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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #262954

Title: Spending our water and soils for food security

item Busscher, Warren

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/18/2011
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Studies on food security in economics, geology, and anthropology have recently concluded that soil and water resources will eventually reach critical levels that will fail to feed us. Among the causes of the crisis are the expected dramatic rise in world population over the next few decades and the stresses it will put on resources. The challenge is to find a way to solve a food-security problem which now affects almost a third of the world population and is expected to affect a higher percentage in the future. Some options for remediation include putting more soils into production, eating smarter, and remediating degraded soils – all of which have their pluses and minuses. Whatever solutions we choose should be researched and critiqued by the scientific community, enacted by producers, and supported by society.

Technical Abstract: A third of the world’s population suffers from food insecurity. With an expected 2 billion population increase in the next few decades that number is expected to rise significantly, leading to more people that are insecure and starving unless our soils can produce more food. Added to the problem are soils degrading at a rate of 5 to 6 M ha (12 to 15 M a) annually, third world countries demanding more food with their increased standards of living, and water being depleted at non-renewable rates from confined aquifers. Potential solutions include opening up new cropland, developing better eating habits, and improving the efficiency of our contemporary soil and water resources; this last option being the most promising. Contemporary soil and water production practices have been improving for ages; but a more concerted effort supported by all of society will be needed to meet such a large-scale effort. It involves recognizing that soil and water are at the base of our civilization and that they need to be more valued and conserved.