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Population Growth Factors
Feeding a continuously growing world population is a primary factor in the future trends for agriculture. The current rate of population growth has declined considerably to an estimated 1.2 percent level. Nonetheless, the enormity of the number of mouths that need to be fed in the future remains a serious challenge. By some estimates, the world population would reach around 9.5 billion during the next 40 years. This population figure compares to the estimated world population of 6.6 billion.
Innovative agricultural methods must be developed and existing food production systems improved to cope with the projected world population increase. At the same time, these new systems and processes have to address many concerns of society, such as the sustainable exploitation of natural resources and environmental considerations.
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More Energy-Efficient Operations
These emerging agriculture practices will have to consider farms’ energy utilization. It was shown in some studies that the present rate of producing food vis a vi fuel utilization is not sustainable. The same studies indicated that producing one calorie of food at present requires the expenditure of almost 10 calories of oil and other fossil fuels. Definitely, this rate needs to be reduced for the very reason that fossil-based fuels and other petroleum-based products are finite resources.
Another major consideration is the continuing rise in prices of these fossil-based agricultural inputs. Hence, the agriculture of the future will have to increasingly wean present practices away from dependence on petroleum to power farm equipment. Alternative sources of energy, such as windmills and biogas, have to be tapped to their full potential.
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Less Reliance on Chemicals
Chemical-based pesticides and herbicides will have to be replaced with less costly solutions. The same is true of the use of chemical fertilizers, which at present is already being slowly replaced by organic approaches in farming.
The shape of agriculture in the years ahead will revolve around sustainability. The farms of the future will need to consider the growing consumer demand for “green" products, agricultural outputs that were produced through environment-friendly practices.
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Genetically Modified Crops
Focus will also be centered on the development of more high-yielding varieties of rice, corn, and wheat. Currently, inroads have already been made in the use of genetically modified (GM) crops to dramatically increase harvests.
There is a major constraint to the GM crops revolutionizing the future trends for agriculture, however. This involves the groundswell of protests worldwide about the issue of GM crop safety. While the controversy continues, it remains to be seen how much impact GM crops will have on the future of agriculture.
Whatever new crop varieties need to be developed will have to consider not only higher yields. There is also water utilization as a factor in the trends which are shaping agriculture. Population growth has been outpacing growth in irrigation facilities. This growing lack of resources in farming will have to be solved along with the issue of declining land available for agriculture either because of desertification or conversion to other land uses.
- Image: Harrow by Peng under CC-BY-SA 3.0