Ensuring an adequate food supply in systems that protect environmental quality and conserve natural resources requires productive and resource-efficient cropping systems on existing farmland. Meeting this challenge will be difficult without a robust spatial framework that facilitates rapid evaluation and scaling-out of currently available and emerging technologies. Here we develop a global spatial framework to delineate 'technology extrapolation domains' based on key climate and soil factors that govern crop yields and yield stability in rainfed crop production. The proposed framework adequately represents the spatial pattern of crop yields and stability when evaluated over the data-rich US Corn Belt. It also facilitates evaluation of cropping system performance across continents, which can improve efficiency of agricultural research that seeks to intensify production on existing farmland. Populating this biophysical spatial framework with appropriate socio-economic attributes provides the potential to amplify the return on investments in agricultural research and development by improving the effectiveness of research prioritization and impact assessment.