LONDON: If the world is to grow enough food for the projected global population in 2050, agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60 per cent, and may need to more than double, according to researchers who have studied global crop yields.
They say that productivity is not rising fast enough at present to meet the likely demands on agriculture. The researchers studied yields of four key staple crops — maize, rice, wheat and soybeans — and found they were increasing by only about 0.9 per cent to 1.6 per cent a year. That would lead to an overall increase of about 38 per cent to 67 per cent by 2050, which would only be enough to feed the population if the lower end of the estimate of yields needed and the maximum yield increase turns out to be the case.
It also does not take into account other factors, such as climate change, which the World Bank said could lead to massive food shortages in as soon as the 2030s.
The study’s findings are also likely to fuel debate over the efficacy of genetically modified crops, which some scientists have argued may be needed in future to feed the rapidly growing global population, which is expected to reach at least nine billion by 2050.
Deepak Ray, who led the new research, said that some countries were faring far worse than others. For instance, in Guatemala, the productivity of the maize agriculture is declining, while the population is growing. The slow increase in agricultural productivity around the world stands in marked contrast to the “green revolution” that led to a huge increase in crop yields in Asia in the 1960s to 1970s, with the widespread use of new artificial fertilisers, pesticides and growing techniques.