The 7,000,000,000th person was born a week ago. Wait, let me go back and make sure I have the decimal in the correct place. In the financial world we’re in today, the correct amount of zeros is important 🙂 Seven billion people, that is amazing.
I’m trying hard not to sound too much like an old lady (really, I’m just thirtysomething!) but I clearly remember when the 6,000,000,000th person was born in the late 1990’s. At that time, I worked for a company whose recruiting strategy included having alumni recruit college graduates from their alma mater. As an alum, you knew the lay of the land better, if nothing else for me, it was a great excuse to visit Ft. Collins, CO in the fall and spring. My degree and work was in Agriculture Business, and while on campus the recruiters usually talked to one of the upper level agriculture business classes about some current event and how it may impact the students’ future work. That year, we discussed that the 6 billionth person had just been born, and the impact of that on feeding the world. Most of these students would graduate, and go back to farm with their families or into an industry job – one way or the other looking forward to making their mark on the world.
Getting back on track – for the past few years, any type of agricultural meeting that I have attended has talked about that it is projected that by 2050 there will be not 7 billion people, but 9 billion mouths to feed! How will farming today meet the challenges of feeding that many people? There is a lot of research that is being done to figure out how to improve yields with the same amount or fewer resources. Urban sprawl is taking many acres out of production every year. More people require more water. My own parents’ farm near Denver, CO, and the last housing boom saw new houses going up literally just across from their farm land. Fewer acres plus more people equals a huge problem that needs to be solved.
What is agriculture doing about this issue? There has been a lot of research that has been done to improve yield potential with fewer resources. What? Yes, for example, some crops have been modified to be able to produce more grain even in low rainfall years. An example of improved efficiency is in corn where efficiency has improved significantly in the past two decades: 114 bushels per acre (bpa) in 1995; 137 bpa in 2000; 148 bpa in 2005; and 154 bpa in 2010 (Source: USDA).
On our own farm, we strive to improve how much we produce each year. A lot of that is dependent on what kind of weather Mother Nature gives us, but we also do a lot of management. For example, we’ve used GPS on our farm for nearly two decades. It’s a little like the Garmin that I have in my car, but what we have in our tractor is a monitor – about the size of an iPad. Each field is loaded into the GPS unit. It all begins at planting. As each field is planted, the coordinates are loaded into the GPS unit, it knows if the driver gets more than 2 inches away from where the intention is to plant. Then when any nutrients are applied, same thing, the unit knows if the driver is not in correct position. For example if fertilizer is being applied, and we drive across by more than 2 inches, the nozzles that are over areas already sprayed are turned off. This allows us to make sure that we are planting and applying the correct amount and not overlapping anywhere and wasting valuable inputs. The same unit is then in the combine during harvest, and it will record the yield that the field has. All of this information then is available to us to better manage each of our fields. None of our fields are exactly the same, each requires unique management for the soil type, slope of the land, what type of seed is best, etc. We strive to use the optimal amount of inputs to raise the best yield.
Stay tuned – in the next few days I have more to add on this subject.