That different foods provide different essential micronutrients (such as calcium, vitamin A, and folate) isn’t news. But now we know which farms produce the most. New research published in the inaugural issue of The Lancet Planetary Health is the first to map production of micronutrients worldwide on farms of different sizes, spanning 41 crops, 7 livestock products, and 14 fish groups.
The study was led by Mario Herrero, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia, and co-authors include Paul West, James Gerber, and Leah Samberg of IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. The researchers discovered that worldwide, small and medium farms (≤ 50 ha.) produce more than half (51–77 percent) of nearly all commodities and nutrients examined in the study. Other key findings include:
- Large farms (> 50 ha.) reign in North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand, contributing 75–100 percent of cereal, livestock, and fruit production—while small farms (≤ 20 ha.) account for more than 75 percent of food production in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and China
- The majority of global micronutrients (53–81 percent) and protein (57 percent) are produced in more diverse agricultural landscapes
- The diversity of agricultural and nutrient production diminishes as farm size increases—but areas of the world with higher agricultural diversity
A new interactive Food Matters report, Small Farms: Stewards of Global Nutrition?, complements the study and highlights the key findings. Published by the Institute on the Environment, Food Matters reports—including its graphs, infographics, and other data visualizations—are freely shared under a Creative Commons license.
Original article: Mario Herrero et al. Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis, The Lancet Planetary Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30007-4