This is the title of a talk given at Lincoln’s Café Scientifique on 10 March by Dan Magnone of the University of Lincoln’s School of Geography.
A brief summary is below.
Today there are seven billion people on Earth. We produce enough food to feed ten million. The scourge of global hunger is due to inequality not inability.
Such food production as we have is a remarkable achievement and due, in part, to the development of modern agriculture and our mastery of soil.
Critical to this has been the use of fertiliser. Yet a key component this – phosphate – is a finite and increasingly expensive resource.
In Europe, the large amounts applied during the latter half of the 20th Century mean that we can now produce large yields with relatively low application rates – due to “residual” phosphate (that which is left in the soil after harvest).
However, during the 21st Century Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have the most rapid population growth and will require a similar agricultural revolution.
For many African countries this means a doubling of the proportion of income (GDP) spent of fertiliser in the next decade before reaching a more sustainable food future.
Dan Magnone is a senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln, researching and teaching on the geochemistry of water and soil.
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For fruit and vegetable crops – I’m talking the 7-a-day stuff that most of us need way more of in our diets – it’s a completely different story.
Just a few acres, with polytunnels or glasshouses require constant tending, and can employ numerous people doing skilled, interesting, rewarding, socially useful jobs.
Fruit and vegetables don’t necessarily need much processing before they reach our plates. We want to eat them fresh – the fresher the better!
It would make sense, then, that the most labour intensive, perishable, unprocessed foods are grown in close proximity to urban areas.
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