Reader suggests Gates' foundation invest in no-till farming

In his annual letter, Bill Gates says he's increasingly troubled by the lack of investment into new research in agriculture.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has devoted $2 billion to help poor farmers boost their productivity. But the annual letter is a public way to set the priorities for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charitable foundation with a $36 billion endowment.

Most of the $25 billion the foundation has given away so far has been devoted to public health, with $6 billion focused on vaccines, including the polio effort.

According to an onlinie Forbes article, America's richest man says that it is a terrible irony that most of the billion people, 15% of the world population, who live in extreme poverty and must worry about where they will get their next meal are suffering on farms.

He says that the world needs to repeat the "Green Revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s, when new farming technologies, including new seed varieties of rice, wheat, and corn, increased the amount of food available and decreased its price.

"The world faces a clear choice," he writes. "If we invest relatively modest amounts, many more poor farmers will be able to feed their families. If we don't, one in seven people will continue living needlessly on the edge of starvation."

That's staggering considering that only $3 billion is spent on agricultural research on the seven most important crops, Gates says, including $1.5 billion from countries, $1.2 billion from private companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, and $300 million by an agency called the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

"Gates would do better to fund no-till farming," said one reader responding to the article. "The world's topsoil is eroding away at a fast clip. No-till would make it possible to grow crops without plowing, leaving the dead plant roots to hold the soil together."