By: Dana Ludvik
With a population expected to reach 322 million by 2050, Indonesia is taking steps to ensure that the country’s agriculture sector is prepared to meet future water and food demands. In 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture launched a partnership with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to gain a better understanding of its agricultural productivity and the measures needed to achieve and water and food security. Nebraska agronomist Patricio Grassini, a DWFI Faculty Fellow, is leading the project along with a team of Indonesian researchers.
The team is working to develop the Global Yield Gap Atlas in Indonesia, which will help the country identify where significant gaps exist between actual and potential yields. The tool will enable localized solutions for water and food security in a country that has excellent potential – and need – for improved agricultural productivity.
Indonesia has the fourth largest population of any country in the world and half of its territory is covered with forests. Indonesia has been importing corn and rice in recent years and expanding its oil palm land usage at the expense of forests and peat lands. Within this context, the atlas can help provide insights about Indonesia’s ability to achieve food self-sufficiency through sustainable agricultural intensification on existing land. If data shows that food security is not possible, the team hopes to determine how much additional land or food imports will be needed — and the associated environmental footprint.
In late October, four researchers from the Ministry’s Indonesia Agency for Agricultural Research and Development arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, to begin a six-week agricultural training program. During their visit, the team worked on two publications derived from the project and an internal IAARD funding proposal to support a second phase of the project. The second phase will focus on identifying yield gap causes and designing the GYGA Indonesia website portal that includes the results from the project’s first phase. Grassini will share knowledge with the team on crop modeling, spatial analysis, and methodologies to collect farmer data. They will also gain firsthand experience with Nebraska’s high productivity agriculture sector by interacting with Nebraska farmers and machinery and irrigation manufacturers, as well as visiting feedlots and soil labs.
On Nov. 15, IAARD’s Nurwulan Agustiani led a seminar describing the collaborative project and the team’s initial efforts to map yield gaps for maize and rice across the Indonesian archipelago. Watch the full seminar.
We spoke to the team to find out more about the atlas and their efforts to use it in Indonesia. In addition to Grassini and Agustiani, team members include IAARD’s Setia Sari Girsang, Dwi Koent and Vina Aristya.
Can you tell us a bit about the history behind the yield gap atlas?
Patricio Grassini: The Global Yield Gap Atlas was originally conceived in University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a global project to estimate yield potential and yield gaps. Colleagues at UNL and partners around the world, in particular scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, GYGA is an advanced modeling and mapping tool to identify existing farmland around the globe where significant gaps exist between actual and potential yield for different crops.
Development of GYGA formally began in 2012 in Argentina and Brazil with funding from the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska. It was expanded into sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013. A partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Middle East and North Africa Water Centers of Excellence provided resources for GYGA development in Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. GYGA has also helped foundations, governments and national programs to prioritize resources on research and extension programs. The atlas has been developed for more than 10 crops in 50 countries.
What is the yield gap and why is important?
Setia Sari Girsang: Yield potential represents the attainable yield for a piece of land given current weather and soils. The yield gap is the difference between average farmer yield and the yield potential. GYGA provides robust estimates of crop yield gaps at local to national spatial scales, which, in turn, provides estimates of untapped crop production potential on existing farmland.
Why is important to develop the yield gap atlas for Indonesia?
Dwi Koent: Indonesia has the fourth largest population and half of its territory is still covered with forests. Indonesia has been importing maize and rice in recent years and has expanded its cropland area at the expense of pristine forests.
Within this context, GYGA can provide key information about how likely it is that Indonesia can achieve food self-sufficiency through sustainable intensification of agricultural systems on existing land andwith available water resources, and, if this is not possible, how much additional land or food imports will be needed and what the associated environmental footprint is.
Who are the yield gap partners in Indonesia?
Vina Aristya: In Indonesia, GYGA’s main partner is the Indonesia Agency for Agricultural Research and Development. The Indonesian team includes more than 25 researchers from all across the archipelago, including 12 women scientists. IAARD has organized two workshops at Bogor to discuss implementation of the atlas and outcomes.
How was the atlas developed for Indonesia?
Setia Sari Girsang: The atlas uses a bottom-up approach, and includes agronomists from each province in Indonesia to identify key agricultural areas and to collect data on local conditions and farming methods. We gave preference to best available sources of weather, soil and management data, and well-validated crop simulation models to estimate potential yield. These data are scaled to national, regional and global levels. All information and data are shared on the public website: yieldgap.org
How can agriculture in Indonesia benefit from the Yield Gap Atlas project?
Dwi Koent: IAARD is enthusiastic about using GYGA as a tool to prioritize investments in research and development aimed at achieving food security and to monitor impact over time. By identifying the causes of yield gaps, GYGA will provide useful information for farmers, extension experts and researchers to increase agricultural productivity while minimizing deforestation and other environmental impacts. This is essential to improving the lives of the rural population and preserving Indonesian’s biodiversity-rich ecosystems.
GYGA Indonesia is supported by UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture. To learn more about the atlas, visit yieldgap.org.