Population growth and biofuel demand is driving worldwide demand for grains. The growth in average grain yield has slowed and reached plateaus for corn, rice, and wheat in several countries that are major producers. The same pattern has been observed for irrigated corn in some of top corn-yielding counties in Nebraska. The global population continues to grow, therefore, either grain yields must increase on currently cultivated land, or additional land will be brought into production. Some land that can be brought into production, such as Conservation Reserve Program acres in the U.S., are environmentally vulnerable and best left out of production as negative environmental consequences may result.

While biotechnology is an important tool for control of insects, disease, and weed pests, it is not likely to provide a “quantum leap” in crop yields within the next 10-20 years, which is the critical time for ensuring both global food security and natural resource conservation. Ecological Intensification provides a framework for integration of all appropriate technological options, including biotechnology, to achieve significant yield gains on existing cropland. Using EI to meet food and fuel demands will help to minimize expansion of cultivated acres, while also addressing concerns about the environmental costs of agriculture.

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Fact sheets:
Ecological Intensification of Crop Production: The Need for EI.

Ecological Intensification of Crop Production: How EI Works

Ecological Intensification of Crop Production: Research Example

Next Unit: 3.3