A global perspective on sustainable intensification research


Despite general agreement that meeting food demand without further loss of natural ecosystems requires sustainable intensification, there is little dialogue about the research agenda needed to achieve it. To that end, we evaluate current trajectories towards sustainable intensification, review published research on the topic, identify missing links, and propose a prioritization framework to fill gaps. Although progress towards sustainable intensification is behind schedule, we are optimistic that current trends can get back on course assuming a well-prioritized and adequately funded research portfolio and appropriate policies and institutions to support it.

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Fig. 1: Price trends of the major cereals from 1980–2018.
Fig. 2: Trends in global harvested area of the major staple food crops and of the four most widely grown crops.
Fig. 3: Yield trends of major food crops.
Fig. 4: Contributions to global supply of major food crops from yield gain on existing crop land (green) or expansion of harvested crop production area (brown) in two periods.


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The subject-matter outline of the Perspective was developed by K.G.C. and figures were prepared by P.G. Writing and editing were performed by K.G.C. and P.G.

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Correspondence to Kenneth G. Cassman.

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Cassman, K.G., Grassini, P. A global perspective on sustainable intensification research. Nat Sustain 3, 262–268 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0507-8

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