Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

Deepak Ray, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Paul C. West, Jonathan A. Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1814 Scopus citations


Several studies have shown that global crop production needs to double by 2050 to meet the projected demands from rising population, diet shifts, and increasing biofuels consumption. Boosting crop yields to meet these rising demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture has been highlighted as a preferred solution to meet this goal. However, we first need to understand how crop yields are changing globally, and whether we are on track to double production by 2050. Using ∼2.5 million agricultural statistics, collected for ∼13,500 political units across the world, we track four key global crops-maize, rice, wheat, and soybean-that currently produce nearly two-thirds of global agricultural calories. We find that yields in these top four crops are increasing at 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9%, and 1.3% per year, non-compounding rates, respectively, which is less than the 2.4% per year rate required to double global production by 2050. At these rates global production in these crops would increase by ∼67%, ∼42%, ∼38%, and ∼55%, respectively, which is far below what is needed to meet projected demands in 2050. We present detailed maps to identify where rates must be increased to boost crop production and meet rising demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere66428
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 19 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research support was provided by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and by the Institute on the Environment, along with previous funding from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's – NASA's – Interdisciplinary Earth Science program. This work also benefitted from contributions by General Mills, Mosaic, Cargill, Google, PepsiCo, and Kellogg to support stakeholder outreach and public engagement. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


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