Feeding eight billion well
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Feeding Eight Billion Well. Josh Linhart , Danny Ortolano , & Jared Mazurek. Major Topics. Raising Land Productivity Raising Water Productivity Producing Protein More Efficiently The Localization of Agriculture Strategic Reductions in Demand Action on Many Fronts.

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Feeding Eight Billion Well

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Feeding eight billion well

Feeding Eight Billion Well

Josh Linhart, Danny Ortolano,

& Jared Mazurek


Major topics

Major Topics

Raising Land Productivity

Raising Water Productivity

Producing Protein More Efficiently

The Localization of Agriculture

Strategic Reductions in Demand

Action on Many Fronts


Raising land productivity

Raising Land Productivity

  • Prior to 1950. expansion of food production came almost entirely from expanding cropland area.

  • Population growth after World War II = Change in land productivity.

  • 1950-2008 Grain yield nearly tripled

    • Came primarily from three sources:

      • Growing use of fertilizer

      • Spread of irrigation

      • Development of higher yielding crop varieties

  • Fertilizer:

    • In an attempt to remove nutrient constraints on crop yields


Land productivity continued

Land Productivity Continued…

  • Irrigation:

    • Future gains will likely come from an increase in irrigation efficiency rather than from expanding irrigation water supplies.

  • Higher-yielding varieties:

    • Hybridization of corn

      • Corn yields are still edging upward (the only grain to be doing so)

  • There is very little productive new land throughout the World

    • This along with the difficulty of expanding the irrigated area and the diminishing returns on the use of additional fertilizer, is making it much more difficult to increase World food output.


Land productivity continued1

Land Productivity Continued…

  • Agricultural Endowments

    • Varies widely by country

      • In order to have high grain yields you must have an abundance of soil moisture.

        • Not the case in much of Africa

          • As a result, they have not experienced a green revolution like much of the rest of the World.`

      • In order to increase land productivity where soil moisture permits, you must expand the area of land that produces more than one crop per year.

        • This process of double cropping has not been fully exploited in some places that have the potential (Some areas within North America and Western Europe.)

  • Many countries still have a substantial unrealized production potential despite the falling production of grain.


Raising water productivity

Raising Water Productivity

  • 1,000 tons of water  1 ton of grain!

    • Thus, 70% of World water use is devoted to irrigation

  • Irrigation water efficiency is affected not only by the type and condition of irrigation systems but also by the soil type, temperature, and humidity

    • Hot and Arid  high evaporation

    • Cool and Humid  low evaporation

  • Crop usage of irrigation water never reaches 100% because some irrigation water evaporates, percolates downward, and some runs off.

    • Switching from flood or furrow to low-pressure sprinkler systems reduces water use by an estimated 30%, while switching to drip irrigation typically cuts water use in half.


Water productivity continued

Water Productivity Continued…

  • Low water productivity is often the result of low water prices.

    • In many countries, subsidies lead to irrationally low water prices, creating the impression that water is abundant.

      • WATER IS SCARCE!

  • Moving down the food chain reduces water use

    • Lindemann’s Law of the Tenth

      • During the transfer from one trophic level to the next, only about 10% of the food is stored as flesh. The rest is lost during transfer or is broken down during respiration.

        • Being a vegetarian really can help save the World


Water productivity continued1

Water Productivity Continued…

  • In order to bring water use down to the sustainable yield of aquifers and rivers worldwide involves:

    • Water-efficient irrigation practices and crops

    • Adopting more water efficient industrial processes

    • Using water-efficient household appliances

    • Recycling urban water supplies

    • Eating lower on the food chain (at least every once in a while)


Producing protein more efficiently

Producing Protein More Efficiently

Meat consumption rising

Cattle convert grain into protein inefficiently

Poultry and fish are more efficient

Pork production and aquaculture growing

Combining soybean meal with grain

Creating markets for small farmers (e.g. dairy co-ops in India)

Use of crop residues (ex. China)


The localization of agriculture

The Localization of Agriculture

Locally grown food (locavore), seasonal diets

Number of farms growing, more small farms

Farmers markets, urban gardening, school gardening (California)

Organic farms increased

Community gardens on the rise (gov’t support)

Foods that travel lose flavor and nutrition (1500 miles)

Small farmers can recycle nutrients better than massive feeding operations


How many people can the earth support

How Many People Can The earth support.

It depends on the quality of life everyone wants to live. If people consumed 800 kilo grams of grain per year, like Americans, the carrying capacity would be only 2.5 billion.

Out of this 800kg, 100kg of it is consumed as the grain in it’s primary form. The bulk of it is consumed in the form of livestock.

Stabilize the population to no more than8 million by 2040.


Strategic reductions in demand

Strategic Reductions in Demand

  • Start program to supply the 201 million women today that want to use birth control but do not have access to it.

  • Mediterranean diets higher in grains and vegetable are healthier and more sustainable. People in Italy have a higher life expectancy than people in the U.S. even though medical expenditures per person are much higher in the U.S.


Action on many fronts

Action on Many Fronts

Should give more priority to securing and maintaining food supplies.

Cut Carbon Emissions.

Invest in undeveloped countries food production.

Stop Biodiesel


Discussion questions

Discussion Questions

Do you agree with Lester Brown’s ideas about decreasing global food demand rather than increasing global food supply? Why or why not?

Why might higher incomes be associated with an increased consumption of meat?

Do you support or oppose the practice of land acquisitions? Why or why not?

Why do you suppose so many countries have neglected to meet their production potential?


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