FAO-IAEA-Report on Research Meeting 1998

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Moutonnet P.
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Vienna International Centre
For the two last decades, the improvement in food production can be attributed largely to the introduction of high input farming, involving new crop varieties grown on fertile soils and well supplied with irrigation water, fertilizer, and pesticides: it was the green revolution. However, 84% of arable land used world-wide for agricultural production is non-irrigated where crops are grown under rainfed conditions. Due to increased pressures from growing populations, a yield increase in the semi-arid areas is urgently needed. Despite considerably investments, irrigated land can only meet a rather small proportion of the entire food requirements. Furthermore, irrigated land is often used for industrial crops and does not contribute significantly to food production. In large parts of arid and semi-arid areas, the soils are of low fertility, and the per capita production is often declining. In fact, the economic cost of high-input agriculture prevents most subsistence farmers from adopting these techniques. Therefore, the arid and semi-arid areas have not benefited from the green revolution as much as regions well-endowed with water resources. There, crop responses to inputs such as fertilizers are generally low and unprofitable to the farmer; the problem of increasing crop productivity in these regions is widely recognized as difficult.