Besides water, increasing our food production by 70 percent by 2050 is one of the greatest challenges to our global community
Nine billion inhabitants to feed by 2050
The long-term uncertainties relating to climate conditions, macroeconomic factors, political initiatives and particularly energy prices point to the fact that agricultural prices will remain unpredictable – as forecasted by OECD and FAO in their 2010-2019 Outlook report.
Price volatility, even over the short term, represents a threat to both the viability of farming (low prices) and food security (high prices). World agricultural production is expected to increase over the next decade, but at a growth rate that is lower than that of the previous decade. To feed nine billion people in 2050, food production must increase by 70 percent, an average annual rate of 1.5 percent. This growth rate alone will result in enough cereal production to allow consumption equivalent to that of today, which is between 400 and 1,500 grams per person daily.
Ninety percent (90%) of this increase in food production will be derived from higher yields and increased cultivation and 10 percent from new arable lands. This ratio will be 80/20 in developing countries where the cultivated area will have increased by about 120 million hectares, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
Industrial fertilizers are the only way for humanity to substantially increase yields per hectare and thereby limit the expansion of farmland at the expense of already strained forests. North America, Western Europe and Asia consume four-fifths of the total fertilizer used in the world.
However, it is in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries where the greatest returns can be found. It is also there, where 450 million small farmers would be likely to grow the excess global supply necessary to satisfy the planet’s needs. Therefore, the greatest effects would be a result of the first African Green Revolution.
Today there are solutions that illustrate the undeniable advantages of fertilization, while preventing and eliminating the potentially harmful effects of fertilizers, including phosphates, on the environment. They are summarized in the concept of the “evergreen” agricultural revolution, able to increase yields while respecting ecosystems and the environment.
This practice of sustainable agriculture notes that “the right dose of fertilizer in the right place at the right time” helped decrease the use of chemical fertilizers in 1990, for example, by 20 percent over ten years in France.
This drop in consumption will be largely offset by increased fertilizer requirements due to population growth, the requirements of global food security and the growing demand of the bio-fuel industry.