Yield to the data: some perspective on crop productivity and pesticides
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The scientific consensus is that pesticide use maximizes crop yields in the face of pest and disease pressures. Often, the debate then becomes a "so what" question (e.g., a percent or two increase in yield is inconsequential, so why use pesticides at all?). We set out to help give technical and lay audiences an objective and quantitative sense of what it means for pesticides to protect crop yields from two perspectives: (i) the number of additional hectares required to produce the same amount of food without the use of pesticides; and (ii) increased calorie production and people fed. Using available seeding and yield data for Canada and United States from 2015 to 2019 for common field crops, a user-friendly interface was developed that allows for the coarse calculation of land preserved and caloric increases for specific scenarios (e.g., jurisdiction, crop, percent yield increase). We found that land preserved would range from 145 883 to 11 590 255 ha and the number of adults fed would range from 1 333 814 to 100 016 319 depending on the crop and the country. Our hope is that this simple tool will provide a fuller sense of what changes in crop yields mean, and their implications for environmental protection and food security. © 2022 Society of Chemical Industry.
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