A global model to assess competition for land use between agriculture, bioenergy, and forestry

IIASA's GLOBIOM model is used to analyze the competition for land use between agriculture, forestry, and bioenergy, which are the main land-based production sectors. As such, the model can provide scientists and policymakers with the means to assess, on a global basis, the rational production of food, forest fiber, and bio-fuels, all of which are vital for human welfare.

>> New project: Quantifying the indirect land use change impact of 10% renewable energy target in EU transport. More information and documents here.


  • The 18 globally most important crops covered in GLOBIOM are barley, dry beans, cassava, chick peas, corn, cotton, groundnut, millet, potatoes, rapeseed, rice, soybeans, sorghum, sugarcane, sunflower, sweet potatoes, wheat, and oil palm.

  • Analyses with GLOBIOM's new livestock production module show that improving breeding and feed types would help meet the world's future protein demands with considerably fewer livestock resources, freeing up land for other food production.

  • GLOBIOM includes water as a resource, making it a strong tool for analyzing the water-related impacts of different development scenarios.

  • GLOBIOM was used with IIASA's G4M model in a new global analysis by the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature: The Living Forests Report.


The GLOBIOM model has global coverage, with 30 world regions currently represented.

The philosophy behind GLOBIOM is that the production of food, forest fiber, and bio-fuels, the 3Fs, must be analyzed and planned in an integrated way across the agriculture, forestry, and bioenergy sectors. GLOBIOM demonstrates to scientists and policymakers that thinking "integrated" rather than "sectoral" will avoid serious land use conflicts and improve overall 3F provision.

GLOBIOM can advise on any number of questions, for example: 

  • Trends in future 3F commodity prices
  • Trends in future deforestation and the impact of measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation (REDD: read more)
  • Future greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector and from land use change
  • The potential contribution of bio-fuels to climate change mitigation
  • If demand for and supply of water for irrigation match, and if not, what can be done
  • The relative costs and benefits of importing or exporting food and raw materials
  • The profitability, incentives, and impacts of changing agricultural management practices

The GLOBIOM model's new livestock production model shows that some regions, such as many grass lands in Africa, will not sustain crops, and should be simply left for livestock grazing.

In 2010 the GLOBIOM model was specially adapted to the Congo Basin context to provide estimates of future deforestation and support national REDD strategies in the region.

How GLOBIOM works

GLOBIOM's analytical process captures the multiple interrelationships between the different systems involved in provision of the 3Fs, for example, population dynamics, ecosystems, technology, and climate.

GLOBIOM, a global recursively dynamic partial equilibrium model that integrates the agricultural, bioenergy, and forestry sectors [more], draws on comprehensive socioeconomic and geospatial data.  It accounts for the 18 most globally important crops, a range of livestock production activities, forestry commodities, first- and second-generation bioenergy, and water. Production is spatially explicit and takes into account land and weather characteristics.

The market equilibrium is found by maximizing the sum of producer and consumer surplus subject to resource, technological, and political constraints. Using 2000 as the baseline year, GLOBIOM simulates demand and supply quantities, bilateral trade flows, and prices for commodities and natural resources at 10-year-step intervals up to 2050. This gives planners a basis for setting future land use and, importantly, for identifying possible shortfalls in food and biomass supplies.


Choices about which of the 3Fs to grow where are currently strongly motivated by prices on the world market. For example, developing country farmers will be disinclined to grow cassava for local consumption if they can grow sugar cane for ethanol for use in developed country vehicles.

Additionally, with uncertainty often being the norm in agriculture, especially in trade, planning for the stable production of food, forest fibers, and biofuels represents a massive undertaking. Using the GLOBIOM model facilitates planning issues across the board.


By 2050 the estimated world demand for food and bio-fuel is expected to rise by 65% and 300%, respectively, and by 2030 demand for forest fibers by 400 million m3 annually. The challenges for agriculture are huge.

  • We need to feed a growing number of mouths: over 9 billion in 2050.
  • Scientists estimate that, globally, only ±250–300 million ha of suitable land is available for agricultural expansion.
  • There is decreased agricultural output in many countries, mainly due to underinvestment;
  • Developing countries especially need technical and technological innovation to improve yields, including new cultivars that can withstand changes in climate, for example, greater aridity.
  • Our future climate is unpredictable—will there be enough rain each year?
  • We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 to curb further climate change.

The GLOBIOM model is already helping countries and regions to tackle these complex, interrelated issues.

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Last edited: 12 May 2016

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