Future farming

Given the numbers of hungry people alive today, feeding the 9+ billion people of 2050 will require a doubling of present food production levels. This calls for new hardware and new “software” – in the form of educating farmers for a new sustainable Green Revolution. Governments need to put more effort into agricultural research and abolish the perverse subsidies that help the world’s richest farmers better compete against the poorest in Africa and Asia. All farmers need access to credit, markets and crop insurance.

Future farming cannot afford to waste water, land, living species, or human labour. New technologies will be needed to get the most out of every bit of topsoil and every drop of water, along with new crop varieties to cope with extreme and changing climate.  Does this mean controversial genetically-modified organisms? Perhaps in places it does, as large parts of Africa lack sufficient organic material for an organic approach.

Breakthroughs in technology are required to manage salty and acidic soils and to get plant roots to absorb more nitrogen and thus need less fertilizer. Methods of planting and harvesting using less machinery and energy must also be developed. Much land has been ruined by agriculture. This land will have to be reclaimed, and more farming be done in odd places, like city rooftops. And all this must be accomplished while adding to, rather than diminishing, the biodiversity and ecosystem services that make farming possible in the first place.

    

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