Breakthrough science and innovation

R. Martin (CIFOR)

Mapping gaps in crop yields helps boost production to meet booming demand

Priorities and Policies for CSA

With the world’s population on course to pass 9 billion by 2050, agronomists and farmers need ways to sustainably increase food supplies. Globally, current yield increases for major food crops are not keeping pace with booming demand. There is limited land suitable for crop production, and so ensuring the world has enough to eat while protecting carbon sinks – rainforests, wetlands and grasslands – depends on achieving the highest possible yields on existing farmland.

But to close yield gaps, scientists need to know what and where those yield gaps are. That’s why researchers from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), together with 12 country agronomists and partners at various research organisations, developed the first easily accessible, reproducible and agronomically accurate web-based platform to estimate exploitable gaps in crop yields.

N. Palmer (CIAT)

The Global Yield Gap Atlas (GYGA) website enables farmers, governments, policymakers, research institutions, private sector organizations and others to identify regions with the greatest potential to sustainably increase global food supplies. The Atlas is a powerful tool for improving the efficiency of agronomic research, as well as supporting strategic planning and policy development for food security at local, national and global scales.

Even in data-rich regions such as the USA and Europe, there is a dearth of information on yield potential. In the less developed, major crop-producing regions of the world, the need for reliable estimates of yield gaps is more urgent and is based on robust estimates of rainfed and irrigated yield potential and of actual yields.

The target of the Atlas is to provide the best available estimates of exploitable yield gaps in all countries. At this early stage, it provides data for 10 selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa and 2 in South Asia. Agronomists on the ground in these 12 locations have the skills to perform yield gap assessments and lead efforts to identify the most suitable sources of data in their countries.

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