Researchers also are developing the necessary methodologies, such as accurately converting short-term weather data into long-term patterns and scaling up local yield estimates. All information and methodologies are shared on the new public website www.yieldgap.org.
Detailed yield gap information will help reconcile widely differing views over how agriculture will feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050, Cassman said.
Some people advocate organic or regionally based production systems, arguing that reliance on a few major crops and cropping systems is unsustainable and environmentally destructive. Others believe that modifying current systems through incremental scientific innovations would suffice and that alternative systems are inefficient and would require destroying rain forests and grasslands to increase production.
Cassman said that if global analysis of food production potential indicates it will be possible to meet food production demands on existing farmland, it would provide justification for alternative crops and cropping systems, which require considerable time and effort to develop. In contrast, if the global analysis indicates a tight race to meet future demand on existing cropland, the incremental approach to improve current crops and cropping systems would gain sway because there would be little margin for error.
In both cases, Cassman said, the answer won't be one-size-fits-all: some areas are best suited to intensive, high-yield systems, while other locations' soil and climate favor less intensive "alternative" farming methods.
Countries must look ahead to 2050 and determine if they have the potential to self-sufficiently feed their people, he said. If not, they must adopt an effective agricultural strategy based on a fundamental understanding of their productive capacit
|Contact: Ken Cassman|
University of Nebraska-Lincoln