We’ve reached peak farmland! Millions of humans will die (maybe)
EEK! We’ve reached peak farmland: we’ll not expand the fields ever again. That, of course, spells doom for all of us human beans, as there will be ever less food for ever more people. Woe is us.
Except that’s not actually what is being predicted. Rather, that because we’re using farmland ever more efficiently we’ll never need to plough up more forest to make fields:
American corn farmers currently average about 180 bushels per acre, and the world average is around 82. Ausubel and his colleagues assume a modest 1.7 percent annual increase in corn yields between 2010 and 2060, which implies that “the average global yield in 2060 would resemble the average U.S. yield in 2010.”
One concern is that farmers may be approaching the biological limits of photosynthesis, which would constrain crop yields. But the authors note that the winners of the annual National Corn Yield Contest currently produce nonirrigated yields of around 300 bushels per acre, nearly double average U.S. yields. Ausubel suggests that the difference between the global average of 82 bushels and contest-winning 300 bushels per acre yields means that “much headroom remains.”
All that’s necessary is to get global average crop yields up to current US average crop yields and we’ll be fine. And the good thing about that is that we know how to get crop yileds up. For we do it today, so we must know how to do it.
Big mechanised farms using the latest seeds and techniques in short. Bugger this peasant agriculture that everyone seems to want the poor people to continue doing.
But isn’t it nice that we do actually know how to feed all those people likely to be turning up in the next few decades? All we’ve got to do is do as the Americans currently do: and we’ve 50 years to try to do it too.