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earth: are we prepared for food shortages?

earth: are we prepared for food shortages?

Climate change is set to have a profound effect on agriculture and food security worldwide. Water shortages, rising temperatures, and soil erosion present a real threat to our food supply.

Agricultural systems are vulnerable and can be destabilised by changes to the environment. Rising temperatures can not only irreparably damage farmland but can also lead to an increase in predatory insect populations. A recent study found that when it comes to the three most important grain crops - wheat, rice, and maize - the yield lost to insects is expected to increase by 10 to 25% per degree Celsius of warming.

The extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change also makes soil degradation and erosion more likely. As a result, it is estimated that one third of arable land has been lost over the past 40 years. Systems which are already struggling to meet the demands of a rapidly growing global population are being placed under incredible pressure.

Current projections regarding the effects of climate change on specific crops are significant. In one example, rising temperatures are set to cause wheat and barley yields to decline by between 17 and 33 percent by the end of the century, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University.

Climate change is also a threat to livestock production because of the impact it will have on so many vital elements of the process. Rising global temperatures are set to have a negative effect on the quality of both food supplied to animals and grazing, water availability, diseases, and biodiversity. Meanwhile, the livestock sector itself contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, driving further climate change.

One of the main problems farmers currently face is a lack of necessary water. Agriculture accounts for 70% of global water withdrawal, according to the OECD, and looks set to remain the biggest user of water into the middle of the century.

Consequently, one of the projects we have supported aims to improve water efficiency in three agricultural counties in Qinghai province, China. As a consequence of this project, irrigation water use efficiency increased from 35% in 2009 to 56% in 2016. Winter wheat yields have risen from 5.8 tonnes per hectare in 2009 to 7.2 tonnes per hectare in 2016. Considering this is one of the poorest regions in China, already a country which suffers from water stress, these are encouraging signs of progress.

Agriculture systems are fragile and extremely susceptible to the effects of climate change. Efficiency measures along the entire agrifood chain can help save water and energy and mitigate the effects of global warming

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