Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



BioScience 66: 307–316


© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License


This article assesses sugarcane yield gaps (YG) in Brazil to determine the degree to which production can be increased without land expansion. In our scenario assessments, we evaluated how much of the projected sugarcane demand to 2024 (for both sugar and bioethanol) can be satisfied through YG closure. The current national average yield is 62% of yield potential estimated for rainfed conditions (i.e., a YG of 38%). Continuing the historical rate of yield gain is not sufficient to meet the projected demand without an area expansion by 5% and 45% for lowand high-demand scenarios, respectively. Closing the exploitable YG to 80% of potential yield would meet future sugarcane demand, with an 18% reduction in sugarcane area for the low-demand scenario or a 13% expansion for the high-demand scenario. A focus on accelerating yield gains to close current exploitable YG is a high priority for meeting future demand while minimizing pressure on additional land requirements.