Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

7/18/2014 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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.

Highlights

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/18/2014 (5 months 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).

BOOSTING YIELDS, SAVING WATER

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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More Green

Study: 41 percent of Earth's amphibians destined for extinction Watch

Image of The issue of widespread extinction is exacerbated because of the huge gaps in scientists' knowledge about the planet's biodiversity.

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

A grim report as published in "Nature" magazine warns that the planet Earth's many animal species are irrevocably headed towards extinction. Forty-one percent of all the world's amphibians are set "to go the way of the dodo" bird unless the governments of the world ... continue reading


Ford takes hybrid plunge with electric-powered mountain bike Watch

Image of The Ford-branded beach cruiser is powered by an electric battery. The battery gives the user up to 20 miles of pedal-free operation or even longer, if the rider pedals part of the time.

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

As part of its goal to put more lower-emission vehicles on the road, the Ford Motor Company has struck a deal with the California-based electric bicycle company Pedego: a battery-powered mountain bike. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Ford-branded beach ... continue reading


Move over honey! A new study suggests bees may have the cure for hair loss! Watch

Image of A substance used by bees to seal openings in their hives may be capable of preventing or reversing hair loss.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new study out of Japan may bring hope to the millions of people around the world who struggle with hair loss, baldness and thinning hair. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Propolis, a resin-like material taken from honeybee hives, has helped speed up the growth ... continue reading


YUCK! 270,000 tons of garbage is sitting in the ocean Watch

Image of There is 269,000 tons of plastic pollution in the ocean, levels ten times greater than previously thought.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For decades, the international scientific communities have known-and warned-about the growing amount of plastic trash in the world's oceans. Since the 1990s it has been known that masses of plastic can clump up in the ocean and form islands of debris. LOS ... continue reading


California drought the opposite of what we should see if global warming were to blame Watch

Image of The drought in California has lasted for three years, but it's not because of global warming, NOAA says.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Government scientists have weighed in on the California drought, challenging the popular conclusion that the drought has been caused by global warming. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - After three years of crippling drought, Californians have asked the question if ... continue reading


Natural climate change or global warming? Perhaps California's drought isn't your fault Watch

Image of A study shows California's drought to be natural rather than man-made.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Swimming in November, sweating in December; according to the National Climatic Data Center, California is experiencing its warmest year in 120 years of weather records. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The historic drought scorching up and down California is not as ... continue reading


African giraffe population drops by 40 percent over last 15 years Watch

Image of A rumor originating from Tanzania claims that the brain and bone marrow of the giraffe can help cure HIV has also led to a fall in its numbers.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Unless immediate steps are taken to redress the issue, the African giraffe could well be on the way to extinction. The giraffe population has already fallen by 40 percent in the last 15 years, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Scientists predict 16 FEET of SEA LEVEL RISE as a literal Mt. Everest melts into Antarctic seas every two years Watch

Image of Antarctic glaciers are melting into the sea at the rate of 161 billion metric tons per year. That ice is not being replaced and is contributing to sea level rise.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Another study has been published, concluding that warmer ocean waters are melting Antarctic glaciers and contributing to sea level rise. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet has enough land ice to raise sea level by 16 feet alone. Meanwhile, 2014 is making the record books as ... continue reading


An Africa without desert? Study looks into ancient period of green Africa Watch

Image of Africa used to have massive grasslands and savannas, where now there is only desert.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new study has revealed that Africa has been subject to mass climate change in the past, and may be incredibly vulnerable to it now. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An increase in the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere was key to an increase in rainfall ... continue reading


You've heard of a Venus flytrap, but what about a HUMAN trap? Watch

Image of Related to the South African Roridula

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An extinct, ancient, flesh-eating plant has been recently discovered via fossilized leaves that were preserved in Baltic amber which was found in a mine near Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave situated on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 49:2, 8-10
2 Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen; listen to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 72:3-4, 7-8, 17
3 Mountains and hills, bring peace to the people! ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 1:1-17
1 Roll of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 17th, 2014 Image

St. Olympias
December 17: Olympias born into a wealthy noble Constantinople family. She ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter