Journal Article

Global biomass production potentials exceed expected future demand without the need for cropland expansion

Nature Communications, 6: 1-11

Global biomass demand is expected to roughly double between 2005 and 2050. Current studies suggest that agricultural intensification through optimally managed crops on today’s cropland alone is insufficient to satisfy future demand. In practice though, improving crop growth management through better technology and knowledge almost inevitably goes along with (1) improving farm management with increased cropping intensity and more annual harvests where feasible and (2) an economically more efficient spatial allocation of crops which maximizes farmers’ profit. By explicitly considering these two factors we show that, without expansion of cropland, today’s global biomass potentials substantially exceed previous estimates and even 2050s’ demands. We attribute 39% increase in estimated global production potentials to increasing cropping intensities and 30% to the spatial reallocation of crops to their profit-maximizing locations. The additional potentials would make cropland expansion redundant. Their geographic distribution points at possible hotspots for future intensification.

Authors

Wolfram Mauser
Florian Zabel
Tobias Hank
Alvaro Calzadilla
Birgitta Putzenlechner