Here are links to two scenarios for the future of agriculture. The first, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the “expected future.” It assumes zero disruptive change, a mere mid-point extrapolation of current conditions. The second is from a group of scientists concerned about the effects of global climate change on agriculture — including lower crop yields, flooding and crop disease — and thinking about the possibilities of biotech to deal with that. Continue reading “The future of agriculture: Two scenarios”
The global commodities boom that has lifted prices of everything from gasoline to gold is now elevating the price of rice — a staple food for half of the world — to its highest level in nearly 20 years. The ubiquitous grain is suffering from poor harvest and tight supplies, just as demand grows in places such as India and the Philippines. The price hikes are a boon to some farmers and investors, but the food-price inflation could widen the rift between the world’s haves and have-nots. — The Wall Street Journal (15 December 2007)
An article in The Washington Post describes studies predicting the effects of global warming on agriculture, in the 2080s:
Several recent analyses have concluded that the higher temperatures expected in coming years — along with salt seepage into groundwater as sea levels rise and anticipated increases in flooding and droughts — will disproportionately affect agriculture in the planet’s lower latitudes, where most of the world’s poor live.
India could experience a 40% decline in agricultural productivity as “record heat waves bake its wheat-growing region, placing hundreds of millions of people at the brink of chronic hunger.”
Africa … could experience agricultural downturns of 30%, forcing farmers to abandon traditional crops in favor of more heat-resistant and flood-tolerant ones, such as rice.” Senegal and war-torn Sudan could have a “complete agricultural collapse.”
Scenarios like these — and the recognition that even less-affected countries such as the United States will experience significant regional shifts in growing seasons, forcing new and sometimes disruptive changes in crop choices — are providing the impetus for a new “green revolution.” It is aimed not simply at boosting production, as the first revolution did with fertilizers, but at creating crops that can handle the heat, suck up the salt, not desiccate in a drought and even grow swimmingly while submerged.
Fortunately, research on the new crops is underway, but it’s a race against time.