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Sustainable irrigation can feed billions, make agriculture resilient to climate change


Photo depicting irrigation strategies. Credit: Public domain images from Unsplash As climate change shifts precipitation patterns, irrigation can be a powerful tool for increasing the world’s food supply—feeding more than a billion additional people without converting natural spaces into farmland, according to a new study by Carnegie’s Lorenzo Rosa published in Environmental Research Letters .

“Population trends indicate that we will need to double global food production by 2050,” Rosa explained. “To accomplish this, we will either need to clear more land or farm more efficiently, despite the increased stresses of a warming world.”

Converting undeveloped land into farms exacerbates climate change and decreases biodiversity. But low crop yields in existing farmland can be improved by modern technology.

“However, it’s crucial to evaluate these intervention strategies to see which ones will lead to the greatest increase in food production and the lowest environmental impact,” Rosa said.

Currently, two-thirds of the world’s crops are limited by rainfall. Climate change is expected to both shift precipitation patterns and increase heat stress on plants, meaning that relying on rain alone will not keep up with the increased demand for food.

One strategy for improving the productivity of farmland is irrigation. Studies show that irrigated crops are twice […]

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