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Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing

The Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University has released a report suggesting that farmland useage might have peaked and the land required for agriculture will start to shrink. The authors predict that in the next half-century, a geographical area more than twice the size of France will return to its natural state from farmland. The Rockefeller researchers say factors such as slower population growth, declines in deforestation, and improved agricultural yields have spared the “unimaginable destruction of nature.”

The researchers cite India and China, which have seen incredible population and affluence growth, but where productivity gains have restrained the expansion of cultivated area. However, the authors identify a number of “wild cards” that could derail the ideas proposed - regulations requiring more biofuels or stagnant agricultural innovation. Most wild cards, they believe, will continue to come from consumers. People’s dietary (meat vs. vegetarian vs. vegan) and lifestyle (clothing) preferences, as well as evolutionary potential (average height) could confound these findings. Despite these wild cards, researchers projected conservative values for population, affluence, consumers, and technology and showed humanity peaking in the use of farmland and releasing at least 146 mill Ha over the next 50 years.

To access the report, click here.
For further discussion of the report you may be interested in this article in the New York Times here.

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