Projected food, energy demands seen to outpace production

Jun 25, 2009 by Terry Devitt

( -- 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 (June 25).

The report, produced by Deutsche Bank, one of the world's leading global investment banks, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, provides a framework for investing in sustainable agriculture against a backdrop of massive and escalating demands for food, fiber and fuel.

"We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050," says David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today. Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by , increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.

"There will come a point in time when we will have difficulties feeding world population," says Zaks, a graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and processes of global agriculture.

Although unchecked population growth will put severe strains on global agriculture, demand can be met by a combination of expanding agriculture to now marginal or unused land, substituting new types of crops, and technology, the report's authors conclude. "The solution is only going to come about by changing the way we use land, changing the things that we grow and changing the way that we grow them," Zaks explains.

The report notes that agricultural research and technological development in the United States and Europe have increased notably in the last decade, but those advances have not translated into increased production on a global scale. Subsistence farmers in developing nations, in particular, have benefited little from such developments and investments in those agricultural sectors have been marginal, at best.

The Deutsche Bank report, however, identifies a number of strategies to increase global agricultural productions in sustainable ways, including:

  • Improvements in irrigation, fertilization and agricultural equipment using technologies ranging from geographic information systems and global analytical maps to the development of precision, high performance equipment.
  • Applying sophisticated management and technologies on a global scale, essentially extending research and investment into developing regions of the world.
  • Investing in "farmer competence" to take full advantage of new technologies through education and extension services, including investing private capital in better training farmers.
  • Intensifying yield using new technologies, including genetically modified crops.
  • Increasing the amount of land under cultivation without expanding to forested lands through the use of multiple cropping, improving degraded crop and pasturelands, and converting productive pastures to production.

"First we have to improve yield," notes Zaks. "Next, we have to bring in more land in agriculture while considering the environmental implications, and then we have to look at technology."

Bruce Kahn, Deutsche Bank senior investment analyst, echoed Zaks observations: "What is required to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population in a warming world is to boost yield through highly sophisticated land management with precision irrigation and fertilization methods," said Kahn, a graduate of the Nelson Institute. "Farmers, markets and governments will have to look at a host of options including increased irrigation, mechanization, fertilization and the potential benefits of biotech crops."

The Deutsche Bank report depended in part on an array of global agricultural analytical tools, maps, models and databases developed by researchers at UW-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. Those tools, including global maps of land supply for crops and pasture, were developed primarily for academic research, says Zaks. The Deutsche Bank report, he continues, is evidence that such tools will have increasing applications in plotting a course for sustainable global agriculture.

Provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison (news : web)

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2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 26, 2009
The movement to green energy will certainly solve this problem by providing more unstable power and by limiting availability. Being unable to rely on commercial sources of power will, in turn, decrease domestic productivity. All will be well when Americans return to a low energy rural subsistence life style. Of course, a few folks will starve but the example of Cambodia shows what can be accomplished by a determined Democrat run government.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2009
Presently, the infrastructure and, to a lesser extent, technology is not there to make wind and solar reliable. However geothermal and biomass are as stable as it gets, tidal is reliable, while not constant. All it takes is relatively simple progress in energy storage and transmission to make solar and wind 100% viable.

But also a part of renewable energy and sustainable development is enabling people (a population unit) to provide themselves with as much of their own water and food as possible. Your close-minded and limited thought is pretty indicative of your blind faith in the status quo and the market to solve everything. Thank goodness you're a minority.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2009
Thank goodness I'm growing your food. The real green solution is to eliminate cities and city dwellers.

BTW there IS no "status quo". The US is experiences a greater rate of technical and social change that any country at any time in history. I'd just like to see that change directed by the common people and not the elite of central authority. Centralized government management of virtually anything ALWAYS results in very, very, expensive failure.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2009
I guess the status quo I see is essentially the American belief that consumerism = progress, that so long as we're building and people are buying all's well, and that has not changed since after the Depression. All the social and technological change is meaningless in the grand scope of things if it doesn't affect our nations ability to persist into the future in a positive way. But take heart, I think we're fundamentally actually on the same side.
3 / 5 (4) Jun 26, 2009
There has never been a time where people weren't building or trading, expect maybe in prehistory. That's part of the nature of living and being human on this planet. Defunctdeity, your hope in solar energy is admirable but if you want to put your money on a system that has about 30% uptime then I support your freedom to do so for your own home. Just don't force me to put my home on that system.

Wind is great too, but who can control the wind? These technologies are great, but they are only supplimental technologies. Space-based solar and nuclear power (fusion preferably) are the only way we're going to fund the future.

As for the fear of running out of food, that one's been tried before. As I recall, the world was supposed to starve by 2000. In the 70's there were green prophets of doom warning that we would never make it this far. I think prophets who are wrong should be subject the punishment laid out in the old testament. . .I'll go get the stones.
2 / 5 (4) Jun 27, 2009
With the lunatic left running the country, food shortages will occure in the US shortly, especially now that they passed the green initiative....
not rated yet Jun 29, 2009
There has never been a time where people weren't building or trading, expect maybe in prehistory. That's part of the nature of living and being human on this planet. Defunctdeity, your hope in solar energy is admirable but if you want to put your money on a system that has about 30% uptime then I support your freedom to do so for your own home.
Wind is great too, but who can control the wind? These technologies are great, but they are only supplimental technologies.
As for the fear of running out of food... As I recall, the world was supposed to starve by 2000. In the 70's there were green prophets of doom warning that we would never make it this far.

You didn't even read my post. Well, you did, but you only took from it what you wanted it to say.
Yes people have always been trading and building, but the point is people have too much blind faith in "the market" to solve everything. The market reacts, it does very little to predict, this is dangerous when the rapid development of places like India and China are considered and the potential for decreasing oil supply.

To reiterate, solar and wind are only supplemental now, absolutely, but if the challenges of storage and transmission can be overcome, than they are both potentially viable across the majority of the US.

Here is how a food crisis would occur (not likely in America). When petrol prices rise to extremes, food will only be imported to places that can afford it. Places that are "net-food-importing" mostly island nations and parts of north africa and south america, could have massive humanitarian crises. It's also possible, to a lesser extent, that overpopulated urban areas could also have the same crises as food prices will also rise in general, due to petrol costs of farming and transport. Combine this with the uncertainty that climate change can bring and you get dangerous potentials for humanitarian disasters.

Honestly though, food is much less of a concern for the future than reliable, potable water. And I'm not saying these things will happen. But any and all of it is well within the realm of reality that it could within my lifetime, and certainly within my children's.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 01, 2009
As long as we define "economy" as a bunch of people buying and spending just for the hell of it, which is what Barrack Obama and the dummycrats define it as, then our nation, and really the entire world, will do little more than spin its wheels.

We could have near limitless electricity in America right now for literally pennies on the dollar through safe, clean, reliable, modern fission power plants. Why don't we? Because the dummycrats simply do not want this!


As for food shortages, well, I don't know what to say about some people in 3rd world countries. They either are too stupid or too lazy to grow food of their own, and they don't produce anything worth trading for, so what is to be done about it?

in modern countries, PEOPLE can easily solve this problem by growing food in their own back yard. You know, two small rows of squash, two rows of ocra, and 4 rows of corn, and 3 rows of tomatoes and peppers in the back yard has made more food this past season than we can probably eat in a year.

I have seen calculations which show that this planet can theoretically support around 100 billion human beings at peak food production through greenhouses, ocean farming, and etc, and even conservative estimates suggest it should be able to support 10-12 billion humans without serious strain on the environment. so then why are there so many people hungry? Because they are a bunch of idiots.


In your 3rd paragraph above, you apparantly assume no nuclear power. With nuclear power, a food crisis need not ever be caused by a power shortage, because electricity could be used directly to power 99% of the world's automobiles, farming equipment, and industries.

Reliable water is also not a problem, assuming usage of nuclear power.

We can make de-salinization plants along the coasts. With current energy availability this is very expensive, but only because energy is expensive. If we had nuclear power plants running everything, this would be a non-issue.
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009

In your 3rd paragraph above, you apparantly assume no nuclear power. ...

Reliable water is also not a problem, assuming usage of nuclear power.

We can make de-salinization plants along the coasts. With current energy availability this is very expensive, but only because energy is expensive.

Nuclear is no more a sustainable power source than are fossil fuels. Nuclear also presents considerable environmental and security issues of it's own, IMO of worse potential than the products of combustion. It's certainly a good gap-bridger when fossils run dry, but we also need to think cures, beyond band-aids. What's that you say? Breeder reactors? Admittedly I'm not currently familiar with them at all, but they are obviously not where they need to be, to be a viable primary energy source. I'm doing personal research on the topic before I comment regarding them.

And you're wrong about oceanic desalination, it's expensive because it's a long, complex and delicate process (energy intensive), especially if you're proposing to pump it to inland populations (very very energy intensive). So yes, the cheaper the energy the cheaper the desalination, but energy IS cheap, compared to what we have, in the recent past, and could, in the near future, see. It's so much easier to use what is and will be there naturally.

My creeping suspicion is that in the relatively near future (within my productive lifetime), people everywhere will have to make great changes to the way they think and live everyday, whether they want to or not. I'd prefer we were all ahead of the curve.
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009
Not only is nuclear sustainable,

It's cleaner and more reliable than every other power generation technology. Solar cells require a vast, energy intensive infrastructure to manufacture, are low output even with the best technologies, and are very expensive. Sure, the solar cell is absolutely clean when in operation, but follow the manufacturing chain and you may not be so convinced of its "clean and green" label. Not to mention its permanant limitation of needing full sun to generate usable power.

Nuclear fission may have a bad reputation, but the waste it generates is small in quantity (relatively), containable and manageable. Compare its negatives with the alternatives and you have to admit that in an unbaised cost/benefit analysis nuclear is the only viable transition technology that will provide human civilization the energy it needs. Eventually we'll refine our technologies to the point where energy is clean and safe, but we need to plan for the near term and avoid the *certain* resource wars that will result from oil dependency. Those would be more destructive than any pollution problem we now face.

Pie in the sky politicking and green handwringing will bring us nothing but chaos and high taxes. Windfarms and solar panels are not going to save us. I used to live near Livermore, CA, where an entire hill range was covered for miles and miles with high tech wind turbines. Few of them, if any, are operational today.

Desalinization plants are great for coastal populations. Most of the population lives on the coasts generally, and especially in the USA. Nuclear powered desalination plants will become the salvation of the coastal areas, and there's plenty of water in the sea, mateys.

It seems there is a great obsession with seeing everyone "change their lifestyle and behavior". It's almost like greenism wants a moral judgment passed on everyone and then wants to punish materialists for their slobbery. I agree that consumption is for cattle, but I sense a greater evil in those who want power over other human beings and control over their behaviors. I think you'll need to be satisfied with governing yourself and stop trying to force others to obey your ideology/religion/fad.
not rated yet Jul 02, 2009
I think you'll need to be satisfied with governing yourself and stop trying to force others to obey your ideology/religion/fad.

Beyond "normal" social responsibility (don't kill, steal, etc.), I have no desire to force people to live a certain way. I just believe the way our society presently functions is not sustainable and if it fails, things will get ugly. As in those normal social responsibilities could disappear, indeed violating them could become the most viable way of life in certain types of areas, so I present my argument for change.
not rated yet Jul 14, 2009
I agree that we need to avoid shortages and the social disruption they will cause. However the solutions presented to us by the greens are uniformly ugly and mad and represent a threat to liberty and security in the West. Their solutions are wildly speculative and unscientific because they are social and political ideologies, not ecology.

The green solutions are far more destructive and destablilizing than any limitations imposed by nature. There is only one kind of government that is able to force these kinds of changes to economies and populations, and that's centralized authoritarianism.

When people start talking about "redistributing wealth," limiting populations and rationing energy use I start thinking like my ancestors and see these ideas as a threat to my liberty, prosperity, and happiness.

It's better to let natural processes occur and allow humans to confront them and adapt to them. If oil becomes scarce, allow us to suffer a little. We won't run out all at once. If the price goes high the development of alternatives will increase. If government starts to mandate and dominate the course we take, we'll end up with a authoritarian nightmare and end up with greater destabilizations, even wars and revolutions.

Greenism as expressed by hysterical doomsayers is fringe lunacy - none of their ideas should ever be considered as solutions. Liberty and economic freedom are simply not compatible with the green agenda.

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