Closing yield gap is crucial to avoid potential surge in global carbon emissions

Sangwon Suh, Justin A. Johnson, Lau Tambjerg, Sarah Sim, Summer Broeckx-Smith, Whitney Reyes, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions models generally project a downward trend in CO2 emissions from land use change, assuming significant crop yield improvements. For some crops, however, significant yield gaps persist whilst demand continues to rise. Here we examine the land use change and GHG implications of meeting growing demand for maize. Integrating economic and biophysical models at an unprecedented spatial resolution, we show that CO2 emissions from land conversion may rise sharply if future yield growth follows historical trends. Our results show that ~4.0 Gt of additional CO2 would be emitted from ~23 Mha agricultural expansion from 2015 to 2026, under historical yield improvement trends. If yield gaps are closed expeditiously, however, GHG emissions can be reduced to ~1.1 Gt CO2 during the period. Our results highlight the urgent need to close global yield gaps to minimize agricultural expansion and for continued efforts to constrain agricultural expansion in carbon-rich lands and forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102100
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume63
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by Unilever's Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre. We thank Dr. Joseph Bergesen and Kathy Tejano Rhoads for their inputs to earlier versions of the Global Land Use Change (GLUC) model.

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre. We thank Dr. Joseph Bergesen and Kathy Tejano Rhoads for their inputs to earlier versions of the Global Land Use Change (GLUC) model.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright:
Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Agricultural expansion
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Intensification
  • Land-use change
  • Maize

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