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Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

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      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.

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      Global consequences of land use.

      Land use has generally been considered a local environmental issue, but it is becoming a force of global importance. Worldwide changes to forests, farmlands, waterways, and air are being driven by the need to provide food, fiber, water, and shelter to more than six billion people. Global croplands, pastures, plantations, and urban areas have expanded in recent decades, accompanied by large increases in energy, water, and fertilizer consumption, along with considerable losses of biodiversity. Such changes in land use have enabled humans to appropriate an increasing share of the planet's resources, but they also potentially undermine the capacity of ecosystems to sustain food production, maintain freshwater and forest resources, regulate climate and air quality, and ameliorate infectious diseases. We face the challenge of managing trade-offs between immediate human needs and maintaining the capacity of the biosphere to provide goods and services in the long term.
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        Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people.

        Continuing population and consumption growth will mean that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, in addition to the overexploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food, as will the urgent requirement to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably. A multifaceted and linked global strategy is needed to ensure sustainable and equitable food security, different components of which are explored here.
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          A safe operating space for humanity.

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Institute on the Environment (IonE), University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America
            New York State Museum, United States of America
            Author notes

            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.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: DKR JAF. Performed the experiments: DKR. Analyzed the data: DKR NDM PCW JAF. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: DKR NDM JAF. Wrote the paper: DKR NDM PCW JAF.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            1932-6203
            2013
            19 June 2013
            : 8
            : 6
            23840465 3686737 PONE-D-12-40743 10.1371/journal.pone.0066428

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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            Pages: 8
            Funding
            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.
            Categories
            Research Article
            Agriculture
            Agricultural Production
            Crops
            Cereals
            Maize
            Rice
            Wheat
            Earth Sciences
            Environmental Sciences
            Environmental Geography
            Geography
            Human Geography
            Social and Behavioral Sciences
            Geography
            Human Geography

            Uncategorized

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