Increasing Crop Yields

Crop yields are closely related to farm productivity. By producing more with the same resources, farms can lower costs and lower their reliance on natural resources. We want crop yields to be optimal instead of being the greatest. The difference being an optimal crop yield uses the resources given to it in the most productive way per unit of resource, whereas the greatest yield can have more resources thrown at it than is absolutely necessary.

Lower crop prices will ease the stress of poverty in developing countries. We don’t just need to think about the environment, we also need to be mindful of prices to enable efficient technology to be accessible to everyone. We have duties to both the environment and our humanitarian duty.

My main area of research in the past has been in agricultural science, which is what this post is about. The award will also cover the fields of hydrology, water resource management and soil management. We need a structured approach to our future problems which is interdisciplinary and encourages understanding with stakeholders outside of research, academia and commerce.

Over the coming months I will write blog posts about each field of research we are interested in and we’ll gain an understanding of where each field is at and the possibilities of interdisciplinary cooperation.

New Crop Management

Consumers these days are in increasing numbers demanding organic food. This must be grown on organic farms which are subject to strict guidelines and periodic inspections. Organic food cannot be grown in unnatural pesticides and fertilisers, but some organic farming associations consider natural pesticides and fertilisers as acceptable for growing organic food. Another point of contention is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Some consider GMO to be fine, others do not. The FAO has an in depth discussion on the definitions of organic farming.

Organic farming does not necessarily mean decreased crop yields. Over the past few years techniques have been developed to overcome the challenges of growing without synthetic chemicals, such as push pull planting of grasses. Certain grasses contain natural pesticides and others attract pests, which in synergy can keep a field free from pests.

Biofuel

Of great concern is the competition between food crops and fuel crops. This leads to higher food prices. An in depth discussion is on the Oxfam Canada website.

Palm oil has the highest yield of any crop and that is a shame because palm oil plantations are competing with food crops in the developing world and destroying natural rainforests.

Our Future

As visionaries of the future, we need to develop new techniques for increasing crop yields. This will help us overcome the challenges of feeding a world of seven billion people. Compounding on our problem, we have reduced environmental certainty from the impacts of climate change. With water shortages on the horizon, we need to be prepared ahead of time to enable us to swiftly sail into the future.

This award will recognise those who enable us to use our scarce resources efficiently. By increasing crop yields, you are doing your part to save humanity from the problems of running against our natural resource limits.

Dr Holly Haviland