MILAN – Better water management in agriculture could reduce the global food gap by 2050 and cushion some of the effects of climate change that are harmful to crops. For the first time, scientists of the Potsdam Institute have systematically studied the world’s potential to produce more food with the same amount of water, by optimizing the use of rainwater and irrigation. Investing in water management of crops could substantially reduce hunger and at the same time help the growth of the population. However, putting these results into practice requires specific solutions at a local level, which remains a major challenge.
Intelligent use of water
“The intelligent use of water can increase agricultural production and we were surprised by the effects that it could have globally,” explained Jonas Jägermeyr, one of the authors of the study carried out by the Potsdam Institute, specialized in research on the impact of climate. In a scenario of water management that scientists call ambitious, food production on a global scale could increase by 40 per cent while, according to UN estimates, an increase of about 80 per cent would be necessary to eliminate hunger by 2050. But also in less ambitious scenarios, the results show that the integrated management of water for crops could make a vital contribution to support the poorest populations. “Water management to combat malnutrition is a largely underestimated approach,” concluded Jägermeyr.
The potential increase in yields in China, Mexico and Australia
Scientists have carried out simulations, limiting the analysis by not increasing cultivation in forests or using more water resources than necessary. Given that this is a study on a global scale it certainly did not highlight cultivation conditions, but has helped to identify regional hotspots. Specifically and paradoxically, an increase in agricultural yield due to more efficient water management can occur in countries where water shortage is acute such as China, Australia, the western United States, Mexico and South Africa.
by Alessandro Michielli