As the world population is growing and prosperity is increasing, new ways to accommodate the growing demand for food and animal products are explored. An underexposed possibility is to investigate the potential role of marginal grasslands in global food production.
Grasslands contribute in a major fashion to global food production by providing forage for ruminants, which produce animal-source food for human consumption. As the world population is growing and prosperity is increasing, new ways to accommodate the growing demand for food and animal products are explored. An underexposed possibility is to investigate the potential role of marginal grasslands in global food production.
In this study the potential contribution of marginal grasslands to food security was investigated. This was done by executing a literature review to determine the extent of global grasslands (51.4-51.6 million km²) and classifying them according to their natural biomes and production level. This generated the amount of marginal grasslands, which is 35.85 million km². Then the share of pasture within global and marginal grasslands was estimated, which led to a range of marginal grasslands that are currently unused and undisturbed by human interference: 13.9-17.4 million km².
The potential production of these unused grasslands was assessed by the development of four pathways. It was assumed that the unused grasslands could be converted into livestock grazing systems which have a certain productivity. The data on this productivity was provided by two different publications. For the first two pathways the food production in terms of animal protein was calculated using the productivity of the livestock production systems per hectare. For the last two pathways the food production was assessed by estimating the biomass production of the unused marginal grasslands and converting this into animal protein. The results of the pathways were expressed in animal protein, kcalories and in the number of people that can potentially be fed by marginal grasslands.
The results of the pathways were very divergent, which resulted in two scenario’s. It is possible that the contribution of marginal grasslands to food security is negligible (16.3-20.3 million people can be fed). However marginal grasslands can contribute to local food security. The other scenario seems very promising concerning global food security: 0.8-1.7 billion people can be fed. To assess which scenario is more likely to hold true, more research on the production of marginal grasslands is necessary.
Student: GE Kaptijn
Supervisor: dr R Ripoll Bosch