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MJRevell
12-02-2014, 08:46 PM
One of the things that intrigued me about Interstellar was that being a farmer became of utmost importance, and due to the dust, what people mostly grew was corn.

It got me wondering - if Earth did take a turn for the worse weather wise, what other types of food would we have to rely on?

Is there anything else that could withstand harsh weather?

Bufty
12-02-2014, 09:05 PM
Do you mean permanent harsh weather with no seasons or respite?

Drachen Jager
12-02-2014, 09:15 PM
Hot or cold, dry or wet? Makes a huge difference. "Harsh" climate isn't very helpful.

Bolero
12-03-2014, 12:02 AM
A lot of modern crops are already bred for climate. For example in 1930s new strains of wheat were produced by crossing commercial wheat with strains of grasses that could cope with colder latitudes and that took the wheat belt in Russia further north.
Some varieties of grain do better in different climates- Scotland has a traditional association with oats because they did better than wheat in the Scottish climate.
As everyone else has said - need more details.

However, depending on how fast the weather patterns changed, you'd also be looking at the answer that food would get scarce.

Also remember - grain shortage a couple of summers back because of the wet overcast summer. Wheat just didn't ripen. Dairy farmers were struggling because the grass was low in sugar and less nutritious - had to feed supplements.

King Neptune
12-03-2014, 12:10 AM
Look at changes in crops about 700 ot 800 years ago, when the Little Ice Age was coming in. There were famines in many areas, because the traditional grains couldn't handle the coolth. Crop failure apparently led to the Mongols invading first China, and then heading West. In the middle of the Little Ice Age potatoes were introduced to Europe, and were accepted enthusiastically, because they were more resistant to cold than were grains. And in Greenland, where barely had been a crop, it cooled so much that they still haven't been able to get a barley crop to ripen.

jennontheisland
12-03-2014, 01:20 AM
Look up "winter wheat".
Things that grow underground can survive early cold. Not fun digging through frozen earth to get at food though.
Meat. Unless there's some reason why grains have to be a big deal, meat is generally available year round, everywhere.

benbenberi
12-03-2014, 04:37 AM
Meat. Unless there's some reason why grains have to be a big deal, meat is generally available year round, everywhere.

But the animals the meat comes from have to eat too, and that typically requires a good supply of grains or grasses.

RCtheBanditQueen
12-03-2014, 08:49 AM
I found an interesting thought in a book by Gary Paul Nabhan when I was researching desert gardening. He discusses climate change and offers that one way to adjust would be short-season crop varieties. The quicker the turnaround time, the easier to cope with erratic weather patterns and/or shortened growing seasons, or similar things.

Something else that I think (from this summer's reading) would be a major player in food crops that could withstand climatic extremes are some types of perennials.

frimble3
12-03-2014, 09:17 AM
Depends on the meat you're after. The traditional diet of the Inuit in Canada's North consists primarily of meat: seal, walrus, whale, fish, as well as caribou and birds. The marine mammals eat fish or shellfish, the caribou eat chiefly lichen. There were some edible plants that were gathered, but no agriculture as such.
Probably not practical for large populations, though.

MythMonger
12-03-2014, 09:12 PM
Genetic engineering would almost certainly play a role in whatever foods to be produced.

jennontheisland
12-04-2014, 03:10 AM
But the animals the meat comes from have to eat too, and that typically requires a good supply of grains or grasses.
Nope. See below.


Depends on the meat you're after. The traditional diet of the Inuit in Canada's North consists primarily of meat: seal, walrus, whale, fish, as well as caribou and birds. The marine mammals eat fish or shellfish, the caribou eat chiefly lichen. There were some edible plants that were gathered, but no agriculture as such.
Probably not practical for large populations, though.

snafu1056
12-04-2014, 06:19 AM
I think millet is a good standby crop because it grows fast and can be farmed pretty easily. It seems to be a good crop for areas with short warm seasons. It's not very tasty, but it can keep you alive. And it doesn't take much to create a granary for storing the grains.

stumblebum
12-04-2014, 11:44 PM
But the animals the meat comes from have to eat too, and that typically requires a good supply of grains or grasses.

Pigs will eat damn near anything. As will chickens. Also rats (which I'd bet taste exactly like chicken.)

mirandashell
12-05-2014, 12:15 AM
But you also have to think about the other end of the process. Every crop needs pollination. And large populations need crops. If it gets too cold or too hot suddenly, then the insects will die out and nothing will be pollinated.

benbenberi
12-05-2014, 07:01 AM
Nope. See below.

Large populations need large, stable sources of food. There's a reason that Arctic peoples like the Inuit who subsist on marine mammals and fish always lived in small bands thinly scattered across their territory - their food supply never supported anything more. The same is true for every known human culture that did not depend significantly on grain sources (whether wild or cultivated). Small bands were the rule everywhere that did not have agriculture or its near-precursor. You only get significant population concentrations (towns, cities, etc.) when grain supplies become reliable enough to support them.

Sure, there are plenty of animals that don't depend on grain, and people can eat them. Pigs, deer, fruit and insect eating critters of various sorts are all good eats. It's just that, unless you can guarantee these animals a sufficient and stable source of high-quality nutrition to keep a lot of them well-fed and breeding rapidly, you're never going to be able to support a big population.

And without a big population, technological civilization becomes extremely difficult to sustain.

Do I need to add the obvious, that whenever we eat meat from whatever source we're consuming energy that originated in plants, just processed 2nd or 3rd hand through our dish-of-the-day? When the plant energy is inaccessible and the animals are abundant (e.g. in traditional Inuit culture) it makes sense to do it that way. Otherwise, it's just not that efficient a way to make food happen. In a regime of scarcity you don't want to depend for your survival on inefficient production.

Grains of various sorts became the main food source for most human cultures because they provide a reliable and concentrated supply of calories and protein and could be adapted to local growing conditions. This is a prerequisite for large population. If a massive population crash and reversion to small-band subsistence lifestyles is acceptable, ok. Skip the grain agriculture.

Otherwise, what you want is better grain crops. And hardy pollinators. And maybe some backyard chickens and guinea pigs for Sunday dinner.

blacbird
12-05-2014, 12:12 PM
Meat. Unless there's some reason why grains have to be a big deal, meat is generally available year round, everywhere.

Uhhhh . . . unless the meat animals have something to eat . . . Remember, this thread concerns LARGE populations that need to be fed. There's a reason the Arctic is sparsely populated.

caw

blacbird
12-05-2014, 12:14 PM
But you also have to think about the other end of the process. Every crop needs pollination. And large populations need crops. If it gets too cold or too hot suddenly, then the insects will die out and nothing will be pollinated.

Grains are pollinated by wind, not insects.

caw

Bolero
12-05-2014, 01:58 PM
Something else that I think (from this summer's reading) would be a major player in food crops that could withstand climatic extremes are some types of perennials.

In a broader sense, that is the theory behind agroforestry/forest gardening. You grow trees and perennials, with some annuals. It is supposed to mimic the edge of the woods, which is a very productive area, and you don't have to do lots of energy intensive ploughing and it is its own windbreak. It is not suitable for polar climates - trees don't grow in polar regions - as someone has already said, you're onto lichens and mosses for polar regions.
There is a movement that supports agroforestry - and you can do it in a small way in your back garden. Windbreak hedge, then a row of fruit trees, then a row of fruit bushes, then a row of xxxx (perennial onions, annual tomatoes) and then the final low growing row of strawberries, or seasonal things like lettuce.
You are then into a more labour intensive cropping system than massive fields of grain and a combine harvester. You are replacing machines consuming diesel, with people consuming food (and possibly fuel getting to where the harvest is).

mirandashell
12-05-2014, 09:11 PM
Grains are pollinated by wind, not insects.

caw

What do you mean by grain? Cos as far as I'm aware, insects have a major part in that as well.

mirandashell
12-05-2014, 09:14 PM
I just checked and you're right. But I don't think a large community can live on grain alone.

Faye-M
12-05-2014, 09:55 PM
I would think that indoor gardening would become quite popular. Heated greenhouses, underground facilities with artificial light... I think mankind has come far enough by now that we wouldn't just rely on whatever crops can withstand the weather. I think we'd still have some amount of fruit and vegetables.

skylark
12-11-2014, 10:59 PM
I suspect there would be a lot more fish eaten. The oceans are much less vulnerable to weather changes than the land is.

benbenberi
12-12-2014, 04:05 AM
But they're very vulnerable to other human activity. Many fisheries have collapsed recently, or are near to it. There are projections that nearly all saltwater fish may be extinct or approaching it in the next few decades.

We are, however, living in the golden age of the jelly and the algal bloom.

blacbird
12-12-2014, 05:58 AM
I would think that indoor gardening would become quite popular. Heated greenhouses, underground facilities with artificial light... I think mankind has come far enough by now that we wouldn't just rely on whatever crops can withstand the weather. I think we'd still have some amount of fruit and vegetables.

Try it and see what your energy costs are.

caw

Thewitt
12-12-2014, 06:15 AM
I just checked and you're right. But I don't think a large community can live on grain alone.

Actually bread and beer were enough to build the pyramids, so they can probably keep a large community alive as well...

Helix
12-12-2014, 06:31 AM
Actually bread and beer were enough to build the pyramids, so they can probably keep a large community alive as well...

Bread, beer...and quite a lot of meat (http://www.lsa.umich.edu/lsa/ci.thedietofpyramidbuilders_ci.detail).

shaldna
12-12-2014, 02:18 PM
it dependson several things - 1. your definition of 'harsh' - is it very hot and dry or cold and wet/snowy - this will impact what you can grow well. 2. your facilities for growing - do you have the ability/facilities to, for example, dry crops indoors, grow food under glass / in shelter?

Faye-M
12-12-2014, 09:04 PM
Try it and see what your energy costs are.

caw

You can use solar power or steam to heat greenhouses.

shaldna
12-13-2014, 03:02 AM
You can use solar power or steam to heat greenhouses.

And bubblewrap - sounds weird, but it reduce heating cost by about half, and it protects against contact freeze and can be used toreduce drafts etc

(i live in ireland, we use this a lot in greenhouses and conservatories etc)