Shivaji Pandey, director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warns sustainable farming is the only way to feed the world. Alan Harman reports.
Only by switching to more sustainable farming methods will the world’s farmers be able to grow enough food to meet the demands of a growing population and respond to climate change, a United Nations (UN) expert warns.
Shivaji Pandey, director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO’s) plant production and protection division, says it’s essential to move away from conventional intensive farming methods to what is known as conservation agriculture (CA).
Pandey was a keynote speaker at the fourth World Congress on Conservation Agriculture in New Delhi, India.
Introduced some 25 years ago, CA doesn’t use regular ploughing and tillage, but promotes permanent soil cover and diversified crop rotation to ensure optimal soil health and productivity.
Conventional intensive farming methods often cause environmental damage, reducing agricultural productivity, Pandey says. Current trends indicate agricultural productivity rates are expected to fall to 1,5% between now and 2030 and then to 0,9% between 2030 and 2050, compared with 2,3% a year since 1961.
However, the world needs to double its food production to feed 9 billion people by 2050.
“In the name of intensification in many places around the world, farmers over-ploughed, over-fertilised, over-irrigated and over-applied pesticides,” Pandey says.
“But this affected all aspects of the soil, water, land, biodiversity and the services provided by an intact ecosystem. That began to reduce yield growth rates.”
He says CA could not only increase yields but also help the environment by restoring soil health, saving water and energy and reducing the footprint of a sector that currently accounts for some 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.Â Â Â Â |fw