UN warns 25 pct of world land highly degraded

Nov 28, 2011 By NICOLE WINFIELD , Associated Press

(AP) -- The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report Monday that a quarter of all land is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected 9 billion-strong population. That amounts to 1 billion tons more wheat, rice and other and 200 million more tons of beef and other livestock.

But as it is, most available land is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water.

That means that to meet the world's future food needs, a major "sustainable intensification" of on existing will be necessary, the FAO said in "State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture."

The report was released Monday, as delegates from around the world meet in Durban, South Africa, for a two-week U.N. aimed at breaking the deadlock on how to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The report found that climate change coupled with poor farming practices had contributed to a decrease in productivity of the world's farmland following the boon years of the Green Revolution, when soared thanks to new technologies, pesticides and the introduction of high-yield crops.

Thanks to the Green Revolution, the world's cropland grew by just 12 percent between 1961 and 2009, but food productivity increased by 150 percent.

But the U.N. report found that rates of growth have been slowing down in many areas and today are only half of what they were at the peak of the .

It found that 25 percent of the world's land is now "highly degraded," with soil erosion, water degradation and biodiversity loss. Another eight percent is moderately degraded, while 36 percent is stable or slightly degraded and 10 percent is ranked as "improving."

The rest of the Earth's surface is either bare or covered by inland water bodies.

Some examples of areas at risk: Western Europe, where highly intensive agriculture has led to pollution of soil and aquifers and a resulting loss of biodiversity; In the highlands of the Himalayas, the Andes, the Ethiopian plateau and southern Africa, has been coupled with an increase intensity of floods; In southeast and eastern Asia's rice-based food systems, land has been abandoned thanks in part to a loss of the cultural value of it.

The report found that water around the world is becoming ever more scarce and salinated, while groundwater is becoming more polluted by agricultural runoff and other toxins.

In order to meet the world's water needs in 2050, more efficient irrigation will necessary since currently most irrigation systems perform well below their capacity, FAO said.

The agency called for new farming practices like integrated irrigation and fish-farm systems to meet those demands, as well as overall investment in agricultural development.

The price tag deemed necessary for investments through 2050: $1 trillion in irrigation water management alone for developing countries, with another $160 billion for soil conservation and flood control.

Explore further: Eco-pottery product from water treatment sludge

More information: http://www.fao.org

5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN calls for eco-friendly farming to boost yields

Jun 13, 2011

The United Nations food agency on Monday called for greater use of environmentally sustainable techniques by poor farmers in order to increase crop intensity to feed the world's growing population.

Asia faces food shortage by 2050 without water reform

Aug 17, 2009

A comprehensive new study of irrigation in Asia warns that, without major reforms and innovations in the way water is used for agriculture, many developing nations face the politically risky prospect of having ...

New projection shows global food demand doubling by 2050

Nov 21, 2011

Global food demand could double by 2050, according to a new projection by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, and colleagues, including ...

Time to change the menu

Feb 24, 2010

With global population expected to increase by about 2.5 billion by 2050 even while climate change hits farmlands with shifting rainfall and temperatures, it may be time to rethink what we eat and how we produce ...

Study estimates land available for biofuel crops

Jan 10, 2011

Using detailed land analysis, Illinois researchers have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world's current fuel consumption – without affecting food crops or pastureland.

Projected food, energy demands seen to outpace production

Jun 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the caloric needs of the planet expected to soar by 50 percent in the next 40 years, planning and investment in global agriculture will become critically important, according a new report released today ...

Recommended for you

EU sets new energy savings target at 30%

27 minutes ago

After months of tough negotiations, the European Commission recommended Wednesday a new energy savings target of 30 percent so as to combat climate change and ensure self-sufficiency.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (8) Nov 28, 2011
I will not believe this because my daddy doesn't like the U.N. on becausen the Rush Limbaugh done did gone and told him so.

Sides... Faux news says the earth is getting bigger cause of all the oil that's growen inside.

We needs to drains that oil before the world darn-gnabbit explodes like my sister Elly when last year or so she done eat too much pie at her 18'th birthday howdown.