The realities of a large-scale food shortage have been spelled out in a new study from Fred Davies, senior science advisor for the US Agency for International Development's bureau of food security.

"For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy," Davies said in a statement from Texas A&M University's AgriLife division, where he is a professor of horticultural science.

"Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today," he said.

To meet food demand as the world's population rises to 9 billion by the middle of this century, Davies said there would need to be a 70 percent increase in food production.

"But resource limitations will constrain global food systems," Davies said. "The increases currently projected for crop production from biotechnology, genetics, agronomics and horticulture will not be sufficient to meet food demand."

Davies said in the US, agricultural productivity has averaged less than 1.2 percent per year between 1990 and 2007.

"More efficient technologies and crops will need to be developed - and equally important, better ways for applying these technologies locally for farmers -- to address this challenge," he said.

However, these technological advances do not always reach small-scale farmers world wide.

"A greater emphasis is needed in high-value horticultural crops," he said. "Those create jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities and enable more profitable, intense farming."

With one-in-eight people in the world suffering from malnourishment, Davies connected the consumption of crops such as fruits and vegetables with improvements in human health. This connection, Davies said, will prove to be vital towards growing enough food to feed people in the coming years.

"Agricultural productivity, food security, food safety, the environment, health, nutrition and obesity -- they are all interconnected," Davies said.

"The perfect storm for horticulture and agriculture is also an opportunity," Davies said. "Consumer trends such as views on quality, nutrition, production origin and safety impact what foods we consume. Also, urban agriculture favors horticulture."

For example, Davies said, the fastest growing segment of new farmers in California, are female, non-Anglos who are "intensively growing horticultural crops on small acreages."