Thanks to population growth, rising living standards, changing dietary patterns, and the increasing use of biofuels, it's been estimated that global agricultural production may have to be increased by 60 to 110 percent by 2050 in order to meet worldwide demand. Given other environmental challenges we face, it would be vastly preferable to do that by increasing crop yields rather than clearing more farmland.
Unfortunately, according to a paper published on PLOS ONE yesterday by researchers from the University of Minnesota, the yields are not keeping pace:
Using ~2.5 million agricultural statistics, collected for ~13,500 political units across the world, we track four key global crops-maize, rice, wheat, and soybean-that currently produce nearly two-thirds of global agricultural calories. We find that yields in these top four crops are increasing at 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9%, and 1.3% per year, non-compounding rates, respectively, which is less than the 2.4% per year rate required to double global production by 2050. At these rates global production in these crops would increase by ~67%, ~42%, ~38%, and ~55%, respectively, which is far below what is needed to meet projected demands in 2050.