Reality Check on World’s Shrinking Grain Yields

Lester R. Brown at Earth Policy Institute has published a chapter from his book “Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity” online, and it’s a fascinating read. Basically, Brown breaks down all of the complex angles involved in raising global crop yields, a process (or really, amalgam of processes) that has been going on for the last hundred years (and more, in some places like Japan). Brown discusses growth in fertilizer use, natural factors like geographical location, soil concentration, rainfall, and proximity to the equator (places with a more mild climate can often yield summer and winter crops). However, after putting concentration and research into raising crop yields for the better part of a century, titans like the United States, China, and India are all plateauing, with scientists wondering how else they can raise yields again, especially in facing an uncertain future where food scarcity is almost certainly going to be a major global issue.

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