The Green Agriculture Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Agriculture Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.
Synthetic nitrogen, along with mined rock phosphate, pesticides and mechanization, have greatly increased crop yields in the early 20th century. Increased supply of grains has led to cheaper livestock as well. Further, global yield increases were experienced later in the 20th century when high-yield varieties of common staple grains such as rice, wheat, and corn (maize) were introduced as a part of the Green Agriculture Revolution. The Green Agriculture Revolution exported the technologies (including pesticides and synthetic nitrogen) of the developed world to the developing world. Thomas Malthus famously predicted that the Earth would not be able to support its growing population, but technologies such as the Green Agriculture Revolution have allowed the world to produce a surplus of food.
Although the “Green Agriculture Revolution” significantly increased rice yields in Asia, yield increases have not occurred in the past 15–20 years. The genetic “yield potential” has increased for wheat, but the yield potential for rice has not increased since 1966, and the yield potential for maize has “barely increased in 35 years”. It takes a decade or two for herbicide-resistant weeds to emerge, and insects become resistant to insecticides within about a decade. Crop rotation helps to prevent resistances.