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  1. Abstract

    Extreme weather poses a major challenge to global food security by causing sharp drops in crop yield and supply. International crop trade can potentially alleviate such challenge by reallocating crop commodities. However, the influence of extreme weather stress and synchronous crop yield anomalies on trade linkages among countries remains unexplored. Here we use the international wheat trade network, develop two network-based covariates (i.e., difference in extreme weather stress and short-term synchrony of yield fluctuations between countries), and test specialized statistical and machine-learning methods. We find that countries with larger differences in extreme weather stress and synchronous yield variations tend to be trade partners and with higher trade volumes, even after controlling for factors conventionally implemented in international trade models (e.g., production level and trade agreement). These findings highlight the need to improve the current international trade network by considering the patterns of extreme weather stress and yield synchrony among countries.

  2. Abstract

    Estimating realistic potential yields by crop type and region is challenging; such yields depend on both biophysical characteristics (e.g., soil characteristics, climate, etc.), and the crop management practices available in any site or region (e.g., mechanization, irrigation, crop cultivars). A broad body of literature has assessed potential yields for selected crops and regions, using several strategies. In this study we first analyze future potential yields of major crop types globally by two different estimation methods, one of which is based on historical observed yields (“Empirical”), while the other is based on biophysical conditions (“Simulated”). Potential yields by major crop and region are quite different between the two methods; in particular, Simulated potential yields are typically 200% higher than Empirical potential yields in tropical regions for major crops. Applying both of these potential yields in yield gap closure scenarios in a global agro-economic model, GCAM, the two estimates of future potential yields lead to very different outcomes for the agricultural sector globally. In the Simulated potential yield closure scenario, Africa, Asia, and South America see comparatively favorable outcomes for agricultural sustainability over time: low land use change emissions, low crop prices, and high levels of self-sufficiency. In contrast, the Empiricalmore »potential yield scenario is characterized by a heavy reliance on production and exports in temperate regions that currently practice industrial agriculture. At the global level, this scenario has comparatively high crop commodity prices, and more land allocated to crop production (and associated land use change emissions) than either the baseline or Simulated potential yield scenarios. This study highlights the importance of the choice of methods of estimating potential yields for agro-economic modeling.

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  3. Abstract

    China increasingly relies on agricultural imports, driven by its rising population and income, as well as dietary shifts. International trade offers an opportunity to relieve pressures on resource depletion and pollution, such as nitrogen (N) pollution, while it poses multiple socioeconomic challenges, such as food availability. To quantify such trade-offs considering the roles of different crop types, we developed a unique crop-specific N budget database and assessed the impacts of the crop trade on multiple sustainability concerns including N pollution caused by crop production, crop land area, independence of food supply, and trade expenditures. We quantified the ‘virtual’ N inputs and harvested areas, which are the amount of N inputs and land resources used in exporting countries for China’s crop import. In addition, we proposed the concepts of ‘alternative’ N inputs and harvested area to quantify the resources needed if imported crops were produced in China. By comparing results from ‘alternative’ and ‘virtual’ concepts, we assessed the role of trade in Chinese crops over the past 30 years (i.e. 1986–2015) in alleviating N pollution and saving cropland in China and the world. Crop imports accounted for 31% of Chinese crop N consumption in 2015, and these crop imports easedmore »the need for an additional cropland area of 62 million ha. It also avoided an N surplus by 56 and 36 Tg (Tg = 109kg) for China and the world respectively but led to $621 billion crop trade expenditures over the 30 year period. The N pollution damage avoided by crop imports in economic terms was priced at $22 ± 16 billion in 2015, which is lower than the crop trade expenditures but may be surpassed in the future with the development of the Chinese economy. Optimizing a crop trade portfolio can shift domestic production from N-intensive crop production (e.g. maize, fruits, and vegetables) to N-efficient crop production (e.g. soybeans), and consequently mitigate an N surplus by up to 12%. Improving N use efficiency for individual crops can further increase the mitigation potential of N surplus to 30%–50%, but requires technology advancement and policy incentives.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 3, 2023
  5. Abstract Global use of reactive nitrogen (N) has increased over the past century to meet growing food and biofuel demand, while contributing to substantial environmental impacts. Addressing continued N management challenges requires anticipating pathways of future N use. Several studies in the scientific literature have projected future N inputs for crop production under a business-as-usual scenario. However, it remains unclear how using yield response functions to characterize a given level of technology and management practices (TMP) will alter the projections when using a consistent dataset. In this study, to project N inputs to 2050, we developed and tested three approaches, namely ‘Same nitrogen use efficiency (NUE)’, ‘Same TMP’, and ‘Improving TMP’. We found the approach that considers diminishing returns in yield response functions (‘Same TMP’) resulted in 268 Tg N yr −1 of N inputs, which was 61 and 48 Tg N yr −1 higher than when keeping NUE at the current level with and without considering changes in crop mix, respectively. If TMP continue to evolve at the pace of past five decades, projected N inputs reduce to 204 Tg N yr −1 , a value that is still 59 Tg N yr −1 higher than the inputs inmore »the baseline year 2006. Overall, our results suggest that assuming a constant NUE may be too optimistic in projecting N inputs, and the full range of projection assumptions need to be carefully explored when investigating future N budgets.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
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