Tierras y Aguas

Crop yield and water-productivity gaps - Technical meeting

Population growth and dietary changes seem to be the main cause of the worldwide increased food demand, projected as being 60% higher by 2050.

Global agriculture faces the challenges for a “sustainable intensification” in production to address food security and increasingly scarce natural resources, further aggravated by climate change. 

While the importance of R&D investment in agriculture is recognized, better allocation of limited funding as well as improved governance and management are essential to improve food production systems. In this context, the common and often large gaps in yield and water productivity are critical targets.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska (DWFI), the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), and the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) have established a strong partnership to jointly address these four major themes:

(1) Review definitions and methods to quantify the gaps 

Defining and quantify yield at different levels (actual, attainable, potential) and different scales in space (field, farm, region, global) and time (short, long term), and critically assess the methods to benchmark yield and water productivity gaps.

(2) Diagnosing the causes of gaps 

Identifying the causes determining the gaps between yield and water productivity levels, emphasising economic, social and environmental trade-offs.

(3) Devise actions to reduce the gaps 

This will be done in a context of multiple objectives (economic, social, environmental) and time scales (short, long-term).

(4) Account for the sustainability implications of filling the gaps 

Focusing on environmental sustainability

The technical consultation aims to: 

Review the achievements to date related to methods for benchmarking yield and water productivity gaps at different space and time scales. [Theme 1 - DEFINITIONS AND METHODS]

Addressing the key questions: what are the main methods to identify causes for yield gaps? Do methods differ between large-commercial and small-holding production systems? How do we identify trade-offs underlying yield gaps? How do identify irreducible yield gaps? [Theme 2 - ASSESSING THE CAUSES OF GAPS]

Addressing the key questions: how do we reduce yield gaps where the remedial technologies are known (e.g. increasing fertiliser rate) but application is constrained (e.g. by costs)? How do we reduce yield gaps where the remedial technologies are not available (e.g. soil salinity)? [Theme 3 - ACTIONS FOR CLOSING THE GAPS]

Addressing the key questions: What are the conditions and opportunities for synergies, i.e. reducing yield gaps and improving environmental outcomes simultaneously? What are the conditions for trade-offs? What are the sustainability implications related to closing the yield gaps in different environmental and socio-economic contexts? [Theme 4 - SUSTAINABILITY IMPLICATIONS]