Assessing the sustainability of post-Green Revolution cereals in India

Davis, K F and Chhatre, A and Rao, N D and Singh, D and Ghosh-Jerath, S and Mridul, A and Poblete-Cazenave, M and Pradhan, N and DeFries, R (2019) Assessing the sustainability of post-Green Revolution cereals in India. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116 (50). pp. 25034-25041.

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Substantial growth in food production has occurred from a narrowing diversity of crops over the last 50 y. Agricultural policies have largely focused on the single objective of maximizing production with less attention given to nutrition, climate, and environment. Decisions about sustainable food systems require quantifying and assessing multiple dimensions together. In India, diversifying crop production to include more coarse cereals, such as millets and sorghum, can make food supply more nutritious, reduce resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land. Similar multidimensional approaches to food production challenges in other parts of the world can identify win–win scenarios where food systems meet multiple nutritional, environmental, and climate resilience goals.Sustainable food systems aim to provide sufficient and nutritious food, while maximizing climate resilience and minimizing resource demands as well as negative environmental impacts. Historical practices, notably the Green Revolution, prioritized the single objective to maximize production over other nutritional and environmental dimensions. We quantitatively assess outcomes of alternative production decisions across multiple objectives using India’s rice-dominated monsoon cereal production as an example. We perform a series of optimizations to maximize nutrient production (i.e., protein and iron), minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resource use (i.e., water and energy), or maximize resilience to climate extremes. We find that increasing the area under coarse cereals (i.e., millets, sorghum) improves nutritional supply (on average, +1% to +5% protein and +5% to +49% iron), increases climate resilience (1% to 13% fewer calories lost during an extreme dry year), and reduces GHGs (-2% to -13%) and demand for irrigation water (-3% to -21%) and energy (-2% to -12%) while maintaining calorie production and cropped area. The extent of these benefits partly depends on the feasibility of switching cropped area from rice to coarse cereals. Based on current production practices in 2 states, supporting these cobenefits could require greater manure and draft power but similar or less labor, fertilizer, and machinery. National- and state-level strategies considering multiple objectives in decisions about cereal production can move beyond many shortcomings of the Green Revolution while reinforcing the benefits. This ability to realistically incorporate multiple dimensions into intervention planning and implementation is the crux of sustainable food production systems worldwide.

Affiliation: Indian School of Business
ISB Creiators:
ISB Creators
Chhatre, A
Rao, M R
Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Green Revolution, cereals
Subjects: Sustainable Development
Depositing User: Gurusrinivasan K
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2020 10:09
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2020 10:09
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