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      Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

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      PLoS ONE

      Public Library of Science

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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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          Most cited references 24

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          Farming and the fate of wild nature.

          World food demand is expected to more than double by 2050. Decisions about how to meet this challenge will have profound effects on wild species and habitats. We show that farming is already the greatest extinction threat to birds (the best known taxon), and its adverse impacts look set to increase, especially in developing countries. Two competing solutions have been proposed: wildlife-friendly farming (which boosts densities of wild populations on farmland but may decrease agricultural yields) and land sparing (which minimizes demand for farmland by increasing yield). We present a model that identifies how to resolve the trade-off between these approaches. This shows that the best type of farming for species persistence depends on the demand for agricultural products and on how the population densities of different species on farmland change with agricultural yield. Empirical data on such density-yield functions are sparse, but evidence from a range of taxa in developing countries suggests that high-yield farming may allow more species to persist.
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            Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe's farmland bird populations.

            The populations of farmland birds in Europe declined markedly during the last quarter of the 20th century, representing a severe threat to biodiversity. Here, we assess whether declines in the populations and ranges of farmland birds across Europe reflect differences in agricultural intensity, which arise largely through differences in political history. Population and range changes were modelled in terms of a number of indices of agricultural intensity. Population declines and range contractions were significantly greater in countries with more intensive agriculture, and significantly higher in the European Union (EU) than in former communist countries. Cereal yield alone explained over 30% of the variation in population trends. The results suggest that recent trends in agriculture have had deleterious and measurable effects on bird populations on a continental scale. We predict that the introduction of EU agricultural policies into former communist countries hoping to accede to the EU in the near future will result in significant declines in the important bird populations there.
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              Reconciling food production and biodiversity conservation: land sharing and land sparing compared.

              The question of how to meet rising food demand at the least cost to biodiversity requires the evaluation of two contrasting alternatives: land sharing, which integrates both objectives on the same land; and land sparing, in which high-yield farming is combined with protecting natural habitats from conversion to agriculture. To test these alternatives, we compared crop yields and densities of bird and tree species across gradients of agricultural intensity in southwest Ghana and northern India. More species were negatively affected by agriculture than benefited from it, particularly among species with small global ranges. For both taxa in both countries, land sparing is a more promising strategy for minimizing negative impacts of food production, at both current and anticipated future levels of production.
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                Author and article information

                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
                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.

                Article
                PONE-D-12-40743
                10.1371/journal.pone.0066428
                3686737
                23840465

                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.

                Page count
                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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