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The National Food Supply

    Naturevolume 105page371 (1920) | Download Citation



    SIR DANIEL HALL, in the first of his three recent Chadwick public lectures on “Gardening and Food Production,” dealt with the national food supply and the possibility of self-support. According to the values obtained by a committee of the Royal Society for the five-year period prior to the war, only 42 percent, of the total food supply consumed in the United Kingdom was produced at home. At the beginning -of the nineteenth century the country was practically self-supporting, but since that time the population has greatly increased, while the productivity has decreased. In 1872 there were 14 million acres under the plough in England and Wales, but by 1914 nearly 4 million acres of this land had been put down to grass. Grass land is comparatively unproductive of food as compared with arable land, for, according to Sir Thomas Middleton's calculation, 100 acres of arable land in this country normally produce food that will maintain eighty-four persons, whereas the same 100 acres under grass will maintain only fifteen to twenty persons. The great difficulty is that arable land requires much more labour than grass land, and farmers naturally refrain from ploughing up their land when the cost of labour has risen very much more than have the prices of the produce. In 1917–18 another 2.\ million acres wTere added to the acreage already under the plough, but the food crisis is not yet over. It is essential that we should increase our productivity, and to attain this end we must agree to pay the prices necessary to. make arable farming reasonably profitable to the farmer. Moreover, the population will have to change its habits and eat more bread, potatoes, etc., than meat, while pork will have increasingly to replace the more expensive animal foods.

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