In 1798 Thomas Malthus noted in his “Essay on the principle of population”, that the population was increasing geometrically while food production was only increasing arithmetically. He concluded that mass starvation would occur especially among the poor majority of the population. In 1798 the world population was 900 million, today it is greater than 6 billion. The U.N. predicts that by 2050 the world population will reach 9.3 billion. However so far Malthus’ prediction of mass starvation has proved incorrect apart from isolated situations where war and poor governance have led to starvation rather than a world shortage of food.
The green revolution has transformed the productivity of the land. In Malthus’ time ~ 20,000 m2 was required to feed one person per year, now only 2000 m2 of land is needed. Until 1960 there was only a very gradual increase in yield of crops such as wheat and rice due to improved varieties achieved through breeding, development of agricultural methods such as crop rotation, the deployment of fertilisers especially natural, and mechanisation with the introduction of the plough. During the decade between 1960 and 1970 the green revolution dramatically increased crop yields.
The green revolution was a culmination of a number of factors including the development of high yielding varieties of wheat, rice, and maize. Advancements were made in the field of fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Mechanisation was taken to another level with the development of new tractors and mechanisms for harvesting and planting on an industrial scale. Improvements in irrigation allowed two crops per season. All this led to a huge increase in food production worldwide.