Washingon Post - After decades of rapidly growing global agricultural output, production of four of the world’s most important crops could be stagnating or even slowing in some regions, according to a new study published in Nature, a top scientific journal. The study, by the University of Minnesota’s Deepak Ray and four others, examined millions of census reports from the last half century to gather their data.
The authors are careful to point out that crop production is still
increasing in parts of the world; it is by no means a categorical
decline. The report’s abstract reads summarizes, “Although yields
continue to increase in many areas, we find that across 24–39% of
maize-, rice-, wheat- and soybean-growing areas, yields either never
improve, stagnate or collapse.” That’s about a quarter to a third of
global production of four of our most important crops.
This is potentially a very big deal. World populations are still
growing. So is the global middle class, members of which tend to consume
more meat and dairy per person, which means more crops per person.
That’s been happening for a while, and it’s been fine as long as food
production has kept pace. But the pace of crop production growth appears
to be slowing in some really important regions, particularly in parts
of India and China – and, yes, the U.S.