Feeding the people - now and in the future

How will we feed two billion more people? MSU Extension is helping to address this growing problem.

We will need to feed an additional two billion people by 2050. Our current population is more than seven billion and growing at an astonishing rate, projected to exceed nine billion by 2050. More people will equate to more demand for resources, including land, water, food, energy, goods and services. So how are we going to feed these additional people when we currently have populations facing malnourishment now? We need better production on our limited soil and greater development of unproductive soil. Applying the latest farming techniques and adaptive skills will increase our ability to meet those needs.

Much of the development and population growth will take place in developing countries and most of these areas have small to medium-sized farms. Helping to sustain small to medium-scale farming and using best practices may be one of the keys to success for these underserved areas. Through many years practicing small-scale farming right here in Michigan, Michigan State University Extension has gained knowledge and skills in this critical area. As a result, MSU Extension has programs in farm management, field crops and aquaculture that can help to address this need.

As we expand our agricultural production, it will create an increased need for energy sources. Fortunately, the agriculture sector itself is growing in this area as a result of the bioeconomy. Leading MSU Extension experts such as Dennis Pennington are leading the field in this area, offering insight on the latest trends and challenges related to bioenergy. In addition, MSU Extension experts are providing innovative ideas in this area that can be both applied at home to maximize our own resources or be adapted for use in developing countries.

These energy and food needs are not the only issues being addressed by MSU Extension. Extension is reaching out in other ways through the 4-H Global Network. Through its 4-H programs, MSU Extension is training the next generation of farmers and entrepreneurs to help meet these needs today and in the future. By working together and learning from one another, this global problem could have a homegrown solution.

As we address the production of food in number of ways, there is another critical area of concern: malnourishment. Through its food and health programs, MSU Extension is helping to solve this problem as well by addressing malnutrition in our local communities. Although the factors may not be the same in developing nations, the education can be a base for future development.

Feeding the future will be a major issue and there are many aspects that will influence it. The key will be to attack it with sound educational programs that address all of the factors. By taking experience and education from the local stage to the world stage, MSU Extension can help. Please contact MSU Extension to identify an expert in your field of interest.

This is the second article in a six part series about Extension for the future. Stay tuned for the next article, which will address ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and drones. Other articles in this series include: Obesity in America: Unhealthy generations to come and Climate change and its effects on natural resources.

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