Less farms, more forests over the next 50 years
Scientists at Rockefeller University recently published a report (click here to read it) that argues less farmland will be needed over the next 50 years to provide the crops required for a more affluent, larger global population. Having analysed the long-term historical trends of the key factors that determine the amount of farmland, they conclude that at least 146 million hectares (two and a half time the size of France) will be released. Continued productivity improvement due to better and broader use of technology is important but so are factors such as slowing population growth and upper limits for calorie consumption. The key risk they identify is the planting of crops for new purposes, such as the expansion in bio-fuel crops that occurred over the past decade. However, if other alternative energy sources replace bio-fuels as I expect, then there is upside to their forecast.
“Global arable land and permanent crops spanned 1,371 million hectares (MHa) in 1961 and 1,533 MHa in 2009, and we predict a return to 1,385 Mha in 2060”. This era of land sparing will see re-forestation. Less farms, more forests.