News / Science & Technology

Study Maps Areas of Stagnating Crop Yields

A farm hand stands by the harvested potato crop at King's Hill Farm. The potato yield is about one-fifth of the expected yield, July 30, 2012.
A farm hand stands by the harvested potato crop at King's Hill Farm. The potato yield is about one-fifth of the expected yield, July 30, 2012.
The demand for food crops is growing, but experts say the world’s harvests are not keeping pace.  

A new study pinpoints exactly where crop yields are falling behind.  The authors describe it as “actionable intelligence” on where more investment is needed to help secure the world’s food supply.

The United Nations says there will be 2 billion more people to feed by 2050.  And people are becoming richer and eating more meat, which takes more grain to produce; and demand for plant-derived biofuels is growing.

But while the need for food crops in increasing, the new study found productivity has flattened out or declined on 43 percent of the world’s rice-growing land, and 44 percent of its wheat fields.  

"Where are we heading?"

x
That raises a serious question, according to lead author Deepak Ray at the University of Minnesota.

“If huge tracts of rice and wheat areas are not improving," he asks, "then where are we actually heading in terms of reaching that target of feeding 9 billion humans?”

​Overall, Ray says, the new study found yields were stagnant or fell on about a quarter to two-fifths of the world’s farmland growing rice, wheat, corn or soybeans.  Those four crops account for about two-thirds of the world's caloric consumption.

x
​Other studies have warned that crop yield increases are not keeping up with demand.  But Ray says they have been too vague to act on.

“When you say, for instance, wheat yields are not increasing anymore in India, it doesn’t really say much.  It doesn’t say where it is not increasing.”

County by county

So Ray’s team pored over decades of official figures and detailed statistics, “to figure out what is happening in each county, for example in the United States, or in each municipio in Brazil or in each district in India... It takes a long, long time, obviously.”

It took three years, in fact.  But in the end, the group produced detailed maps that can be used to zero in on where yields are increasing and where they are not.

But Ray says this is really just the beginning.

“This data set can be used to answer many other questions like, ‘Where are we going from here?’ What we have only shown is where we are right now.”

Next, Ray says, researchers need to figure out why yields are not improving in these areas and what needs to change.

"Good news"

Kostas Stamoulis, director of the Agricultural Development Economics Division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, says the study identifies areas where improvements would have a substantial impact.
    
“There is significant untapped potential to increase yields to accommodate future demand," he says.  "This is good news. Let’s put it that way.”

And Stamoulis says in many cases tapping that potential is a matter of applying what is already known.

“The technologies exist, he says.  "We have to provide farmers with market access, infrastructure, risk management practices that will incentivize them to use those technologies.”

And as the demand for food crops grows, Stamoulis says the time to invest in farmers is now.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid