Tuesday Talks With Dr. Patterson

January 2015

January 27, 2015

Don't Call it Dirt

Former Professor of Agronomy Dr. Joe Hood, who taught Auburn University’s Basic Soil Science course for several decades, would admonish his students to not refer to soil as dirt – “Don’t call it dirt.” As a soil scientist he understood how the complex structure of soils contributed to their productive capacity for plant growth, while also providing valuable environmental benefits. He recognized soil as too valuable a resource to characterize it as dirt. The United Nations too has recognized the great importance of soils and has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils. At a kick-off ceremony on December 5, 2014 in Rome, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “healthy soils are critical for global food production, but we are not paying enough attention to this important silent ally” (Matz).

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January 20, 2015

Citrus Greening and Future Challenges

There is a growing appreciation of the challenge to increase food production for a growing world population. It should also be appreciated that this challenge will likely be even more challenging given the likely outcome of scarcer production resources (land and water), production systems that are disrupted by climate change, and new diseases afflicting plants, animals, and man. The disease the citrus industry now faces, known commonly as citrus greening, is a good example of the types of disease pressures we will face in the future. The industry’s response to this disease may also provide a model for future disease challenges.

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January 13, 2015

Energy Independence

The talk among market analysts and policymakers last week was the tremendous drop in oil price, which was trading at less than $50 per barrel last Friday. This is half its price in July. Of course, a decline in crude oil prices brings a decline in gasoline prices. I am sure consumers enjoy seeing gasoline prices below $2 per gallon. This drop in oil price has generated much talk about its implications for the economy, the environment, and for the future of renewable energy markets and renewable energy technologies. If the current oil price levels are not low enough, some market analysts have even predicted that oil could fall to as low as $30 per barrel during 2015.

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January 6, 2015

Cuba, Our Neighbor

In December of 1949, my parents spent their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. This was of course before the socialist revolution in 1959, the U.S. economic embargo established in 1960, and the cut in diplomatic relations in 1961. Before the revolution, American travel to and business in Cuba was common. Under the embargo, there was no trade with Cuba or U.S. tourist travel to Cuba. The embargo has been maintained as a means of exerting pressure on the dictatorial, socialist government led first by Fidel Castro and since 2006 by his brother Raul Castro to reform its policies affecting human rights. A partial lifting of the economic embargo was approved through the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 (TSRA), which allows U.S. exports of agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices to Cuba.

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