Farmers need more than good soil to thrive

A farmer’s ability to reach the yield potential of their farm has less to do with climate and soil and more with an enabling environment.

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In Future of Farming, commissioned by Rabobank, researchers said that a farmer’s success was largely dependent on government policies, agricultural markets, access to finance and knowledge and public expenditure on agricultural research and development (R&D).

The report says that, generally, the places with the highest yields in the world are not the places with the best climate and soil quality, but have the best combination of the above factors.

“There are high yields in Europe, despite lower soil quality compared to the Americas. This might be explained by the enabling environment as the R&D policies and the umbrella of the Common Agricultural Programme.

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“In East Asia high yields are found, despite a low soil quality, due to a favourable climate and the large use of subsidised fertilisers. Latin America and in particular Argentina has the best soil and a good climate, but is not reaching its potential due to the negative impact of agricultural policies such as export taxes.

“Within Latin America, Brazil is doing better than Argentina, even though it has a similar soil quality and climate as Sub-Saharan Africa. However, Brazil produces much better yields due to a high R&D spending that enables farmers.”

The researchers also state that the Earth is more than capable of feeding the burgeoning population. “From a purely technological point of view and based on the significant gaps in yield potential, the Earth’s surface has the ability to produce a European diet for twice the global population expected by 2050. This illustrates the enormous opportunity the social enabling environment has in solving the global food security problem.”

Video courtesy of Rabobank