Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hopes of Progress and Wheat

Via Marginal Revolution, I read an article from 1900 on how the world might end.  One of the possibilities was starvation:
"Should all the wheat-growing countries add to their area to the utmost capacity, on the most careful calculation the yield would give us only an addition of some 100,000,000 acres, supplying at the average world-yield of 12.7 bushels to the acre, 1,270,000,000 bushels. Adding 2,324,000,000 to 1,270,000,000 we get 3,594,000,000 bushels, or just enough to supply the increase of population among bread-eaters till the year 1931.
"Since by the year 1931 the area of cultivation can be no further extended, the farmer must endeavour to raise the average yield per acre. If atmospheric nitrogen could only be made generally available as manure in accordance with Nikola Tesla's great scheme, then the ground might be made to bear twice as large crops as it does at present."
 The hopes for progress were rather limited: doubling the yield.

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