Changing the Narrative: It’s Not Just About Yield

For years now when someone outside the industry asks what I do, I give them the “elevator speech,” the 30-second recap that explains what our magazine, digital products, and events are designed to do. It goes something like this:

“By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet. To feed all those people we will need to increase our food production by anywhere from 60% to 100%, depending on the estimate. Our magazine focuses on the products that can be used to help make that happen.”

Simple. Concise. And possibly wrong. Or, at least partially wrong, according to a new study, “Agriculture in 2050: Recalibrating Targets for Sustainable Intensification,” from a team of researchers from major American land-grant universities.

The mantra that the industry has shared for so many years comes from research that is several years old, and while it was not necessarily inaccurate at the time, it doesn’t account for advances made since the early 2000s. For example, since 2005, global cereal production has increased 24% and oil crops 39%, according to the authors of the study, which was published in BioScience.

Lead author of the study Mitch Hunter said the current data suggests a production increase of 25% to 70% would be necessary to meet the growing population’s needs. “The new research indicates that ‘roughly historical rates’ of production growth should be able to meet this lower demand.”

But researchers were concerned with more than just the rate of production. Food waste was one issue, but the study also looked at how the impact a singular focus on increased production could have on other areas of agriculture. In addition to increasing efficiency, the industry should concern itself with “nutrient losses, and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture must drop dramatically to restore and maintain ecosystem functioning.”

According to the study, “The prevailing discourse on the future of agriculture is dominated by an imbalanced narrative that calls for food production to increase dramatically — potentially doubling by 2050 — without specifying commensurate environmental goals.”

I will take issue with that last statement. The industry has done an admirable job of late focusing on the environmental issues around agriculture and the products used to increase yields. China has been inspecting factories for several years in an effort to improve the environmental footprint of that country’s manufacturers. In addition, the industry as a whole has embraced biological control products. AgriBusiness Global’s sold-out Biocontrols Africa conference in July is just one example. Sister publications have or will host three other biocontrol events this year.

The growth and focus on precision agriculture is another example of the dedication to improving yield, giving manufacturers and distributors new tools to improve the sustainability and efficiency of crop production systems.

A recent discussion at the AgriBusiness Global Trade Summit seemed to cast some doubt on one of the key components of the original argument. It seems there are those who believe the 9 billion figure is inaccurate. Not only will we not reach 9 billion people by 2050, we might actually drop below the current level of 7.5 billion currently walking the earth.

Wherever we end up, I have confidence the ag industry will respond to the needs of growers and AgriBusiness Global will be providing the insight companies need to make the decisions to keep their operations relevant.

Leave a Reply

Africa/Middle East

Africa/Middle East

Eurofins Adds Field Base and Two Satellite Bases in Morocco

New for 2018 is EAS Groups field base in Morocco – from the main facility in Meknes, based in the

Africa/Middle East

Bayer Closes Monsanto Acquisition

Bayer successfully completed the acquisition of Monsanto on Thursday. Shares in the U.S. company will no longer be traded on

Africa/Middle East

Bayer Plans Closing of Monsanto Acquisition on June 7

Bayer plans to complete the acquisition of Monsanto on June 7, following the receipt of all required approvals from regulatory

pheromone-based-innovation-combats-tuta-absoluta-in-tomatoes
Africa/Middle East

Affinity in East Africa: Marrone Bio Innovations Finds Harmonious Partner in Kenya Biologics

Farmers in East Africa are set to benefit from a wide range of zero-residue biopesticides that will help to increase

Africa/Middle East

Zimbabwe’s New Government Pushes to Strengthen Agriculture

With Mugabe out, the push for increased agricultural production by the new government has opened new business opportunities for planting seed material suppliers and agchem manufacturers.

Africa/Middle East

Zambia’s AGCO Enters Retail Finance Partnership

The new partnership between AGCO, its national distributor BHBW Zambia Limited and the Zambia National Commercial Bank Plc (Zanaco) will provide retail financial solutions for farmers purchasing machinery.

Fall-Armyworm-Photo-CABI
Africa/Middle East

Fall Armyworm a Serious Threat to Sub-Sarahan African Food Security in 2018

Once considered a pest plaguing only North and South America, the fall armyworm (FAW) arrived in Africa in force in

Africa/Middle East

Staphyt Opens Experimental Station in Morocco

Agrosciences and regulatory CRO Staphyt announced it opened its first phytosanitary experimental station in Meknes, Morocco in March.

Coffee-Farmer
Africa/Middle East

AgTech Startup Wefarm Secures New Financing Round

Wefarm, the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network, has secured $5 million in additional seed funding, led by Silicon-Valley based True

Fall-Armyworm-corn-Kenya
Africa/Middle East

Sub-Saharan Africa: Time for a Paradigm Shift to Sustainable Farming Practices

Farming in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained fairly conventional over the years and involves intensive use of synthetic chemicals and

African-Smallholder-Farmers
Africa/Middle East

VisionFund International Offers Climate Insurance Initiative for African, Asian Farmers

More than 690,000 families totaling up to four million people living in six low-income countries stand to benefit from a

Africa/Middle East

Bancella Expands African Footprint

Bancella Ltd., headquartered in Mauritius, has taken another step in growing the footprint in Africa by taking what is described

Wilson-Kyalo-Chairman-of-Wilson-Kyalo-Chairman-of-the-LEDCA-alliance-has-built-his-dairy-farm-from-one-cow-to-100-cows-over-40-years
Africa/Middle East

Kenya Dairy Industry Sheds Light on Market Challenges, Opportunities

In December, I had the privilege to serve as a volunteer consultant with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Kenya.

Africa-Kenya
Africa/Middle East

Eastern African Nations Move to Harmonize Fertilizer Regulations

Eastern Africa countries are working to harmonize the region’s fertilizer market, a move that could improve not only demand for

maize-crop-Africa
Africa/Middle East

Counterfeits Disrupt Uganda’s Agrichemicals Market

The outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in East Africa in late 2016, particularly in landlocked Uganda, and the

BRANDT-Tunisia-Ag
Africa/Middle East

BRANDT Expands Relationship with Solagri Tunisia

BRANDT, a leading manufacturer of specialty products for the agriculture market, has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Solagri Tunisia

Sanjay Sethi
Africa/Middle East

Sanjay Sethi, Phoenix Group Honored with Sustainable Initiatives Award

During the recently held Meet the Farmers Conference 2017 at the Waldorf Astoria, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, Sanjay Sethi, Director

Africa/Middle East

Koppert Broadens its Activities in Africa

Leading biocontrol producer, Koppert Biological Systems, has extended its presence in Africa by opening a new subsidiary in the West

Africa/Middle East

Syngenta, USAID Renew Global Collaboration to Improve Food Security

Renewed MOU to develop agriculture in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Latest News

Asia

Ning Replaces Ren as Syngenta Board Chair

Jianxin Ren, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Syngenta AG, has retired from the company's board.

Agrichemicals

Hemani Industries Launches Branded Formulation Division

Hemani Industries Limited, serving international agrichemical customers for more than three decades, has launched its branded formulation division to serve

Agrichemicals

Considering Cuba: Opportunities and Challenges for Ag Input Suppliers

As Cuba attempts to boost its production of food products for domestic consumption, it is expected to gradually increase use and import of chemical inputs.

Seeds and Traits

Global Reports Confirm GM Crops Delivering Benefits to Farmers, Agriculture, and the Environment

The latest independent reports published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and UK-based PG Economics

Asia

From Plate to Plough: India Must Get its Agri-Markets Right

With the overarching concern for food security of 1.32 billion people, India’s policymakers have a challenging task, according to an