Patterns of Cereal Yield Growth across China from 1980 to 2010 and Their Implications for Food Production and Food Security
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After a remarkable 86% increase in cereal production from 1980 to 2005, recent crop yield growth in China has been slow. County level crop production data between 1980 and 2010 from eastern and middle China were used to analyze spatial and temporal patterns of rice, wheat and maize yield in five major farming systems that include around 90% of China's cereal production. Site-specific yield trends were assessed in areas where those crops have experienced increasing yield or where yields have stagnated or declined. We find that rice yields have continued to increase on over 12.3 million hectares (m. ha) or 41.8% of the rice area in China between 1980 and 2010. However, yields stagnated on 50% of the rice area (around 14.7 m. ha) over this time period. Wheat yields increased on 13.8 m. ha (58.2% of the total harvest area), but stagnated on around 3.8 m. ha (15.8% of the harvest area). Yields increased on a smaller proportion of the maize area (17.7% of harvest area, 5.3 m. ha), while yields have stagnated on over 54% (16.3 m. ha). Many parts of the lowland rice and upland intensive sub-tropical farming systems were more prone to stagnation with rice, the upland intensive sub-tropical system with wheat, and maize in the temperate mixed system. Large areas where wheat yield continues to rise were found in the lowland rice and temperate mixed systems. Land and water constraints, climate variability, and other environmental limitations undermine increased crop yield and agricultural productivity in these systems and threaten future food security. Technology and policy innovations must be implemented to promote crop yields and the sustainable use of agricultural resources to maintain food security in China. In many production regions it is possible to better match the crop with input resources to raise crop yields and benefits. Investments may be especially useful to intensify production in areas where yields continue to improve. For example, increased support to maize production in southern China, where yields are still rising, seems justified.
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