Nav: Home

Economic rewards of better land management: Estimated 2.3 billion tons of crops worth $1.4 trillion

September 24, 2013

Adopting proven sustainable land management practices could raise world crop supplies by an estimated 2.3 billion tonnes, worth $1.4 trillion, experts say in a study being released at a major global desertification conference.

Conducted by the international Economics of Land Degradation initiative, the scientific interim report says land's economic value "is chronically undervalued and commonly determined by immediate agricultural or forestry market values."

"This focus on short-term gain motivates the highest extraction rates possible from land, leading to unsustainable land management and degradation (the reduction or loss in biological or economic productivity)."

The study highlights the need for a "total economic approach" to tackling global land degradation, "a serious global problem" exacerbated by decreasing crop yields and a fast-growing human population.

The value of benefits far outweigh the cost of prevention and remediation in most situations, according to the study, and valuing land and related ecosystem services is both urgent and necessary to focus attention on a rising world crisis.

Issued at the 11th session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Windhoek, Namibia (Sept. 16-27), the study says 10 to 20% of drylands and 24% of the world's usable lands are degraded, resulting in estimated economic losses of US $40 billion per year.

And the problem affects in particular the world's 1.2 billion rural poor - those who depend directly upon the land for sustenance and income.

For the 2 billion people living in drylands, annual global losses of arable land can amount to 8 to 10 million hectares per year -- an area roughly the size of Austria.

Land degradation "is mainly the result of land mismanagement, drought related-famines, and misperceptions of plentiful food production, large food stocks in Europe, open land frontiers, relatively cheap subsidized food, low land prices, and abundant energy and water resources," according to the study.

By 2050, an increase of at least 70 to 100% in food production from existing land resources may be needed, the study warns.

"If agricultural land productivity remains at its current levels, an estimated 6 million hectares of land (roughly the area of Norway) would need to be converted to agricultural production every year until at least 2030 to satisfy this growing demand."

A combination of rising land prices since 2007 / 2008 and "the proliferating rush of foreign investors seeking to buy or lease land is a signal that the world is waking up to threats from land degradation and closing frontiers. Despite this interest, levels of investment in land remain far below those needed to meet the rising demands for food and land-related services. Agricultural investments to the order of US $30 billion per year are needed to feed our growing global population."

The study details, with examples, a method of calculating the competing economic values of alternative land uses.

"By providing the scientific community, governments, and the private sector with a scalable, adaptable toolbox for total economic valuations, the initiative is intended to help prevent and/or reversal land degradation globally," says lead author Richard J. Thomas, Associate Director of the UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

The initiative "will also reduce social tensions arising from this issue, in recognition of the limits of finite resources. Sustainable land management can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits for the greater good on a long-term scale, and can be arrived at with the assistance of the tools and methodologies outlined in the report."

The study says that putting economic values as inclusive as possible "will allow for the clearest picture of land and land service values, and provide a foundational platform to guide land use, investment and equitable planning decisions that do not result in the further impoverishment of rural farmers or degradation of land."

Analyses included in the study reveal a lack of capacity in developing nations of Africa, Asia, Central and South America to research and implement their own solutions to land degradation, as well as global failures to promote sustainable land management among critically important local farmers and other stakeholders.

ELD's large database of case studies has been made available and further reports aimed at the scientific community, governments and the private sector are planned over the next two years.

In addition to Dr. Thomas, authorship of the report was led by Emmanuelle (Emma) Quillérou and Naomi Stewart of UNU-INWEH. Major contributors were Lucie Andeltova and Mark Schauer (ELD Secretariat at GIZ and the Germany Centre for Development Research), Stacey Noel (Stockholm Environment Institute), Edward Barbier (University of Wyoming) and Simone Quatrini (The Global Mechanism of the UNCCD).

Says Zafar Adeel, Director of UNU-INWEH: "International action on achieving sustainable land management and preventing massive land degradation can only be triggered when we know the cost of inaction. Land degradation today is largely a mismanagement problem, and one that needs to be fixed in a hurry given rising populations and slowing growth in crop yield. Sound economic valuations are thus an essential policy tool for the international community, and this study aims to provide precisely that."
-end-
The Economics of Land Degradation initiative (ELD)

ELD is dedicated to raising global awareness of the full economic potential of land and land services including market and non-market values (e.g., carbon sequestration, recreational values, nutrient cycling, etc.) and the costs of land degradation.

The ELD is focused on creating efficient and practical tools and methodologies to fully assess land's value and thus encourage sustainable land management.

Options to address land degradation include reforestation, afforestation, sustainable agricultural practices, and establishing alternative livelihoods such as eco-tourism. Potential economic tools include payments for ecosystem services, subsidies, taxes, voluntary payments for environmental conservation, and access to micro-finance and credit. Facilitating sustainable land management also requires using legal, social marketing, and policy tools.

ELD outputs will inform the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and its proposal for a new Sustainable Development Goal (to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015) of zero net land degradation.

The interim report builds on many earlier studies, and on ELD contributions to the conclusions and recommendations of the UNCCD Second Scientific Conference.

United Nations University

Related Agricultural Articles:

Parasitic nematodes that cause greatest agricultural damage abandoned sex
The nematode worms that cause the world's most devastating crop losses have given up on sexual reproduction and instead rely on their large, duplicated genomes to thrive in new environments.
Key priorities for agricultural microbiomes identified
A coordinated effort to understand plant microbiomes could boost plant health and agricultural productivity, according to a perspective piece in the open access journal PLOS Biology.
Key research priorities for agricultural microbiomes identified
A coordinated effort to understand plant microbiomes could boost plant health and agricultural productivity, according to a new Perspective publishing March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Posy Busby of Oregon State University in Corvallis and colleagues at eight other research institutions.
Agricultural robot may be 'game changer' for crop growers, breeders
A robot under development at the University of Illinois automates the labor-intensive process of crop phenotyping, enabling scientists to scan crops and match genetic data with the highest-yielding plants.
USDA invests $4.8 million in university agricultural programs
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 19 grants totaling $4,790,100 to support agricultural science programs at non-land-grant universities.
Pest control: Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels
Farmers looking to reduce reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other pest management tools may want to heed the advice of Cornell agricultural scientists: Let nature be nature -- to a degree.
More Washington state agricultural workers injured in hot weather
Warmer weather is linked to a rise in traumatic injuries for outdoor agricultural workers in a university and state Labor & Industry study that took place in central and eastern Washington state.
IU scientists discover 'supramolecule' that could help reduce nuclear, agricultural waste
A study from Indiana University published today in the German scientific journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition provides the first experimental proof for the existence of a chemical bond between two negatively charged molecules of bisulfate, or HSO4.
Making pesticide droplets less bouncy could cut agricultural runoff
By using a clever combination of two inexpensive additives to the spray, MIT researchers found they can drastically cut down on the amount of liquid that bounces off plants.
Hydraulic fracturing chemical spills on agricultural land need scrutiny
Hydraulic fracturing, a widely used method for extracting oil and gas from otherwise impenetrable shale and rock formations, involves not only underground injections composed mostly of water, but also a mixture of chemical additives.

Related Agricultural Reading:

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation
by Tradd Cotter (Author)

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage, or at least make use of, invasive species such as kudzu and water hyacinth and thereby reduce dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to develop a low-cost and easy-to-implement mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation in the wake of a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success? 

For more than twenty years, mycology expert Tradd Cotter has been pondering... View Details


Introduction to Agricultural Economics (7th Edition) (What's New in Trades & Technology)
by John B. Penson (Author), Oral Capps Jr. (Author), C. Parr Rosson III (Author), Richard T. Woodward (Author)

A systematic overview of the economic forces influencing the food and fiber industry .

Introduction to Agricultural Economics provides students with a systematic, building block introduction to the basic economic concepts and issues impacting the U.S. food and fiber industry today. Thorough coverage of microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, the role of government, and international trade policies allows readers to gain an understanding of domestic consumers and overseas markets. Each chapter offers extensive review... View Details


Agricultural and Agribusiness Law: An introduction for non-lawyers
by Theodore A. Feitshans (Author)

This introductory textbook provides an overview of the concepts necessary for an understanding of agricultural and agribusiness law. The text will help students of land-based industries with little or no legal background to appreciate and identify issues which may require referral or consultation with legal counsel.

Each concise chapter addresses a different legal issue that those employed in agriculture and agribusiness may face, and both federal law and representative examples of state law are included. In addition to traditional topics such as contracts, property law and... View Details


The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming
by Jean-Martin Fortier (Author), Severine Von Tscharner Fleming (Foreword), Marie Bilodeau (Foreword)

Les Jardins de la Grelinette is a micro-farm located in eastern Quebec, just north of the American border. Growing on just 1.5 acres, owners Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène feed more than two hundred families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to dozens of local establishments. The secret of their success is the low-tech, high-yield production methods they’ve developed by focusing on growing better rather than growing bigger, making their operation more lucrative and viable in the process.

The Market... View Details


Agricultural and Food Controversies: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by F. Bailey Norwood (Author), Pascal A. Oltenacu (Author), Michelle S. Calvo-Lorenzo (Author), Sarah Lancaster (Author)

The world is more interested in issues surrounding agricultural and food issues than ever before. Are pesticides safe? Should we choose locally grown food? Why do some people embrace new agricultural technologies while others steadfastly defend traditional farming methods? In the debates about organic food, genetically modified organisms, and farm animal welfare, it's not always clear what the scientific studies are actually telling us.

To understand these controversies and more, the authors of Agricultural and Food Controversies: What Everyone Needs to Know begin by... View Details


Introduction to Agricultural Economics (6th Edition)
by John B. Penson (Author), Oral Capps Jr. (Author), C. Parr Rosson III (Author), Richard T. Woodward (Author)

Introduction to Agricultural Economics, Sixth Edition, provides readers with a systematic introduction to the basic economic concepts and issues impacting the U.S. food and fiber industry and offers strong coverage of macroeconomic theory and international trade.

 

Teaching and Learning Experience:

Strong coverage of macroeconomics, the role of government, and international agricultural trade: The coverage of macroeconomics and agricultural... View Details


Agricultural Economics (3rd Edition)
by H. Evan Drummond Ph.D. (Author), John W. Goodwin (Author)

Agricultural Economics, Third Edition, offers a broad view of the food system, emphasizing the links between and among financial institutions, the macro economy, world markets, government programs, farms, agribusinesses, food marketing, and the environment. The text lays out the basic theory of microeconomics with numerous examples from the food and agricultural industries, while its coverage of macroeconomics emphasizes real world applications rather than pure theory. Addressing many topics lightly instead of one or two topics in depth, the text allows flexibility for instructors to... View Details


Economics of Agricultural Development: World Food Systems and Resource Use (Routledge Textbooks in Environmental and Agricultural Economics)
by George W. Norton (Author), Jeffrey Alwang (Author), William A. Masters (Author)

Economics of Agricultural Development examines the causes, severity, and effects of poverty, population growth, and malnutrition in developing countries. It discusses potential solutions to these problems, progress made in many countries in recent years, and the implications of globalization for agriculture, poverty, and the environment.

Topics covered in the book include:

• Means for utilizing agricultural surpluses to further overall economic development

• The sustainability of the natural resource environment

• Gender issues in relation to... View Details


Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics (Routledge Textbooks in Environmental and Agricultural Economics)
by James L. Novak (Author), James W. Pease (Author), Larry D. Sanders (Author)

Agricultural Policy in the US: Evolution and Economics traces the foundation of US agricultural policy from its colonial roots to the present, using economic concepts to analyze and interpret political and economic consequences. Ancient Roman food and agricultural reform, English Corn Law and other historic examples of agricultural policies are included to show that agricultural policy has a long history and has been found necessary for governance throughout history. Processes employed to develop US agricultural policies, the structure and function of government that develops and... View Details


Agricultural and Food Policy (6th Edition)
by Ronald D. Knutson (Author), J.B. L. Penn (Author), Barry L. Flinchbaugh (Author)

Drawing on the authors' background in education and policy development, Agricultural and Food Policy, Sixth Edition provides a comprehensive treatment of domestic and international policy setting, process, options and consequences. This book goes beyond the traditional discussion of farm programs, and gets readers thinking in broader terms, by considering the many forces—globalization, technology, food safety, environment—that influence policy change. Taking an unbiased approach, this edition includes more economic theory, a new chapter on government involvement, current... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Big Five
What are the five biggest global challenges we face right now — and what can we do about them? This hour, TED speakers explore some radical solutions to these enduring problems. Guests include geoengineer Tim Kruger, president of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, political scientist Ian Bremmer, global data analyst Sarah Menker, and historian Rutger Bregman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#457 Trowel Blazing
This week we look at some of the lesser known historical figures and current public perception of anthropology, archaeology, and other fields that end in "ology". Rebecca Wragg Sykes, an archaeologist, writer, and co-founder of the TrowelBlazers, tells us about the Raising Horizons project and how their team is trying to shine the spotlight on the forgotten historical women of archaeological, geological, and palaeontological science. And Kristina Killgrove, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida and science writer, talks about the public perception of the fields of anthropology and archeology, and how those science are represented -...