In developing countries around the world, a new research report indicates that extensive use of no-till could increase corn yields by 20% over the next 36 years. And if irrigation was used in these no-till fields, corn yields could increase by as much as 67%.

Improved nitrogen-use efficiency could boost rice yields by 22%, while adding irrigation would increase yields by another 21%.

With heat-tolerant varieties of wheat, yields could grow by 17% and irrigation could up the yields by another 23%. Solving moisture and heat concerns with wheat are essential since 50% of the global area devoted to wheat production is in droughty areas.

11 Key Ag Technologies

This data comes from a new report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. The group’s researchers looked at 11 agricultural practices and technologies to determine how each used either alone or in combination could help farmers improve the production of corn, rice and wheat while trimming food costs.

With increased demand for food due to population and income growth, along with the impact of climate change, there’s will be a real need to ratchet up crop yields to feed the planet. This study looked at the impact that no-till, crop-protection chemicals, drip irrigation, drought and heat tolerance varieties, integrated soil-fertility management, nutrient-use-efficiency, organic agriculture, precision practices, sprinkler irrigation, and capturing water runoff and storing moisture in plant roots would have on crop production.

The report indicates no-till must play a key role between now and 2050 in feeding the world’s ever-expanding population. Yet what’s most impressive is the fact that combining no-till, heat-tolerant varieties and nitrogen-use efficiency could reduce the number of malnourished children around the world by more than 1 million.

No Silver Bullet

“The reality is that no single agricultural technology or farming practice will provide sufficient food for the world in 2050,” says Mark Rosegrant, the director of the group’s environment and technology division. “Instead we must advocate for and utilize a range of these technologies in order to maximize yields.”

By utilizing these ag technologies, food prices could be reduced by 49% for corn products 43% for rice and 45% for wheat.

In Just 7 Years

No-till acreage worldwide grew from 99 million acres in 2001 to 232 million acres in 2009. In Africa alone, the use of no-till has grown to over 100,000 farmers in recent years. Further expansion of no-till acres will have to take place among small-acreage growers in many underdeveloped areas of the world.

Looking at worldwide production, using no-till, heat tolerance varieties, improved nitrogen-use efficiency and precision agriculture will likely have the biggest impact on future corn yields. For rice and wheat, it will be no-till and improved nitrogen-use efficiency.