Stagnant crop yields in the world’s most populous countries

Production of key crops such as rice, wheat and maize has failed to increase in India and China, according to a study published recently in Nature Communications. The research, carried out by a team from McGill University and University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that in the case of some crops in China and India more than half the area cropped had stagnant yields in recent years.

For China, India and Indonesia, the largest three producers of rice globally, it was found that 79%, 37% and 81% of their rice croplands respectively showed no increases in yield. The figures for wheat yields also were worrying with China, India and the United States, showing stagnation in 56%, 70% and 36% of wheat crops.

According to lead researcher Deepak Ray, the reduced production in India could be a result of problems with seeds, pests and water shortages. “For rice and wheat the major issues appear to be lack of good seeds, lack of irrigation, build up of pests and weeds and returns that do not match the rising costs of agricultural inputs,” said Ray.

Given 2050 population projections of between 9 and 10 billion people, there is increasing pressure to ensure food security and increase crop yields for a growing global population. Along with an increased population the global demand for agricultural crops is expected to roughly double by 2050. This is a result of increases in animal feed and biofuel use as well as a growing population. The findings of this study could help identify areas with stable or growing crop yields and highlight areas that need attention or protection.


About Isobel Routledge

Isobel is a 2nd year undergratuate Biologist at Wadham.