What is in this article?:
- Specialty crops: major player in Western agricultureâ€™s future
- Changing how farms operate
- Chemicals and biotech
- In the next 20 years, Western agriculture’s economic success will be tied more to specialty crops and less on traditional crops including cotton, wheat, and corn.
- Cal Poly agribusiness lecturer Steven Slezak’s prediction is based on an insatiable demand globally for more food and how specialty crops are the best niche fit for Western agriculture.
Chemicals and biotech
For the agricultural chemical industry, the trend is for slightly increased pesticide demand and a higher demand for fertilizer. More fertilizer will be produced domestically with an emphasis on innovative products and methods. Higher prices will not necessarily result due to competition from less expensive imports.
“The agricultural industry could be squeezed due to higher input costs including phosphorus and energy,” Slezak said. “It could be more difficult to raise prices to pass along increased costs. Efficiency will be a large issue.”
The average margin in the agricultural chemical industry is 3 percent to 5 percent, Slezak says. To maintain that level, the industry needs to better manage margins, increase efficiencies and productivity, share economies of scale with customers, and improve risk management.
Producing more food and fiber per acre will be critical to meet growing food demand. Slezak says the world population is growing at the rate of 1 percent per year. Yields need to increase 1.5 percent annually.
Agricultural biotech is one solution to help farmers achieve higher yields and efficiencies. Biotech has generated the highest yields increases in corn than any other crop.
“Ag biotech will also provide environmental benefits including increased carbon sequestration (no-till methods), reduced pressure on farm land and expansion, weed control and abatement, and farming more productively with fewer inputs.”
The worldwide economy is learning to adapt to increased demand for a wide range of products. Increased innovation is the key.
“We need to make it work for us,” Slezak said. “Research, development, and innovation will take an increased amount of time and resources in agriculture.”