The need for food is growing substantially as global population increases and lifestyles change. Food production will have to double by 2050 to meet demand.
Agriculture’s footprint on the planet is significant. To understand the immense scale, visualize the continents—global cropland is about size of South America and grazing land is equivalent to Africa. Agriculture is the largest single user of water. Some farming practices contribute to climate change which results in unstable weather and temperature fluctuations that affect growing cycles, rainfall, and ultimately, land use. Farming in the future will need to be more resilient.
How will agricultural systems meet the challenge to produce more food without jeopardizing natural resources? The Nature Conservancy believes the answer is sustainable intensification, an agricultural approach that uses the best science and technology matched to the unique conditions found in large production operations and small family farms around the world.
Since some growth of agricultural land is inevitable, it will be important to direct agricultural expansion to areas that will do the least harm to ecosystems and eliminate habitat conversion where possible.
Adopting management practices that protect water quality and conserve soils, combined with efficient use of fertilizer, can reduce the impact of water run-off from farmland which contributes to dead zones and algae blooms.
Climate change poses new challenges, and farmers will have to use practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They will need to grow hearty varieties of crops and use farming techniques that maintain productivity under conditions that may bring floods, drought, and other changes.
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