Dr. Robert Lucas: Taking issue with the scientific illiterates

Barbados Sugar Cane.jpg

Tropical soils, Temperate soils: What’s the difference and does it matter?

In the Advocate newspaper of 8th April 2013, there was an article captioned “Organic agriculture can boost restaurant sub-sector.” Immediately below the caption in bold font was the following statement: “In temperate countries like the UK, the organic matter content stood at 5%. In Barbados on the other hand….the organic matter content in most soils was less than one percent.” The statement also appeared in paragraph five of the article. In paragraph eight of the same article, the following appeared: “Conventional methods contribute to green house gas emissions and can cause inefficiencies in energy use..” The two statements were attributed to the National Co-ordinator of the United Nations Development Facility Small Grants Program (GEF SGP).

In biology there is a concept called the temperature quotient. The temperature quotient is a ratio of the velocity of a process at a given temperature to that at a temperature 10 °C lower. In biological systems the temperature quotient is about 2-3. This means that there is (using the lower figure) a doubling of the rate of a biological reaction for every ten degrees increase in temperature. This doubling effect occurs up to certain temperature beyond which, there is an adverse reaction due to effect of heat. Since tropical countries are hotter than temperate ones, one would expect tropical soils to have little or no soil organic matter. Obviously, if fresh vegetation or pen manure is added to tropical soils, initially, soil organic matter will be high. This, however, is only so for a short time. The duration of organic matter is further reduced in the presence of air and water. Another fact to be considered is the carbon /nitrogen ration of the added vegetation or manure. If the nitrogen content is too low, the rate of decomposition is retarded: the converse occurs if there is adequate nitrogen available. Pen manure or vegetation added to the soil is broken down by soil micro-organisms. Students of biology would have encountered in their studies the carbon and nitrogen cycles. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are the ultimate products of the decomposition of manure and vegetation when added to soils as is the case when fertilizers are used.

I have stated in the past that, the majority of Barbadians are scientific illiterate and the article referred to, supports what I have been saying for years.


Robert D.Lucas, Ph.D.

Food biotechnologist.



Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Science

11 responses to “Dr. Robert Lucas: Taking issue with the scientific illiterates

  1. Richard

    Dr Lucas thanks for you simplistic explanation, as a person who holds degree in Biology, I always appreciate when people like you set the record straight, no one in the scientific community can dispute anything you have said here as being scientifically incorrect. Maybe they should have you proof read their articles before printing them. Thanks for the refresher course here.

  2. what?

    I have absolutely no idea what you are on about, thank God I studied the arts where people are taught to express themselves properly.

  3. Engineers build things

    Arts people are great at telling us what the colour of a bridge should be. Philosophy majors tell us what the bridge says about how we feel as a society.

    Engineers and scientists build the damn bridge, and we could use a few more of their kind in Barbados and fewer social philosophers. Pardon me if I don’t express myself to the standards of an Arts Major who probably still lives at home with their mommy.

  4. compound

    Illiteracy, ignorance and arrogance make for a very toxic compound

  5. Intellectual arrogance couple with the lack of common-sense, is a time -bomb waiting to explode.

  6. Compound, it seems we have reached a critical period in our human development. Where is have become quite impossible, to distinguish between the educated and the functionally illiterate.

  7. what?

    Actually engineers and scientists do not build bridges, they design them and craftsmen and labourers build them. Nearly every structure in the world has been built by people without academic qualifications, yet the architects and the engineers claim the glory for themselves.

  8. Compound, the problem with our world today, is not so much with the Functionally-illiterate. Although, there is a tendency to attribute most of society’s social -ills to them. But with the Educated-illiterate, who has taken away from their university education the mere theory devoid of reasoning.

  9. Anonymous

    Barbados is FULL of scientifically illiterate ppl still enjoying their Victorian beliefs! Like the lady who gets wet in the rain and rushes home to take two Panadol tablets prophylactically, to ward off the Common Cold virus she’s positive she’ll catch from rainwater precipitated upon her delicate body. If I was the agents for Panadol, I would mek this popular belief snort, and sell triple the amount of tablets during rainy season: their livers deserve the abuse. Wunnuh 2RH foolish!

  10. 45govt

    I wonder what this arrogant man’s position is on the junk science behind the AGW scam.