(This post was originally published on Forbes on 8/17/22)
Humanity depends on the agriculture sector to produce our food, feed, and fiber, and that demand continues to grow. Increasingly we look to crops as more climate-friendly sources for fuels, plastics and other “bio-materials.” The challenge is to fulfill this diverse and expanding demand without driving land-use-change (LUC)- the conversion of previously uncultivated lands to farms. LUC leads to the loss of biodiversity and a massive release carbon dioxide from those soils. Through the refinement of farming practices and the use of new technologies, the productivity of many major crops has been steadily increasing (see graphs below), but climate change may compromise that trend.
|The per acre yield of major US crops has been increasing for decades (Graphs by author based on USDA-NASS Quickstats data)|
There is another way to expand crop production without adding new land - a farming method known as “double cropping.” In temperate climates there is normally one crop harvested from each acre each year. Double cropping involves pairing two crops that can be grown in back-to-back periods on the same parcel of land in the same growing season. For instance Winter Wheat is often double cropped with soybeans in states like Kentucky and Ohio.
|A field of Camelina in bloom (image from Yield10 Bio)|
|Camelina does not require bees for pollination, but it is a very attractive to bees and other pollinators|