Redrawing the global map of crop distribution on existing farmland could help meet growing demand for food and biofuels in coming decades, while significantly reducing water stress in agricultural areas, according to a new study. Published today in Nature Geoscience, the study is the first to attempt to address both food production needs and resource sustainability simultaneously and at a global scale.
The results show that “there are a lot of places where there are inefficiencies in water use and nutrient production,” says lead author Kyle Davis, a postdoctoral researcher with Columbia University‘s Earth Institute. Those inefficiencies could be fixed, he says, by swapping in crops that have greater nutritional quality and lower environmental impact.
Abandoned sugarcane plantations across the tropics could offer us a realistic, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
Ethanol produced from sugarcane has been one of the most successful short-term strategies to date in decarbonising energy supply, particularly in Brazil where the sugarcane ethanol system results in just 14% of the CO2 emissions of petroleum. In 2012 Brazil became the first country in which more bioethanol was used in cars than petroleum.