A new U of T Scarborough study suggests that globally we’re growing more of the same kinds of crops, and this presents major challenges for agricultural sustainability on a global scale.
The study, done by an international team of researchers led by U of T assistant professor Adam Martin, used data from the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to look at which crops were grown where on large-scale industrial farmlands from 1961 to 2014.
They found that within regions crop diversity has actually increased – in North America for example, 93 different crops are now grown compared to 80 back in the 1960s. The problem, Martin says, is that on a global scale we’re now seeing more of the same kinds of crops being grown on much larger scales.
In other words, large industrial-sized farms in Asia, Europe, North and South America are beginning to look the same.
“What we’re seeing is large monocultures of crops that are commercially valuable being grown in greater numbers around the world,” says Martin, who is an ecologist in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at U of T Scarborough.
“So large industrial farms are often growing one crop species, which are usually just a single genotype, across thousands of hectares of land.”
Soybeans, wheat, rice and corn are prime examples. These four crops alone occupy just shy of 50 per cent of the world’s entire agricultural lands, while the remaining 152 crops cover the rest.
It’s widely assumed that the biggest change in global agricultural diversity took part during the so-called Columbia exchange of the 15th and 16th centuries where commercially important plant species were being transported to different parts of the world.
But the authors found that in the 1980s there was a massive increase in global crop diversity as different types of crops were being grown in new places on an industrial scale for the first time. By the 1990s that diversity flattened out, and what’s happened since is that diversity across regions began to decline.
The lack of genetic diversity within individual crops is pretty obvious, says Martin. For example, in North America, six individual genotypes comprise about 50 per cent of all corn crops planted.
This decline in global crop diversity is an issue for a number of reasons. For one, it affects regional food sovereignty. “If regional crop diversity is threatened, it really cuts into people’s ability to eat or afford food that is culturally significant to them,” says Martin.
There is also an ecological issue; think potato famine, but on a global scale. Martin says if there’s increasing dominance by a few genetic lineages of crops, then the global agricultural system becomes increasingly susceptible to pests or diseases. He points to a deadly fungus that continues to devastate banana plantations around the world as an example.
He hopes to apply the same global-scale analysis to look at national patterns of crop diversity as a next step for the research. Martin adds that there’s a policy angle to consider, since government decisions that favour growing certain kinds of crops may contribute to a lack of diversity.
“It will be important to look at what governments are doing to promote more different types of crops being grown, or at a policy-level, are they favouring farms to grow certain types of cash crops,” he says.
The Latest on: Sustainable agriculture
via Google News
The Latest on: Sustainable agriculture
- ICAR Nagaland Centre conducts awareness on sustainable agricultureon March 22, 2020 at 10:02 am
DIMAPUR, MARCH 22 (MExN): The ICAR RC for NEH Region. Nagaland Centre, Medziphema organised a one day awareness cum farmer-scientist interaction programme on the theme “Adaptation and coping ...
- Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy: Family Food Producers and Anti-Hunger Advocates Urge Support for Local Supply Chains in Next Stimulus Billon March 21, 2020 at 6:46 am
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy issued the following news release:. Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, National Family Farm Coalition, Farm Aid, WhyHunger, HEAL Food Alliance, and the ...
- How Agritech Enables Earth-Friendly Agricultureon March 19, 2020 at 8:19 am
causing agricultural pollution. We’re at a stage when adoption of earth-friendly and sustainable agriculture is the only way ahead. Earth-friendly agriculture refers to the various practices that use ...
- Delair and BASF Collaborate to Accelerate Research for Agricultural Solutionson March 18, 2020 at 11:53 am
The delair.ai platform provides enterprise-focused workflows and industry-specific analytics and will help BASF turn its visual drone data into actionable insights and ultimately, new sustainable ...
- How one of our favourite Dubai-based online stores is becoming more sustainableon March 17, 2020 at 9:29 pm
Eco goals Online shopping is one of the most convenient ways to consume your favourite brands across fashion and beauty, ...
- Bayer to Advance More Sustainable Agricultural Solutions Utilizing New Innovative Greenhouses in Marana, Arizonaon March 17, 2020 at 3:14 pm
The unique Marana Greenhouses will serve as a global product design center for corn To further its global commitment of providing growers with the most innovative, sustainable and technically-advanced ...
- Towards better representation of organic agriculture in life cycle assessmenton March 16, 2020 at 9:09 am
LCA assesses agroecological systems inadequately for three reasons: (1) a lack of operational indicators for three key environmental issues; (2) a narrow perspective on functions of agricultural ...
- Verde AgriTech promotes sustainable agriculture with eco-friendly, multi-nutrient fertilizeron March 16, 2020 at 6:00 am
The company hosts the biggest potash mine in Brazil with an after-tax net present value of $2 billion Verde AgriTech Plc (TSE:NPK) (OTCMKTS:AMHPF) is a Brazilian potassium fertilizer producer and ...
- AgweekTV Full Show: Soybean export demand, small refinery exemptions, spring combining, Haiti agricultureon March 14, 2020 at 6:20 am
This week on AgweekTV, How will the coronavirus impact soybean export demand? The court rules with the ethanol industry on small refinery exemptions but that's not the end of the story. Farmers in the ...
- Farmers say fight climate change by investing in sustainable family agricultureon March 10, 2020 at 12:23 pm
The following op-ed is based on an open letter from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), whose vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is ...
via Bing News