Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Cereals and carbohydrate containing foods

Cereals are grasses which are cultivated for the edible components of its grain, such as rice, wheat, millet, maize and sorghum. The grains are rich in carbohydrates and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop. Carbohydrates are an important component of any diet with dietary guidelines usually suggest that between 45% and 75% of dietary energy should come from carbohydrates, with the majority coming from the more complex starches. Health outcomes and nutrition are determined by the quantity consumed, the level of processing (e.g. whole grain flour is recommended rather than white) and the type (potatoes versus rice) as well as accompaniments (eg.fats, spreads, sauce). Cereals are the main staple food for the world's poorest. As diets transition, people typically eat fewer starchy staples and increase their consumption of other foods; fruits, oils, fats, sugars and animal products. Carbohydrate based foods usually have a lower carbon footprint compared to, for example, meat and dairy. Still, like most produce, they do cause an environmental impact: use of pesticides, loss of biodiversity, soil degradation and intensive water use are some of the problems associated with cereal cultivation.

Photo: Fes Medina, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
31 August 2016

As agricultural production of high-yielding cereals has increased over the past half-century, production of more nutrient-rich cereals has declined. Access to food of high nutritional quality is profoundly important, especially for the 2 to 3 billion people who are undernourished, overweight, or obese or deficient in micronutrients.

9 November 2015

Surveys show that 300 kg of edible food is wasted per person each year in Switzerland. This paper focuses on one of the foods that are wasted – potatoes – and assesses the quantity and quality of potato losses along the entire supply chain.  It finds that on the way from field to fork, more than half of the potato harvest is lost.

26 February 2015

A new paper produced by a global group of agrosystem modellers, argues that if no action is taken to adapt, the future global wheat harvest is likely to be reduced by 6 % per each degree Celsius of local temperature increase. This would correspond to 42 million tonnes of yield reduction worldwide, which equals a quarter of current global wheat trade.

30 July 2014

The authors behind this study say that climate change has substantially increased the prospect that crop production will fail to keep up with rising demand in the next 20 years.

12 March 2014

This is the first global study to quantify the extent to which global crop diversity has narrowed over time and how and where those changes have occurred.

20 January 2014

This paper investigates whether current yield trajectories are adequate to achieve the production increases that many forecasts suggest are needed on existing farmland. The results indicate that the majority of global cereal crops such as rice, wheat and corn may have reached their maximum possible yields. Six statistical models were analysed to identifying the most appropriate shape of historical yield trend and the analysis makes it possible to estimate in which countries and regions yields are flat, rising, declining or plateauing.

24 June 2013

Cassava is a "survivor" crop, able to thrive in the expected higher temperatures caused by climate change. An alliance of scientists has recently been formed to help promote cassava cultivation. The 300 scientists attending the second International Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century, held in Kampala Uganda presented a new initiative called Global Cassava Modelling Consortium. The Consortium aims to help researchers share information on this increasingly important crop, to better understand the physiology of the plant and to explore avenues for protecting it from attacks.

18 June 2013

The FAO’s 2013 report this time includes a special section on quinoa. The year 2013 has been declared “International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations General Assembly, a tribute to a little-known agricultural product with outstanding nutritional and agronomic properties grown almost exclusively in the Andes.

11 March 2013

This paper highlights the impacts of heat stress on yields of maize in France.  It finds that while irrigation can be used to adapt to reduced rainfall, heat stress is a concern that cannot be so easily managed.  It finds that assuming current climate projections, yields per hectare will need to improve by 12% between 2016 and 2035 simply to maintain current production levels.

18 December 2012

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have published a study in the journal Global Change Biology claiming that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have a negative impact on the protein content of wheat grain and thus its nutritional quality.

9 May 2012

The cross-research council Food Security website reports on the findings of a team from the University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research. This team has identified a family of genes that could help us breed grasses with improved properties for diet and bioenergy.