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Updated 21 Sep 2020

5 Crops you’ll need to cultivate to sustain human life on earth

Temperatures are rising. Food costs are going up too. If you’d like to contribute toward sustaining human life on earth, while making a profit, you’ll have to grow these crops. 

Pritesh Ruthun, 20 September 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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A study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) indicates that the earth’s average temperature will rise by 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2020.

As a crop farmer, you’re facing a challenge ahead. Rising temperatures are expected to reduce yields for rice, wheat and corn throughout the developing world.

If you aren’t preparing for the future, and aligning your crop varieties with the increasing needs of mankind, you could find yourself in a position where your farm is unable to meet the demand of your customers, both locally and internationally.

Related: 5 Simple ways to reduce costs on your crop farm


With temperatures rising, it’s expected that farming will become more challenging in many parts of the world. Moreover, as the global population increases, food security will become a greater concern. You can position your farm for future success now, by cost-effectively cultivating some of the world’s most sought after, yet affordable crops.

While it’s expected to become more difficult to produce rice, wheat and corn, there are a number of other crops that you can consider cultivating depending on the location of your land, its topography and local climate.

Here are five crops that you can consider farming, both to keep you in business in the future and to meet the nutritional needs of a growing worldwide population:

1. Plantains

While they may look similar to bananas, plantains are considered to be an ideal source of nutrition for low-income markets around the world in the future. Plantains contain more starch than bananas, but are lower in sugar content, which makes them an ideal source of nutrition for markets that will find it difficult to afford rice, wheat and corn. 

You’ll need to be located in a tropical climate to get plantains to grow consistently and to recoup decent yields. If you start now, you can prepare your farm with the right soil top ups, irrigation systems and perhaps shading to keep your plantains healthy and sought after by customers.

2. Yams

Yams are a tried and tested favourite amongst African consumers, thanks to their nutritional value and ease of preparation. While most yams are produced in West and Central Africa, they remain an importer’s favourite, finding markets around the world, including Asia and the Middle-East. 

Yams aren’t difficult to farm, but again you’re going to have to make a few changes to your farm’s setup in order to produce a competitive amount of crop. A good place to start your journey into yam farming would be to assess your current capabilities and your soil nutrition. If your farm’s climate accommodates the farming of yams, you can grow your business while meeting the needs of hungry consumers.

3. Sorghum

Sorghum -crop -production

Considered to be the fifth-most important cereal crop in the world, sorghum farming can help you grow your farm’s output in the future. While the popularity of sorghum has diminished in recent years, it still remains a popular source of nutrition in arid regions of the world. 

The beauty of farming sorghum lies in the fact that it’s tolerant to drought and heat. As temperatures rise, you’ll be in a better position to farm the cereal crop, depending on your infrastructure.

Food prices are expected to increase as temperatures increase, and while sorghum has lost some popularity amongst consumers, it remains a viable source of nutrition for low-income territories. You can provide these low-income territories with sorghum and turn a profit while keeping people nourished.

Related: When to water your plants

4. Sweet potatoes

Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes remain a viable source of nutrition for mankind. While its origins stem from South American farming operations, global trade has put sweet potatoes on the culinary map in many parts of the world. Due to its growing popularity around the world, China is now a major producer of the crop, which it exports to many parts of the world.

Thanks to South Africa’s climate, and the expected rising temperatures, you can position yourself to farm sweet potatoes in the future. You’ll need to conduct an accurate assessment of your farm’s capabilities, taking into account soil and your irrigation systems. Fortunately, sweet potatoes are known to attract very few insects, which will contribute toward you spending less on pesticides too.

5. Soybeans

Positioning your farm as the go-to place for soybeans in the future can almost guarantee your sustainability. You can sell locally, or export to markets that are in need of low-cost nutritional products. Soybeans provide amino acids, protein and oil, and it can also be used as a natural soil fertiliser. 

Sources indicate that global soybean supply is being outweighed by demand already, which means you can act now and take advantage of its popularity. In order to shift from your current crop to soybeans, it’s important that you analyse your farm’s capabilities with accuracy. If your soil and climate meets the requirements for producing soybeans, you can become a leading supplier of soybeans to both the local market, as well as African or Asian markets.

As temperatures rise, and the world’s population increases, you’re going to have to be able to produce more from less. Opting to farm one of these crops can allow you to grow your business in the future, without having to make too many costly changes to your farm right now.

Key Learning

Crop farmers face the possibility of the earth’s temperature rising by 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2020. While it will present challenges, there’s still opportunities for business growth, through cultivating crops that serve the needs of low-income households.

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About the author

Pritesh Ruthun

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