We will have no place to plant?
In recent decades, global grain production has increased rapidly, but it is still far from enough. The World Resources Institute predicts that the world population will exceed 10 billion by 2050, and to meet the world’s food demand, existing production must be doubled. To produce such a large amount of grain by existing technical means alone, it is necessary to develop two new cultivation areas the size of India. However, this is impossible, because it means that the remaining forests, peatlands and wild areas on the earth will be used up, releasing the carbon stored in them, thus aggravating climate change. However, intensive agriculture has destroyed the global environment and biodiversity to a great extent due to the large amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
According to the 2015 “State of the World’s Soil Resources” report, at least one third of the world’s land is in poor or extremely poor condition. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that our soil may dry up after about 60 more harvests.
The main reason for this situation is soil loss caused by rain erosion and wind erosion, and the other is soil pollution such as soil acidification, salinization and organic carbon loss.
Alternative to intensive agriculture
As an important international organization concerned with the future food supply of mankind, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations calls this year “a year of revolutionary changes in the food system”.
In developed countries, when it comes to the alternatives of industrialized intensive agriculture, organic agriculture is the most easily thought of. Although biological or organic labels are common in many supermarkets, the sales of organic food only account for 2% of the total food market in Britain and 5.5% in the United States.
Farmers on organic farms must abide by some strict rules when planting crops and raising livestock. For example, antibiotics can only be used for animals when necessary, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are almost completely forbidden, natural substitutes such as excrement and wood ash should be used as fertilizers, natural substances extracted from plants should be used as pesticides, and land should be planned to provide habitats for wildlife.
Rob percival, head of the Land Coalition policy, said organic farms could meet the world’s food needs as long as consumption patterns were adjusted and people were called upon to buy less meat. “If we want to avoid the serious consequences of climate change, we urgently need to change the current production and consumption patterns. This includes changing our diet to’ eat less meat and eat better meat’. He said, “Livestock grazing on pastures can not only help carbon sequestration and keep the soil healthy, but also their manure can provide soil fertility to better grow other crops.”
More than 90% of farms in the world are run by individuals or families.
He added that the productivity of organic farms far exceeded people’s expectations. “In addition to the environmental damage and other hazards caused by high-energy chemical inputs in non-organic agriculture, organic food is actually cheaper and more environmentally friendly.”
Organic agriculture is not a heavy burden
Many farmers may not be able to afford the money and time needed to meet the organic standards for the time being. Fortunately, there are other ways to make farming more environmentally friendly and sustainable, such as agroecology.
Vicky Hurd, a participant in Sustain Food and Agriculture Campaign, a non-governmental organization dedicated to sustainable development, said: “Agroecology is the use of natural systems for work. An important part of this is to reduce the use of artificial chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers should carefully observe the soil conditions and other natural conditions and consider the relationship between pests, predators and crops while nourishing the soil. ”
She advocates the wide application of agroecology to replace industrialized agriculture, which will cause environmental damage. Farmers can control weeds by planting clover, supplement organic materials to the soil, rotate crops, and fix nitrogen by planting legumes. This farming method requires farmers to pay close attention to the condition of soil and crops, and cannot blindly pursue yield like planting cash crops. “The key to organic agriculture is diversity,” Hurd said. “The management method of large-scale single cultivation does not conform to natural laws, and it will also damage biodiversity.”
A variety of traditional crops of other varieties, such as popular fruit and vegetable varieties or other varieties of wheat that are not common in intensive agriculture, will also bring benefits. Because these crops have many unique advantages, such as natural disease resistance to certain specific diseases and insect pests. Hurd admitted: “Using these methods may reduce production, but it will make your agricultural products more nutritious.”
Sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture
Some farmers’ ideas are even more advanced. They have already accepted the concepts of sustainable agriculture and bio-dynamics. The principle of sustainable agriculture is to understand the relationship between plants and use this relationship for farming. This farming method does not produce waste, because any waste will be reused, and most of it will be used as fertilizer. Biodynamics is another method. It is based on rudolf steiner’s viewpoint and incorporates some spiritual methods, such as aligning planting and harvesting crops according to the lunar calendar.
Urban agriculture can provide food for densely populated large cities, or at least fresh agricultural products. Moreover, urban agriculture will not produce greenhouse gases, nor will it damage the nutrition of agricultural products due to long-distance transportation. Currently, urban agriculture produces 20% of the world’s food.
And now there are more than 3,000 urban agricultural programs in London alone. These plans can be seen as a revival of Victorian market gardens and dairy stores. At that time, small vegetable farms were often located in or around cities and towns, while cows were kept in urban green areas in order to obtain fresh milk.
| Industrial Farm Output |
There are about 570 million farms in the world, 90% of which are contracted by individuals or families, producing 80% of the world’s food.
Ronald Vargas, a soil and land official at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said small farmers were the key to the change. However, many small farmers are not rich and lack security, so they dare not rashly change their farming methods. To this end, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is considering investing in small farms as “a quick and minimal ecological impact way to combat famine and malnutrition insurance.”
Science and Technology Innovation Helps Agriculture
There is no shortage of scientific and technological innovations to help industrialized agriculture and small farms improve efficiency and yield. Global positioning system, unmanned aerial vehicle, terrain and soil of cultivated land and some other fine-grained data can help farmers accurately locate a specific area to water, fertilize and kill insects, thus avoiding large-scale spraying.
Oran is an international agribusiness that produces cocoa, coffee, cotton and sugar. The company uses real-time monitoring in its plantations to accurately judge whether fertilizers are good or bad, while avoiding the use of pesticides to prevent pests. Oran also has sensors on apricot trees planted in Australia to monitor the water demand of each tree at different times.
For farmers in developing countries, mobile phones are also making many impossibilities possible. They can learn a lot of previously unknown information through mobile phones, such as weather forecast, market price and output information, and can also get some practical suggestions. Unmanned aerial vehicles and robots can spray pesticides in designated areas and clean damaged or infected crops before they infect other crops.
In some parts of the world where land is scarce, vertical agriculture is becoming increasingly popular. Vertical agricultural crops-usually vegetables-are planted in simple containers, stacked layer by layer, as high as possible. This can not only save space, but also make more efficient use of water and energy, because water can be pumped to the top and then flows down with gravity, cycling back and forth.
Soilless culture uses water containing mineral solution instead of soil, soaking plants in water. During the planting process, the water temperature of mineral solution will be strictly controlled, and water and nutrients will be recycled. The software will monitor the growth of plants while controlling the conveying device.
New technologies that can control light, temperature, air and other factors will open up a new prospect for agriculture. In the past, underground planting was limited to small crops such as mushrooms and rhubarb. If LED lights could replace sunlight, more crops could be planted under the same conditions. The roof, basement and abandoned underground space are all likely to produce short-term food.
The Future of Agriculture
A great deal of scientific evidence shows that if we continue to rely on artificial fertilizers and intensive agricultural technologies, we will probably lose control of climate change, destroy species that are vital to human life, and pollute the air, soil and water resources. “The way industrialized agriculture exploits the earth’s resources is unsustainable,” said Vargas of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “In today’s era of increasingly fierce climate change, dwindling oil reserves, and over-exploitation of natural resources, the basic strategy of replacing manual labor with agricultural machinery, agricultural chemicals, and fossil energy can only drive human beings to despair.”
Experts said it was time for a “second revolution”. This “revolution” includes not only changes in farming methods, but also changes in consumption habits and the food economy. This process will involve all aspects including farmers, retailers, government and consumers.
Tim Seesinger, a researcher at Princeton University and a senior researcher at the World Resources Institute, said: “This is not a conceptual change that can be completed in one step. It is not that you can do everything just by changing the way you do everything. There is no single answer to this question. There are still many things we can do and need to do. ”
How much food have we wasted?
Waste of food weighing 10 elephants (50 tons) per second
The world wastes 1.6 billion tons of food every year, that is, about 10 elephants (50 tons) of food per second. If the food is put into a 20 cubic meter garbage truck, it can hold 80 million vehicles, enough to go to the moon and make another circle around the moon.
Most of this food is wasted during transportation, especially in developing countries with relatively backward infrastructure.
In high-income countries, the vast majority of food waste is caused by retailers and consumers buying too much and throwing it away. In Britain, the value of food wasted every year is as high as 20 billion euros.