“Sustainable intensification” in farming vs the alternative: Food shortages and unrest

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For researchers trying to figure how to feed a world of 10 billion people later in this century, the great objective over the past decade has been to achieve what they call “sustainable intensification.”. . . . To figure out almost overnight how to grow the most food on the least land and with the minimal environmental impact. The alternative, they say, is to continue plowing under what’s left of the natural world. Or face food shortages and political unrest.

Up to now, the tendency in talking about sustainable intensification has been to focus on the supply side and on exciting technological innovations of one sort or another, from gene editing to satellite monitoring. . . .

. . . .

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To critics, the engineering focus has tended to put intensification ahead of sustainability, making it just a re-boot of the original Green Revolution.

They say the technological fixes also distract from more challenging social reforms . . . Technological solutions also appeal most directly to large farms in the industrial world, which can afford to invest in them. But the population growth and the clearing of land for agriculture are mainly happening in the developing world.

. . . .

Even as fertilizer use needs to decrease in the industrial world, sustainable intensification advocates argue that it must increase dramatically in the developing world, where there is a stark choice between intensification and extensification. That is, if a farmer’s land yields only a quarter of what it takes to feed the family, one possible fix is to apply more fertilizer. . . What often happens instead, though, is that the farmer just clears four or five times as much land.

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Read full, original post: New Green Challenge: How to Grow More Food on Less Land

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