animals in agricultural production. Oxen may be preferable to horses in many instances, because the former can eat straw and stubble, while the latter would compete with humans for grains.

Governments must also provide incentives for people to return to an agricultural life. It would be a mistake simply to think of this simply in terms of the need for a larger agricultural work force. Successful traditional agriculture requires social networks, and intergenerational sharing of skills and knowledge. We need not just more agricultural workers, but a rural culture that makes agricultural work rewarding.

Farming requires knowledge and experience, and so we will need education for a new generation of farmers; but only some of this education can be generic - much of it must of necessity be locally appropriate.

It will be necessary as well to break up the corporate mega-farms that produce so much of today's cheap grain. Industrial agriculture implies an economy of scale that will be utterly inappropriate and unworkable for post-industrial food systems. Thus land reform will be required in order to enable smallholders and farming co-ops to work their own plots.

In order for all of this to happen, governments must end subsidies to industrial agriculture and begin subsidizing post-industrial agricultural efforts. There are many ways in which this could be done. The present regime of subsidies is so harmful that merely stopping it in its tracks might in itself be advantageous; but, given the fact that a rapid transition is essential, offering subsidies for education, no-interest loans for land purchase, and technical support during the transition from chemical to organic production would be essential.

Finally, given carrying-capacity limits, food policy must include population policy. We must encourage smaller families by means of economic incentives and improve the economic and educational status of women in poorer countries.

All of this constitutes a gargantuan task, but the alternatives - doing nothing or attempting to solve our food-production problems simply by applying more technological intensification - will almost certainly result in dire consequences. In that case, existing farmers would fail because of fuel and chemical prices. All of the worrisome existing trends mentioned earlier would intensify to the point that the human carrying capacity of Earth would be degraded significantly, and perhaps to a large degree permanently.

In sum, the transition to a fossil-fuel-free food system does not constitute a utopian proposal. It is an immense challenge and will call for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society. But in the end it is the only rational option for averting human calamity on a scale never before seen.


1. William Catton, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change (1980), University of Illinois Press.

2. Flannery, T. F., The Future Eaters (1994), Reed Books.

3. Lester Brown, Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures (2004), Norton & Norton, p. 4.

4. David Pimentel and Mario Giampietro, "Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy" (1994). See also Dale Allen Pfeiffer, "Eating Fossil Fuels," . pdf_reviews/Nature%202001.pdf

6. See, for example, Mae Wan-Ho, Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare?: Turning the Tide on the Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business (2000), Continuum.

7. Live/FullReport/4526.pdf

8. See, for example,

9. P. M. Vitousek, et al., "Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis," Bioscience 36 (1986)

10. See, for example, Bill McKibben, "What Will You Be Eating when the Revolution Comes?", Harper's, April 2005. See also Dale Allen Pfeiffer, "Drawing Lessons from Experience,"

11. Conversation with Randy Hayes, Sustainability Director of the City of Oakland, June 2005.

Richard Heinberg is the author of Powerdown - Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World. He is a journalist, educator, editor, and lecturer, and a Core Faculty member of New College of California, where he teaches courses on "Energy and Society" and "Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community."


Act Today to keep access to dietary supplements: NO to CAFTA
Please forward this to others.

We must ACT NOW to defend our access to dietary supplements.
CAFTA Section 6 requires the United States, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to revise our food laws and regulations, based on decisions made by the Codex Alimentarius (International Food Code) Commission, or Codex.

This means that no supplements other than the Recommended Daily Value (RDV) (e.g. 60 mg for Vitamin C) will be available without a doctor's prescription. For more info go to:

ACTION STEP 1: Send form letters at and

ACTION STEP 2: EMAIL Your Representative this:"I'm a dietary supplement consumer, and I am very concerned about language buried inside of CAFTA and FTAA which broadens and deepens the scope of the WTO's SPS (Sanitary Phytosanitary Measures) Agreement.
Article 3 of the SPS in the WTO Agreement reads "To harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary measures on as wide a basis as possible, Members SHALL base their food safety measures on international standards, guidelines or recommendations."

This threatens to force harmonization of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 to mindlessly restrictive UN Codex standards which would block my access to vitamins and minerals within the therapeutic range, for starters, then other dietary supplements as Codex expands."

ACTION STEP 3: Call your Representative on July 11.

HERE is a phone script to use when calling thru the Capital Switchboard at 202-225-3121 If you're not sure of your representative's names, just give the switchboard operator your zipcode and they'll know and connect you."I urge you to Vote No to the CAFTA agreement, because in Section 6 it requires the United States, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to revise our food laws and regulations, based on decisions made by the Codex Alimentarius (International Food Code) Commission, or Codex.This clause will devastate our current laws concerning access to vitamins, supplements and to health freedom and, as a result, destroy thousands of small businesses, home businesses and health practitioners. "

MORE INFOThe WTO can and has sanctioned nations for not following Codex guidelines. WTO tribunals have ruled against the USA in 42 out of 48 cases. Many of these have been very costly to our economy.Passage of CAFTA would force the "harmonization" of our dietary supplement laws and regulations to international standards, as established by the supranational Codex Commission. Doing so would drastically infringe on the quality of dietary supplements and access to supplements that people like me are used to.The passage of CAFTA could effectively override the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. CAFTA would restrict our health freedom of choice, destroy thousands of small businesses in the health foods and dietary supplement fields, and negatively impact health care practitioners and the 150 million regular consumers of dietary supplements like myself.

Any arrangement that leads to the banning of thousands of safe products cannot remotely be described as "free trade". There are better ways to promote regional trade. If this cannot be done without threatening my basic right to have access to nutritional choices then we should scrap CAFTA and start over.

Since 70 percent of the US population use dietary supplements, and 40 percent use them on a regular basis, this is a significant constituency, which should not be underestimated.

The Senate has already passed it, but the Washington Post has stated that this battle could be decided in the House by as close a margin as ONE SINGLE VOTE, so our voice ACTUALLY MATTERS!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

TOYOTA's Scandalous Behavior! Boycott Toyota! Let them know what you think of their hypocrisy!

PICKET TOYOTA Sat 7/2, 1-2:30 pm, 801 Santa Monica Blvd. (Corner of Lincoln) in Santa Monica as Toyota crushes RAV4-EV Electric cars (take Lincoln exit from I-10 and turn right), and start organizing for a California-wide BOYCOTT OF TOYOTA!

The general website is . Last week's successful protest pics are on .

If you can't make the demo, call or email:
Yukitoshi Funo-sama, US Corporate President
Toyota Motor Corp., USA
PO Box 2991, Torrance, CA 90509
(800) 331-4331

The issue is TRAGIC: Toyota, despite its "green" image, is treating RAV4-EV lease returns differently from others. Normally, lease returns are evaluate and, at worst, sold at auction to car dealers or auto dismantling yards, so the spare parts can be used on other cars of the same make. For example, if you had a Toyota Tercel, and wanted an air conditioner, you could go to the auto parts dealer and purchase one at a discount from the new price, because it had been salvaged from another Tercel.

Not so with the RAV4-EV. Instead of auctioning the car off on the free market, Toyota is CRUSHING and then SHREDDING some of the lease returns. NONE of these valuable parts are made available to auto parts dealers, and NONE of those lease returns are sold on the open market to those who would like to have an Electric car.

Why CRUSH them, if people are willing to pay GOOD MONEY for these clean, gas-free cars? After all, Toyota honorably SOLD (or lease/sold) over 300 RAV4-EV; so some will be out there for years, decades maybe, why not sell the rest?

Why doesn't Toyota use the great good will of RAV4-EV Electric car drivers to help promote its image as environmentally aware? RAV4-EV drivers are grateful, and would help Toyota's plans for a plug-in Prius, but this big resource is being discarded by Toyota.

(Next week will repeat at the same location, then a party afterward)

Lots of people showed up. There were 10 to 15 RAV4-EV, and too many people to enumerate: Larry M., Chelsea, Alexandra, Colette, Ted, Linda, Jim, Dency, Ms. King, Paul, Zan, Moira, Ms. Houston, Mike, and more, some just joined from other lists. CycleSantaMonica was here, and some DontCrush EV folks may particpate in their bicycle parade this week. I'm sorry not to jot down all the names, but it was a great and noisy event.


Many asked, "Why is Toyota doing this?". The best answer is that it's a bad policy that was set at the highest levels, and until they notice the bad effects, lower ranks will stick to it. It's our job to bring publicity to the apparent hypocrisy of Toyota espousing "green" stuff, but in reality stopping people from plugging in their cars to clean energy.

One expects "greenwashing" from the likes of ChevronTexaco or GM: but Toyota's CRUSHING and then SHREDDING Electric cars truly astonishes those who are now finding out about it for the first time.

Many people were actually turned away from the dealer, and many others expressed DISGUST with Toyota.

LOTS of support from passer-by, almost all flyers disappeared. There was a table, water and snacks, which will be present next week also.

The dealer promised to telephone Toyota HQ and complain, but don't know if it will get Toyota's attention.

Also this week, there will be a presence at Toyota Torrance HQ from 8AM to 9AM, if you can make it, please call 714-496-1567 for directions.

This is only the beginning...
This is unacceptable behavior, verging on the criminal!
Unless there is IMMEDIATE policy reversal, there is only one proper answer to this scandal:

Today in California... Tomorrow nationwide!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fahrenheit AgBioTech

Fahrenheit Agbiotech
(A review by Thomas J. Hoban, from NC State University)

Genetically modified (GM) crops have fallen far short of early expectations in developed markets, and their future acceptance remains uncertain. European opposition has solidified, and studies from Rutgers (Ref.1) and others have shown that US consumers are confused and concerned about GM ingredients in their food. Western consumers are increasingly choosing alternatives to 'industrial' foods, as demonstrated by the rapid growth in the market for organic foods. A recent documentary, "The Future of Food", provides an excellent overview of the key questions raised by consumers as they become aware of GM food. It also is an unabashed attack on the agbiotech industry and its initial products.

The film's writer/director, Deborah Koons Garcia, the widow of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, is a prominent figure in the increasingly vocal antibiotech movement in California. Her film integrates vintage footage (e.g., from the 1973 Asilomar conference) with profiles and personal stories from critics of agbiotech. Agricultural policy expert Charles Benbrook, activist Andrew Kimbrell, and others appear as the film's heroes in a struggle against the release of GM crops into the environment.

The chief villain of the piece is none other than Monsanto, the world's leading producer of GM crops, which is singled out from the rest of the industry [rightfullt so!]. The company's lawsuit against Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser is roundly criticized, along with the broader issues of gene patenting and corporate control of the food supply. One segment highlights the political connections between Monsanto and the highest levels of US government, including former George W. Bush cabinet members Anne Veneman and John Ashcroft. The film indicts Monsanto for excessive influence over government regulation, by virtue of political appointments of key corporate executives at the highest levels of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture. Monsanto refused Garcia's requests for interviews for the film.

Some of the most disturbing issues raised involve cracks in the regulatory and scientific foundations on which the agbiotech industry rests. Criticism is aimed at the FDA policy of "substantial equivalence" of GM to non-GM crops. The film argues that we don't know enough about the long-term effects of GM crops on human health and the environment. This will be particularly evident as genetic transformations become more complex (i.e., stacked genes) and the foods become functionally non-equivalent (i.e., nutraceuticals. [And potetially very dangerous ones]) The infamous Starlink and Prodigene incidents are highlighted as instances of regulatory problems. The film makes a case for consumer choice through labeling, industry opposition to which further alienates and confuses consumers. Consumers are already choosing non-GM food by buying more pricey organic products.

The film also surveys the key social, economic and ethical issues associated with GM food crops. As most US consumers have little connection with agriculture or the food production system, Garcia contends that many people do not even realize that GM crops end up in our food supply. Much of the European rejection of GM crops is due to the fact that food is more significant to their culture, so they care more about how their food is produced.

Finally, The Future of Food levels important charges against the public land-grant university system, highlighting concerns that have arisen as universities increasingly trade their independence for corporate contributions. Our universities are supposed to ask tough questions, but now there is limited tolerance for dissenting views within the system. The film describes the struggles over tenure between Ignacio Chapela and the University of California, Berkeley, over his outspoken criticism of the university's ties to the biotech industry. Citizens expect universities to serve the public interest [not do dwell in corruption]; in return, academia is expected to pursue intellectual diversity through a truly objective perspective.

As an alternative to GM crops, Garcia presents the case for less industrialized forms of agriculture, such as organic farming —- which now represents the 'gold standard' for many Western consumers. The film also documents a need for locally grown produce to conserve resources, benefit local farmers and ensure better quality, part of a movement known as Community Supported Agriculture.

Those who argue that GM crops are necessary to feed the world should realize that most Western consumers are not convinced. [And very rightfully so, since the claim flirts with the preposterous. On the other hand, corporate profiteers, and particularly the agro-industrial and medical-industrial complexes, keep the lid on vital information, such as the remarkable potential of the Moringa tree to fight hunger in the world, and make a substantial difference in the way we eat.] Research demonstrates that people prefer organic food for a wide array of ethical, emotional and environmental reasons [Ref.2]. In fact, major food companies have [started to] acquire organic brands so they can cater to this upscale market. The agbiotech industry has been warned that food processors and retailers could effectively hamper or even shut down the food biotechnology enterprise if consumer rejection keeps growing.

Though the film unapologetically presents only one side of the issues addressed, Garcia's goal is always clear: To raise consumers' awareness by telling the story of modern, industrial food production and the increasing presence of GM content in our food supply. In the same vein as "Super-size" Me and "Fahrenheit 9/11", "The Future of Food" draws attention to critical questions about food production that need more public debate.

As someone who has monitored the public debate about biotech for 15 years, I welcome this film. The current administration has let the government regulatory system wither on the vine, making good on its 1992 campaign promise to "take the shackles off the industry." Such shortsighted policies are, however, backfiring, as agbiotech increasingly (more and more) struggles for acceptance by Western consumers. (and faces increasing rejection).


1. Hallman, W.K. et al. Americans and GM food: knowledge, opinion and interest in 2004 (Food Policy Institute, Cook College, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey; 2004).

2. Organic shoppers may not be who you think they are. Food Marketing Institute (Washington, DC; 2001).




“The Future of Foods” is a film everyone needs to see. It has its own website at: .

FILM DESCRIPTION: “There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America -- a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat. The FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade. For more information visit ”.

ABOUT “THE FUTURE OF FOOD”: “My goal was to make a film that gave the average person a clear understanding of how genetic engineering works, from the cellular level to the global level. I'm hoping this film can be a combination of SILENT SPRING, and THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS. Once you see it you'll feel compelled to act, even if that means just changing the the kind of food you eat.”~Deborah Koons Garcia.

Deborah Koons Garcia fell in love with filmmaking when she first picked up a Bolex while a student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1970. She was the instigator and Chief Creative Consultant for Grateful Dawg, a documentary about the musical friendship between her husband Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. Grateful Dawg premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and went on to a lively run in film festivals, in theaters and on television. The Future of Food was shown over a dozen times as a work in progress in Mendocino County, California before the March 2004 election and was the primary element in passing “Measure H” which banned all planting of genetically engineered crops in the county, one of the most important of California counties. It was the first time U.S. citizens had an occasion to vote on this very important issue, and they made the right choice. All the people who worked on The Future of Food are proud that our efforts have had a real impact in the real world.

“The Future of Food provides an excellent overview of the key questions raised by consumers as they become aware of GM foods... (The film) draws questions to critical attention about food production that need more public debate.” ~ Film Review by Thomas J. Hoban, Nature Biotechnology Magazine, 03/05, V.23 N3

"This stylish film is not just for food faddists and nutritionists. It is a look at something we might not want to see: Monsanto, Roundup and Roundup-resistant seeds, collectively wreaking havoc on American farmers and our agricultural neighbors around the world. In the end, this documentary is a eloquent call to action." ~ The Telluride Daily Planet

"If you eat food, you need to see The Future of Food..." ~

ORGANISE LOCAL SCREENINGS: We highly encourage local groups to organize a film screening with Deborah Koons Garcia (the legendary late Jerry Garcia's widow) as a special guest: Ms Garcia is the CEO of “Lily Films” and the director, writer, producer of this provocative documentary.

One such event, which you could use as a model to arrange yours, was organized on June 26th, 2005 in Pasadena, California, by the itself legendary Dervaes family, a leading proponent of functional organic farming-gardening.

The highly informative Dervaes' site is here: and the announcement for the event itself was here: .

The Dervaes family runs “PATH TO FREEDOM”, a “Sustainable Living Resource Center & Urban Homestead”, which is slowly becoming legendary and is widely considered as a very successful model of functional organic farming-gardening.

To ask for a Moringa Test Growing Kit or for further inquiry or venture proposals, please email us!


MorMat-FOF2-V010Print © 2005 Moringa International Trust - All rights reserved Tel/Fax: 1-801-348-1842 eMail: moringamission[at]

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A major example and analysis of the possible role of the Moringa tree in agriculture.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005



Animals are biological systems exactly like we, human beings, are. The same principles apply, particularly the garbage in-garbage out principle. More, when animals are actually raised for human consumption, there a multiplication effect: Animals become what *they* eat, and we, in turn, become what we eat through them. Junk foods generate junk lives, and animals raised in the way of the agro-industrial complex generate sick and obese humans. Look around you, if you are not yet convinced.

Industrial agriculture, with its bottom-line-oriented practices that totally disregard quality in favor of quantity ultimately produces what we have become at large: Obese, chronically ill, sick and pathetic imitations of a what a human being could be. Considering that the chickens we eat are fed each other's carcasses as well as chicken feces and ground diseased animals, that supermarket beef eats ground-up diseased sheep and roadkill, the same for pigs, and that all this happy crowd is filled to the brim with synthetic hormones and antibiotics, how can we wonder if most of us wallow in chronical illnesses, cancer, heart disease, etc? And the same is true for our pets. At least *we* are not fed seasoned processed animal feces in pellet form. Well, at least not yet.

Could this change? Could farm animals and pets alike be fed healthy foods? Definitely, and the Moringa tree is poised to play a major part in such a necessary change. The agricultural experimental station run by Foidl & Foidl conducted extensive trials using Moringa leaves as cattle feed for both beef and milk cows, swine feed, and poultry feed. The results were as expected, except that, as almost always with Moringa, expectations where not only met, but passed. Moringa is not only concentrated nutrition, but in the raw form, also seems to reduce the activity of pathogenic bacteria and molds, and improve the digestibility of other foods, thus helping farm animals as well as pets express their natural genetic potential. In other words, Moringa is both nutrition and an adaptogen and pro-genetic factor.


This easily translates in quantifiable results: At the Foidl agricultural station, with moringa leaves constituting 40-50% of feed, milk yields for dairy cows and daily weight gains for beef cattle increased 30%, with no hormones and no antibiotics. Birth weight, averaging 22 kg for local Jersey cattle, increased by 15% to 25%, or 3 to 5+ kgs.

Notice that the high protein content of Moringa leaves must be balanced with other energy food. Cattle feed consisting of 40-50% moringa leaves should be mixed with molasses, sugar cane, young elephant grass, sweet (young) sorghum plants, or whatever else is locally available. The maximum protein and fiber content of livestock feed should be:
Lactating cow: Protein 18%; Fiber 26-30%
Beef cow: Protein 12-14%; Fiber 36%
Lactating sow: Protein 16-18%; Fiber 5-7%
Meat pig: Protein 12-14%; Fiber 5-7%

Because of the particularly high bio-availibity of Moringa proteins and the "natural steroid"-like effect of fresh, raw Moringa, perhaps desirable for human athletes, but dangerous if uncontrolled in animal feeds, particular care must be taken to avoid excessive protein intake. Too much protein in pig feed will increase muscle development at the expense of fat production. In cattle feed, too much protein can actually be fatal, because of the possible adverse effect on the nitrogen bovine digestive cycle.

Nutrient value of Moringa leaves can be increased for poultry and swine through the addition of an enzyme, phytase, to break down the phytates, leading to increased absorption of nutrients such as phosphoric compounds found in Moringa. The enzyme should be simply mixed in with the leaves without heating. It is NOT for use with ruminants. [Companies that sell phytase include Roche (Hoffman-LaRoche), which has distributors worldwide. A typical price for Ronozyme P (also sold as Roxazyme in some regions), a highly active phytase derived from the organism Peniophora lycii, for use in pig and poultry feeds, would be in the order of US$6.00 to $8.00 per kg. One kilo of enzyme at that concentration can treat 3333 kg of broiler chicken feed, the same amount of swine feed, or 5555 kg layer chicken feed. Phytase addition to basal diet linearly increase ash weight in the grower phase. With the exception of proline and glycine, the digestibilities of the other amino acids is linearly increased with phytase. For example, nitrogen excretion is estimated to be reduced by 4.6% when phytase was added to pig diets at a level of 500 U/kg. If you don't know of a local Roche dealer you can find one on the Internet at or write to their mail order address at Roche Vitamins Inc., PO Box 910, Nutley, NJ 07110-1199, USA.

Cattle were fed 15-17 kg of moringa daily. Milking should be done at least three hours after feeding to avoid the grassy taste of moringa in the milk. With moringa feed, milk production was 10 liters/day and without moringa feed, it was only 7 liters/day. This almost a 45% increase, with NO artificial hormones involved!

With moringa feed, daily weight gain of beef cattle was 1,200 grams/day. Without moringa feed, daily weight gain of beef cattle was 900 grams/day. That's a 33% increase, with NO artificial hormones and NO antibiotics involved!

The only problem was that higher birth weight (3-5 kg) can be problematic for small cattle. Thus, it may be advisable to induce birth 10 days prematurely to avoid problems. Incidence of twin births also increased dramatically with moringa feed: 3 per 20 births, that is, in proportion, 150:1000, as opposed to the usual average of 1:1000. This is actually an incredible increase of 15% in total live births, an astonishing fact that fully illustrates the extraordinary bio-dynamic effects of fresh, raw Moringa greens.


Chickens, for example, will not voluntarily consume moringa leaves or moringa leaf powder. However, about half the protein content can be extracted from the leaves in the form of a concentrate which can then be added to chicken feed (or used in many other ways). The protein content desired in chicken feed is 22%. To obtain the concentrate, mix leaves with water and run the mix through a hammer mill. Heat this mash to 70 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. The protein will clump and settle to the bottom. After pouring off the liquid, this can then be freeze-dried. Other alternate low-heat or non-heat method can be used to clump the protein.

A somewhat simpler alternative to freeze-drying is to take a pressure cooker and fit in the top a copper tube or steel tube. Take a compressor from an old refrigerator. Link the tube to the compressor inlet and run the compressor. At a temperature of 30 Celsius and about 50 mm of vacuum you can take out most of the water by evaporation in vacuum (in case you need it dry). However, this whole process actually comes to cooking the Moringa, which diminishes its nutritional qualities.

It is preferable to use Moringa raw, as part of a fresh fodder. For this, just take the sludge after sedimentation and mix it with dry fodder until you can handle it as a semidry mass. Then press it through a meat grinder to make homemade pellets. For pig fodder just mix the pellets with the normal fodder. However, be careful not to overdose with protein - fattening pigs need a maximum of 12-14% protein and lactating pigs 16-18% protein.

An alternate method is to use dry leaf cake left after juice extraction, which contain 12-14% protein, and mix it up with other suitable feed components.


What is said here of farm animal feeds is valid for pet foods. It is less important from a human health point of view, since we don't eat our pets, but there is no doubt that the overall health and appearance (coat, in particular) of pets reacts very well to the addition of Moringa to their diet. Actually, a whole new industry of Moringa-based pet food and care product might arise, once pet owners realize the benefits of adding Moringa to the diet of their animal companions.

(C) Moringa Trust 1998, 2000 & Moringa Mission Trust, 2005. All rights reserved worldwide.

What is Biodynamics? An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture

"An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture", originally published in Stella Natura 1995, by Sherry Wildfeuer, was used to create the present document.

What is Biodynamic agriculture? In seeking an answer let us pose the further question: Can the Earth heal itself, or has the waning of the Earths vitality gone too far for this? No matter where our land is located, if we are observant we will see sure signs of illness in trees, in our cultivated plants, in the water, even in the weather. Organic agriculture rightly wants to halt the devastation caused by humans; however, organic agriculture has no cure for the ailing Earth. From this the following question arises: What was the original source of vitality, and is it available now?

Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather than an assemblage of methods and techniques.

Biodynamics is part of the work of Rudolf Steiner, known as anthroposophy - a new approach to science which integrates precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit. It offers an account of the spiritual history of the Earth as a living being, and describes the evolution of the constitution of humanity and the kingdoms of nature. Some of the basic principles of Biodynamics are:

Broaden Our Perspective
Just as we need to look at the magnetic field of the whole earth to comprehend the compass, to understand plant life we must expand our view to include all that affects plant growth. No narrow microscopic view will suffice. Plants are utterly open to and formed by influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens. Therefore our considerations in agriculture must range more broadly than is generally assumed to be relevant.

Reading The Book Of Nature
Everything in nature reveals something of its essential character in its form and gesture. Careful observations of nature - in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils, will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to read the language of nature. And then one can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions.

Practitioners and experimenters over the last seventy years have added tremendously to the body of knowledge known as Biodynamics.

Cosmic Rhythms
The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising. The Stella Natura calendar which is featured in this catalog offers an introduction to this new study.

Plant Life Is Intimately Bound Up With The Life Of The Soil
Biodynamics recognizes that soil itself can be alive, and this vitality supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of Biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting.

A New View Of Nutrition
We gain our physical strength from the process of breaking down the food we eat. The more vital our food, the more it stimulates our own activity. Thus, Biodynamic farmers and gardeners aim for quality, and not only quantity.

Chemical agriculture has developed short-cuts to quantity by adding soluble minerals to the soil. The plants take these up via water, thus by-passing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for health, vitality and growth. The result is a deadened soil and artificially stimulated growth.

Biodynamics grows food with a strong connection to a healthy, living soil.

Medicine For The Earth: Biodynamic Preparations
Rudolf Steiner pointed out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old, instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced what are known as biodynamic preparations.

Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process is complete, the resulting preparations are medicines for the Earth which draw new life forces from the cosmos.

Two of the preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Effects of the preparations have been verified scientifically.

The Farm As The Basic Unit Of Agriculture
In his Agriculture course, Rudolf Steiner posed the ideal of the self-contained farm - that there should be just the right number of animals to provide manure for fertility, and these animals should, in turn, be fed from the farm.

We can seek the essential gesture of such a farm also under other circumstances. It has to do with the preservation and recycling of the life-forces with which we are working. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves, food scraps, all contain precious vitality which can be held and put to use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely. Thus, composting is a key activity in Biodynamic work.

The farm is also a teacher, and provides the educational opportunity to imitate natures wise self-sufficiency within a limited area. Some have also successfully created farms through the association of several parcels of non-contiguous land.

Economics Based On Knowledge Of The Job
Steiner emphasized the absurdity of agricultural economics determined by people who have never actually raised crops or managed a farm.

A new approach to this situation has been developed which brings about the association of producers and consumers for their mutual benefit. The Community Supported Agriculture movement was born in the Biodynamic movement and is spreading rapidly. Gardens or farms gather around them a circle of supporters who agree in advance to meet the financial needs of the enterprise and its workers, and these supporters each receive a share of the produce as the season progresses. Thus consumers become connected with the real needs of the Earth, the farm and the Community; they rejoice in rich harvests, and remain faithful under adverse circumstances.

Monday, May 30, 2005

"Moringa Manure"

Natural "Green Manure" Composting of Moringa Shoots

Using Moringa as a green manure can significantly enrich agricultural land. In this process, the land is first tilled. Moringa seed is then planted 1-2.5 cm (1/2 to 1 inch) deep at a spacing of 10x10 cm (4" x 4"), which translates in a density of 1 MSeed per hectare, or 400 KSeed per acre, and byo-dynamic preparations are added as necessary or desired.

That density can even be increased. The only limits to plant density are availability of seed, water, minerals and natural fertilizers. After 25 to 40 days, the seedlings are plowed into the soil to a depth of 15 cm. The land is prepared again for the crop desired. All other conditions being equal, final crop yields should consistently increase by at least 25% compared to unamended plots, and chemical amendment becomes unnecessary as well as undesirable. This method is of particular interest to organic growers.

Seeding can be done mechanically if the seed is first de-hulled. Planting kernels will reduce germination time by up to three days. Be aware that freshness of seed has a direct relation to germination time. The fresher the seed, the shorter the germination time. Old but still viable seed will need soaking for up to 3 days, and an additional up to 2 weeks for germination.

If no tractor is available, a simple method of seeding is to first rototill the soil to a depth of 10 cm, then scatter seed over the soil and rototill again to a depth of 2-3 cm.

(C) Moringa Mission Trust, 2005. All rights reserved worldwide.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Growing Moringa Part II

adapted from Lowell J. Fuglie and K. V. Sreeja by Dr F. Annenberg

Moringa oleifera is believed to be native to sub-Himalayan tracts of northern India but is now found worldwide in the tropics and sub-tropics. It grows best in direct sunlight under 500 meters altitude. It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, but prefers a neutral to slightly acidic (pH. 6.3-7.0), well-drained sandy or loamy soil. Minimum annual rainfall requirements are estimated at 250mm with maximum at over 3,000mm, but in waterlogged soil the roots have a tendency to rot. (In areas with heavy rainfall, trees can be planted on small hills to encourage water run-off). Presence of a long taproot makes it resistant to periods of drought. Trees can be easily grown from seed or from cuttings. Temperature ranges are 25-35 degrees Celsius (0-95 degrees Fahrenheit), but the tree will tolerate up to 48 degrees in the shade and it can survive a light frost.

Moringa seeds have no dormancy period, so they can be planted as soon as they are mature and they will retain the ability to germinate for up to one year. Older seeds woll only have spotty germination. Moringa trees will flower and fruit annually and in some regions twice annually. During its first year, a Moringa tree will grow up to five meters in height and produce flowers and fruit. Left alone, the tree can eventually reach 12 meters in height with a trunk 30cm wide; however, the tree can be annually cut back to one meter from the ground. The tree will quickly recover and produce leaves and pods within easy reach. Within three years a tree will yield 400-600 pods annually and a mature tree can produce up to 1,600 pods. Copicing to the ground is also possible, and will produce a Moringa bush is no main new growth is selected, and the others eliminated.

Use poly bags with dimensions of about 18cm or 8" in height and 12cm or 4-5" in diameter. The soil mixture for the sacks should be light, i.e. 3 parts soil to 1 part sand. Plant two or three seeds in each sack, one to two centimeters deep. Keep moist but not too wet. Germination will occur within 5 to 12 days, depending on the age of the seed and pre-treatment method used. Remove extra seedlings, leaving one in each sack. Seedlings can be out-planted when they are 60-90cm high. When out-planting, cut a hole in the bottom of the sack big enough to allow the roots to emerge. Be sure to retain the soil around the roots of the seedling.
To encourage rapid germination, one of three pre-seeding treatments can be employed:
1. Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting.
2. Crack the shells before planting.
3. Remove shells and plant kernels only.

If planting a large plot it is recommended to first plough the land. Prior to planting a seed or seedling, dig a planting pit about 50cm in depth and the same in width. This planting hole serves to loosen the soil and helps to retain moisten in the root zone, enabling the seedlings’ roots to develop rapidly. Compost or manure at the rate of 5kg per pit can be mixed with the fresh topsoil around the pit and used to fill the pit. Avoid using the soil taken out of the pit for this purpose: fresh topsoil contains beneficial microbes that can promote more effective root growth. The day before out planting, water the filled pits or wait until a good rain before out-planting seedlings. Fill in the hole before transplanting the seedling. In areas of heavy rainfall, the soil can be shaped in the form of a mound to encourage drainage. Do not water heavily for the first few days. If the seedlings fall over, tie them to stick 40cm high for support.

If water is available for irrigation (i.e., in a backyard garden), trees can be seeded directly and grown anytime during the year. Prepare a planting pit first, water, and then fill in the pit with topsoil mixed with compost or manure before planting seeds. In a large field, trees can be seeded directly at the beginning of the wet season.

Use hard wood, not green wood, for cuttings. Cuttings should be 45cm to 1.5m long and 10cm thick. Cuttings can be planted directly or planted in sacks in the nursery. When planting directly, plant the cuttings in light, sandy soil. Plant one-third of the length in the ground (i.e., if the cutting is 1.5m long, plant it 50cm deep). Do not over water; if the soil is too heavy or wet, the roots may rot. When the cuttings are planted in the nursery, the root system is slow to develop. Add phosphorus to the soil if possible to encourage root development. Cuttings planted in a nursery can be out-planted after 2 or 3 months.

For intensive Moringa production, plant the tree every 3 meters in rows 3 meters apart. To ensure sufficient sunlight and airflow, it is also recommended to plant the trees in an east-west direction. When the trees are part of an alley-cropping system, there should be 10 meters between the rows. The area between trees should be kept free of weeds.
Trees are often spaced in a line one meter or less apart in order to create living fence posts. Trees are also planted to provide support for climbing crops such as pole beans, although only mature trees should be used for this purpose since the vine growth can choke off the young tree. Moringa trees can be planted in gardens; the tree’s root system does not compete with other crops for surface nutrients and the light shade provided by the tree will be beneficial to those vegetables which are less tolerant to direct sunlight. From the second year onwards, Moringa can be inter-cropped with maize, sunflower and other field crops. Sunflower is particularly recommended for helping to control weed growth.[1] However, Moringa trees are reported to be highly competitive with eggplant (Solanum melongena) and sweet corn (Zea mays) and can reduce their yields by up to 50%.

When the seedlings reach a height of 60cm in the main field, pinch (trim) the terminal growing tip 10cm from the top. This can be done using fingers since the terminal growth is tender, devoid of bark fiber and brittle, and therefore easily broken. A shears or knife blade can also be used. Secondary branches will begin appearing on the main stem below the cut about a week later. When they reach a length of 20cm, cut these back to 10cm. Use a sharp blade and make a slanting cut. Tertiary branches will appear, and these are also to be pinched in the same manner. This pinching, done four times before the flowers appear (when the tree is about three months old), will encourage the tree to become bushy and produce many pods within easy reach. Pinching helps the tree develop a strong production frame for maximizing the yield. If the pinching is not done, the tree has a tendency to shoot up vertically and grow tall, like a mast, with sparse flowers and few fruits found only at the very top.

For annual Moringa types, directly following the end of the harvest, cut the tree’s main trunk to about 90cm from ground level. About two weeks later 15 to 20 sprouts will appear below the cut. Allow only 4-5 robust branches to grow and nib the remaining sprouts while they are young, before they grow long and harden. Continue the same pinching process as done with new seedlings so as to make the tree bushy. After the second crop, the trees can be removed and new seedlings planted for maximum productivity.
For perennial Moringa types, remove only the dead and worn out branches every year. Once in four or five years, cut the tree back to one meter from ground level and allow re-growth. Complete copicing is

Moringa trees do not need much watering, which make them ideally suited for the climate of places such as Southern California. In very dry conditions, water regularly for the first two months and afterwards only when the tree is obviously suffering. Moringa trees will flower and produce pods whenever there is sufficient water available.
If rainfall is continuous throughout the year, Moringa trees will have a nearly continuous yield. In arid conditions, flowering can be induced through irrigation.

Moringa trees will generally grow well without adding very much fertilizer. Manure or compost can be mixed with the soil used to fill the planting pits. Phosphorus can be added to encourage root development and nitrogen will encourage leaf canopy growth. In some parts of India, 15cm-deep ring trenches are dug about 10cm from the trees during the rainy season and filled with green leaves, manure and ash. These trenches are then covered with soil.
This approach is said to promote higher pod yields. Research done in India has also showed that applications of 7.5kg farmyard manure and 0.37kg ammonium sulfate per tree can increase pod yields threefold.[3]
Biodynamic composts yield the best results, with yield increases of of to 50% compared to ordinary composts.

Moringa is resistant to most pests. In very water-logged conditions, Diplodia root rot can occur. In very wet conditions, seedlings can be planted in mounds so that excess water is drained off. Cattle, sheep, pigs and goats will eat Moringa seedlings, pods and leaves. Protect Moringa seedlings from livestock by installing a fence or by planting a living fence around the plantation. A living fence can be grown with Jatropha curcas, whose seeds also produce an oil good for soap-making. For mature trees, the lower branches can be cut off so that goats will not be able to reach the leaves and pods. Termites can be a problem, especially when cuttings are planted.

Among approaches recommended to protect seedlings from termite attack:
· Apply mulches of castor oil plant leaves, mahogany chips, tephrosia leaves or Persian lilac leaves around the base of the plants.
· Heap ashes around the base of seedlings.
· Dry and crush stems and leaves of lion's ear or Mexican poppy and spread the dust around the base of plants.

In India, various caterpillars are reported to cause defoliation unless controlled by spraying. The budworm Noordia moringae and the scale insects Diaspidotus sp. and Ceroplastodes cajani are reportedly able to cause serious damage. Also mentioned as pests in India are Aphis craccibora, the borer Diaxenopsis apomecynoides and the fruit fly Gitonia sp. Elsewhere in the world, where Moringa is an introduced tree, local pests are less numerous.

When harvesting pods for human consumption, harvest when the pods are still young (about 1cm in diameter) and snap easily. Older pods develop a tough exterior, but the white seeds and flesh remain edible until the ripening process begins.

When producing seed for planting or for oil extraction, allow the pods to dry and turn brown on the tree. In some cases, it may be necessary to prop up a branch that holds many pods to prevent it breaking off. Harvest the pods before they split open and seeds fall to the ground. Seeds can be stored in well-ventilated sacks in dry, shady places.

For making leaf sauces, harvest seedlings, growing tips or young leaves. Older leaves must be stripped from the tough and wiry stems. These older leaves are more suited to making dried leaf powder since the stems are removed in the pounding and sifting process.


Fuglie, L., 1999. Producing Food Without Pesticides: Local solutions to crop pest control in West Africa. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Morton, J.F. 1991. The Horseradish Tree, Moringa Pterygosperma (Moringaceae) - A Boon to Arid Lands? Economic Botany. 45(3):318-333.

Ramachandran, C., K.V. Peter, and P.K. Gopalakrishnan, 1980. Drumstick (Moringa oleifera): A Multipurpose Indian Vegetable. Economic Botany. 34(3):276-283.

Sreeja, K.V. 2001. Horti Nursery Networks, Tamil Nadu, India. Personal email of 2001/03/26.

Warndorff, T. 2001. Personal email of 2001/03/22.

Perdew, R. 2004. President, Moringa Farms.

Annenberg, F. 1998. Wonderplants of the World - The Moringa Tree.

McAndrew, J. 2005. Biodynamic Food Growers Association.