It’s estimated the population will exceed 9.3 billion by 2050, requiring a projected 70 percent increase in food production to meet expected needs (Fig. 1).
How will we meet these increased demands?
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has projected that, globally, 90 percent of the required growth in food production will need to be achieved by increasing crop yields and cropping intensity. Accounting for much of this percentage, crop yields will need to increase substantially to meet growing global needs.
Policymakers, growers, non-profits and industry today devote an enormous amount of time planning and innovating new ways to improve crop yields so that we will be able to meet those future food needs.
An Increasing Population Means an Increasing Need for Food and Resources
Figure 1. Crop production will need to significantly increase to meet the future food demands of a growing world population.
Pressures on Growers Are Increasing
At the same time, growers are faced with increasing demands to incorporate more sustainable practices. These demands come from wide-ranging interests––from consumers and advocacy groups, to regulators and large companies that are increasingly evaluating sustainability practices among their produce suppliers.
Within the field of agriculture, too, growers are becoming increasingly more likely to incorporate sustainability practices into their current operations, motivated by data from agronomic studies showing that ideas like efficient nitrogen use initiatives can pay off environmentally and financially.
Industry Calls for Efficient Nutrient Use
Industry is also calling for efficient nutrient use, in the form of enhanced efficiency fertilizers that allow growers to increase yields while reducing inputs.
We are already making progress. A recent report from Field to Market shows that production agriculture has become increasingly efficient. For example, per bushel of corn productivity (crop yield per acre) increased by 64 percent from 1980 to 2011, while land use per bushel, soil loss and energy use all decreased by 30 percent or more (Fig. 2). However, although impressive, those gains alone will not meet the escalating demand for global human nutrition.
Making Progress, But There’s Still More Work to Do
Figure 2. Over the past 30 years, corn yields have increased, while agricultural energy use, land use per bushel and soil loss have decreased. However, more production and efficiency gains are still needed to meet future food needs.
We must do more to meet the demands of the world’s growing population.
In our next blog post, we’ll explore sustainable growing practices that make sense economically and help maintain the environment.
This is Part 1 in our five-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) about sustainable growing practices. To learn more about Agricen and our contributions to sustainable growing practices, subscribe to our newsletter.