Technology is key for farmers to meet the needs of a hungry world

It?s hard to believe one billion people?almost 20 percent of the world?s population?are hungry. I?m not talking about people who miss a meal a day, but those who are chronically malnourished.

At the same time, the world?s population is exploding. Some say the greatest growth in the history of our world is underway.

It?s estimated 3 billion more people will be born during the next 40 years. This would increase the world?s population to 9 billion people. Most of these people will be born in the hungry parts of the world.

As a result, pressure on the world?s economic and natural resources for food will become intense. Such demand for food will mean opportunity for farming and ranching. It will also become critical for public/private enterprise to ramp up food production.

While some would label technology as the No.1 environmental enemy, food producers, including farmers and ranchers, view technology as the application of knowledge.

As humans, we survive by adapting the environment to our needs. Take away technology and humans would be just like other primates?confined to tropical regions and subject to extinction due to environmental changes. To survive, mankind has changed the environment while conserving resources and continually creating new ones.

Resources are made, not born. Land, ores, petroleum?the raw materials of our planet?are not inherent resources. They do not inherently further human purposes.

Man determines what is useful and how to use it. Topsoil becomes a resource when a farmer tills the soil and plants wheat seed, for example. Ores become resources when metals are extracted from them.

During the past two centuries, technology has been creating resources more rapidly than humans have been consuming them. By every measure of price and availability, resources have become more abundant.

Without science and technology, today?s farmers and ranchers would be unable to feed the masses outside of our agricultural industry. Farmers use technology responsibly. They constantly use new farming methods and practices by attending training sessions and courses.

But new farm technology is expensive. It is in the best interest of farmers to use it carefully and sparingly. Misuse would add to the cost of production, which would result in an even lower return on their investment.

When new advances in biotechnology are discovered, farmers must abide by stringent testing and monitoring practices that ensure only safe products in the marketplace.

The idea that ?we?re tinkering with nature? goes back at least 50 years. It?s the same argument that surrounded the adoption of hybrid seeds. Genetic selection in seeds has been occurring since the beginning of time. Tens of thousands of genes have been bred into or out of plants. By definition, agriculture is man affecting the natural order to produce better and more food.

Hybrid seeds have allowed for greater cereal crop production. Without such advancements, it?s estimated that an area the size of Western Europe would have to be added to crop production.

Without new science and new technology, where is the new grain going to come from? Are we going to farm more land? Are we going to take down Salina, Manhattan, Wichita or Kansas City? Where is this additional land going to come from?

There won?t be more farmable land. Additional food to feed the world?s hungry mouths will come from greater productivity per acre.

Farmers, ranchers and agriculture live for such opportunities. It?s why they farm and ranch.

So, whether you?re a producer from Kansas or anywhere else, that means you will be able to bring tremendous value to the table, no pun intended.

Today?s farmers must be ready to produce more than they ever have before. They must be ready to make the right decisions. They must be ready to sell their crops at the best time to make the most profit.

A bright future awaits some in agriculture. It will boil down to circumstances and opportunities. Those with vision, who seize these opportunities and see a future, will flourish.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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