Gosh, this forecasting stuff is tough, innit?

In a set of 21 papers published by the Royal Society, the scientists from many disciplines and countries say that little more land is available for food production, but add that the challenge of increasing global food supplies by as much as 70% in the next 40 years is not insurmountable.

OK, good.

\”Plant breeders will probably be able to increase yields considerably in the CO2 enriched environments of the future … There is a large gap between achievable yields and those delivered … but if this is closed then there is good prospect that crop production will increase by about 50% or more by 2050 without extra land\”, says the paper by Dr Keith Jaggard et al.

Long term increase in yields is some 1% per year. 1% compounded over 40 years is 48.89% growth.

That paper was a toughie to write then, wasn\’t it?

Add in, as they say, modern distribution and storage systems in places which don\’t currently have them, plus perhaps getting current yields up to current best yields (ie, farming methods we already know we\’ve got) plus, perhaps, that hugely desirable green revolution on the crops of Africa (cassava, sorghum, millet) and far from there being a problem it looks like we might end up with too much food, not too little.

Just don\’t see it as being a problem really….and that\’s even before we get to things like GM and so on.

Actually, on the known and proven basis that you all know far more than I do, anyone know the answer to this question?

Yes, OK, we know that richer societies improve their diet (as they themselves see it of course, not as those telling us we should not eat meat or dairy see it). This increase grain consumption etc.

We also know that richer societies have better food distribution systems. Less rots in the fields, less rots in transit, less rots in the shops, less rots at home, rats eat less of it and so on and so on. This is one of the definitions of a richer society of course, that the productivity of a part of the system is greater.

So, the question is, how much of the one offsets the other? How much of the greater demand for grains caused by a richer society desiring a better diet is offset by that richer society wasting less of the grain that is already grown?

Anyone actually know?

4 thoughts on “Gosh, this forecasting stuff is tough, innit?”

  1. I would have thought that in a market-type environent, the one would drive the other.

    Greater desire for grains –> demand increases, indicating potential to sell more –> farmers are encouraged to become more efficient (either to provide the extra resources themselves or to prevent competition).

  2. The greater demand for grain as society gets richer is because meat consumption rises as we get richer and animals eat grain.

    Without going down the whole Malthus route of population growth phobia. I don’t see the amount of arable land and crop yields as the main problem. Using the historical record we have every right to believe yields will continue to rise. However, will we have the water resources in the right places to deliver those yields?

    Worldwide 70% of the water we use goes into agriculture. Industry uses 20% and 10% is for domestic use. Unesco estimate that it takes 1,300 litres of water to produce 1kg of wheat. For 1kg of beef the figure is 15,500 litres. Therefore, if the world is going to get richer and eat more beef we are going to be using a lot more water. So although science may be able to deliver greater yields, some areas of the world may hit a wall in terms of water. Unless they can produce crops which need less water.

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