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, 8 (6), e66428

Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

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Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

Deepak K Ray et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Several studies have shown that global crop production needs to double by 2050 to meet the projected demands from rising population, diet shifts, and increasing biofuels consumption. Boosting crop yields to meet these rising demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture has been highlighted as a preferred solution to meet this goal. However, we first need to understand how crop yields are changing globally, and whether we are on track to double production by 2050. Using ∼2.5 million agricultural statistics, collected for ∼13,500 political units across the world, we track four key global crops-maize, rice, wheat, and soybean-that currently produce nearly two-thirds of global agricultural calories. We find that yields in these top four crops are increasing at 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9%, and 1.3% per year, non-compounding rates, respectively, which is less than the 2.4% per year rate required to double global production by 2050. At these rates global production in these crops would increase by ∼67%, ∼42%, ∼38%, and ∼55%, respectively, which is far below what is needed to meet projected demands in 2050. We present detailed maps to identify where rates must be increased to boost crop production and meet rising demands.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: Research support was provided by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and by the Institute on the Environment, along with previous funding from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's – NASA's – Interdisciplinary Earth Science program. This work also benefitted from contributions by General Mills, Mosaic, Cargill, Google, PepsiCo, and Kellogg to support stakeholder outreach and public engagement. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Global projections.
Observed area-weighted global yield 1961–2008 shown using closed circles and projections to 2050 using solid lines for maize, rice, wheat, and soybean. Shading shows the 90% confidence region derived from 99 bootstrapped samples. The dashed line shows the trend of the ∼2.4% yield improvement required each year to double production in these crops by 2050 without bringing additional land under cultivation starting in the base year of 2008.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Maps of observed rates of percent yield changes per year.
Global map of current percentage rates of changes in (a) maize, (b) rice, (c) wheat, and (d) soybean yields. Red areas show where yields are declining whereas the fluorescent green areas show where rates of yield increase – if sustained – would double production by 2050.

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Grant support

Research support was provided by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and by the Institute on the Environment, along with previous funding from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's - NASA's - Interdisciplinary Earth Science program. This work also benefitted from contributions by General Mills, Mosaic, Cargill, Google, PepsiCo, and Kellogg to support stakeholder outreach and public engagement. N.D.M. was supported by a NSF graduate fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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