Requirements for food, materials, and energy in a world where human population is rapidly growing have created a need to increase both the amount of photosynthesis and the efficiency of converting photosynthetic output into products useful to people. One response to those needs—the so-called Green Revolution, begun in the mid-20th century—achieved enormous improvements in agricultural yield through the use of chemical fertilizers, pest and plant-disease control, plant breeding, and mechanized tilling, harvesting, and crop processing. This effort limited severe famines to a few areas of the world despite rapid population growth, but it did not eliminate widespread malnutrition. Moreover, beginning in the early 1990s, the rate at which yields of major crops increased began to decline. This was especially true for rice in Asia. Rising costs associated with sustaining high rates of agricultural production, which required ever-increasing inputs of fertilizers and pesticides and constant development of new plant varieties, also became problematic for farmers in many countries.


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