With the caloric needs of the planet expected to soar by 50 percent
in the next 40 years, planning and investment in global agriculture
will become critically important, according a new report released today
The report, produced by Deutsche Bank, one of the
world's leading global investment banks, in collaboration with the
University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental
Studies, provides a framework for investing in sustainable agriculture
against a backdrop of massive population growth and escalating demands
for food, fiber and fuel.
“We are at a crossroads in terms of
our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the
world population by 2050,” says David Zaks, a co-author of the report
and a researcher at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Sustainability
and the Global Environment.
By 2050, world population is
expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today.
Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between
agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to
be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a
growing scarcity of water.
“There will come a point in time
when we will have difficulties feeding world population,” says Zaks, a
graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and
processes of global agriculture.
Although unchecked population
growth will put severe strains on global agriculture, demand can be met
by a combination of expanding agriculture to now marginal or unused
land, substituting new types of crops, and technology, the report’s
authors conclude. “The solution is only going to come about by changing
the way we use land, changing the things that we grow and changing the
way that we grow them,” Zaks explains.
The report notes that
agricultural research and technological development in the United
States and Europe have increased notably in the last decade, but those
advances have not translated into increased production on a global
scale. Subsistence farmers in developing nations, in particular, have
benefited little from such developments and investments in those
agricultural sectors have been marginal, at best.
Bank report, however, identifies a number of strategies to increase
global agricultural productions in sustainable ways, including:
in irrigation, fertilization and agricultural equipment using
technologies ranging from geographic information systems and global
analytical maps to the development of precision, high performance
Applying sophisticated management and technologies
on a global scale, essentially extending research and investment into
developing regions of the world.
Investing in “farmer
competence” to take full advantage of new technologies through
education and extension services, including investing private capital
in better training farmers.
Intensifying yield using new technologies, including genetically
the amount of land under cultivation without expanding to forested
lands through the use of multiple cropping, improving degraded crop and
pasturelands, and converting productive pastures to biofuel production.
we have to improve yield,” notes Zaks. “Next, we have to bring in more
land in agriculture while considering the environmental implications,
and then we have to look at technology.”
Bruce Kahn, Deutsche
Bank senior investment analyst, echoed Zaks observations: “What is
required to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population in a
warming world is to boost yield through highly sophisticated land
management with precision irrigation and fertilization methods,” said
Kahn, a graduate of the Nelson Institute. “Farmers, markets and
governments will have to look at a host of options including increased
irrigation, mechanization, fertilization and the potential benefits of
The Deutsche Bank report depended in part
on an array of global agricultural analytical tools, maps, models and
databases developed by researchers at UW-Madison's Center for
Sustainability and the Global Environment. Those tools, including
global maps of land supply for crops and pasture, were developed
primarily for academic research, says Zaks. The Deutsche Bank report,
he continues, is evidence that such tools will have increasing
applications in plotting a course for sustainable global agriculture.
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