Sustainable food systems: a world map of rising yields

Sustainable food systems: a world map of rising yields

September 22, 2021
Food Security  Trade 

As the planet increasingly moves towards more sustainable methods of production, the spotlight is increasingly falling on our food systems. Growing populations, unpredictable weather patterns triggered by climate change and a heightened need to produce more with less is putting pressure on our farmers.

Thankfully, in many ways, agriculture is ahead of the curve. Our food systems can take advantage of decades of innovation and hard work from farmers, agronomists, plant scientists and others, who combined their efforts to massively increase the productivity of the planet’s farmland.

Looking at the last 60 years, from when FAO figures are first available in 1961, the eight major staple crops have seen significant increases in their global yield. But how has this been achieved? This isn’t simply about expanding the amount of farmland, but about getting more out of each bit of land. This is vital as the world moves to a more sustainable economic model while also meeting a rising food demand expected to be between 59% – 98% by 2050. The FAO estimates that 80% of the increased demand must be reached through productivity gains.Global rising yields 1961-2019

Farmers have access to a wide range of tools to help them increase productivity but managing pests plays a major role in boosting yields. The FAO estimates that 20% – 40% of crops produced globally are lost to pests and disease every year; without crop protection that figure could double. Biotech varieties are also playing a key role in reducing crop losses for farmers around the world.

The story of agriculture over the last 60 years is one of scientific advancement, rising yields and increasing efficiency. The global numbers tell this story, but in each region of the world this has looked slightly different. That’s why we’ve taken a region-by-region look at how the sustainability of food production has improved.



Rising yields are about more than just feeding growing populations. More sustainable food systems powered by plant science boost food security and help support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farmers. Crop protection products and biotech varieties give farmers the tools to produce more with less while improving their climate resilience, supporting biodiversity and contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.