Agricultural productivity

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Food production per capita since 1961
Grain production facilities
Rice plantation in Thailand
Cambodians planting rice, 2004

Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural outputs to agricultural inputs.[1] While individual products are usually measured by weight, their varying densities make measuring overall agricultural output difficult. Therefore, output is usually measured as the market value of final output, which excludes intermediate products such as corn feed used in the meat industry. This output value may be compared to many different types of inputs such as labour and land (crop yield). These are called partial measures of productivity.[2]

Agricultural productivity may also be measured by what is termed total factor productivity (TFP). This method of calculating agricultural productivity compares an index of agricultural inputs to an index of outputs. This measure of agricultural productivity was established to remedy the shortcomings of the partial measures of productivity; notably that it is often hard to identify the factors cause them to change. Changes in TFP are usually attributed to technological improvements.[3]

Agricultural productivity is an important component of food security.[4] Increasing agricultural productivity, especially amongst small holder farms, is an important way to decreasing the amount of land needed for farming and slow environmental degradation through processes like deforestation.[5] Since agriculture has such large impacts on climate change, Project Drawdown described "Sustainable Intensification for Smallholders" an important method for Climate change mitigation.[5]

Sources of agricultural productivity[edit]

Wheat yields in least developed countries since 1961. The steep rise in crop yields in the U.S. began in the 1940s. The percentage of growth was fastest in the early rapid growth stage. In developing countries maize yields are still rapidly rising.[6]

Some sources of agricultural productivity are:[7]

See: Productivity improving technologies (historical) Section: 2.4.1: Mechanization: Agriculture, Section 2.6: Scientific agriculture.

Importance of agricultural productivity[edit]

The productivity of a region's farms is important for many reasons. Aside from providing more food, increasing the productivity of farms affects the region's prospects for growth and competitiveness on the agricultural market, income distribution and savings, and labour migration. An increase in a region's agricultural productivity implies a more efficient distribution of scarce resources. As farmers adopt new techniques and differences, the more productive farmers benefit from an increase in their welfare while farmers who are not productive enough will exit the market to seek success elsewhere.[10]

A cooperative dairy factory in Victoria.

As a region's farms become more productive, its comparative advantage in agricultural products increases, which means that it can produce these products at a lower opportunity cost than can other regions. Therefore, the region becomes more competitive on the world market, which means that it can attract more consumers since they are able to buy more of the products offered for the same amount of money.

Increases in agricultural productivity lead also to agricultural growth and can help to alleviate poverty in poor and developing countries, where agriculture often employs the greatest portion of the population. As farms become more productive, the wages earned by those who work in agriculture increase. At the same time, food prices decrease and food supplies become more stable. Labourers therefore have more money to spend on food as well as other products. This also leads to agricultural growth. People see that there is a greater opportunity to earn their living by farming and are attracted to agriculture either as owners of farms themselves or as labourers.[11]

A liquid manure spreader.

It is not only the people employed in agriculture who benefit from increases in agricultural productivity. Those employed in other sectors also enjoy lower food prices and a more stable food supply. Their wages may also increase.[11]

Agricultural productivity is becoming increasingly important as the world population continues to grow. India, one of the world's most populous countries, has taken steps in the past decades to increase its land productivity. Forty years ago, North India produced only wheat, but with the advent of the earlier maturing high-yielding wheats and rices, the wheat could be harvested in time to plant rice. This wheat/rice combination is now widely used throughout the Punjab, Haryana, and parts of Uttar Pradesh. The wheat yield of three tons and rice yield of two tons combine for five tons of grain per hectare, helping to feed India's 1.1 billion people.[12]

However, critics have argued that increasing agricultural productivity results in increasing human overpopulation problems. According to them, like other species, human populations grow in response to their increased carrying capacity.[13][14][15]

Sustainable agriculture[edit]

Sustainable agriculture means to maintain or allow increases in agricultural productivity for the long term, by making certain the resources used are as renewable as possible.Sustainable agriculture focuses on meeting the agricultural needs of the present generation while maintaining the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs by conserving the environment.It should ensure the welfare of the ecosystems and still uphold its ability to provide food secure nations. Sustainable agriculture is a measure to achieve SDG2 by meeting the food growing demand consequently, achieving this means reduction to poverty (SDG1).[16]

U.S. agriculture productivity[edit]

An hour's work in 1998 bought 11 times as much chicken as in 1900. Shown this way includes the increase in overall buying power plus lowered costs from the farm to the consumer.

Between 1950 and 2000, during the so-called "second agricultural revolution of modern times", U.S. agricultural productivity rose fast, especially due to the development of new technologies. For example, the average amount of milk produced per cow increased from 5,314 pounds to 18,201 pounds per year (+242%), the average yield of corn rose from 39 bushels to 153 bushels per acre (+292%), and each farmer in 2000 produced on average 12 times as much farm output per hour worked as a farmer did in 1950.[17]

Inverse relationship theory[edit]

Some essential food products including bread, rice and pasta

Deolalikar in 1981 investigated the theory first proposed by Sen in 1975 that in traditional, pre-modern farming in India, there is an inverse relationship to size of the farm and productivity, contrary to the economy of scale found in all other types of economic activity. It is debated whether the inverse relationship actually exists. Numerous studies falsify this theory.[18] In Zimbabwe, policies on agrarian land reform under president Robert Mugabe especially in and following 2000, split large farms into many smaller farms, this decreased productivity. Marxist agrarian land reform in the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam combined small farms into larger units, this failed to increase productivity.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Measuring Agricultural Productivity Using the Average Productivity Index (API) by Lal Mervin Dharmasiri [1] Archived 2013-10-20 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Preckel, Paul V.; Hertel, Thomas W.; Arndt, Channing; Nin, Alejandro (2003-11-01). "Bridging the Gap between Partial and Total Factor Productivity Measures Using Directional Distance Functions". American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 85 (4): 928–942. doi:10.1111/1467-8276.00498. ISSN 0002-9092. S2CID 154456202.
  3. ^ Agricultural Investment and Productivity in Developing Countries, FAO Economic And Social Development Paper No. 148, ed. Lydia Zepeda, 2001, FAO Corporate Document Repository, 12 July 2007,[2]
  4. ^ Mbow, C.; Rosenzweig, C.; Barioni, L. G.; Benton, T.; et al. (2019). "Chapter 5: Food Security" (PDF). Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. p. 454.
  5. ^ a b "Sustainable Intensification for Smallholders". Project Drawdown. 2020-02-06. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  6. ^ Fischer, R. A.; Byerlee, Eric; Edmeades, E. O. "Can Technology Deliver on the Yield Challenge to 2050" (PDF). Expert Meeting on How to Feed the World. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-09.
  7. ^ Egli, D.B. (2008). "Comparison of Corn and Soybean Yields in the United States: Historical Trends and Future Prospects". Agronomy Journal. 100: S79–88. doi:10.2134/agronj2006.0286c. S2CID 84059626.
  8. ^ About IPNI, the International Plant Nutrition Institute
  9. ^ The Fertilizer Institute
  10. ^ Mundlak, Yair, "Agricultural Productivity and Economic Policies: Concepts and Measurements," OECD Working Paper No. 75, OECD Development Center, August 1992,, 13 July 2007 (13–16).
  11. ^ a b Promoting Pro-Poor Growth: Agriculture, DAC Guidelines and Reference Series, Paris: OECD, 2006,, 13 July 2007 "37922155.pdf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2007-07-13. (10).
  12. ^ Brown, Lester R. Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. New York City: Earth Policy Institute, 2006.
  13. ^ Steven Earl Salmony. "Too much food, too many people on a finite planet". The Herald Sun.
  14. ^ Russell Hopfenberg; David Pimentel. "Human population numbers as a function of food supply" (PDF).
  15. ^ "Morgan Freeman on the 'tyranny of agriculture' and the doomed human race". Ecorazzi.
  16. ^ Goals, sustainable development. "Sustainable agriculture".
  17. ^ Keith O. Fuglie; James M. MacDonald; Eldon Ball. Productivity Growth in U.S. Agriculture[dead link]. EB-9, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service. Sept 2007. Hosted at Internet Archive.
  18. ^ Deolalikar, Anil B. (1981). "The Inverse Relationship between Productivity and Farm Size: A Test Using Regional Data from India". American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 63 (2): 275–279. doi:10.2307/1239565. ISSN 0002-9092. JSTOR 1239565.
  19. ^ Jacobs, Susie (2010). "Agrarian reform" (PDF). Sociopedia. International Sociological Association. p. 8. doi:10.1177/205684601072 (inactive 2020-10-04).CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of October 2020 (link)

Further reading[edit]

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