Knowledge for better food systems

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Just under 40% of the entire terrestrial surface of our planet is used for agriculture, the vast majority of this for pasture. The land area which can be defined as wilderness – areas where humans have little influence – accounts for around 20% of the total land area and this extent is diminishing. These wilderness areas are, however, vital for the continued existence of wildlife plant species, and ecosystem services. As human populations grow and their lifestyle and consumption patterns become more resource demanding, the pressure on land use is increasing, and the multiple uses we have for land are often in competition with one another. Different cultures define ownership and rights to use land in contrasting ways, making land not only a precious resource but often a focus of contention too.

14 February 2014

An analysis of 94 studies looking at land-use intensity and organic farming methods concludes that organic farming boosts biodiversity. The authors point out that even though research is currently biased towards developed countries (mostly UK and European climates) in temperate regions, organic farming is shown to increase the number of on farm species by around 34 percent.

6 February 2014

A growing imbalance between phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer use in Africa could lead to crop yield reductions of nearly 30% by 2050, according to a new study from researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

21 November 2013

The CDP Global Forests Report 2013, launched on 20 November 2013 provides an analysis of the global companies that responded to CDP’s 2013 forests information request on behalf of 184 investors with $13 trillion in assets. The report provides an insight into how companies are addressing their exposure to risks from the agricultural commodities responsible for most deforestation globally. 

26 September 2013

New evidence suggests that a chemical mechanism operating in the roots of a tropical grass used for livestock feed holds enormous promise for reducing the emission of nitrous oxide. N2O is the most harmful of the warming gases, with a global warming potential 296 times that of carbon dioxide. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the livestock sector accounts for 65 percent of the nitrous oxide emitted.

5 September 2013

This comprehensive European Commission (EC) study was launched in 2011 to assess the impact of EU consumption on forest loss at a global scale. The study assesses the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and provides a list of possible policy responses to create sustainable consumption.  

24 July 2013

A new study from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis IIAS considers whether it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture by producing more food on less land. It specifically focuses on the effects of crop yield and livestock feed efficiency scenarios on GHG emissions from agriculture and land use change in developing countries.

 Flickr: Creative commons licence 2.0, littleyiye "workshop"
2 July 2013

Following the release last year of the report on ‘Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture’ by the FCRN and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, around 30 experts in this field, from academic, governmental, NGO and industrial organisations, were asked to give their comments on the report.

24 June 2013

The debate on land sharing versus land sparing is ongoing and we addressed the issue somewhat in our Agroforestry interview a while back. This blog post by journalist and author Fred Pearce highlights some of the recent years’ debate and presents evidence from various parts of the world, either in favor of sparing or sharing land.

7 May 2013

According to a recent report by Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, led by EcoAgriculture Partners, the food and beverage sectors are at the highest risk from “sustainability megaforces” – such as water scarcity and population growth among others—but are least prepared to manage that risk. This report argues that when sourcing areas are threatened by a constellation of risks that cannot be mitigated solely on-farm or via supply chain programs, landscape approaches offer solutions.

11 March 2013

This report says that Europe’s high consumption levels of products such as meat, dairy and textiles that require large areas of land, mean that Europe’s 'land footprint' remains one of the largest in the world. The report finds that the EU is importing the equivalent of 1,212,050 square kilometres to meet its demand for food.

25 February 2013

At the University of Gothenburg in Sweden a new Land Rights Research Initiative (LARRI) was launched in late 2012. The research initiative aims at creating a platform for discussion, exchange of ideas and information as well as for promoting collaboration among researchers, students and other actors interested in land rights issues from a poverty and development perspective in a context of global change.

11 February 2013

Europe’s land footprint is 640 million hectares a year – an area equivalent to 1.5 times the size of Europe itself. This is the land required to make everything that we consume, from food to material products to fuel.

29 January 2013

A study published in the journal Small Ruminant Research notes that many breeds of goat are at great risk of disappearing. A study from the Regional Service of Agro-Food Research and Development (SERIDA) analysed the global situation - the state of different breeds, the multiple implications of their conservation, their interaction with other animal species, and the consequences of goat grazing from an environmental viewpoint. The authors found that the biggest loss in the genetic resources of indigenous goats has been observed in Europe.
 

7 January 2013

The Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University has released a report suggesting that farmland useage might have peaked and the land required for agriculture will start to shrink. The authors predict that in the next half-century, a geographical area more than twice the size of France will return to its natural state from farmland. The Rockefeller researchers say factors such as slower population growth, declines in deforestation, and improved agricultural yields have spared the “unimaginable destruction of nature.”

19 November 2012

Scientists at Technische Universität München (TUM) have come up with a new land development concept tailored to medium-sized farms in South America that sees farmers transitioning from large-scale monoculture to more diverse crop mixtures spread over smaller plots interspersed with wooded areas. Their study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, evaluated the economic viability of this model, based on a typical medium-sized agricultural holding, and found that although costs are higher in the beginning as a result of reforestation, the combination of woodland management and smaller plots of land pays off in the long term.

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