In a recent study published in the March 2015 edition of The Journal of Economic History, Jason Beddow and Philip Pardey (University of Minnesota, InSTePP) challenge some long-standing notions about the past and future evolution of crop production by taking explicit account of agriculture’s geographically-shifting footprint.
When analyzing crop yields, economists have long emphasized commercially-marketed and managed inputs, such as fertilizer, machinery, irrigation, and crop genetics, without giving as much consideration to spatially-explicit policy, biological and environmental conditions such as soil type, sunlight, rainfall, temperature, pests, and diseases. By so doing, they risk misattributing sources of growth (to inputs) and overestimating the effects of technological advances and climate change.
Beddow and Pardey’s new insight was that common economic indexes could be adapted to assess the output consequences of shifting the location of crop production. They applied these spatial indexes to analyze US corn production data for 1879 to 2007, a 128 year period during which there was a notable north-westerly movement in where corn was produced—the average corn plant in 2007 was grown over 400 kilometers northwest of its 1879 ancestor. Strikingly, some 16-21 percent of the increased corn output over the period is attributable to that movement, and, implicitly, the corresponding changes in biology, technology, weather, and economics faced by corn farmers.
InSTePP researchers are now investigating whether similar patterns of movement are evident for other crops and regions. Preliminary results reported by Beddow and Pardey find that more recent movements in the location of sub-Saharan African corn production may have had the opposite effect: decreasing crop output. Notwithstanding, the study raises prospects for future changes in where crops are grown to increase global crop production and mitigate impacts of global climate change.
The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.
The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.
Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days
Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank
Bread Blog, Bread for the World
Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact
Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide
Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute
End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank
Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development
The Global Food Banking Network
Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative
The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development
International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT
ONE Blog, ONE Campaign
One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund
Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute
Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America
Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute
Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability
WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA
Food security is one of the most pressing challenges in the world today. The challenge is particularly important as the world population is projected to reach over 9 billion people resulting in increased food demand by the year 2050.
Commentary - Failing to Address the Complexity of US International Food Aid Policy May Result in Perpetuating the Problem of World Hunger
An encouraging new development from the Obama Administration intends to change the way the US distributes its international food aid. But will it succeed?
The Karimi group of Tabalab, Kenya, receives top dress fertilizer, solar lights, maize bags, sukuma seeds, and cassava cuttings at top dress delivery in Teso.
Joska Aweko is working with TechnoServe junior business advisor Jane Akot to improve her farming techniques and increase the income she earns from cotton.
Marion Odongo of Ringa, Kenya, uses a knife to crack kernels of maize loose from a dried cob so she can store them to last her through the year.
Hunger, malnutrition, poverty, climate change, environmental degradation - addressing these injustices is at the forefront of political meetings the world over. Yet these problems persist as global leaders strive to find efficient and synergistic ways of tackling them sustainably.
Colette Mushimiyimana prepares sticks for climbing beans she will soon plant in Mukimba, Rwanda.
As word spread earlier this week of the food aid reform section of President Obama’s 2014 budget, I wondered how Jerman Amente would greet the news.
When it comes to providing hunger relief to needy people around the world, the United States has been a leader since World War II. And if early reports about the Obama administration’s 2014 budget are true, then the U.S. will have a golden opportunity to provide even more food to the hungry while spending less taxpayer dollars in the years ahead.
Farmers in Bomokora, Kenya prepare to carry the seed and fertilizer they have received from a One Acre Fund delivery home.
Ten years ago, Africa’s hunger season reached new levels of desperation.