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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Assessment of yield gaps on global grazed-only permanent pasture using climate binning

Monteiro, Leonardo A.; Allee, Andrew M.; Campbell, Eleanor E.; Lynd, Lee R.; Soares, Johnny R.; Jaiswal, Deepak; de Castro Oliveira, Julianne; dos Santos Vianna, Murilo; Morishige, Ashley E.; Figueiredo, Gleyce K. D. A.; Lamparelli, Rubens A. C.; Mueller, Nathaniel D.; Gerber, James; Cortez, Luis A. B.; Sheehan, John J.


To meet rising demands for agricultural products, existing agricultural lands must either produce more or expand in area. Yield gaps (YGs)-the difference between current and potential yield of agricultural systems-indicate the ability to increase output while holding land area constant. Here, we assess YGs in global grazed-only permanent pasture lands using a climate binning approach. We create a snapshot of circa 2000 empirical yields for meat and milk production from cattle, sheep, and goats by sorting pastures into climate bins defined by total annual precipitation and growing degree-days. We then estimate YGs from intra-bin yield comparisons. We evaluate YG patterns across three FAO definitions of grazed livestock agroecosystems (arid, humid, and temperate), and groups of animal production systems that vary in animal types and animal products. For all subcategories of grazed-only permanent pasture assessed, we find potential to increase productivity several-fold over current levels. However, because productivity of grazed pasture systems is generally low, even large relative increases in yield translated to small absolute gains in global protein production. In our dataset, milk-focused production systems were found to be seven times as productive as meat-focused production systems regardless of animal type, while cattle were four times as productive as sheep and goats regardless of animal output type. Sustainable intensification of pasture is most promising for local development, where large relative increases in production can substantially increase incomes or "spare" large amounts of land for other uses. Our results motivate the need for further studies to target agroecological and economic limitations on productivity to improve YG estimates and identify sustainable pathways toward intensification.


agriculture; climate binning; livestock; pasture productivity; sustainable intensification; yield gap closure

Published in

Global Change Biology
2020, Volume: 26, pages: 1820-1832

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

    Publication Identifiers


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