The case of the missing wheat

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Alice finds herself running as fast as she can but not moving anywhere. The Red Queen explains to her 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.'

Such is the situation in global agriculture. Global demand for agricultural products continues to rise as population grows and people get richer. As they get richer, people have fewer babies but eat more. And they use a lot more energy, which is increasingly derived from agricultural products. Crop technologies have to move incredibly fast just to keep up. Remarkably, over the past 50 years they have, with yields (production per hectare of land) for most crops more than doubling since 1960, and real prices of food falling for most of the period. In many ways we have come to take continued yield growth for granted. But, as Lin and Huybers show elsewhere in this issue, there is increasing evidence that this growth has stalled in many regions.

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