Quantifying yield gaps in wheat production in Russia


Crop yields must increase substantially to meet the increasing demands for agricultural products. Crop yield increases are particularly important for Russia because low crop yields prevail across Russia’s widespread and fertile land resources. However, reliable data are lacking regarding the spatial distribution of potential yields in Russia, which can be used to determine yield gaps. We used a crop growth model to determine the yield potentials and yield gaps of winter and spring wheat at the provincial level across European Russia. We modeled the annual yield potentials from 1995 to 2006 with optimal nitrogen supplies for both rainfed and irrigated conditions. Overall, the results suggest yield gaps of 1.51-2.10 t ha −1 , or 44-52% of the yield potential under rainfed conditions. Under irrigated conditions, yield gaps of 3.14-3.30 t ha −1 , or 62-63% of the yield potential, were observed. However, recurring droughts cause large fluctuations in yield potentials under rainfed conditions, even when the nitrogen supply is optimal, particularly in the highly fertile black soil areas of southern European Russia. The highest yield gaps (up to 4 t ha −1 ) under irrigated conditions were detected in the steppe areas in southeastern European Russia along the border of Kazakhstan. Improving the nutrient and water supply and using crop breeds that are adapted to the frequent drought conditions are important for reducing yield gaps in European Russia. Our regional assessment helps inform policy and agricultural investors and prioritize research that aims to increase crop production in this important region for global agricultural markets.

Environmental Research Letters