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Decoupling Livestock from Land Use through Industrial Feed Production Pathways

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journal contribution
posted on 20.06.2018, 00:00 by Ilje Pikaar, Silvio Matassa, Benjamin L. Bodirsky, Isabelle Weindl, Florian Humpenöder, Korneel Rabaey, Nico Boon, Michele Bruschi, Zhiguo Yuan, Hannah van Zanten, Mario Herrero, Willy Verstraete, Alexander Popp
One of the main challenges for the 21st century is to balance the increasing demand for high-quality proteins while mitigating environmental impacts. In particular, cropland-based production of protein-rich animal feed for livestock rearing results in large-scale agricultural land-expansion, nitrogen pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Here we propose and analyze the long-term potential of alternative animal feed supply routes based on industrial production of microbial proteins (MP). Our analysis reveals that by 2050, MP can replace, depending on socio-economic development and MP production pathways, between 10–19% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand. As a result, global cropland area, global nitrogen losses from croplands and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be decreased by 6% (0–13%), 8% (−3–8%), and 7% (−6–9%), respectively. Interestingly, the technology to industrially produce MP at competitive costs is directly accessible for implementation and has the potential to cause a major structural change in the agro-food system.