Stalled Crop Yields In India, China Cause For Worry: Experts

In the face of projected needs to double food demand by 2050, reports of stagnation in the production of staples like rice, wheat, soybean and maize (corn) in the world s two most populous countries is a cause of worry, says a new study by Nature Communications.
As a continued population growth, rising meat and dairy consumption and expanding biofuel use in the coming decades promise to increase the pressure on global agriculture, China and India, home to over half the world's population, are beset by stagnation in the production of staples like rice, wheat, soybean and maize, says a new study on crop yield growth.

This is the finding of a newly published study that is based on statistics from around the world during the 1951 – 2008 period. Titled, 'Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation', the study published by Nature Communications says that for some crops in China and India. the spatial extent of yield stagnation is more than half the cropped area.

The team of scientists from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the McGill University, Canada, who carried out the research, have called for better investments in agriculture to meet a projected doubling of food demand by 2050.

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For this study, the scientists developed geographically detailed maps of annual harvested areas and yields of the four staples from 1961 to 2008 to demonstrate that yields in 24–39 per cent of the harvested areas had plateaued or declined in recent years.

This was inspite of an increase in crop yields in all regions during the period.

Examining 2.5 million census observations on crop yields from different countries, the study has expressed concern at the findings on rice, wheat and maize which provide 57 per cent of the world’s calories.

For the world’s top three rice producers, China, India and Indonesia, there are no yield gains in 79 per cent, 37 per cent and 81 per cent of their rice croplands, respectively, the researchers point out.

Similarly, top wheat producers, China, India and the United States, show no yield increases in 56 per cent, 70 per cent and 36 per cent of their wheat croplands respectively.

According IonE research fellow Deepak K Ray, who led the research, the reduced output in India could be attributed to seed issues, pests and lack of water, besides poor returns.

SciDev.Net quoted him as saying, "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."

SciDev.Net also quoted Suman Sahai, convenor of the New Delhi-based Gene Campaign lobby, echoing Ray's view, saying, "Yields are falling as farmers don't wish to invest in inputs as the returns are too low."

Ray says that the study's value lies in "actionable intelligence'' for identifying problems at the district level.

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