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Crop Yields Stall In China, India

Crop production is stagnating in China and India, says a new report published in Nature Communications this month.

| December 27, 2012 | In the Lab

AsianScientist (Dec. 27, 2012) - By M. Sreelata - China and India, the world's two most populous countries, are beset by stagnation in the production of staples like rice, wheat, soybean, and maize (corn), says a new study on crop yield growth.

Based on statistics from around the world during the 1951-2008 period, the study says that for some crops in China and India the spatial extent of yield stagnation is more than half the cropped area.

The study, published in the December 18 issue of Nature Communications, by a team of scientists at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (IonE) and McGill University, Canada, calls for better investments in agriculture to meet a projected doubling of food demand by 2050.

The team developed geographically detailed maps of annual harvested areas and yields of the four staples from 1961 to 2008. Virtually all regions showed crop increases during that period, but in 24-39 percent of the harvested areas yields had plateaued or declined in recent years.

Looking at 2.5 million census observations on crop yields from different countries, the study expresses concern at the findings on rice, wheat, and maize which provide 57 percent of the world’s calories.

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

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

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

"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," Ray said.

Suman Sahai, convenor of the New Delhi-based Gene Campaign lobby, echoes Ray's view.

"Yields are falling as farmers don't wish to invest in inputs as the returns are too low," she says. "Besides, climate change has also played a role in falling yields."

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

The article can be found at: Ray DK et al. (2012) Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation.


Source: Science and Development Network; Photo: flip.01/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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