Rooting for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Guilpart, N and Grassini, P and van Wart, J and Yang, H and van Ittersum, M K and van Bussel, L G J and Wolf, J and Claessens, L and Leenaars, J G B and Cassman, K G (2017) Rooting for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental Research Letters, 12 (11). pp. 1-7. ISSN 1748-9326

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There is a persistent narrative about the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to be a 'grain breadbasket' because of large gaps between current low yields and yield potential with good management, and vast land resources with adequate rainfall. However, rigorous evaluation of the extent to which soils can support high, stable yields has been limited by lack of data on rootable soil depth of sufficient quality and spatial resolution. Here we use location-specific climate data, a robust spatial upscaling approach, and crop simulation to assess sensitivity of rainfed maize yields to root-zone water holding capacity. We find that SSA could produce a modest maize surplus but only if rootable soil depths are comparable to that of other major breadbaskets, such as the US Corn Belt and South American Pampas, which is unlikely based on currently available information. Otherwise, producing surplus grain for export will depend on expansion of crop area with the challenge of directing this expansion to regions where soil depth and rainfall are supportive of high and consistent yields, and where negative impacts on biodiversity are minimal.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : East & Southern Africa
Uncontrolled Keywords: Food security; Sub-saharan Africa; Yield gap; Maize; Soil depth; Water requirements; African agriculture
Subjects: Others > Food Production
Others > Food Security
Others > African Agriculture
Others > Africa
Others > Sub-Saharan Africa
Depositing User: Mr Ramesh K
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2017 03:43
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2018 09:57
Official URL:
Funders: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation & Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)
Acknowledgement: Support for this research was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at University of Nebraska- Lincoln (UNL).Wethank other members of the Global Yield Gap Atlas team who have been involved in the project: H de Groot and H Boogaard (Wageningen Environmental Research). We thank the country agronomists that contributed to the Global Yield Gap Atlas for their respective countries including: Dr Korodjouma Ouattara (Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches agricoles, Burkina Faso), Dr Mamoutou Kouressy (Institute of Rural Economy, Mali), Dr Abdullahi Bala (Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria), Dr Samuel Adjei-Nsiah (University of Ghana, Ghana), Dr Kindie Tesfaye (CIMMYT, Ethiopia), Dr Ochieng Adimo (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture andTechnology, Kenya),DrJoachim Makoi (Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives, Tanzania), Dr Kayuki Kaizzi (National Agriculture Research Laboratories, Uganda), and Dr Regis Chikowo (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe).
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