Farming and the Geography of Nutrient Production for Human Use

M. Herrero, P. K. Thornton, B. Power, J. Bogard, R. Remans, S. Fritz, J. Gerber, G. C. Nelson, L. See, K. Waha, R. A. Watson, P. West, L. Samberg, J. van de Steeg, E. Stephenson, M. van Wijk, P. Havlik, (2017). Lancet Planetary Health 1, e33–42.

Global Fisheries; nutrition; biodiversity

Globally, small and medium farms (²50 ha) produce 51–77% of nearly all commodities and nutrients examined here. However, important regional differences exist. Large farms (>50 ha) dominate production in North America, South America, and Australia and New Zealand. In these regions, large farms contribute between 75% and 100% of all cereal, livestock, and fruit production, and the pattern is similar for other commodity groups. By contrast, small farms (²20 ha) produce more than 75% of most food commodities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and China. In Europe, West Asia and North Africa, and Central America, medium-size farms (20–50 ha) also contribute substantially to the production of most food commodities. Very small farms (²2 ha) are important and have local significance in Sub- Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, where they contribute to about 30% of most food commodities. The majority of vegetables (81%), roots and tubers (72%), pulses (67%), fruits (66%), fish and livestock products (60%), and cereals (56%) are produced in diverse landscapes (H>1·5). Similarly, the majority of global micronutrients (53– 81%) and protein (57%) are also produced in more diverse agricultural landscapes (H>1·5). By contrast, the majority of sugar (73%) and oil crops (57%) are produced in less diverse ones (H²1·5), which also account for the majority of global calorie production (56%). The diversity of agricultural and nutrient production diminishes as farm size increases. However, areas of the world with higher agricultural diversity produce more nutrients, irrespective of farm size.