The Role of Agricultural Technologies

Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity The Role of Agricultural Technologies 
Mark W. Rosegrant, Jawoo Koo, Nicola Cenacchi, Claudia Ringler, Richard Robertson, Myles Fisher, Cindy Cox, Karen Garrett, Nicostrato D. Perez, and Pascale Sabbagh
Copyright © 2014 International Food Policy Research Institute.
174 pages

Sustainable intensification does not specify which agricultural technologies and practices should be deployed, as these are context specific, but solutions need to be environmentally sustainable (Garnett et al. 2013). Experts have suggested that in many parts of the world, the adoption of small, incremental changes—such as expanding fertilizer use, improving varieties, using mulches, and using optimal spacing and precision agriculture in both high tech and low tech systems—could have important positive effects on yields while limiting environmental impacts.

For this study, the authors selected both high- and low-tech solutions, ranging from new traits in varieties (for example, drought-tolerant and heat-tolerant crops) and water-saving irrigation technologies to practices that are considered more efficient in terms of resource use (for example, integrated soil fertility management and no-till). Despite the current limitations on data availability, we also included crop protection technology in the study, using estimates for chemical control to represent crop protection in general. The technologies assessed were identified by experts from agricultural research organizations, the private sector, and practitioners as key options to increase cereal yields rapidly and sustainably in the face of growing natural resource scarcity and climate change.

The technologies cover a broad range of traditional, conventional, and advanced practices with some proven potential for yield improvement and wide geographic application. The chosen technologies are

  1. no-till,
  2. integrated soil fertility management (ISFM),
  3. precision agriculture (PA),
  4. organic agriculture (OA),
  5. nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE),
  6. water harvesting,
  7. drip irrigation,
  8. sprinkler irrigation,
  9. improved varieties—drought-tolerant characters,
  10. improved varieties—heat-tolerant characters, and
  11. crop protection.

12 February 2014. The International Food Policy Research Institute launched their newest report, Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies, during a global agricultural summit hosted at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The first-of-its-kind report shows how innovations can affect maize, wheat and rice yields in 2050 and their impact on farm productivity, commodity prices, hunger, malnutrition and trade flows.

The global summit featured academics, policymakers and experts analyzing the study results and the policies needed to advance its conclusions. IFPRI will also unveil an innovative new online tool that enables policymakers to easily visualize the impacts of agricultural technologies at the micro-level.

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