Climate change represents an unavoidable and growing challenge to food security, imposing new adaptation imperatives on all farmers. Maize is arguably the world's most productive grain crop, as measured by grain yield. However, maize yields vary dramatically due to many factors, including soils, climate, pests, disease, agronomic practices, and seed quality. The difference between observed yields and those achievable by optimized crop production methods is called the yield gap. In this work we quantified the current yield gap for 44 countries through the use of a large private-sector data set recently made available to the crop modelling community. The yield gap was quantified for three groups of countries, categorized by level of intensification. Observed yield gaps for high, medium, and low levels of intensification are 23%, 46%, and 68%, respectively. If all maize production countries were able to shrink their yield gap to 16.5% (as in the USA) an additional 335 million metric tons (MMT) of maize grain would be produced. This represents a 45% increase over the 741 MMT produced by these countries in 2010. These data demonstrate that a major untapped maize yield opportunity exists, especially in those countries where intensification has not kept pace with the rest of the world.
Gustafson, D.I.; Jones, J. W.; Porter, C.H.; Hyman, G.; Edgerton, M.D.; Gocken, T.; Shryock, J.; Doane, M.; Budreski, K.; Stone, C.; Healy, D.; Ramsey, N. Climate adaptation imperatives: untapped global maize yield opportunities. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2014) : [DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2013.867694]