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Special journal issue “Feeding 9 billion by 2050: challenges and opportunities”

16/04/2015 2 comments

In its April edition, the journal ‘Food Security’ presents a series of papers presented at an OECD meeting on “Feeding 9 billion by 2050: challenges and opportunities”.

The articles cover a range of topics related to future food security, ranging from general outlooks over the debate of sustainable intensification to water, the role of fish, or the impact of soil degradation.

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Using GAMS, R and LaTeX

I just came across an interesting post by Renger van Nieuwkoop on The Lazy Economist, where he writes about how to use R to produce tables from GAMS model output for use in LaTeX.

Very nice and very useful, indeed!

 

A new climate for farming

In a new web special A New Climate For Farming Nature Climate Change presents a collection of articles and opinion pieces that deal with the various aspects of agriculture and climate change:

Climate change fundamentally alters the way that farmers need to plan and manage their operations. This is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting growing demand for food, fuel and fibre. This is a grand challenge for farmers and has the potential to touch the lives of everyone that uses farmed produce; in short, all of us. In this focus, Nature Climate Change presents a variety of original research and opinion pieces that highlight important themes in our understanding of the effects of climate change on agriculture, agriculture’s influence on the climate and our capacity to adapt to better face these challenges.

Rather very far foresight

This blog is about foresight. And here is a nice site on foresight of the more ambitious kind: Centauri Dreams – Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration.

Thinking in the long run, Earth may be hit by a asteroide of the size that wiped out the dinosaurs approximately every 100 million years (at least according to that not so well documented source I just found). For this reason alone, not to speak about any other adverse factors that might put the survival of our human race into jeopardy, moving out to other planets might be a reasonable strategy of risk diversification. We might be well advised to dedicate at least a little bit of time to reflecting about these issues.

Or, to say it with the blog:

Ultimately, the challenge may be as much philosophical as technological: to reassert the value of the long haul in a time of jittery short-term thinking.

 

Interfacing GAMS and R

GAMS is perhaps THE programming language for developing and running optimization models. R is an excellent and efficient tool for analysing data, including producing attractive graphs.

A tool for combining the two is provided with GDXRRW. GDXRRW acts as an interface between GAMS and R and offers facilities for the transfer of data between GDX and R and a function to call GAMS from within R.

A presentation by Dirkse et al. gives an introduction to the use of GDXRRW.

 

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Graph of the year 2013: Proportion of calories delivered as food

Although already well into 2014, here is my personal “Graph of the Year 2013”: The proportion of produced calories that are delivered to the food system.

CalorieDeliveryFraction

Source: Cassidy et al., Environm. Res. Lett. 8 (2013) 034015

The figure is one output of a study carried out by Emily Cassidy and colleagues of the University of Minnesota that was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers approach the challenge to provide sufficient amounts of food amidst global population growth, increased biofuel production and changing dietary preferences from a different angle than is widely done. Instead of estimating the increases in farm prodution necessary to satisfy the rising needs for agricultural products they analyze the current allocation of the world’s crop production to different uses.

According to the study, only 55% of global calorie production is directly used for human consumption. The remaining 45% serve either as animal feed or other uses such as industrial purposes and biofuels. In consequence, 41% of all calories produced are lost from the global food system. While the crops grown on one hectare could satisfy the caloric needs of 10 people, currently only 6 people are fed.

The graph gives a global overview of the fraction of the calories delivered to the food system per calories produced.  It shows that the losses from the food system are highest where livestock production, industrial uses and biofuels production are of a high importance. These are mainly the most affluent regions (e.g. North America, Europe), but also the regions in which agriculture is oriented at the production of animal feed for the global market (e.g. Eastern South America).

The arguably most important conclusion from the analysis is that if the crop calories used for feed and other uses were shifted to direct human consumption, up to around 4 billion more people could be fed. Or, perhaps easier to achieve, already small changes in the allocation of crops to animal feed and biofuels could significantly increase global food availability.

 

Why blogging helps improving your research productivity

Expiscor blogger Christopher Buddle found a positive correlation between his blogging activity and his research outputs, which let him to explore three potential reasons why blogging could help research productivity. Here, in a nutshell, are the reasons:

  1. The continous practice of writing texts allows you to write better and faster.
  2. Blogging allows expanding knowledge, also and in particular in fields which are not in one’s direct area of expertise. This, in turn, has various positive effects on research productivity (for learning which, just see the original post).
  3. Through blogging and the use of other social media, one becomes better connected to the community of researchers.

Definitely, all three reasons are true. And beyond this, blogging is also fun!