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Crop Production: The Animals or Us?

30 December 2013

GLOBAL - Projections of population and diet to 2050 indicate that more crops will be fed to animals than humans in twenty years time.

A new report has concluded that global agriculture will have to produce more crops simply to meet expanding livestock sector demand as feed consumption increases 1.8-2.3 times.

Potentially, this could mean livestock, currently using 40 per cent of crops, would be consuming more than current global crop output even before human consumption is considered.

The figures appear in a joint paper by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the University of Potsdam in Germany.

Experts predict livestock’s share of crop consumption to rise to 48-55 per cent.

The study, led by Dr Prajal Pradhan, a researcher at the institute, calculated spatial distribution of food calories finding that, on average, three quarters of embodied crop energy is lost by animals.

He told environmental research web that, in severe cases, the amount of crop calories can be as high as 10 kcal to generate one kcal of meat.

The paper stressed the issue was complex, with huge variation in current crop usage, food demand and future changes.

Global livestock feed usage centres around Europe and Eastern China. Other major areas are eastern US, the Mid West and central southern Canada.

Livestock feed is of strategic importance in how efficient systems are at producing food. Some regions heavily use by-products or stovers as a primary feed source, another report detailed this week.

Future regional fortunes were predicted. South East Asia, Western Asia and Africa, barring South Africa, will fall into a crop deficit, the report stated.

The revelations have led to a call to lower demand for dairy and meat products, suggesting diet is easier to alter than curbing population expansion.

However, the rising popularity of dairy in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia is being embraced by established dairying nations.

Ireland and Scotland have both targeted a 50 per cent rise in milk production by 2025 and 2050 respectively.

Meanwhile, dairy farming organisations are gearing up for production after quota removal on March 31 2015.

This will reduce the regulation of milk being produced, with analysts also predicting a rise in cattle numbers, milk yield per cow and acres given way to dairying.

TheCropSite News Desk

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