Increasing global food production to meet the growing appetites of an increasing population will require more food to be grown on already producing agricultural lands. To help increase the productivity of land already in production, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to create a new online data portal that will identify areas for increased food production while maintaining natural resources and facing the challenge of climate change.

The portal—the Global Agro-Ecological Zones Interactive Data Access Facilities—offers access to what IIASA Director/CEO Pavel Kabat calls "the most ambitious global agro-resources assessment ever conducted.” “The objective was to assemble a vast wealth of data information and make this available in a way that is most accessible to land use planners and specialists to help close yield gaps and promote the sustainable intensification of agricultural production," Kabat said.

The GAEZ system is an extensive inventory of the world's agricultural resources and related data and is organized around five thematic areas:

1. Land and water resources, including multiple spatial layers of climate, soil, terrain, land cover, irrigation potentials, protected areas, population density, livestock density and accessibility, etc.

2. Agro-climatic resources, providing major climatic indicators important for assessing crop growth, development and yield formation. GAEZ's spatial agro-climatic inventories of the prevailing thermal and moisture regimes and growing periods are used for estimating crop suitability and potential yields.

3. Agricultural suitability and potential yields, including information on yield constraints, crop calendars, and production potential estimates for 11 major crop groups, 49 major crops and 92 crop types. Productivity estimates are made for rain-fed farming, rain-fed farming with water conservation and gravity, sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.

4. Actual yields and production, consisting of spatially explicit crop production estimates including crop harvested area, yield and production figures for 23 major commodities.

5. Yield and production gaps, which provide important information on locations with differences between actual achieved and potential attainable yield and production under different management scenarios.

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