Global Food Production Won't Keep Up With The World's Growing Population, Research Warns

Published on June 22nd, 2013 | by

June 22nd, 2013 by

Global food production isn’t increasing fast enough to support the world’s rapidly growing population, according to new research from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

Image Credit: Deepak K Ray, Nathaniel D Mueller, Paul C West, Jonathan A Foley
Image Credit: Deepak K Ray, Nathaniel D Mueller, Paul C West, Jonathan A Foley

Crop yields are actually falling rather notably in many of the warmer/poorer regions of the world as a result of rising temperatures and increasing natural disasters. Such agricultural declines are predicted to continue into the foreseeable future as a result of climate change. And something else to note — this new research (along with most) doesn’t take into account the rapidly approaching problem of running out of inorganic fertilizers… A very significant problem…

With regards to the new research — previous work has estimated that global agricultural production would need to increase by around 60-110% by 2050 in order to keep up with mid-range population growth estimates. But according to the new research, as of right now yields of the world’s four most important crops — maize, rice, wheat and soybean — are only increasing about 0.9-1.6% a year. “At these rates, production of these crops would likely increase 38-67% by 2050, rather than the estimated requirement of 60-110%. The top three countries that produce rice and wheat were found to have very low rates of increase in crop yields.”

“Particularly troubling are places where population and food production trajectories are at substantial odds,” Ray says, “for example, in Guatemala, where the corn-dependent population is growing at the same time corn productivity is declining.”

“The analysis maps global regions where yield improvements are on track to double production by 2050 and areas where investments must be targeted to increase yields. The authors explain that boosting crop yields is considered a preferred solution to meet demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture. They note that additional strategies, such as reducing food waste and changing to plant-based diets, can also help reduce the large estimates for increased global demand for food.”

“Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands,” says IonE director Jon Foley, a co-author on the study. “The good news is, opportunities exist to increase production through more efficient use of current arable lands and increased yield growth rates by spreading best management practices. If we are to boost production in these key crops to meet projected needs, we have no time to waste.”

The new research was just published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.