Each year the area of arable land worldwide is reduced. This problem occurs while the number of people who need to be fed is increasing. It is expected that by 2050 there will be more than 9.770 billion people sharing this planet, 40% more than in 2010. To be able to feed everyone, it will be necessary to take advantage of every last centimeter of fertile land. How can we do this? Modern agriculture can give us some clues.
First of all, we must ask ourselves about the reasons that cause a continuous reduction of the surface of arable land. Here three big factors come into play: soil erosion, degradation, and desertification. The first one refers to the absolute loss of the topsoil and its nutrients; degradation, on the other hand, is a change in soil health that results in a decrease in its capacity within an ecosystem. Desertification, finally, is another common term used to refer to land degradation in arid land areas or the irreversible change of land, that is, it can no longer be recovered for its original use.
90% of current growth in agricultural production is due to higher yields or intensification of crops, according to the FAO. The remaining 10% is produced thanks to the expansion of the land surface devoted to agriculture. This is where modern agriculture comes into play, the answer of one of the great objectives of the food industry: to conserve the productive land that is currently being used by new technologies to make a more efficient use of land.
Tools such as data analysis allow farmers to make decisions in real time, being able to act in the best way about crop planning or climate warnings, among other issues. Also, the use of sensors is effective because it allows precise control of the health of the soil or the humidity to which the crops are exposed, as well as the specific needs of each field. In addition, the increasing use of drones and satellites allowing the generation of real-time and high-definition images, drive the path of precision agriculture, which seeks to take advantage of all this information to use less and produce more.
The tillage of conservation, -system of tillage that reduces the loss of soil caused by rain and wind-; or cover crops, which protect the soil by repelling diseases, among other things, are other tools that are put into practice in the environment of modern agriculture.