Marcos Fernandez sees the future for agriculture and today's youth who want to be part of it as both a tremendous challenge and an opportunity. He is associate dean in the College of Agriculture at Purdue.
"In the next 40 years, we're going to ask people in agriculture to produce enough food to feed nine billion people, about one-third more than are in the world today," he says. Straight up, that would be a formidable challenge.
"What it amounts to is producing as much feed in the next 40 years as all mankind has produced in the past 10,000 years," he says. Just to make it interesting, government and environmental plus social forces will add a few obstacles along the way. Fernandez likens it to having a hand tied behind the back.
"You're going to have less land to do this on because we are constantly losing farmland," he says. As they say, they aren't making more of it, and whenever any is lost to development, it's that much less permanently removed from the food production cycle.
"We're also going to put restrictions on energy and the type of energy you can use," he adds. This one may not be as apparent now, but will be in the future, he says. Already, however, there is pressure on coal-fired utility plants that produce electricity used on farms, and pressure to make tractor emission systems meet much tougher standards. That's what the environmentally-based Tier program for engine emissions is all about. Most new diesel engines are now at least Tier III compliant. Many manufacturers have introduced the initial form of Tier IV engine, but work needs to be done on most of them yet. It adds expense to the original cost of the equipment in most cases.
Nevertheless, Fernandez thinks it will be possible to meet that goal. Research and Extension going on at Land-Grant universities all over the country will help solve obstacles that must be overcome e to reach that production level, he says.