Biotech Updates

Increasing Cropping Frequency to Boost Food Production

November 27, 2013

Harvesting existing cropland more frequently could substantially increase global food production without clearing more land for agriculture, according to a new study from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota (UM). The study tracked global harvest trends of 177 crops between 1961 and 2011. According to the study, the total amount of land harvested increased four times faster than the total amount of cropland between 2000 and 2011, suggesting that harvest frequency was on the rise, leading the authors to wonder if increasing cropping frequency could lead to additional gains.

Deepak Ray, lead author of the study, introduced the concept of harvest gap - the difference between actual per-year harvest frequency and the maximum potential frequency. They found that Africa, Latin America and Asia have the highest concentration of potential harvest gaps. Brazil, for example, has a harvest gap of 0.9, suggesting that on its current arable lands a second harvest is possible each year.

Closing the gap would boost crop production on existing croplands without resorting to further clearing for agriculture which could potentially reduce the pressure to destroy additional rain forest. Increased harvest frequency also holds potential for mitigating risk under a changing climate. Worldwide, the researchers found that closing harvest gaps worldwide could theoretically boost production more than 44 percent.

For more about this study, read the UM news release at: