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With global food demand set to rise by 40% by 2030, the need to increase agricultural output is becoming increasingly urgent. In the coming decades, the advancement and proliferation of agricultural technology – from more efficient machinery to higher-yielding crop varieties – will play a pivotal role in enhancing food security.
AMSTERDAM – In the Mekong Delta, farmers obtain 6-7 tons of rice per hectare in dry seasons and 4-5 tons per hectare in wet seasons, using fast-maturing rice varieties that allow up to three consecutive yields annually. By contrast, West African rice farmers harvest only 1.5 tons per hectare of traditional upland rice annually, while other cereals yield no more than one ton – a figure comparable to yields in medieval Europe.
Such disparities are unnecessary. Indeed, the proliferation of agricultural technology – from more efficient machinery to higher-yielding or more robust crop varieties – has the potential to narrow the productivity gap considerably, even if differences between climates and producers remain.
For example, a new variety of African upland rice, Nerica, triples annual yields. Likewise, over the last four decades, improved breeding methods, higher-quality feed, and better veterinary care have more than doubled average milk production worldwide. Nevertheless, regional discrepancies remain massive: cows in the Netherlands can produce roughly 9,000 liters of milk annually, while Zebu cattle in the tropics produce only about 300 liters.