Crop Technology

IFPRI's work on crop technology aims to provide policymakers the information needed to craft long-term agriculture investment strategies in a world of growing population and climate volatility.

To address the challenges of climate change, rising long term food prices and poor progress in improving food security will require increased food production without further damaging the environment. Accelerated investments in agricultural research and development will be crucial to support food production growth.  However, the specific set of agricultural technologies that should be used remains a major question. The future technology mix will have major impacts on agricultural production, food consumption, food security, trade, and environmental quality in developing countries.  The type and effectiveness of agricultural technologies is highly debated, and the debate is often polarized.  Advocates of intensive agriculture believe that investments in upstream agricultural science including biotechnology and genetic modification are needed for rapid agricultural growth, together with high levels of inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and water.  At the other end of the spectrum, advocates of low- input agriculture emphasize the role of low input agriculture and crop management improvement through water harvesting, low tillage, and soil fertility management in boosting future yield growth.  

Technology options are numerous, but transparent evidence-based information to support decisions on the potential of alternative technologies relatively scarce.  The goal of this report is to address these knowledge gaps, and provide some clarity about benefits associated with the adoption of various agricultural technology options. This study compares the effects that different technologies have on yields and resource use, particularly water and nutrients. By modeling technology-induced changes in crop yields, the analysis also helps to understand how the mix of technology may influence the global food market, in terms of changes in food prices, trade flows, as well as calorie availability, in particular for developing countries. This is no longer a question of low vs. high income countries but one for the planet: How do we achieve food security in a world of growing scarcity? Thus, a  key challenge for our common future will be how we can grow food sustainably—meeting the demands of a growing population without degrading our natural resource base.