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Volume 2 Issue 11, November 2021

Diversification for resilience

Resilience is the capacity to recover in response to adverse circumstances, and resilient food systems are needed in the face of population growth and the impacts of climate change. Resilience of food systems has economic, social and ecological facets characterized by financial equitability, inclusivity and support of communities, and minimization of detriment to the natural environment. A central theme emerged for the scientists working on the UN Food Systems Summit Action Track on Resilience, and that was diversification. Diversification supports resilience, and there are multiple opportunities to enhance diversification along the supply chain, including at the production level, the global, regional and local trading systems level, and at the household level.

See Hertel et al.

Image: Hendrik Schneider / ZALF. Cover Design: Tulsi Voralia.


  • Basic and applied research too often remain divided in agriculture. With stagnating and, in some cases, declining research funding, the innovation we need in agriculture for food systems transformation calls for greater connection and communication between the two.



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Comment & Opinion

  • At the field, farm, household and market levels, multiple options exist for diversification of activities, building resilience of food systems to stresses and shocks.

    • Thomas Hertel
    • Ismahane Elouafi
    • Frank Ewert
  • Political ecology approaches are relatively absent from food systems research. With deep inequalities in food production, distribution and consumption, the study of power asymmetries is central to food justice and the co-creation of alternative futures.

    • Johanna Jacobi
    • Gabriela Valeria Villavicencio Valdez
    • Kenza Benabderrazik
  • The anticipated failure of many countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 necessitates the assessment of science–policy engagement mechanisms for food systems transformation. We explore options for enhancing existing partnerships, mandates and resources — or reimagining a new mission — for science–policy interfaces.

    • Brajesh K. Singh
    • Tom Arnold
    • Justus Wesseler
  • Indigenous Peoples’ and other traditional knowledge systems are deemed ‘unscientific’ when assessed against conventional hierarchies of evidence. Science–policy processes building on the commitments of the UN Food Systems Summit must ensure that due recognition, acceptance and prominence are given to traditional knowledge.

    • Charlotte Milbank
    • Barbara Burlingame
    • Edmond Dounias
  • Commitments to food systems transformation were made at the UN Food Systems Summit, but game-changing solutions for the welfare of farmed and wild animals that are part of human food systems are critically needed, argues Philip Lymbery.

    • Philip Lymbery
    World View
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Developing new modelling tools to support better design of climate change adaptation strategies offers an opportunity to harmonize crop production, climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability.

    • Bin Peng
    • Kaiyu Guan
    News & Views
  • Sensitivity of US dairy production to extreme cold and heat has diminished over recent decades in large part due to improvements in management, breeding and technology. These adaptations have benefited milk yield by reducing the vulnerability of dairy production to cold and heat stress.

    • Matthew Tom Harrison
    News & Views
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  • Global redistribution of accumulated nutrients could enhance food security and counteract degradative Earth system processes. Such a redress of unequal nutrient use may be enabled by a ‘one Earth currency’ allowing accumulated rights to nutrients to be traded.

    • Helena Kahiluoto
    • Kate E. Pickett
    • Will Steffen
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  • An integrated methodology that includes climate, crop, economic and life cycle assessment models was developed to explore the climate adaptation and mitigation opportunities throughout the US potato and tomato supply chains. This study shows that supply chains for two popular processed products in the United States, French fries and pasta sauce, will be remarkably resilient, through planting adaptation strategies.

    • David Gustafson
    • Senthold Asseng
    • Liujun Xiao


  • Climate change affects agricultural productivity. New systematic global agricultural yield projections of the major crops were conducted using ensembles of the latest generation of crop and climate models. Substantial shifts in global crop productivity due to climate change will occur within the next 20 years—several decades sooner than previous projections—highlighting the need for targeted food system adaptation and risk management in the coming decades.

    • Jonas Jägermeyr
    • Christoph Müller
    • Cynthia Rosenzweig


  • Estimating the global cropland N2O mitigation potential is limited by the uncertainty and variability of direct emission factors (EFs). Here, using a data-driven approach with 1,507 chamber-based field observations of EFs, the study shows that EF variation is primarily driven by climatic and edaphic factors. Two-thirds of the mitigation potential could be achieved on one-fifth of the global harvested area, mainly located in humid subtropical climates and across gleysols and acrisols.

    • Xiaoqing Cui
    • Feng Zhou
    • Dongqiang Zhu


  • Climate change may pose a fundamental challenge to maintaining the high productivity of US dairy systems. Based on weather variability and milk yields from 1981 to 2018, this study estimates the impact of extreme heat and cold on productivity, the sensitivity of specific regions and the importance of farm management for mediating such impacts.

    • Maria Gisbert-Queral
    • Arne Henningsen
    • Nathaniel D. Mueller


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Amendments & Corrections

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