Agricultural land. Photo by Reba Spike on Unsplash
Farmers Growers

Agricultural land in the world

One of the issues that are capturing the attention of farmers, as well as society in general, is whether there is enough arable or agricultural land in the world. The main concern is whether we will be able to meet the world’s growing demand for food.

Is there enough agricultural land in the world to meet future needs?

According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), although the demand for food and cash crops won’t grow as fast as it did a few decades ago, meeting this demand will require further expansion or use of arable land. Improving the yield of those lands by planting new plant varieties and developing new and sophisticated cultivation technologies will be necessary as well.

When asked whether the planet is heading towards a future with a shortage of agricultural land, the FAO points out that this won’t happen, at least not at a global level, although there are areas of the world where there is already a severe shortage, which could certainly worsen.

According to FAO, “over the next thirty years, only an increase of 120 million hectares (13%) will be needed. Adding 3.75 million hectares per year may seem a daunting task, but it’s less than the rate of 4.8 million hectares per year achieved in the period 1961-63 to 1997-99. A slowdown in expansion is expected in all regions, but this is mainly evidence of slower growth in crop demand… So, an imminent clash between population growth and land availability is not justified.”

FAO also points out that there’s still potential agricultural land that has not been used yet. For example, today 1.5 billion hectares of land is used for permanent crops and tillage (11% of the world’s land area). Therefore, in theory, at least 2.8 billion hectares could be considered suitable for rainfed production, almost twice as much as is cultivated today.

The key will be to improve the nutrition levels of agricultural land in the world that is already in use today to make the best use of it, increase crop production and prevent its degradation, whether due to water erosion, high temperatures, climate change, salinization and lack of fertilization, among other factors. Controlling these variables would avoid the need to increase the amount of agricultural land.

What can plastics do to improve the world’s agricultural lands?

Since they began to be used in agriculture, agricultural plastics have been instrumental in increasing crop and farm production levels.

According to the information reflected on the website Plastics Europe, plastic films have contributed greatly to improving agricultural land in the world. The main reasons behind it are the following:

  • Besides protecting crops, plastic films improve soil quality and therefore the quality of the food obtained.
  • They help reduce water consumption
  • They allow a reduction of the chemicals and pesticides used on crops.
  • Plastic films help cope with climatic changes that cause heavy crop losses every year.
  • Help reduce the carbon footprint since many of them are now recyclable and biodegradable.

 

 

An example… mulching plastics

There is a great diversity of vegetables that grow very well when they are cultivated using plastic mulch, which improves their production levels.

A successful case of the use of plastics in agriculture can be evidenced in the United States with the cultivation of asparagus, which has managed to exceed expectations in terms of productivity thanks to the use of mulches, thus becoming a reference for other regions of the world.

To learn about other success stories of crops that have thrived with the use of mulching plastics, we recommend reading these articles:

We also invite you to listen to the episode of our podcast of the Agriplastics Community dedicated to how the use of agricultural plastics has contributed to fruit tree crop yields.

Plastics are also highly beneficial for optimizing the use of pesticides or chemicals to treat soils in intensive agriculture. If you want to learn more about this topic, we recommend you read our article on soil treatment methods for agriculture.

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