Knowledge for better food systems

SIANI Discussion Brief: Sustainability Implications of Closing the Yield Gap

This report by Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative SIANI, deals with potential ways of feeding the projected world population of 9.6 billion in 2050 by sustainably closing yield gaps.

This report by Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative SIANI, deals with potential ways of feeding the projected world population of 9.6 billion in 2050 by sustainably closing yield gaps.

Abstract

Meeting the growing demand for food will require a major increase in agricultural production, akin to the Green Revolution that dramatically reduced hunger in the last half-century. The approaches that raised yields before, however, cannot significantly raise them beyond current levels, and the environmental impact of agriculture is exceeding a “safe operating space” for humanity. This discussion brief examines ways to sustainably close the gap between potential and actual yields, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia, where the yield gap is currently greatest. It finds that assessing the yield gap is a challenge in itself, because common measures of productivity fail to account for economic, environmental and other factors that affect yields, especially among smallholders who may be growing multiple crops. There are many examples of agricultural practices that can boost yields while also increasing environmental sustainability and resilience, but the fundamental challenge will be to better understand local conditions and tailor solutions and incentives to specific agro-ecological contexts.

Citation as follows

Kemp-Benedict E., Barron J.,Vetter S., Yengoh T. G., Fielding M., 2013, Sustainability Implications of Closing the Yield Gap, Discussion brief, SIANI

You can download the summary here and the full text here, or read a related article here.

For the FCRN’s own work on sustainable intensification see Sustainable intensification in agriculture. Navigating a course through competing food system priorities, here and  Sustainable Intensification in agriculture: premises and policies, here. Other publications that look at these issues can be found here while for projections of agricultural production and demand, see here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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