Friday, July 18, 2014

How Existing Cropland Could Feed Billions More

Hoang Su Phi terraced fields, Ha Giang province, Vietnam. (Credit: © hoangtran / Fotolia) Click to enlarge.
Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge.  But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.

The report, published Thursday in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale.  It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs.  For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact.  The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries -- China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan -- along with Europe.

How Existing Cropland Could Feed Billions More

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