Preserving the land we grow on
Right now, it takes less than a second to add two people to the world population1. In the same second, farmland available to feed our growing population is shrinking by an area about the size of a soccer field. We must produce more food from less land to feed our growing population.
Poor farming practices leave soil vulnerable to be swept away by wind and rain. Already, an area large enough to feed Europe has been so severely degraded, it cannot produce food, reports the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Syngenta’s engagement in resourceful land use programs have shown that land planning and soil management need to be included in comprehensive national and local policy agendas. Governments need to monitor what is happening to their land and incorporate soil protection measures involving agriculture, forestry, water management, industry and waste disposal sectors.
Better farming practices can halt and even reverse the process of soil degradation. At the same time, farmers need to use existing farmland more efficiently.
Climate change mitigation
Agricultural systems hold the key for the largest readily achievable contributions to both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Agriculture generates one third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Direct emissions account for 14 percent of this, including emissions generated by livestock. Another 18 percent of emissions are connected to changes in land use, such as deforestation. Through cropland management, prevention of land conversion, and modern soil conservation technologies, the agricultural sector could stop contributing excess greenhouse gases by 2030.
United Nations Environment Programme Rapid Response Assessment, “The Natural Fix? The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Change Mitigation, June 2009.
Resourceful land use
By 2050, our global population is expected to reach 9 billion people and the demand for food will grow by 70%.2 Even if we convert all remaining land to cropland, we will get nowhere near meeting the future demand for food without increasing agricultural productivity. But many countries fall short of their full potential, says the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO).
Closing the yield gap will be critical to meeting our future food needs. But how can we do this sustainably?
Success requires farmers having access to a range of agricultural solutions, education to gain necessary skills, and financial incentives, says FAO. Sustainable farming solutions include not tilling the land, crop rotations, bringing vegetation back to degraded land and planting vegetation around fields to prevent erosion.
An added benefit: resourceful land use contributes to mitigating climate change. Globally 2 to 3 billion metric tons of carbon can be stored per year in soil. As a reference, fossil fuel emissions of carbon to the atmosphere average six billion tons a year.
Global cooperation for global solutions
- Minimum tillage can reduce soil erosion by about half
- Agriculture already occupies 40% of the world's land
Farmers can produce higher yields on existing farmland, prevent further loss of fertile land, and find innovative ways to make use of marginal land, especially in growing economies.
Technology is an important part of the solution, but we must also share knowledge in partnerships. An unprecedented level of global collaboration must take place between farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs, governments and companies, civil society and multilateral organizations.
Governments must support resource efficiency and environmental stewardship, and the private sector must develop new technologies that enable these practices.
People should be able to make informed choices about the crops they grow, the products they buy, and the agricultural systems they use. Agriculture should be viewed as a productive investment that drives economic development and builds long-term economic, political and environmental stability.