Report Synopsis

Integrated Crop Management as a Sustainable Future for Global Agriculture

Philip Weller

The world population is estimated to be 9.7 billion by 2050 and will require a 60 to 70% increase in food production. The majority of the world’s population is going to increase in Africa (41%) and Asia (49%). These numbers are a stark warning that agriculture in the very near future will need to take into account the change in dietary requirements, the increase in competition for biomass from biofuels, and the increase in urbanisation, which will all apply pressure on current agricultural production. Of the 1,500 million hectares of arable land globally, around one-third has been threatened by erosion, seawater, and pollutants, degrading soil health and biological productivity.

Globally, agriculture takes a consumptive approach, where more resources are used than are replaced with each crop, resulting in a gradual degradation of the land. Productivity on these farms is not sustainable and thus diminishes over time with the land remaining productive only in the short term. The following are normally associated with these approaches to farming:

  • Use of technology to increase yields and mask soil degradation;
  • lack of emphasis on the soil microbiome;
  • over-use of agricultural crop protection chemicals leading to resistance; and
  • over-use of inorganic fertilisers leading to problems such as acidification.

Integrated Crop Management (ICM) is a pragmatic approach to agriculture that resolves these issues, whilst also offering a holistic approach to crop management, which involves the integration of the following:

  • Site selection;
  • soil health;
  • regenerative agriculture;
  • water management;
  • crop rotation;
  • crop nutrition;
  • environment, energy, and waste management; and
  • crop protection.

ICM embraces a philosophy of ‘working with nature’ as opposed to ‘working against nature’ and is the future of sustainable, profitable agriculture, offering an attainable way of preparing for the challenges of an increased population. This report serves to outline the premise of ICM and provides examples of its potential.

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