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By: John Vidal Published: The Guardian, July 8, 2013
Britain and other countries may not be able to increase the amount of food they grow because many staple crops are close to their physiological growing limits, one of the world’s leading food analysts has warned.
“In France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the three leading wheat producers in western Europe, there has been little rise in yields for over 10 years. Other countries will soon be hitting their limits for grain yields. Agriculturally advanced countries are hitting natural limits that were not widely anticipated,” said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Institute in Washington and a former US government plant scientist.
“Rice yields in Japan have not increased for 17 years. In both Japan and South Korea, yields have plateaued at just under five tons per hectare. China’s rice yields are now closely approaching those of Japan and may also soon plateau,” he said.
After decades of constantly rising grain yields, governments have not understood the significance of the plateauing of yields and the fact that it will become much harder to feed the extra three billion people expected to be alive by 2050, said Brown.
“Since 1950, grain yields across the world have tripled. Those days are gone. The pace has slowed. Between 1950 and 1990, the world grain yield increased by an average 2.2% a year. Since then the rise has slowed to 1.3%.”