Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Food production after peak oil: Oregon's Willamette river basin as a bioregional case study
by Hruska, Tracy, M.A., Prescott College, 2010, 170; 1479150
Abstract (Summary)

Agriculture will experience radical new challenges in the next forty years. Peak oil, which is likely to occur before 2020, will result in potentially extensive liquid fuels shortages that are likely to impinge most immediately on the transportation sector. Rising transportation costs will likely cause corresponding increases in food prices, one response to which may be an increased reliance on local food production to satisfy local demand. In this study, the Willamette River Basin (WRB) of northwestern Oregon is used as a case study to examine the extent to which an American bioregion could become food self-sufficient by the year 2050. Food production was quantitatively modeled based on current agricultural practices, and projections were qualitatively modified based on possible effects of peak oil, water shortages, and climate change.

Research and modeling of future projections performed by the Pacific Northwest Ecological Research Consortium (PNW ERC) was used to create a baseline picture of the WRB in the year 2050. Agricultural production estimates from the OSU Extension Service for the years 2000-2009 were used to predict total crop and animal product yields in 2050 under three different crop selection scenarios: a selection pattern projected by the PNW ERC, and two derivative models that variously emphasized food production for local consumption over grass seed production for commercial sale. The models project that sufficient quantities of grains, fruits, and vegetables could be grown in the WRB to provide adequate nutrition for the projected population if food production is emphasized over inedible cash crops, but that not enough animal products or specialty crops such as oilseed and sugar could be grown to meet current consumption patterns. Depending on the timing and severity of fuel energy shortages following peak oil, agricultural yields could decline 30-50% below the modeled figures.

While the quantitative food production model used includes only commercial farms, examples from the literature suggest that such a limitation is a significant underestimate of the total food production capacity of a region once domestic and community gardening efforts are included. This study estimates that a groundswell of backyard gardens and urban agriculture has the potential to produce enough fresh produce to allow a reallocation of commercial lands to growing grains, animal products, and/or popular specialty crops. It is noted that such a widespread movement would require notable changes to existing laws and community values.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tokar, Brian
Commitee: Bolte, John P., Pittman, James
School: Prescott College
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 48/06M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Food Science, Sustainability
Keywords: Bioregional planning, Food miles, Food self-sufficiency, Foodshed, Globalization, Local food
Publication Number: 1479150
ISBN: 9781124110066
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