From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published June 20, 2013 09:45 AM

Crop Yields

According to the Malthusian theory of population, population increases in a geometrical ratio, whereas food supply increases in an arithmetic ratio. He was wrong because technology pushed improvements in yield at a far faster pace than population could grow. Still the idea is simple: There is only so much food that can be produced and if population grows then some one will starve Crop yields worldwide are not increasing quickly enough to support estimated global needs in 2050, according to a study published June 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Deepak Ray and colleagues from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

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Previous studies estimated that global agricultural production may need to increase by 60-110% to meet increasing demands and provide food security. In the current study, researchers assessed agricultural statistics from across the world and found that yields of four key crops- maize, rice, wheat and soybean- are increasing at rates between 0.9 -1.6 percent every year. At these rates, production of these crops would likely increase 38-67 percent by 2050, rather than the estimated requirement of 60-110 percent. The top three countries that produce rice and wheat were found to have very low rates of increase in crop yields.

Historically speaking, a major increase in crop yield took place in the early eighteenth century with a change of how crops were rotated.  This was followed by the Green Revolution which refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production worldwide, particularly in the developing world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s.  

Human overpopulation occurs if the number of people in a group exceeds the carrying capacity of the region occupied by the group. The term often refers to the relationship between the entire human population and its environment, the Earth, or to smaller geographical areas such as countries. Overpopulation can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. 

"Particularly troubling are places where population and food production trajectories are at substantial odds," Ray says, "for example, in Guatemala, where the corn-dependent population is growing at the same time corn production is declining."

The analysis maps global regions where yield improvements are on track to double production by 2050 and areas where investments must be targeted to increase yields. The authors explain that boosting crop yields is considered a preferred solution to meet demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture. They add that additional strategies like reducing food waste and changing to plant-based diets can also help reduce the large estimates for increased global demand for food.

"Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands," says IonE director Jon Foley, a co-author on the study. "The good news is, opportunities exist to increase production through more efficient use of current arable lands and increased yield growth rates by spreading best management practices. If we are to boost production in these key crops to meet projected needs, we have no time to waste."

For further information see Rising Population.

Crop image via Wikipedia.

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