Predictive Modelling of Global Food Production

A CEES  project

Throughout the 20th century global food production increased more rapidly than global population. As a result that world (or at least the developed world) became extremely relaxed about humanity's ability to feed itself into the future. However, scientists and polucy makers have recently realized that continued increases in global food production can no longer taken for granted. While the human population continues to increase rapidly, increases in yield (per hectare) of major crops have slowed or stopped. We may soon face significant shortages of water for irrigation. To prevent further loss of biodiversity, we need to slow or stop the expansion of agicultural land and reduce fertilizer and pesticide use. And we need to reduce energy inputs to prevent dangerous climate change -- which itself may reduce food production in many areas due to changes in temperature, rainfall, or the frequency of extreme weather events or pest outbreaks.

As a contribution to the science of global food security, we are using our model parameterization tool Filzbach, combining publically available data on yields of key crops, with climate information derived from FetchClimate, to produce a simple, useful model of global food productivity. The model, when finished, will be able to provide quantitative estimates of future food productivity under different scenarious of climate change, crop planting patterns, and resource inputs. At the least, the model will allow us to project the degree to which we need to worry about global food production under these different scenarious. But hopefully, it will also prove useful in developing solutions to any anticipated problems.

For an introduction to the problem of global food security, we would recommend the Foresight Report ' The Future of Food and Farming '.



Prof Paul Palmer

Dept. Geosciences, University of Edinbrugh,

and Visiting Researcher, CEES, Microsoft Research 


Drew Purves

Head, CEES, Microsoft Research 


Vassily Lyutsarev

Senior RSDE, CEES, Microsoft Research