With the caloric needs of the planet expected to soar by 50 percent in the next 40 years, planning and investment in global agriculture will become critically important, determines a new report.
The report was produced by Deutsche Bank, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
It provides a framework for investing in sustainable agriculture against a backdrop of massive population growth and escalating demands for food, fiber and fuel.
"We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050," said David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.
By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today.
Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.
"There will come a point in time when we will have difficulties feeding world population," said Zaks, a graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and processes of global agriculture.
"The solution is only going to come about by changing the way we use land, changing the things that we grow and changing the way that we grow them," he added.
The report notes that agricultural research and technological development in the US and Europe have increased notably in the last decade, but those advances have not translated into increased production on a global scale.
Subsistence farmers in developing nations, in particular, have benefited little from such developments and investments in those agricultural sectors have been marginal, at best.
The Deutsche Bank report, however, identifies a number of strategies to increase global agricultural productions in sustainable ways, including improvements in irrigation, fertilization and agricultural equipment using technologies ranging from geographic information systems and global analytical maps to the development of precision, high performance equipment.
It also stresses on applying sophisticated management and technologies on a global scale, essentially extending research and investment into developing regions of the world.
The report says that investing in "farmer competence" is important to take full advantage of new technologies through education and extension services, including investing private capital in better training farmers.
"First we have to improve yield," noted Zaks. "Next, we have to bring in more land in agriculture while considering the environmental implications, and then we have to look at technology," he added.