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Going Green

Food and Agriculture Reorganisation

by Dave Armstrong 14 Oct 2011
Food and Agriculture Reorganisation

Grain crop via Shutterstock

Nature has published a daring study outlining plans to double food production in order to feed the projected nine billion mouths we will have in 2050. By using only satellite images and crop records, the eminent researchers from Canada, the US, Sweden, and Germany have been able to predict less environmental impact with double production. With one billion chronically malnourished humans at the moment, perhaps we can make an immediate start.

Expansion of farmland and land clearance would stop, while the improved use of crop varieties, management strategies and genetics could result in a 60% increase in productivity would close the infamous "yield gap".(* This crop failure phrase describes how many farms could increase yields simply by using best practice in these areas.)

Water, nutrients and other supplements to the land can be reallocated, especially in those areas where shortages are starkly obvious. Animal feed and biofuel production should ideally cease, as it wastes the farmland that must be used to create more human food. The calories /person would rise by 50% with these dedicated croplands.

Here the authors show the fraction of the world's total cropland that is dedicated to growing food crops (crops that are directly consumed by people) versus all other crop uses, including animal feed, fibre, bioenergy crops and other products.

Here the authors show the fraction of the world's total cropland that is dedicated to growing food crops (crops that are directly consumed by people) versus all other crop uses, including animal feed, fibre, bioenergy crops and other products; Credit: © Nature

Wastage must also be fought. With 33% spoilage, discarded or lost to pests, farm production needs the boost of efficient "farm to mouth" pathways. Food consumption could rise in this way by another fifty per cent.

While NASA, NSERC and NSF funded "Solutions for a Cultivated Planet," it is the rest of the world that need to fund and adopt this plan or a strong alternative before we realise that we are involved in a food war. "For the first time, we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet," said lead author Jonathan Foley. We must all know by now that every argument has an opposite argument by politicians and farmers who don't mince words, with emotions, dogma and traditional practice used as "evidence". The fight against such prejudicial practice and the ancient profit motive has just begun.


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