Agriculture is the most critical industry in the world, whether it be vegetation or livestock farming. Agriculture’s is clearly necessary to feed the ever-growing global population. However, while there is no doubt that humans need farms to produce food, the environmental toll of traditional agriculture is growing more apparent.
In the 18th century, roughly 7% of all the land in the world was farmland. Currently, food production takes up nearly 50% of the global area, and that number continues to climb higher, risking overtaking the fertile land still untouched by farms. Scientists estimate that global crop production takes up an area the size of South America, and an additional 8-9 billion acres for livestock. Between 1992 and 2002, the farmland increased by 12.5 million acres globally.
Clearing land for farming can disrupt the delicate balance of an ecosystem, primarily if the area in question consists of woodlands and forests. In Brazil, the two years between 2001 and 2003 saw 72% of the land in one state completely cleared as pasture for livestock.
According to SAGE researcher Amato Evan, “If current trends continue, we should expect to see increased agricultural production at the cost of increased tropical deforestation. And the production that is driving the tropical cropland expansion are crops that used as feed for cattle.”
Presently, there is a gap between the yields farms are currently harvesting and the growing number of returns attained through the application of good agricultural management and innovative farming. Reducing the deficit will help meet the global demand for food even with the growing population.
The number of people in the world may reach 12 billion people in the next 80 years. With only so much fertile land left, farmers and other food suppliers will have to think of different ways to keep up with the demand. They may need to turn away from traditional farming to supplement the needs of the global population.
Population growth isn’t the only factor driving farm expansion. Economic growth, urbanization, and rising household income in rising economies are contributors as well. These three factors are leading many people all over the world to adopt diets that are typically more Western. They are high in sugar, animal fat, and protein. Greater animal consumption takes 2.5 to 100 times more resources to produce livestock than agricultural products.
This leads to the question of how humans can continue to provide food while protecting the environment from the adverse effects that often come with traditional farming like deforestation, water pollution, and soil erosion.
The answer is found in the numerous innovative farming techniques that easily offset the harmful consequences that come with traditional farming. As it is, innovative agriculture is still in its infancy, and it could be several years before it is implemented over the world, and even longer before becoming the primary source of food production. As technology progresses and knowledge about sustainability rises, the change will become more rapid in upcoming years.