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World demand for farmland 'to decline'.

RESEARCHERS believe that "peak farmland" has been reached worldwide and that the amount of the Earth's surface used for agriculture is set to decline. Although the concept of peak farmland is associated with the point at which the earth will no longer be able to support its human population adequately, the scenario envisaged by the American researchers is actually a positive one.

Scientists from New York's Rockefeller University announced that an area twice the size of France may be able to return to a more natural state as increased yields and decelerated population growth reduce the burden on farmland.

Although United Nation figures show increased demand from the biofuel and livestock industries, twinned with the effects of climate change and shifting consumption patterns will increase pressure on farmland, the Rockefeller team suggest otherwise.

The researchers predict that 10% of the arable land currently in use could be returned to a more natural state by 2060.

Jesse Ausubel, director of the university's Program for the Human Environment and lead author of the Rockefeller study, said that improved yields, new technologies and innovation at farm level would ease pressure and free up land.

He based his assessments on figures from the rapidly growing economies of India and China.

The Rockefeller report also shows production of non-food crops, such as biofuels and bioenergy feedstocks, cotton and tobacco, is expected to outstrip increases in food production towards the middle of the century.

Mr Ausubel said, "Happily, the cause is not exhaustion of arable land, as many have feared, but rather moderation of population and tastes, and ingenuity of farmers."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 8, 2013
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