Crop yields not increasing fast enough to feed the world in 2050

By FoodProcessing Staff
Thursday, 20 June, 2013


Crop yields worldwide are not increasing quickly enough to support estimated global food requirements in 2050, according to US researchers.

The rising population and other demands mean global crop production will need to double by 2050, some studies have shown. Increasing crop yields, rather than clearing more land for agriculture, is the preferred approach.

However, an article published in the journal PLOS One shows that yields of the four key global crops - maize, rice, wheat and soybean - are not increasing rapidly enough to meet projected 2050 demand.

The researchers found that maize, rice, wheat and soybean crop yields are increasing at non-compounding rates of 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9% and 1.3% per year respectively, which is less than the 2.4% per year rate required to double global production by 2050.

The article includes detailed maps to identify where yield rates must be increased to boost crop production and meet rising demands. While wheat yields are increasing at doubling rates in parts of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, yields are actually decreasing in parts of Australia, as well as other countries, the researchers said.

“If these yield change rates do not increase, land clearing possibly would be needed if global food security is to increase or even be maintained,” the authors wrote.

“A portion of the production shortfall could … be met by expanding croplands, but at a high environmental cost to biodiversity and carbon emissions. Alternatively, additional strategies, particularly changing to more plant-based diets and reducing food waste, can reduce the large expected demand growth in food.”

The full article, Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050, is available at www.plosone.org.

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