U of M aims to boost agriculture, protect environment

By Stephanie Hemphill

The University of Minnesota is teaming up with agribusiness and conservation groups to use a massive data base to boost food production while reducing harm to the environment.

The Global Landscapes Initiative combines on-the-ground reports and satellite images to pinpoint trends in crop production, fertilizer and water use, and other variables in agriculture around the world.

To make the information more useful, University researchers convened a group that included Cargill and General Mills, The Nature Conservancy and other non-profit conservation groups. Participants will identify key questions and help design tools to use the information on the ground.

Paul West, the initiative’s chief collaboration officer; said the information can help agribusiness make key decisions.

“Where to invest acquiring oats, corn, beans in areas that will have a smaller environmental impact per ton of food that is produced,” West said.

Environmental groups also will be able to identify vulnerable areas that need greater protection.

West said all the information will be posted on the web to make it available to the largest possible audience.

In coming decades, farmers will need to more-than-double food production while doing more to protect land and water, he said.

Stephanie Hemphill covers the environment for MPR News.

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