15 Oct 2006

Why is Ecological Intensification Important?

Why is EI important?

World population is expected to increase from the current 6.5 billion to over 9 billion by 2050. This represents an approximate 40% increase in just over 40 years. An obvious question is “where will we get the needed food, fiber, and fuel for all these additional people”? Another question that arises is “how much impact will this have on environmental quality?” The answer to these questions can at least partly be found in the concept and practice of ecological intensification (EI) of cropping systems. The following points generally address why EI is important to the future of world agriculture.

EI seeks to increase yield per unit of land and approach the “attainable yield” of farming systems. These yield increases will be needed to feed the rapidly expanding population, and in turn will reduce the need to break-out new land for production.

Marginal and erodible areas that might otherwise be put into production can be left in native conditions, resulting in a lower potential for soil erosion by wind and water and less negative environmental impact.

This also leaves more land available for wildlife habitat, recreation, and other purposes. Of course, as population increases these non-agricultural land uses will be in greater demand.

Also, the greater residue biomass that comes with higher yields results in increased C sequestration. That means reduced emission of CO2, an important greenhouse gas.

More crop residue also generally results in environmental benefits such as reduced water, sediment, and nutrient runoff, and reduced wind erosion. This ultimately has the potential to positively impact water and air quality.

Agriculture will increasingly be looked to for energy production. This will put more demands and strain on production systems. The adoption of EI will be important in effectively meeting this growing demand.