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How could global food production collapse?

Industrialized agriculture relies heavily on external inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, machinery, seeds and animal feed. A new study published in Natural food predicted how much yield would be lost due to “input shocks” that would disrupt these supplies. “Very little is known about the large-scale impact of agricultural input shocks on agricultural yields and food availability. We used machine learning and spatially gridded datasets to model, for the first time, impacts on a global scale in high resolution,” explains lead author of the study, Aino Ahvo.

  • Researchers from Aalto University examined the effect of different input shocks on the yield of various crops around the world at a resolution of around 10 km.
  • Expected yield loss differs between regions and crops. Areas with the highest current yield would see the greatest reduction. The analysis projects significant declines in many important agricultural regions, such as the United States, Argentina, Western Europe and Southern Africa, as well as parts of China and Thailand.
  • A 50% shock to all inputs would reduce global corn production by 26% and wheat production by 21%. The most disruptive individual shock would be a reduction in fertilizer supply, which would significantly reduce yield. In fact, a shock in fertilizer supply would reduce the yield of most crops as much as a shock in overall inputs.
  • This analysis can help us prepare not only for unexpected disruptions (e.g. COVID, war-related sanctions in Ukraine, or the Suez Canal blockage), but also for the transition to a green future, which will require reductions in inputs such as fertilizers and waste. pesticides.
  • Two of the authors, Vilma Sandstrom and Mika Jalava, will present their work on sustainable food solutions on December 10 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai (COP28). They will discuss how food production can be sustainably adapted to meet the needs of a growing population and the risks to avoid.

“In these times of global unrest, identifying high-risk areas where yield losses are greatest is crucial to global food security. Areas most at risk should look for ways to reduce their dependence on imported inputs to mitigate the effects of potential trade shocks on food production. For example, they could replace synthetic fertilizers with more sustainable and local organic fertilizers,” explains Mika Jalava.

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