Agricultural productivity is an increasingly hot topic worldwide, particularly after last week's G20 Summit (read the Interagency Report on increasing agricultural production). If current estimates of global population growth are correct, farmers will need to roughly double the world's current food production in order to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Climate change presents an additional challenge, with changing weather patterns and severe weather events undermining farmers' ability to even maintain current production levels. While research has shown that both traditional agricultural practices and agricultural innovations play an important role in sustainably increasing food production, information is lacking regarding exactly how much potential there is for increased crop yields, given the earth's finite land and water resources.
The Global Yield Gap Atlas aims to fill this void by examining the "gaps" between farms' current average crop yields and their maximum potential yields. The project, a collaboration between the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University with the help of IFPRI and ICRISAT, will use crop distribution maps based on the IFPRI Spatial Production Allocation Model developed by IFPRI's HarvestChoice team. This model produces crop distribution and performance maps by spatially disaggregating subnational statistics data on 10 km grids; this technique results in highly detailed information regarding current agricultural production, and potential for increased production, around the world. (View interactive maps of sub-Saharan Africa.)
This type of detailed data will allow policymakers and research institutions to identify regions with the greatest potential to increase food production and efficient water use, evaluate the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity, and prioritize research and development investments to encourage sustainable production.