Feeding the world: a contribution to the debate

G - Articles in popular magazines and other technical publications

Goulding, K. W. T., Trewavas, A. and Giller, K. E. 2011. Feeding the world: a contribution to the debate. World Agriculture. 2(1), pp. 32-38.

AuthorsGoulding, K. W. T., Trewavas, A. and Giller, K. E.
Abstract

It is often claimed by proponents of organic farming that, if used worldwide, it would provide sufficient food for a growing world population.

Here we make a critical assessment of this claim for wheat, a major cereal crop and source of food throughout the world.

We have compared organic and conventional systems, examined some of the publications and claims in detail, and found a typical ratio of organic:conventional wheat yields of 0.65.

Nitrogen (N) fixation by legumes, the main source of N supply in organic systems, is shown to be much too small and variable to support large and consistent wheat yields.

Our conclusion agrees with that of a recent report by the University of Reading’s Centre for Agricultural Strategy that organic agriculture cannot feed the world using current technologies.

However, we believe that there is a need to reduce the over-optimal use of fertilisers and agricultural chemicals and to better manage crop rotations to reduce nutrient losses to the environment and crop losses to pests and diseases.

There is also a wider societal need to reconsider diet in the context of health and the ability of world agriculture to supply the wants of its anticipated 9 billion population.

KeywordsOrganic farming; Conventional farming; Sustainable food supplies; Nitrogen fixation; Legumes; Wheat
Year of Publication2011
JournalWorld Agriculture
Journal citation2(1), pp. 32-38
Web address (URL)http://www.world-agriculture.net/article/feeding-the-world-a-contribution-to-the-debate
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeSEF
Maintaining soil resilience and function for sustainable land management
The 'Classical' experiments: Broadbalk and Park Grass [2001-2012]
Open accessPublished as green open access
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online18 Feb 2012
PublisherScript Media

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