Better Use of Fertilizer, Water Can Feed Growing Population, Study Says

A new study suggests that the the world can meet the surging demand for food in the coming decades without rampant deforestation if farmers make better use of fertilizer and water resources. In an analysis of management practices and yield data for 17 major crops worldwide, researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota estimated that yields for most crops can be increased 45 to 70 percent on lands already used for agriculture through more efficient fertilizer application and irrigation. Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists found that the deployment of best-practice farming could boost global yields of corn, wheat, and rice by 64 percent, 71 percent, and 47 percent, respectively. In some parts of the world, including the U.S., China, and Western Europe, the study found that far more fertilizer is used than necessary, with much of it ultimately washing into waterways. Through more efficient use of that fertilizer, nutrients could be made available for use in Eastern Europe and Western Africa without adversely affecting communities in the U.S. and China.