We are still farming a vast majority of the world´s farmland, with only a fraction of it actually being used for growing food, according to new research from Oxford University.
The research has found that just under 90 per cent of the land in the world is being grown for agriculture, with nearly half of that going to livestock and the rest being used to grow crops for the human food chain.
Professor Tim Worrall, one of the authors of the study, said: “The question is: how can we make agriculture sustainable?”
A lot of the agricultural infrastructure is still in place.
The amount of land in use is actually increasing, with the total amount of agricultural land in operation up by 30 per cent since 2000.
“We have to start thinking about the way that we get there and how we maximise the use of land.”
Mr Worral said there were a lot of good ways to use land, but they were all limited by their own sustainability.
The findings are published in the journal Land, Water and Society.
Mr Worrhall said the key to sustainable farming was making sure that the land used to produce food has good soils and water quality.
“What we found is that there is no need for massive expansion of farming,” he said.
“If you have good soils, good water quality, and if you don’t waste the land, the yield is going to be a lot higher.”
He said that would be achieved by using better farming practices, including soil management and a more varied crop rotation.
“There are a lot more farmers who have been farming for generations and their systems are not working.”
It would be really nice if we could find better ways to farm that land and that water and that soil,” he added.
The researchers found that only 6 per cent per cent or less of all land was used for farming, but that was still more than double the proportion used in traditional agriculture.
It found that the average annual yield of farmland in the United States was 5.7 tonnes per hectare, while in China it was 2.9 tonnes per ha.”
Anecdotally, I know people who say they are not growing enough food and have to make do with what they have, but the world really is growing and people are getting older,” Mr Worrman said.
He said there was a lot to learn from developing countries in developing countries.”
In developing countries, there are still huge gaps between what we are producing and what the food security of people is.
“They are getting better at using land, they are improving their infrastructure and they are using different tools to produce their food.”
But there is a huge gap between what they produce and what they are actually consuming.
“The research also found that, of the 7 per cent that was used to feed the world, only one-third was being used by people in rural areas.”
This is really important because there is such a huge demand for land,” Professor Worrill said.”[The researchers] say, well, we are not going to see enough people to feed all of the people that we need.
“People in rural countries have to eat what they can grow and what is available to them, which means that a lot is being lost.”
Professor Worrll said that, while there were improvements in the land use of agriculture, there were still huge differences between traditional and sustainable farming.
“The difference between farming for humans and farming for animals is that for animals you need to have a good land-use policy and a good climate policy.”
For people, there is really a lack of both.
“You can have a great land-using policy and you can have good land management but you need a good ecosystem.”
Farmers are really poor at understanding the ecosystems that they are producing food from, and they don’t really know what is going on in the soil, in the water, in what they’re doing with the animals that they’re producing food for.
“That’s why they have a really poor understanding of the environments that they produce food for.”
Mr Wilkins said he had been studying land-based agriculture in Africa and he believed that if we worked together as a continent, we could get there.
“I think we can make a real difference, because if we can work together we can really make a difference.”
My hope is that we can get more of our people out into the fields to do this work.