Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

7/18/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

Water usage is key in increasing productivity, experts say

Targeted efforts to make food systems more efficient in key parts of the world could meet the basic calorie needs of 3 billion extra people and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture without using additional land and water, researchers said on Thursday.

When it comes to water, rice and wheat are the crops that create the most demand for irrigation worldwide.

When it comes to water, rice and wheat are the crops that create the most demand for irrigation worldwide.


By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Catholic Online (

7/18/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Agriculture, worldwide, rice, wheat, water usage

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In a study published in the journal Science, researchers from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment looked at 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption, including rice, wheat and corn.

The biggest opportunities for boosting food production lie in Africa, they suggested, while initiatives to make agriculture more sustainable should focus on six countries - China, India, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan - as well as Europe.

Learn how, you too, can feed the hungry -- by going here --

Their main recommendations are to produce more food on existing farmland by increasing yields, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, use less nutrients and water to grow crops, feed fewer crops to animals as fodder, and cut food waste.

"Sustainably feeding people today and in the future is one of humanity's grand challenges. Agriculture is the main source of water use, greenhouse gas emissions and habitat loss, yet we need to grow more food," said the study's lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment's Global Landscapes Initiative.

"By focusing on areas, crops and practices with the most to be gained, companies, governments, NGOs and others can ensure that their efforts are being targeted in a way that best accomplishes the common and critically important goal of feeding the world while protecting the environment," he added in a statement.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food production needs to rise by 60 percent to feed a projected global population of more than 9.5 billion people by mid-century, up from around 7 billion now.

But global production of food is responsible for more than 70 percent of freshwater consumption and 80 percent of deforestation, while over a fifth of all cultivated land and 30 percent of forests are being degraded by unsustainable agriculture, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).


The University of Minnesota study found that closing even 50 percent of the agricultural "yield gap" - the difference between potential and actual crop yield - in regions with the widest gaps could provide enough calories to feed 850 million people. Nearly half the potential gains are in Africa, and most of the rest in Asia and eastern Europe, it said.

In terms of the nutrients used to help crops grow, 60 percent of nitrogen and nearly half of phosphorus applications exceed what crops need, the study said. China, India and the United States - and the three crops rice, wheat and corn - are the biggest sources of excess nutrient use worldwide, and so could be targeted for the largest improvements.

When it comes to water, rice and wheat are the crops that create the most demand for irrigation worldwide, while India, Pakistan, China and the United States account for the bulk of irrigation water use in water-limited areas, the study said. Using water more efficiently could reduce demand for it by eight to 15 percent without compromising food production, it added.

The world could also stop feeding so many crops to animals, as the calories contained in fodder are sufficient to meet the needs of 4 billion people, the researchers found. While cultural preferences for meat eating in Western nations and China make changing this difficult, crops could be shifted from animal feed to human food as a "safety net" when weather or pests create shortages, they proposed.

Wasting less food, particularly animal products, could also make a difference. Reducing food waste in the United States, China and India alone could yield food for more than 400 million people, the report said.

A separate study on food security in India and Uganda, released this week by UNEP and partners, found that promoting crop diversification and new water-and energy-efficient technologies could save millions of hectare-meters (1 ham = 10,000 cubic meters) of water annually, as well as millions of dollars in energy costs.

According to the research, shifting the dominant cropping pattern in the Indian state of Punjab from rice to a mix of maize, cotton, sugarcane, pulses, fodder, fruits, vegetables and agro-forestry could reduce agricultural water use by 1.58 million hectare-metres a year, for example.

In Uganda, meanwhile, the agricultural sector produces only a quarter to half of potential crop and livestock yields due to poor production methods, despite favorable climatic conditions, said the study, which aims to help policy makers and researchers address the problem of low yields.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Green

Why are there more animals around Chernobyl than nearby wildlife preserves? Watch

Image of The wolf population around Chernobyl has recovered to seven times what it is in non-contaminated areas.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Scientists assessing wildlife populations around Chernobyl have learned something startling. Despite the radiation, there's more wildlife around Chernobyl than on surrounding wildlife preserves. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientists recently conducted a survey ... continue reading

Hurricane Joaquin heads to NE America Watch

Image of Overhead view of Hurricane Joaquin (NASA).

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The National Hurricane Center reported hurricane Joaquin intensified Thursday afternoon to a Category 4, which means the wind speed ranges between 131 and 155 mph. Joaquin had maximum sustained winds at 130 mph. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - CNN reported ... continue reading

JUST IN CASE: Scientists plan to save world from giant asteroid - as in 'Armageddon' movie Watch

Image of Both the NASA and the European Space Agency plan to implant the device into the 52-foot Didymoon. The experiment will test the principle that a much larger asteroid threatening the Earth could be deflected.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

They're not saying it's going to happen -but just in case, scientists are planning a space mission to nudge an asteroid out of its orbit. You know, like in that 1998 Bruce Willis movie Armageddon. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The joint European-U.S. effort, ... continue reading

Mars revelations may reveal God's personality according to Vatican astronomer Watch

Image of Architectural Digest's winning design for a 3-D-printed habitat on Mars.


An exciting discovery found on the surface of Mars revealed details about the planet which gives people a better understanding of God's personality, Vatican astronomer Brother Consolmagno reported.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - NASA scientists confirmed ... continue reading

Climate Talk: Al Gore spreads the environmental gospel Watch

Image of Al Gore leads environmental training prior to Paris climate change talks.


Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore trained an army of organizers and encouraged them to promote and spread the environmental gospel prior to climate talks that will occur in Paris later this year. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The climate talks are due to commence ... continue reading

Remarkable neon-glowing sea turtle discovered Watch

Image of Hawksbill sea turtles glow neon ( via David Gruber).

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While researching biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs, an unexpected glowing creature passed a team of scientists who identified the fluorescent creature as a sea turtle species. After testing others, they determined hawksbill sea turtles have attained the ... continue reading

Strange Stonehenge-styled rocks found on surface of Mars Watch

Image of


Alien experts and hunters usually look for -and find- the most bizarre images beamed back from the surface of Mars, which includes coffins, pyramids, crabs and even floating spoons. New images of Mars have excited alien enthusiasts with what appears to be an alien ... continue reading

Very rare simultaneous supermoon and eclipse expected to hit the sky this weekend Watch

Image of Lunar eclipse and blood moon from 2011 ( David Paleino).


A supermoon lunar eclipse is expected this weekend, exciting some people but bothering those who believe it signifies the nearing end of times as cited by some religions. Regardless of the contrasting responses, NASA and a professional photographer have some reminders ... continue reading

Massive 100,000-year-long meteor shower could be responsible for Earth's shape Watch

Image of Meteor shower lasing 100,000 years could have helped form the Earth's crust (CORBIS).


Earth has higher levels of magnesium and lower levels of silicon today than it does in deposits of its formative materials, leading French scientists to question "why?" MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to Daily Mail, a recent theory was made after ... continue reading

Love Birds: Research finds birds really do fall in love Watch

Image of


There are more characteristics birds have that are similar with humans. In a recent study created by a team of researchers in Germany, it was discovered that "lovebirds" isn't just a name of a specific kind of bird, but that birds really do fall in love. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading

All Green News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2
13 Priests, put on sackcloth and lament! You ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 9:2-3, 6, 16, 8-9
6 the enemy is wiped out -- mere ruins for ever -- ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:15-26
15 But some of them said, 'It is through Beelzebul, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 9th, 2015 Image

Sts. Denis, Rusticus, and Eleutherius
October 9: The first mention we have of these three martyrs who died around ... Read More