Investing in soil health key to closing the yield gaps

Originally published on Spore Magazine

Even without climate change, there is an enormous challenge to meet the growing demand for food with the current status of soil health in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). By 2050, SSA’s population will increase 2.5-fold and demand for cereals will approximately triple. Current cereal consumption already depends on substantial imports. To maintain the current level of about 80% cereal self-sufficiency, by 2050, nearly complete closure of the gap between current farm yields and water-limited yield potential is needed, which is in the range of 20 to 50%. Failure to close the yield gap on existing cropland will result in expansion of cultivation to less favourable land, resulting in biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions and dependency on imported food.

Closing the yield gaps is possible but represents a herculean task given historical trends in yield improvements. Lack of investment in lime, fertilisers and organic inputs in SSA has generally…