Rice is a staple crop on which initial focus is recommended. It uses a lot of water, which will become even more scarce than it is now, Dr. Dijkhuizen adds, and intense research is underway worldwide on breeds of rice that use less water and produce more food.
Better predicting the supplies of various crops produced both regionally and worldwide in a given season will enlighten forecasts of prices associated with them and help farmers, consumers and governments prepare for unexpected -- sometimes catastrophic -- changes in prices.
Dr. Dijkhuizen says the FAO is embarked on creation of a global database designed to serve this purpose.
Oversupplies of just 1% of a given crop often upend global market price by as much as 5 to 7%. When a given crop is plentiful, people don't eat more of it immediately, he notes, causing price drops and losses to farmers and industry. Conversely, when there are shortages, competition forces up the price of food commodities people want.
Evolving technologies that improve forecasts of heat, precipitation and other local weather conditions, and sensors that can measure a field's soil fertility levels, all offer important information for decisions about how much pesticides and fertilizer are needed for crop success.
"These technologies are becoming so cheap and accessible, they are available for small scale farming as well as for industrial-sized farms," says Dr. Dijkhuizen.
The Netherlands is relatively small in territory, he notes, but has become the world's second largest food exporter due in part to enormous investments in advanced systems such as greenhouse facilities with regulated temperatures and precise water and fertilizer conditions. In such circumstances, up to 20 times more produce results compared with traditional outdoor crop systems, and with less than half the fertilizer input.
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Malaysian Industry‑Government Group for High Technology