Happy World Food Day 2019: Can CO2 Help Grow More Food and Reduce Land Use?

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

World Food Day was on October 16, 2019.

As our population continues to grow at a rate of about 1% a year, or nearly 80 million more living people per year, food security is becoming a major concern. You may look at the 1% number and think, “well we only need to increase food production by 1% a year to keep up with population growth.” However, as you likely are aware, there are many on Earth who eat very little, not out of choice. According to the Food Aid Foundation one in seven people are underfed and undernourished. From this perspective, food production would need to increase by about 15% in these parts of the world in order to provide sufficient nutrition to these people and then increase by a further 1% per year in order to keep up with the net population growth. This means more land will be required to grow more food.

According to the USGS global cropland is approximately 4.62 billion acres. According to the site: “Croplands make up more than 80 percent of Moldova, San Marino and Hungary; between 70 and 80 percent of Denmark, Ukraine, Ireland and Bangladesh; and 60 to 70 percent of the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Lithuania, Poland, Gaza Strip, Czech Republic, Italy and India. For comparison, the United States and China each have 18 percent croplands.” Globally, cropland makes up approximately 12.5% of the Earth’s land mass - Earth’s land mass is approximately 37 billion acres. India, the US, China and Russia account for one third of the global cropland with 1.62 billion acres. 

There are over 415 million acres of cropland in the US which equates to approximately 1.25 acres of cropland required to make sufficient food per person - assuming the same 1.25 acres is used to grow food for the lifespan of a person living in the US (this figure does not factor imports or exports of crops). India and China on the other hand, two rapidly growing economies and populations, have only 0.35 acres of cropland per person. 

Focusing on China and India as proxies for the developing world and the US as a proxy for the developed world, developing countries would require up to 3.5 times more crop land per person based on their populations to become on par with food production in the developed world. This would mean if every person in the world had the same food security as a citizen in the developed world, we would require about 9.6 billion acres or double the current cropland. That’s an increase from 12.5% of the Earth’s land mass to 26%, just to grow crops!

Yields have improved but there is room for improvement.

Crop yields have increased significantly over the past 30 to 40 years and continue to increase with better agricultural technologies, therefore requiring less and less cropland per person. However, the reality is the world will likely require doubling the amount of cropland use in order to adequately feed the world’s population with sufficient amounts of nutritious crops.

Supplementing crops with CO2 is one method of increasing yield since CO2 is a basic input for photosynthesis. CO2 supplementation is done by increasing the level of CO2 in the air. Indoor grow facilities can pump CO2 gas into the grow rooms to increase the amount of CO2 in the air from 400 parts per million (ppm) to 800-1600 ppm. This practice has been done for decades and has resulted in increased yields and faster growth of 30% on average.

However, indoor grow facilities are few and most crops are grown in greenhouses and outdoor farms. Greenhouses account for only 50 billion square feet globally (1.15 million acres) or 0.025% of total global cropland. 80% of greenhouses cannot gas CO2 in the facility since venting allows the CO2 gas to escape. Of course, outdoor farms cannot pump CO2 gas into the air either.

Imagine if the world’s four and a half billion acres of outdoor cropland could increase their yield by over 30% simply by adding CO2. We could theoretically save 30% of the additional cropland required over the coming decades to feed people. That’s approximately one and a half billion acres or 4% of the Earth’s land mass that could be kept untouched and natural. 

How then can we supplement CO2 for plants grown in warm climate greenhouses and outdoor farms?

CO2 Gro Inc.'s patented CO2 Delivery Solutions enables growers in warm climate greenhouses and outdoor farms to supplement their plants with CO2, so growers everywhere can get more yield, bigger plants and faster growth - which means less land use to produce more food. 

How is this done? CO2 Delivery Solutions' creates an aqueous CO2 solution that is applied to the plant's foliage.  The plants easily absorb the CO2 in the solution within seconds. The plant can now use that added CO2 to grow bigger, faster and use less land to produce more food.

CO2 Delivery Solutions is helping plants grow more in less land while increasing a grower's profitability without harm to people or the planet. For more information on how CO2 Delivery Solutions works, watch this video or visit co2delivery.ca

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