Steady agronomic and genetic interventions are essential for sustaining productivity in intensive rice cropping

Jagdish K. Ladha, Ando M. Radanielson, Jessica Elaine Rutkoski, Roland J. Buresh, Achim Dobermann, Olivyn Angeles, Irish Lorraine B. Pabuayon, Christian Santos-Medellin, Roberto Fritsche-Neto, Pauline Chivenge, Ajay Kohli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intensive systems with two or three rice (Oryza sativa L.) crops per year account for about 50% of the harvested area for irrigated rice in Asia. Any reduction in productivity or sustainability of these systems has serious implications for global food security. Rice yield trends in the world's longest-running long-term continuous cropping experiment (LTCCE) were evaluated to investigate consequences of intensive cropping and to draw lessons for sustaining production in Asia. Annual production was sustained at a steady level over the 50-y period in the LTCCE through continuous adjustment of management practices and regular cultivar replacement. Within each of the three annual cropping seasons (dry, early wet, and late wet), yield decline was observed during the first phase, from 1968 to 1990. Agronomic improvements in 1991 to 1995 helped to reverse this yield decline, but yield increases did not continue thereafter from 1996 to 2017. Regular genetic and agronomic improvements were sufficient to maintain yields at steady levels in dry and early wet seasons despite a reduction in the yield potential due to changing climate. Yield declines resumed in the late wet season. Slower growth in genetic gain after the first 20 y was associated with slower breeding cycle advancement as indicated by pedigree depth. Our findings demonstrate that through adjustment of management practices and regular cultivar replacement, it is possible to sustain a high level of annual production in irrigated systems under a changing climate. However, the system was unable to achieve further increases in yield required to keep pace with the growing global rice demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2110807118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 9 2021


  • Food security
  • Intensive cropping
  • Long-term productivity trends
  • Rice
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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