A new study estimates that an extra 825 million people could be fed worldwide by swapping where crops are grown.
Undertaken by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the research suggests that better strategic placement of crops in existing field space would maximise ‘nutritional quality while lowering the environmental impact’.
Kyle Davis, a postdoctoral researcher with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said “there are a lot of places where there are inefficiencies in water use and nutrient production” and redrawing the map ‘would produce 10 percent more calories and 19 percent more protein–enough to feed an additional 825 million people–while reducing consumption of rainwater by 14 percent and irrigation water by 12 percent’.
This was based on redistributing the spread of 14 crops that account for 72% of harvested crops globally. Climate and soil type are factors which dictate the changes that would be needed in each country to meet the overall goal of the model. But the researchers say this is just a contribution to the wider debate around food security and doesn’t account for a variety of challenges that would need to be overcome at a local level to achieve such a transformation.
“If we think about the economic, social, and environmental aspects of food security in a particular country and work closely with local decision-makers, we can create solutions tailored to the needs and goals of that country’s people,” added Davis.