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. Script Media.

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

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
PublisherScript Media
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

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