Soil science, population growth and food production: some historical developments

A.E. Hartemink

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The world¿s population has doubled since 1960. Currently, the developing world accounts for about 95% of the population growth with Africa as the world¿s fastest growing continent. The growing population has many implications but most of all it requires an increase in agricultural production to meet food demand. Soil science has a long tradition of considering the growth in food production in relation to the increasing human population. This paper reviews some of the major developments in these subjects from a soil scientist¿s perspective. It starts with the work of Thomas Malthus and various subsequent studies relating population growth and food production. Population growth and projections up to the year 2050 are discussed. The main soil studies since the 1920s are reviewed with a focus on those conducted in the Dutch East Indies and the UK. The productivity of soil science measured by the number of publications and soil scientists has kept pace with the increasing population. Although the number of undernourished people in the world is on the decline, it is concluded that continued efforts from soil scientists remains needed particularly now the focus of attention in the USA and Western Europe moves from population growth per se to population ageing and obesity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in integrated Soil Fertility Management in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities
EditorsA. Bationo
Place of PublicationBerlin-Heidelberg
ISBN (Print)9781402057595
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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