The global warming craze is a bonanza for scientists. If you can find some connection to global warming for what you want to research, your chances of getting funding are much increased. The story below is an example of that in action. The justification for the research in terms of global warming is however deeply flawed -- but flawed in a way that few non-scientists would recognize. Even assuming that global warming will continue, see if you can see at least two flaws in the proposal below. Answers at the foot of the article.
Australians could soon be eating the seeds of native grass as scientists search for crops with greater resistance to the effects of global warming. Researchers from Southern Cross University in NSW say dozens of native grasses could provide a good alternative to traditional plants such as wheat, rice and sorghum.
And Queensland's farmers could be the big winners as predicted increases in drought conditions across the southern states push crop cultivation further north. "There have been pest and climate issues in the past with growing cereal crops in northern Australia and that's where native crops may fare better," said Professor Robert Henry. "They should be better suited to our climate and soils. "If we can produce successful domestic crops, we can also look at exporting crops in the same way we have been importing them."
Prof Henry, director of the university's centre for plant conservation genetics, is heading the $1 million initiative run in partnership with Victorian-based Native Seeds Pty Ltd. "It's a great project. We are quite optimistic we are going to make some real progress." The aim is to have the first varieties available for small to moderate-scale planting in about two years, near the end of a three-year program which is also being supported with a $403,000 grant from the Australian Research Council.
About 10 per cent of the world's 10,000 grass species are native to Australia. The team is focusing on a few dozen which are closely related to species such as rice and sorghum. One of the main criteria is that they have large seeds which do not fall off easily in wind so they can be harvested and used for flour, cereals and other foods.
"We would expect that all of these species will allow production with less water than conventional crops and that will be an enormous advantage for the environment," said Prof Henry. "There is also a potential that these crops could be grown in areas in Australia where you can't grow traditional crops." He said while other countries had domesticated crops such as barley thousands of years ago, the cultivation of native grasses was "quite radical" for Australia. "We only need to get one species over the line to have a great outcome," Prof Henry said.
The above story by DARYL PASSMORE appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 1, 2007. Two major flaws in it:
1). The major grain crop in the Western world is wheat and wheat is already a dry-climate crop. It can be grown in many places but it grows best in areas of low rainfall. In some parts of Australia it is grown commercially with less than 10 inches of rain per year -- semi-desert, in other words. So reduced rainfall should EXPAND the area suitable for growing it. There is no need to invent new dry-climate grain crops.
2). Global warming would warm the oceans, thus causing them to give off more water vapour -- which then comes down as precipitation (rain or snow). So, OVERALL, global warming should increase rainfall, not reduce it. But more rainfall will EXPAND production of most crops -- including many grain crops -- such as rice. So there is no need for new types of grain crop under those circumstances either.
See also David Friedman for another example of "convenient" global warming reasoning
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