GLOBAL LAND/CROP/FOOD MANAGEMENT

FOOD PRODUCTION/MANAGEMENT IN THE 21st CENTURY (WORK-IN-PROGRESS)

For someone who firmly believes in taking a holistic approach involving various stakeholders to address problems, I prefer to address this topic in terms of an integrated approach.

When we discuss food/land/crop management, there is always a debate about which one of the following is relevant?

GxExM or Climate Change or Land/Farming optimization/ Crop rotation/ Soil identification/ Yield gaps/Biobased economy and biofuel? Further, the world does not work without money, and hence, economy revolving around incentives, price stability and price elasticity should be factors to consider in this equation.

Let me start with, GxExM, cultivars namely, genetics, environment and management play instrumental roles in agriculture, crop management, and in turn food production. As presented by the instructors, these three variables work in tandem, and should be considered at the same time. For example, durum wheat grown in North America and Mediterranean sea, acts as a good source of protein, with lower levels of gluten combined with its dense features are tend to be grown under crop conditions that encompasses unique genotype, optimal management and environmental conditions. Similarly,  crop simulation analyses available in the literature showcases how maize grown in Ghana has to navigate unique set of soil, water, and irrigation conditions compared to the one in USA. Another example, to present the importance of GxExM, being the difference in yield gaps for winter wheat in rain-fed conditions between Germany and Poland. Though a border separates the two countries, there is a marked difference in production, which suggest differences in the methodology and management of farming.

While addressing GxExM, the next variable to consider would be Climate change. Though there has been constant debate about the reasons for climate change, the world agrees to the fact that there is a change, and GHG is tied to it. As presented in the literature, CO2 that forms a large part of GHG has increased from 310 to 385 ppm from 1960 to 2010. Global warming also could significantly alter global temperature and weathering patterns, and in turn rainfall, thus impacting areas reliant on rain-fed crop production. While addressing climate change, a combination of mitigation measures and adaptation measures should help on that front. Optimization of C3 and C4 crops, and by introducing C4 crops in drought areas would be an example of adaptation measure. When it comes to mitigation, identifying greener energy sources, becoming prudent about energy consumption in both public and private spaces would be some examples on that front. Moreover, improving irrigation techniques, diversification of crops grown, land preparation, and optimal use of fertilizer would help to adapt to this change.

When we discuss about global warming, it directs our focus to land sparing/land sharing. Since WW II, the world has revolutionized the area of farming by technological advances, and has figured out a way to increase yield without drastically increasing land usage. At the same time, there are many parts of the world where changing climate conditions might provide opportunity to grow new crops, and should be a worthwhile option to consider. Moreover, with 50% of the population localized in certain parts of the world, it is high time that the world starts optimizing population density across the globe. It would help in organic growth of local and global economies rather than an economy solely reliant on printing money, financial engineering, and spending. Further, literature suggests that radiative forcing coming out of land over-exploitation; deforestation and land misuse can significantly expedite global warming. Optimization of land-use would also help on that front.

The above paragraphs include brief explanation on how yield gaps, diversification of crop management which indirectly connects to crop rotation, and soil analysis would play under the changing global climate landscape. These areas will be further delved in detail in an upcoming article, but it will be beyond the scope of this particular article.

To wrap up this article, it is important to briefly address the topic of biofuels, and its economy, and how it can impact farming based land use. On the one end, it becomes highly relevant to identify new, greener energy sources to meet global energy demand. But, on the other hand, this exploration should also consider the competitive effect of land use between bio-based fuel production and traditional crops/food production. Without going into all the details here, this area requires prudent and honest governance, which should not limit to powerful elites. For that reason, the policies should also revolve around right pricing structure for farmers. Hence, the investment in either area (biofuels and crop production) should be optimized meeting the world demands.

As a concluding statement, with growing consumer demand and population along with global warming, long-run yield elasticity is prone to happen, and hence, integrated land and food management approach becomes even more relevant in the 21st century.

1. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/12/land-use-looms-large-factor-global-warming
2. http://aciar.gov.au/files/mn-158/s2-definitions-procedures-physio.html
3. Growing our future food crops: Wageningen University (EdX)
4. http://www.agropolis.fr/agro2010/paper/lundi/porter.pdf
5. http://aciar.gov.au/files/mn-158/s13_5-other-policies.html


I came across these interesting articles for which links are shared below after the above article was written in the third week of March. The content shared in these articles strengthens the suggestions put forth above. These articles are worth a read.


6. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/03/report-photosynthesis-hack-needed-feed-world-2050

7. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/04/biofuel-crops-replace-grasslands-nationwide