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The prevailing discourse on the future of agriculture is dominated by an imbalanced narrative that calls for food production to increase dramatically—potentially doubling by 2050—without specifying commensurate environmental goals. We aim to rebalance this narrative by laying out quantitative and compelling midcentury targets for both production and the environment. Our analysis shows that an increase of approximately 25%–70% above current production levels may be sufficient to meet 2050 crop demand. At the same time, nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture must drop dramatically to restore and maintain ecosystem functioning. Specifying quantitative targets will clarify the scope of the challenges that agriculture must face in the coming decades, focus research and policy on achieving specific outcomes, and ensure that sustainable intensification efforts lead to measurable environmental improvements. We propose new directions for research and policy to help meet both sustainability and production goals.
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386 BioScience April 2017 / Vol. 67 No. 4
BioScience 67: 386–391. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights
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doi:10.1093/biosci/bix010 Advance Access publication 22 February 2017
Agriculture in 2050: Recalibrating
Targets for Sustainable Intensification
The prevailing discourse on the future of agriculture is dominated by an imbalanced narrative that calls for food production to increase
dramatically—potentially doubling by 2050—without specifying commensurate environmental goals. We aim to rebalance this narrative by
laying out quantitative and compelling midcentury targets for both production and the environment. Our analysis shows that an increase of
approximately 25%–70% above current production levels may be sufficient to meet 2050 crop demand. At the same time, nutrient losses and
greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture must drop dramatically to restore and maintain ecosystem functioning. Specifying quantitative targets
will clarify the scope of the challenges that agriculture must face in the coming decades, focus research and policy on achieving specific outcomes,
and ensure that sustainable intensification efforts lead to measurable environmental improvements. We propose new directions for research and
policy to help meet both sustainability and production goals.
Keywords: food demand, crop yield, food security, environment, policy
The prevailing discourse on the future of agriculture
is rife with the assertion that food production must
increase dramatically—potentially doubling by 2050—to
meet surging demand. Many authors also call for agricul-
ture to become more environmentally sustainable, but with
little urgency and few quantitative targets. The result is an
imbalanced narrative that heavily privileges production
over conservation. This imbalance persists despite calls
in the growing sustainable intensification (SI) literature
to treat food production and environmental protection as
equal parts of agriculture’s grand challenge (Robertson and
Swinton 2005, Garnett etal. 2013, Pretty and Bharucha 2014,
Rockström etal. 2017).
We aim to rebalance this narrative by laying out quan-
titative and compelling SI targets for both production and
the environment. These goals will clarify the scope of the
challenges that agriculture must face in the coming decades,
focus research and policy on achieving specific outcomes,
and ensure that SI efforts lead to measurable environmental
Our targets are based on the following standards: (a) SI
production goals should aim to meet projected global food
demand while recognizing that factors beyond aggregate
production also affect hunger and malnutrition (FAO etal.
2015, Schipanski etal. 2016), and (b) SI environmental goals
should aim to restore and maintain ecosystem functioning
in both managed and natural systems (Neufeldt etal. 2013,
Rockström etal. 2017).
Many authors call for production increases of 60%–100%
by 2050, based on two recent food-demand projections
(Tilman et al. 2011, Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
These goals appear clear and compelling, but they exag-
gerate the scale of the production increase needed by 2050
because they misinterpret the underlying projections and
ignore recent production gains. Moreover, the projections
are often simplified into a goal of doubling yields, which
serves as an urgent rallying cry for research, policy, and
industry (Monsanto 2008, Foley et al. 2011, Tilman et al.
2011, Ray etal. 2013, Long etal. 2015, Buckley 2016). This,
in turn, fosters a produce-at-all-costs mentality, which may
exacerbate existing environmental challenges by increasing
the use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and tillage.
In contrast, current SI environmental targets are unclear
and unlikely to inspire action. Most authors agree that
uncultivated land should not be converted for crop produc-
tion (e.g., Garnett etal. 2013, Pretty and Bharucha 2014).
Beyond this, however, stated goals diverge. They range
from the basic—not “increasing agricultures environmental
footprint” (Buckley 2016)—to the more aggressive—“major
reductions in environmental impact” (Garnett etal. 2013).
Some sustainability goals would even result in increased
environmental degradation, such as when marginal reduc-
tions in per-unit impacts are coupled with doubled output
(Monsanto 2008).
Our analysis shows that, largely because of recent produc-
tion gains, an increase of approximately 25%–70% above
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Figure 1. Food demand is projected to climb, while environmental impacts must
plummet. Calls to double crop production from a recent baseline imply growth
rates outside of the range of empirical projections. Meanwhile, agriculture’s
environmental impacts need to fall rapidly to protect critical ecosystem
functions. (a) Historical and projected global cereal production and demand
(inpetagrams). (b) Historical and projected direct greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions from agriculture and 2050 goal. (c) Historical total phosphorus loading
in the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River Basin and 2035 goal (in gigagrams).
Historical data are shown in solid lines, and future projections and goal
trajectories are shown in dashed or dotted lines (see supplemental tables S1 and
S3). Pg, petagram; Gg, gigagram. Sources: MRGMWNTF 2015, Foley etal. 2011,
Tilman etal. 2011, Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012, USGS 2015, FAO 2016.
current production levels may be suf-
ficient to meet 2050 demand (figure 1a,
supplemental table S1). Calls to double
food production from today’s levels are
not supported by existing projections.
Although even a 25%–70% increase will
be challenging, global agricultural out-
put is at least on the right trajectory.
In contrast, agricultures environmental
performance is going in the wrong direc-
tion: Aggregate impacts are increasing
and must drop sharply over the com-
ing decades (figure 1b–c, supplemental
We review and update the main pro-
jections of world food demand, discuss
examples of environmental improve-
ments needed by 2050, and propose
new directions for research and policy
to help meet both sustainability and
production goals. Our objectives are
to clarify the overarching productivity
and environmental goals of SI and to
recalibrate the narrative on the future
of agriculture. Therefore, we do not
address the related social, economic,
and geopolitical dimensions of SI (Loos
et al. 2014, Pretty and Bharucha 2014,
IPES-Food 2016); heterogeneity among
regions (Alexandratos and Bruinsma
2012, Mueller etal. 2012, Cunningham
etal. 2013, van Ittersum etal. 2013); or
the merits of different management phi-
losophies (Cassman 1999, IAASTD 2009,
Bommarco et al. 2013, Tittonell 2014).
Rectifying the prevailing SI narrative is
crucial because it is already shaping the
future of agricultural research and policy
(e.g., USDA 2015, Buckley 2016), with
potentially dramatic consequences for
the future of food production and the
Food-demand projections
Food demand in 2050 is projected to rise
as the global population crests 9.7 billion
people (UN 2015) and greater wealth
drives up per-capita consumption, espe-
cially of resource-intensive animal prod-
ucts (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
Public and scientific discourse on the
subject focuses primarily on two stud-
ies (Tilman et al. 2011, Alexandratos
and Bruinsma 2012). First, Alexandratos
and Bruinsma (2012) of the United
Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture
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388 BioScience April 2017 / Vol. 67 No. 4
Organization (FAO) projected a 60% increase in demand
from a 2005/2007 baseline using a price-weighted index of
food commodities. Second, Tilman and colleagues (2011)
projected that demand for calories and protein from human-
edible crops will increase by 100% and 110%, respectively,
from a 2005 baseline. Both of these projections account for
crops used as animal feed and, to a limited extent, as biofuel
These projections are complex and are commonly mis-
interpreted. First, the FAO projection of a 60% increase is
frequently misquoted as a 70% increase when authors cite an
earlier FAO report (Alexandratos 2006). Second, the price-
weighted basis of the FAO figures implies a larger increase
in crop demand than is actually projected on a mass basis:
For example, FAO projects only a 46% increase in cereals
demand (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012). Most impor-
tantly, authors often ignore the base year of the projections
(Foley etal. 2011, Ray etal. 2013, Long etal. 2015, Daryanto
etal. 2016), implying that the projected increase must occur
from today’s production levels. For both of these projec-
tions, the base year is now a decade past, and production has
increased substantially in this time (table S1). This error is
particularly misleading when authors explicitly graph 2050
demand as a doubling from current levels (e.g., Long etal.
We use global demand for cereals as a proxy for total
crop demand to illustrate the production increase needed
by 2050. Cereals are the world’s dominant crops. In 2013,
they were grown on 47% of global cropland and provided
63% and 56% of calories and protein, respectively, from
human-edible crops (table S3; FAO 2016). Of course, ending
hunger and malnutrition will require multiple crop types,
including pulses, roots, vegetables, and fruits, many of which
will need to be produced and marketed locally. Our focus on
aggregate global cereal demand does not imply that meeting
this demand would ensure global food security. Instead, our
updated projections are intended to illustrate agriculture’s
big-picture production challenge.
We build and update approximations of the FAO
(Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012) and Tilman and col-
leagues’ (2011) projections. The FAO projected cereals
demand in 2050 directly (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
Tilman and colleagues (2011) did not, so we approximate
their projection with a simple doubling of demand from a
2005 baseline. We also linearly transform both estimates
to account for differences between the original projections’
assumed 2050 population and the latest United Nations
analysis (UN 2015). We use the most recent FAOSTAT data
(FAO 2016), from 2014, as the baseline for our projections.
All data and projections are available in the supplemental
Our updates to the FAO (Alexandratos and Bruinsma
2012) and Tilman and colleagues’ (2011) projections indi-
cate that production of cereals must only increase 26% and
68% from 2014 levels, respectively, to meet 2050 demand
(figure1a, table S1). Rapid production growth in recent years
has made substantial progress toward the original projected
increases of 46% and 100%. Cereal production increased
24% from 2005 to 2014 because of both yield improvements
and the expansion of cropped area (supplemental tables
S1 and S5; FAO 2016). The production of oilcrops—which
account for most of the remaining calories and protein from
human-edible crops—increased even more, by 39% (supple-
mental tables S2 and S4; FAO 2016). Projected 2050 demand
for oilcrops is 46% higher than 2014 production levels based
on the FAO projection and 50% higher based on a doubling
from 2005 (table S2).
The discrepancy between the two cereal demand
projections—26% versus 68%—is largely due to differ-
ences in model assumptions. The FAO (Alexandratos and
Bruinsma 2012) assumed a lower rate of annual GDP growth
than Tilman and colleagues (2011): 2.1% as compared with
2.5%. The FAO also adjusted its projection to account for
potential saturation of meat consumption in the largest
developing country, China, and cultural factors limiting the
growth of meat consumption in the second largest, India
(Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
The two projections have drastically different implica-
tions for the future of crop production. Under the FAO
projection, the rate of average annual cereal yield growth
could fall gradually over the next 35 years and still meet
demand using only existing cropland. To double from a
2005 baseline, in contrast, cereal yields would have to grow
continually at a compound annual rate of over 1.5%, which
has not been achieved consistently since the mid-1980s
(figure2). Doubling yields by 2050 from a recent baseline—
the increase implied when authors do not specify the base
year for doubling—would require an even higher annual
yield growth rate of 1.9% per year.
Figure 2. Decrease in world cereal yield growth rate
over time. To double by 2050 from a 2005 baseline, yield
growth would have to be maintained at 1.5% per year.
Doubling from a 2014 baseline would require yield growth
of 1.9% per year. Each point represents the compound
annual growth rate of global average cereal yields over
the 5 previous years (FAO 2016). To smooth interannual
variation, growth rates were calculated using 5-year
moving average cereal yields.
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Sustaining these rates of average annual yield growth
until 2050, if it is even possible, would require widespread
intensification of fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation regimes.
This level of intensification would almost certainly increase
agriculture’s impact on water quality, aquifers, wildlife, and
the climate (Robertson and Swinton 2005, Foley etal. 2011,
West et al. 2014). SI production goals should therefore be
stated carefully to avoid furthering a production-at-all-costs
approach to agriculture. Goals should reflect the updated
projection that production must increase approximately
25%–70% from recent levels to meet demand in 2050. Calls
for doubling current production by 2050 should be avoided.
Environmental goals
In contrast to the literature on food demand, there has been
little discussion of specific environmental goals for agricul-
ture in 2050 or of the sector’s trajectory toward such goals.
Instead, the prevailing discourse often focuses on increasing
efficiency or improving general “sustainability,” which gives
the impression that marginal environmental improvements
are sufficient (Petersen and Snapp 2015). To illustrate the
true scope of agriculture’s environmental challenges, we
analyze the sector’s performance against quantitative targets
that have been proposed to achieve specific environmental
outcomes: mitigating climate change and limiting eutrophi-
cation in the Gulf of Mexico.
Agricultural production activities directly contribute
11%–13% of the world’s total anthropogenic greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC 2014). Indirect emissions
from land-use change in agriculture and forestry contribute
another 12% (IPCC 2014). To avoid the worst impacts of
climate change, Foley and colleagues (2011) called for an
80% reduction in agricultural GHG emissions. Since direct
agricultural GHG emissions have been steadily climbing,
achieving this level of reduction by 2050 would require an
abrupt shift in emissions trajectory (figure 1b, table S3).
Losses of agricultural nutrients to waterways contribute
to hypoxic “dead zones” downstream, threatening marine
life and fisheries in coastal regions throughout the world.
The hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico is fed
by the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River Basin system in the
central United States, where riverine nitrogen (N) and
phosphorus (P) are primarily from agricultural sources. The
second largest in the world, this dead zone reached 22,000
square kilometers (km2) in 2002 and averages 13,650 km2
per year (EPA 2016). In 2001, an intergovernmental task
force set a goal to reduce the average size of the dead zone
to 5000 km2 by 2015, which would require reducing annual
N and P loading to a level 45% below the 1980–1996 aver-
age (MRGMWNTF 2001, 2008). This goal was not met,
and the task force recently extended the deadline to 2035
(MRGMWNTF 2015). As figure 1c shows, P loading has
been increasing, and meeting the 45% reduction goal would
require a significant shift in trajectory (see also table S3). We
illustrate this goal using P data because the trends for total
N and reactive N are diverging and the Gulf Hypoxia Task
Force goal applies only to total N. Because total N has been
declining more rapidly than reactive N, using total N would
indicate greater progress toward the goal than has actually
been made.
These two examples show that agriculture still faces large
environmental challenges, but they are not meant to imply
that the sector has not made any progress. Indeed, US agri-
culture has improved in important areas, including by cut-
ting sheet, rill, and wind erosion by 43% between 1982 and
2007 (USDA 2011) and by beginning to reduce N losses in
the Midwest (McIsaac etal. 2016). However, both US and
global data on concerns ranging from biodiversity loss and
land conversion to irrigation-water withdrawals—in addi-
tion to GHG emissions and nutrient pollution—indicate that
agriculture leaves a large and growing footprint (Foley etal.
2011, West et al. 2014, Haacker et al. 2015). Clearly, envi-
ronmental sustainability cannot play second fiddle to inten-
sification; efforts to increase food production and reduce
aggregate environmental impacts must go hand in hand.
Agriculture’s path to 2050
Meeting food demand while maintaining functioning eco-
systems will require a recalibrated SI strategy, in which
up-to-date production goals are coupled with quantitative
environmental targets. Research and policy should pivot to
align with this strategy, both in the United States and glob-
ally. Here, we focus on the US context.
The research enterprise led by the National Science
Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
should prioritize efforts to identify and meet quantita-
tive production and environmental goals. First, research is
needed to specify targets in both categories. There is a par-
ticularly urgent need to quantify the reductions in pollution
and land degradation that must be achieved to sustain func-
tioning ecosystems at multiple scales (Neufeldt etal. 2013,
Rockström etal. 2017). These goals will need to be refined
periodically as new information becomes available, given the
uncertainty of long-term projections.
Second, applied agricultural research should focus on
developing production systems that can simultaneously
meet both production and environmental targets while help-
ing farmers adapt to a range of emerging challenges, such as
mounting water shortages (Falkenmark 2013, Elliott et al.
2014), pesticide resistance (Mortensen etal. 2012), yield pla-
teaus (Grassini etal. 2013, Ray etal. 2013), and the changing
climate (Challinor etal. 2014). The technical challenge of
such a fundamental transformation in production systems is
daunting, and meeting both sets of goals will require navi-
gating complex trade-offs (Robertson and Swinton 2005,
Neufeldt etal. 2013, Davis etal. 2016). However, establishing
clear targets will help researchers focus on these long-term
Achieving both production and environmental goals will
require shifts in US agricultural policy. Current policy heav-
ily favors production, including through crop insurance and
revenue- and price-based subsidy payments for commodity
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390 BioScience April 2017 / Vol. 67 No. 4
crops. These programs carry only minimal environmental
requirements, which provide limited protection against
erosion and the loss of some wetlands and grasslands, but
fail to target nutrient loss, air quality, GHG emissions, and
other concerns. Conservation incentive programs help pro-
ducers implement many environmentally beneficial prac-
tices, but they are not structured to produce maximum
benefits. Moreover, many environmental regulations cur-
rently exempt agricultural activities. To bring US policy
in line with future needs, producers who receive subsidies
should be required to meet more stringent environmental
standards, conservation programs should be reformed to
tie payments to quantified outcomes (Winsten and Hunter
2011), and effective regulatory backstops should be insti-
tuted to control the most environmentally damaging prac-
tices. Quantitative targets can help guide these policy efforts
and promote effective collaborations among researchers,
farmers, government agencies, and civil-society groups.
The Danish government’s pesticide strategy, which aims to
reduce pesticide loads by 40%, is one promising example of
using quantitative targets to collaboratively set agroenviron-
mental policy (DME 2013).
The goals of sustainable intensification extend beyond
aggregate production and environmental performance.
Additional policy efforts are needed to manage food demand
by reducing food waste (West etal. 2014) and shifting diets
(Davis et al. 2016). We must also halt cropland expan-
sion (Cunningham etal. 2013) and ensure that the world’s
poorest people have secure access to nutritious food (FAO
et al. 2015). Total land in agriculture has risen since 2005
in Africa, South America, and Asia (supplemental table S6;
FAO 2016), indicating continued land conversion at the
expense of native ecosystems, and conversion continues in
the United States as well (Lark et al. 2015). Approximately
795 million people are hungry today, despite adequate global
food production, because poverty, lack of infrastructure,
poor governance, natural disasters, and political unrest
restrict food access (FAO etal. 2015). These problems must
be addressed even as production increases and pollution
We call on researchers, policymakers, and farmers to
embrace this recalibrated vision of sustainable intensifica-
tion. Time is short: The annual cycle of planting and harvest
gives farmers fewer than 35 chances to transform their pro-
duction systems by midcentury. Scientists also face a limited
number of opportunities to develop and test new production
and conservation strategies. As a group of young agricultural
scientists (and one senior scientist), this is the challenge of
our careers. By the time our generation retires, agriculture’s
2050 goals must be met.
We thank Armen Kemanian, Nicholas Jordan, Adam Davis,
and the three anonymous reviewers for suggestions that
improved the manuscript and Emily Pia for assistance with
the analysis. This material is based on work supported by the
National Science Foundation under grant no. DGE1255832.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommenda-
tions expressed in this material are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science
Foundation. This project was also supported by USDA
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Climate Change
Mitigation and Adaptation in Agriculture grant no. 2011-
67003-30343 and USDA Organic Research and Extension
Initiative grant no. 2011-51300-30638.
Supplemental material
Supplementary data are available at BIOSCI online.
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Mitchell C. Hunter ( is a PhD candidate and David
A. Mortensen is a professor in the Plant Science Department and Ecology
Intercollege Graduate Degree Program at The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park. MCH studies the implications of cover cropping for drought
tolerance and climate resilience in maize. DAM studies the impacts of crop-
and weed-management methods on the ecological integrity of managed land-
scapes. Richard G. Smith is an associate professor and Lesley W. Atwood is a
PhD candidate in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham. RGS studies the roles that
crop-plant diversity and species interactions play in regulating agroecosystem
functions. LWA studies the effects of agricultural management on soil faunal
diversity and function. Meagan E. Schipanski is an assistant professor in the
Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University, in Fort
Collins. MES studies crop diversity and nutrient dynamics in agroecosystems
at multiple scales.
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... Computer vision and machine learning (CVML) are very important in agriculture if we want to meet the growing demand for food (Bochtis et al. 2014;Liakos et al. 2018). Food demand has significantly increased due to population expansion and rapid urbanization (Hunter et al. 2017), which includes the effective food production rate with a finite number of arable lands and other resources in a sustainable method for precision agriculture (Aubert et al. 2012;Wu et al. 2018). In recent years agriculture has considerably improved its use of computer vision techniques by employing skilled machine learning algorithms to boost agricultural output in a more efficient and economical way (Gomes et al. 2012;Rehman et al. 2019). ...
The world population is projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 (United Nations) and people will need food, and decrease the farming land. Thus, the importance of Internet of Things (IoT) and Computer Science (CS) in plant disease management are increasing now-a-days. Mobile apps, remote sensing, spectral signature analysis, artificial neural networks (ANN), and deep learning monitors are commonly used in plant disease and pest management. IoT improves crop yield by fostering new farming methods along with the improvement of monitoring and management through cloud computing. In the quest for effective plant disease control, the future lies in cutting-edge technologies. The integration of IoT, artificial intelligence, and data analytics revolutionizes monitoring and diagnosis, enabling timely and precise interventions. Cloud computing facilitates real-time data sharing and analysis empower farmers to combat diseases with unprecedented efficiency. By harnessing these innovations, agriculture can embrace sustainable practices and safeguard crop health, ensuring a bountiful and secure future for the global food supply.
... The already apparent effects of climate change on agriculture (Shukla et al .), the spread of pests into new regions (Garrett, 2013;IPPC Secretariat, 2021), and rapid population growth (UN DESA, 2022) provide immediate challenges to global food security (Steinwand and Ronald, 2020). Projections show that in order to meet 2050 demand, an increase in crop production of up to 75% is required (Hunter et al ., 2017). ...
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Stress Knowledge Map (SKM, is a publicly available resource containing two complementary knowledge graphs describing current knowledge of biochemical, signalling, and regulatory molecular interactions in plants: a highly curated model of plant stress signalling (PSS, 543 reactions) and a large comprehensive knowledge network (CKN, 488,390 interactions). Both were constructed by domain experts through systematic curation of diverse literature and database resources. SKM provides a single entrypoint for plant stress response investigations and the related growth tradeoffs. SKM provides interactive exploration of current knowledge. PSS is also formulated as qualitative and quantitative models for systems biology, and thus represents a starting point of a plant digital twin. Here, we describe the features of SKM and show, through two case studies, how it can be used for complex analyses, including systematic hypothesis generation, design of validation experiments, or to gain new insights into experimental observations in plant biology.
... It has become many countries' primary water source for irrigation and agricultural development (Salehie et al. 2022c;Shahid et al. 2015). Global food production must rise by 70% to meet the growing global food demand in 2050 (Han et al. 2022;Hunter et al. 2017;Yang and Liu 2022). Based on current trends, the growing water demand for food production is expected to be fulfilled by extracting groundwater (Giordano 2009;Rasul 2016). ...
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Increasing water consumption and climate change are putting countries globally at risk of running out of water supplies. The provision of groundwater helped reduce global food scarcity, but overexploitation resulted in the depletion of groundwater resources in many regions worldwide. This study applies the concepts of reliability, resiliency, and vulnerability to determine the spatial distribution of sustainability in groundwater resources over the intensive groundwater-irrigated regions of South Asia and China. The satellite-based Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) data of groundwater storage for 2003-2020 was acquired and used for this reason. The findings showed a decrease in groundwater storage in Northern China, Western India, and Eastern Pakistan, with the highest declination rate in Western India by − 50 to − 200 mm per decade. Groundwater reliability, resiliency, and vulnerability decreased in some regions of the study area, with the highest decrease in west India by − 0.2 to − 0.3 per decade. This caused a decrease in groundwater sustainability in the area at a rate of − 0.1 to − 0.3 per decade. The reduction in groundwater sustainability in western India may be due to intensive groundwater abstraction in those regions. It is important to prevent excessive groundwater pumping in the study area for sustainable development. It also is imperative to adopt sustainable groundwater management strategies, such as reducing groundwater extraction during drought years and growing less water-consuming crops in less sustainable regions.
... Global agricultural systems are facing major challenges in meeting the needs of the increasing global population [1,2]. Current global agriculture is based on monoculture and excessive fertilizer input, which have led to soil degradation, soil nutrient depletion, and an increase in pathogenic microorganisms, together resulting in crop yield instability [3]. ...
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The intercropping of maize (Zea mays L.) and peanuts (Arachis hypogaea L.) (M||P) significantly enhances crop yield. In a long-term M||P field experiment with two P fertilizer levels, we examined how long-term M||P affects topsoil aggregate fractions and stability, organic carbon (SOC), available phosphorus (AP), and total phosphorus (TP) in each aggregate fraction, along with crop yields. Compared to their respective monocultures, long-term M||P substantially increased the proportion of topsoil mechanical macroaggregates (7.6–16.3%) and water-stable macroaggregates (>1 mm) (13.8–36.1%), while reducing the unstable aggregate index (ELT) and the percentage of aggregation destruction (PAD). M||P significantly boosted the concentration (12.9–39.9%) and contribution rate (4.1–47.9%) of SOC in macroaggregates compared to single crops. Moreover, the concentration of TP in macroaggregates (>1 mm) and AP in each aggregate fraction of M||P exceeded that of the respective single crops (p < 0.05). Furthermore, M||P significantly increased the Ca2-P, Ca8-P, Al-P, and Fe-P concentrations of intercropped maize (IM) and the Ca8-P, O-P, and Ca10-P concentrations of intercropped peanuts (IP). The land equivalent ratio (LER) of M||P was higher than one, and M||P stubble improved the yield of subsequent winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) compared with sole-crop maize stubble. P application augmented the concentration of SOC, TP, and AP in macroaggregates, resulting in improved crop yields. In conclusion, our findings suggest that long-term M||P combined with P application sustains farmland productivity in the North China Plain by increasing SOC and macroaggregate fractions, improving aggregate stability, and enhancing soil P availability.
... According to the latest survey from the United Nations, the increased world population has caused global food demand to steadily increase [1,2], and food output has reached a record high [3]. Fertilizers play a crucial role in food production [4,5], with 40% to 60% of crop yield attributed to the use of fertilizers. ...
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Urea formaldehyde slow-release fertilizers are efficient and environmentally friendly fertilizers. They have good slow-release properties and can significantly improve the utilization rate of fertilizers. However, problems remain regarding the synthesis of urea formaldehyde slow-release fertilizers, their characterization, and aspects of their performance. This study explores the effects of different reaction conditions on the quality of synthesized urea formaldehyde and establishes a response relationship between synthesis factors and sustained-release performance. Optimal conditions for urea formaldehyde synthesis included use of an ammonium chloride catalyst, pH 4 as the final pH condition, and a urea/formaldehyde molar ratio (U/F) of 1.3. Samples prepared in this study were characterized in terms of cold water-insoluble nitrogen, hot water-insoluble nitrogen, and soil-available nitrogen. The samples were also characterized by spectroscopic and instrumental methods to correlate the microscale behaviors of the urea formaldehyde particles with their performance as controlled-release fertilizers. This work is expected to provide a basis for the production of urea formaldehyde and to improve its performance as a slow-release fertilizer.
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Optimizing photosynthesis is considered an important strategy for improving crop yields to ensure food security. To evaluate the potential of using photosynthesis-related parameters in crop breeding programs, we measured chlorophyll fluorescence along with growth-related and morphological traits of 23 barley inbreds across different developmental stages in field conditions. The photosynthesis-related parameters were highly variable, changing with light intensity and developmental progression of plants. Yet, the variations in photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield observed among the inbreds in the field largely reflected the variations in CO2 assimilation properties in controlled climate chamber conditions, confirming that the chlorophyll fluorescence-based technique can provide proxy parameters of photosynthesis to explore genetic variations under field conditions. Heritability (H2) of the photosynthesis-related parameters in the field ranged from 0.16 for the quantum yield of non-photochemical quenching to 0.78 for the fraction of open PSII center. Two parameters, the maximum PSII efficiency in light-adapted state (H2 0.58) and the total non-photochemical quenching (H2 0.53), showed significant positive and negative correlations, respectively, with yield-related traits (dry weight per plant and net straw weight) in the barley inbreds. These results indicate the possibility of improving crop yield through optimizing photosynthetic light use efficiency by conventional breeding programs.
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Nitrogen plays a significant role in influencing various physiological processes in plants, thereby impacting their ability to withstand abiotic stresses. This study used hydroponics to compare the effects of three nitrogen supply levels (1N, 1/2N and 1/4N) on the antioxidant capacity of rice varieties JJ88 (nitrogen efficient) and XN999 (nitrogen inefficient) with different nitrogen use efficiencies. The results show that compared with the XN999 variety, the JJ88 variety has stronger adaptability to low-nitrogen conditions, which is mainly reflected in the relatively small decrease in dry weight and net photosynthetic rate (Pn); In the early stage of low-nitrogen treatment (0–7 d), the O2-\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$${\mathbf{O}}_{2}^{-}$$\end{document} production rate, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and malondialdehyde (MDA) content of JJ88 variety increased relatively slightly, but the superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxide The activity of enzyme (POD) and catalase (CAT) increased significantly; After low-nitrogen treatment, the ASA–GSH cycle enzyme activity of JJ88 variety was relatively high, and the dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) activity after 14 days of low-nitrogen treatment was higher than that of 1N treatment; The content of reduced ascorbic acid (ASA) in non-enzymatic antioxidants was lower than that of 1N treatment after 14 days of low nitrogen treatment; The contents of oxidized dehydroascorbic acid (DHA) and carotenoids (Car) were higher than those of 1N treatment after 21d and 14d of low nitrogen treatment respectively; The contents of reduced glutathione (GSH), oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and proline (Pro) showed a larger upward trend during the entire low-nitrogen treatment period. In summary, the JJ88 rice variety has a strong ability to regulate oxidative stress and osmotic damage under low nitrogen conditions. It can slow down plant damage by regulating antioxidant enzyme activity and antioxidant content. This provides a basis for achieving nitrogen reduction and efficiency improvement in rice and the breeding of nitrogen-efficient varieties.
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There is an ongoing debate on what constitutes sustainable intensification of agriculture (SIA). In this paper, we propose that a paradigm for sustainable intensification can be defined and translated into an operational framework for agricultural development. We argue that this paradigm must now be defined-at all scales-in the context of rapidly rising global environmental changes in the Anthropocene, while focusing on eradicating poverty and hunger and contributing to human wellbeing. The criteria and approach we propose, for a paradigm shift towards sustainable intensification of agriculture, integrates the dual and interdependent goals of using sustainable practices to meet rising human needs while contributing to resilience and sustainability of landscapes, the biosphere, and the Earth system. Both of these, in turn, are required to sustain the future viability of agriculture. This paradigm shift aims at repositioning world agriculture from its current role as the world's single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a key contributor of a global transition to a sustainable world within a safe operating space on Earth.
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Drought has been a major cause of agricultural disaster, yet how it affects the vulnerability of maize and wheat production in combination with several co-varying factors (i.e., phenological phases, agro-climatic regions, soil texture) remains unclear. Using a data synthesis approach, this study aims to better characterize the effects of those co-varying factors with drought and to provide critical information on minimizing yield loss. We collected data from peer-reviewed publications between 1980 and 2015 which examined maize and wheat yield responses to drought using field experiments. We performed unweighted analysis using the log response ratio to calculate the bootstrapped confidence limits of yield responses and calculated drought sensitivities with regards to those co-varying factors. Our results showed that yield reduction varied with species, with wheat having lower yield reduction (20.6%) compared to maize (39.3%) at approximately 40% water reduction. Maize was also more sensitive to drought than wheat, particularly during reproductive phase and equally sensitive in the dryland and non-dryland regions. While no yield difference was observed among regions or different soil texture, wheat cultivation in the dryland was more prone to yield loss than in the non-dryland region. Informed by these results, we discuss potential causes and possible approaches that may minimize drought impacts.
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Food systems are under increasing pressure to produce sufficient food for the global population, decrease the environmental impacts of production, and buffer against complex global change. Food security also remains elusive for many populations worldwide. Greater emphasis on food system resilience could reduce these vulnerabilities. We outline integrated strategies that together could foster food system resilience across scales, including (a) integrating gender equity and social justice into food security research and initiatives, (b) increasing the use of ecological processes rather than external inputs for crop production, (c) fostering regionalized food distribution networks and waste reduction, and (d) linking human nutrition and agricultural production policies. Enhancing social–ecological links and fostering adaptive capacity are essential to cope with short-term volatility and longer-term global change pressures. Finally, we highlight regional case studies that have enhanced food system resilience for vulnerable populations. Efforts in these areas could have dramatic impacts on global food system resilience.
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In light of human population growth, global food security is an escalating concern. To meet increasing demand for food, leading scientists have called for "sustainable intensification", defined as the process of enhancing agricultural yields with minimal environmental impact and without expanding the existing agricultural land base. We argue that this definition is inadequate to merit the term "sustainable", because it lacks engagement with established principles that are central to sustainability. Sustainable intensification is likely to fail in improving food security if it continues to focus narrowly on food production ahead of other equally or more important variables that influence food security. Sustainable solutions for food security must be holistic and must address issues such as food accessibility. Wider consideration of issues related to equitable distribution of food and individual empowerment in the intensification decision process (distributive and procedural justice) is needed to put meaning back into the term "sustainable intensification".
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A large imbalance between recharge and water withdrawal has caused vital regions of the High Plains Aquifer (HPA) to experience significant declines in storage. A new predevelopment map coupled with a synthesis of annual water levels demonstrates that aquifer storage has declined by approximately 410 km(3) since the 1930s, a 15% larger decline than previous estimates. If current rates of decline continue, much of the Southern High Plains and parts of the Central High Plains will have insufficient water for irrigation within the next 20 to 30 years, whereas most of the Northern High Plains will experience little change in storage. In the western parts of the Central and northern part of the Southern High Plains, saturated thickness has locally declined by more than 50%, and is currently declining at rates of 10% to 20% of initial thickness per decade. The most agriculturally productive portions of the High Plains will not support irrigated production within a matter of decades without significant changes in management. © 2015, National Ground Water Association.
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Cultivation of corn and soybeans in the United States reached record high levels following the biofuels boom of the late 2000s. Debate exists about whether the expansion of these crops caused conversion of grasslands and other carbon-rich ecosystems to cropland or instead replaced other crops on existing agricultural land. We tracked crop-specific expansion pathways across the conterminous US and identified the types, amount, and locations of all land converted to and from cropland, 2008–2012. We found that crop expansion resulted in substantial transformation of the landscape, including conversion of long-term unimproved grasslands and land that had not been previously used for agriculture (cropland or pasture) dating back to at least the early 1970s. Corn was the most common crop planted directly on new land, as well as the largest indirect contributor to change through its displacement of other crops. Cropland expansion occurred most rapidly on land that is less suitable for cultivation, raising concerns about adverse environmental and economic costs of conversion. Our results reveal opportunities to increase the efficacy of current federal policy conservation measures by modifying coverage of the 2014 US Farm Bill Sodsaver provision and improving enforcement of the US Renewable Fuels Standard.
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Increasing yield has emerged as the most prominent element in strategies to deal with growing global demand for food and fibre. It is usually acknowledged that this needs to be done while minimising harm to the environment, but historically land-use intensification has been a major driver of biodiversity loss. The risk is now great that a singular focus on increasing yields will divert attention from the linked problem of biodiversity decline, and the historical pattern will continue. There are options that increase yields while reducing harm to biodiversity, which should be the focus of future strategies. The solutions are not universal, but are locally specific. This is because landscapes vary greatly in inherent biodiversity, the production systems they can support, and the potential for them to be adopted by landholders. While new production techniques might apply at local scale, biodiversity conservation inevitably requires strategies at landscape and larger scales.
Meeting the food needs of the growing and increasingly affluent human population with the planet’s limited resources is a major challenge of our time. Seen as the preferred approach to global food security issues, ‘sustainable intensification’ is the enhancement of crop yields while minimizing environmental impacts and preserving the ability of future generations to use the land. It is still unclear to what extent sustainable intensification would allow humanity to meet its demand for food commodities. Here we use the footprints for water, nitrogen, carbon and land to quantitatively evaluate resource demands and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of future agriculture and investigate whether an increase in these environmental burdens of food production can be avoided under a variety of dietary scenarios. We calculate average footprints of the current diet and find that animal products account for 43–87% of an individual’s environmental burden – compared to 18% of caloric intake and 39% of protein intake. Interestingly, we find that projected improvements in production efficiency would be insufficient to meet future food demand without also increasing the total environmental burden of food production. Transitioning to less impactful diets would in many cases allow production efficiency to keep pace with growth in human demand while minimizing the food system’s environmental burden. This study provides a useful approach for evaluating the attainability of sustainable targets and for better integrating food security and environmental impacts.
The Illinois River is a major contributor of nitrate‐N to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, where nitrate is a leading cause of summertime benthic hypoxia. Corn–soybean production on tile‐drained land is a leading source of nitrate‐N in this river system, in addition to municipal wastewater discharge. We calculated annual nitrate‐N loads in the Illinois River at Valley City from 1976 to 2014 by linear interpolation. Although there was not a significant trend in annual loads during the entire study period, there was a significant downward trend in flow‐weighted nitrate‐N concentration after 1990 despite high concentrations in 2013 after the 2012 drought. Multivariate regression analysis revealed a statistically significant association between annual flow‐weighted nitrate‐N concentration and cumulative residual agricultural N inputs to the watershed during a 6‐yr window. This suggests that declines in flow‐weighted nitrate‐N concentration may reflect increasing N use efficiency in agriculture and a depletion of legacy N stored in the watershed. The watershed appears to have transitioned from a state of stationarity in nitrate concentration to nonstationarity. The average annual nitrate‐N load at Valley City from 2010 to 2014 was 10% less than the 1980–1996 average load, indicating recent progress toward Illinois’ nutrient loss reduction milestone of 15% reduction by 2025 and ultimate target of 45% reduction. Core Ideas Downward trend in annual flow‐weighted nitrate‐N concentrations since 1990. Nitrate‐N concentrations correlated with residual agricultural N during the previous 6 yr. Nitrate‐N concentrations correlated with current year Chicago wastewater discharge. Nitrate‐N load highly variable due to variation in precipitation and water discharge. Average nitrate‐N load during 2010–2014 was 10% less than the 1980–1996 baseline period.
Séminaire à CleanED lab à l'Unversité des sciences et des technologies de Hanoi USTH