Flowing “Feast”

| Climate Change and Agriculture |

  Tom Eisenhower remembers that when he drove through Manitoba in central Canada more than ten years ago, the farmland along the way was planted with cold-climate crops, such as wheat, peas and canola. And those staple foods that are more profitable and can provide calories, such as soybeans and corn, are scarce. Today the situation is very different: the province’s soybean planting area exceeds 5,300 square kilometers, and the corn planting area is approximately 1,500 square kilometers.
  Eisenhower’s Bonefield Financial Company hopes to benefit from the effects of climate change on Canadian agriculture. The company buys land and leases it to farmers in Manitoba and other parts of Canada. The company concluded that climate warming allows farmers to choose to grow crops that are more profitable than ever before. In this way, the value of the land invested by the company will rise steadily. There is far more than this company making such a bet. Climate change may make once cold and barren land fertile, but it may also severely hinder the development of traditional agricultural areas.
  Over the past few centuries, the land used for food production has continued to increase. Since 1700, the area of ​​arable land and pasture has expanded fivefold, most of which occurred before the middle of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, the amount of chemical fertilizers has continued to increase. At the same time, people have cultivated high-yield cereal varieties, improved agricultural machinery, improved irrigation techniques and pesticide production techniques, all of which have helped increase the utilization of arable land. In recent decades, the development of gene editing and data processing technology has further increased crop yields.
  Although the global warming that began at the end of the 20th century slowed the growth of food production, it did not stop this momentum. A recent Cornell University study speculated that climate change caused by human activities has slowed the growth of agricultural production by about 20% from 1971 to the present. Author Ariel Ortiz-Bobeya said that this “inhibition” of climate change will only grow stronger. Researchers have found that as the climate gradually warms, agriculture will become more sensitive to temperature changes. This means that the damage to food production caused by each temperature rise is more serious than the previous one. For food producers living in warm regions (such as the tropics), this is undoubtedly worse. Another study predicts that for every degree of global temperature rise, the average output of corn, wheat and rice will fall by 7.4%, 6%, and 3.2%, respectively.
  In the coming decades, the total number of people that the planet will feed will continue to increase. The University of Washington Institute of Health Measurement and Evaluation predicts that the global population will reach a peak of approximately 9.7 billion in 2064. The growing middle class in developing countries not only needs more food, but the demand for food types is also increasing.
  Therefore, the changes brought about by global warming to agricultural regions are crucial. The expansion of the tropics will change the rainfall pattern in the subtropical regions. The rapid warming of the polar regions has accelerated the development of land in high latitudes. As Eisenhauer saw in Manitoba, affected by climate warming, the suitable range of crops is shifting to the poles.
  The research results published by Colorado State University in Nature in 2020 show that between 1973 and 2012, the growing areas of several dryland crops have undergone significant changes. For example, the corn planting area has expanded from the Southeast to the Midwest in the United States; with new irrigation methods, the wheat planting area has moved northward in a large area; thanks to the cultivation of new varieties and other advancements, the planting range of soybeans is growing. Move in both directions north and south.

  The suitable range of crops is moving to the poles.
| Business Opportunities and Crisis |

  Bold investors have a glimpse of business opportunities in land that is currently not suitable for farming. At present, only about one-third of the far north (with coniferous forests as representative vegetation) in the world have suitable temperatures, which can provide a suitable growth environment for the most cold-resistant grains such as oats and barley. A study published in Scientific Reports in 2018 concluded that by 2099, this ratio may rise to 3/4. For example, Sweden’s land available for farming in the extreme north will increase from 8% to 41%, and Finland’s 51% to 83%.
  There is no doubt that this makes those who cherish the northern woodlands panic. Moreover, deforestation and soil plowing will also produce carbon emissions, and will have a profound impact on local biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the lives of forest residents (especially indigenous people).
  Russia leased thousands of square kilometers of land in the Far East to investors from South Korea and Japan. Most of this was once barren land and is now used to grow soybeans. Russian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Sergey Levin stated that by 2024, the total export of soybeans grown in the Far East will reach US$600 million, almost five times the amount in 2017. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador, located in the northeastern corner of Canada, is also working hard to promote the development of agriculture to forest areas.
  In addition to climate warming, the impact of human activities on the atmospheric environment will also change the status quo of agriculture. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not only a greenhouse gas, but also a raw material for plant photosynthesis. For most plants, other things being equal, the more carbon dioxide they absorb, the faster they grow. In the past century, the increase in carbon dioxide concentration has led to faster growth of plants around the world, resulting in a significant “global greening” phenomenon, which helps to increase crop yields, but not the larger the size, the more nutrients must be contained.
  In addition, climate change will also change rainfall patterns, which may not help people vigorously develop agriculture in the extreme north. Many lands are indeed developing in the direction suitable for cultivation, but they are likely to face water shortages in the end. Moreover, as the temperature rises, crops are not the only ones whose living areas continue to expand. Pests and pathogens, which usually cannot survive the winter, will also spread. Soil is also a key factor. The best quality soil is often distributed in low latitudes, rather than in the far north.
| Waste and Hunger |

  Part of the newly developed farmland is located near the established farming system. However, projects such as the transformation of remote areas of Siberia are expensive and time-consuming. Due to the melting of the permafrost, many existing infrastructures there have sunk and ruptured. In addition, the demand for labor on farms in remote areas is greater, and the government has to rely more on foreign immigrants. This is something that voters in many wealthy countries are not happy to see.
  All in all, the northward expansion of arable land can only mitigate the damage to agricultural production caused by climate change to a certain extent. Most of the social classes that benefit from this are already very wealthy, and those who will suffer losses will be poor areas that rely on agricultural exports.
  If we want food to be as abundant and affordable as it is today, we need to cultivate more adaptable crops and find ways to make them withstand higher temperatures. Specific measures include improving crop varieties, improving irrigation techniques, and preventing severe weather. . In addition, no matter whether it is rich or poor, every country should put the reduction of food waste on the agenda, otherwise we will face a world that is more hungry and unequal than the present.

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