Researchers and scientists have created a map which shows how re-locating vast areas of farmland would help to cut carbon emissions in the long term. The researchers used global maps of the current areas of 25 major crops, such as wheat and barley, then followed by developing a mathematical model to analyse all the possible ways they could distribute the cropland across the globe.
On the map, the scientists highlighted areas where the worlds major food crops should be grown, in order to maximise yield and minimise environmental impact. Highlighted areas include the cornbelt in mid-western USA and below the Sahara desert, alongside large swathes of Europe and India that would be restored back to their natural habitat.
Using these re-adjustments would cut the carbon impact of global croplands by 71%, the equivalent of capturing 20 years worth of our current net CO2 emissions, if high-input, mechanised farming was installed. Much of this would be thanks to habitats being restored to their natural, forested state, allowing trees to capture much of the carbon.
In a completely optimised scenario, the impact of crop production on the world’s biodiversity would be reduced by 87%, drastically reducing the risk of extinction for many species.
Other benefits would include increased biodiversity and reducing the agricultural use of freshwater to zero, due to the fact crops would be grown specifically in areas where rainfall would satisfy the watering needs. As a result this would also solve the problem of many freshwater shortages around the world, as agricultural farming is responsible for around 70% of freshwater use globally.
Currently, the most realistic option is to relocate the worst-offending 25% of croplands, which would still surprisingly result in half of the benefits of moving 100% of the croplands.
If optimised, we could begin to see the results by the end of the century.