Feeding the world’s masses is going to be an ever-increasing challenge. From the current 6+ billion today, the Earth’s human population is said to increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, well within the lifetime of many in our industry.
Coupled with this are increasingly volatile weather patterns, some of which – according to some scientists – are already making their presence felt. In the last few weeks it has been confirmed that scientific predictions, laid down in 1992, of CO2 increase in the atmosphere are tracking true, so we can only expect this volatility to get worse.
More extreme weather (floods, droughts and storms) and larger areas occupied by human habitats mean that reliably productive agricultural land will become scarcer and scarcer, a possibility that is already leading foreign interests to buy up large tracts of farmland in Australia.
Aside from the political implications, the reduction in available arable land and growing population numbers mean that we must produce ‘more with less’, more food using less inputs on smaller areas of land.
According to the CSIRO’s Dr Michael Robertson, a sizable gap still exists between what farmers in Australia and New Zealand are producing and what is potentially possible. “Agriculture in Australia and New Zealand has maintained consistent growth in production over the last 30 years. Much of this growth has resulted from increased use of inputs, such as fertiliser, fuel, feed, land and labour.
“As researchers we now have a vital role in generating new technologies to meet the input use efficiency challenge and close the yield gap.
“The next 30 years will see a revolution in the ways farmers collect and interpret information about what is happening on their farms and how they communicate with each other and with other key sectors of the industry, leading to new ways of improving production and continuing growth for our agriculture industries,” Dr Robertson said.
Precision agriculture and forestry has a large and increasing role to play in helping improve yields and thus satisfy our growing demands on food and natural resources. As the inputs we have relied on to date – fertiliser, fuel, feed, land and labour – begin to diminish in availability and increase in price, it is now up to spatial professionals and engineers to help farmers increase food production.
Until next time,