STUDY: We’ve Reached Peak Farmland, And That’s A Good Thing

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Researchers at Rockefeller University believe that the world has reached “peak farmland” — that we’re using more land for agriculture now than we ever will in the future.The idea of ‘peak farmland’ generally carries a negative connotation, as it is associated with the Malthusian notion of being unable to adequately feed an ever-growing population.

But this finding is actually a net positive.

The study’s principal author, Jesse Ausubel, claims that by 2060, an area 2.5 times the size of France will be no longer be used for agriculture and be returned to nature.

The study cites three major reasons why we’ll be reducing the amount of land used for agricultural purposes:

  • Population growth is slowing;
  • Meat consumption is rising at only half the rate of overall wealth; and
  • Improved yields — for corn, annual increases of 1.7 per cent until 2060

The report makes assumptions regarding “rising crop yields, slowing population growth, a relatively slow rise in the use of crops to produce biofuels, moderate rises in meat consumption – that could all skew the outcome if wrong.”

These findings directly contradict a report issued by the U.N’s Food and Agricultural Outlook in June, which claims that about half the amount of land Ausubel thinks will be returned to natural conditions will actually need to be added to make up for soil degradation and population increases.

Read the full report at Rockefeller University.