Agricultural sciences will innovate solutions and provide food security

Photo credit: Journal of Experimental Botany

Fig. 1.

The three constraints that will be imposed on crop production in the next 40 years.

Planning for food security in a changing climate

By Bryan McKersie

in Journal of Experimental Botany (2015) 66 (12):3435-3450.

doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru547

Abstract

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other international agencies have concluded that global crop production is at risk due to climate change, population growth, and changing food preferences. Society expects that the agricultural sciences will innovate solutions to these problems and provide food security for the foreseeable future.

My thesis is that an integrated research plan merging agronomic and genetic approaches has the greatest probability of success. I present a template for a research plan based on the lessons we have learned from the Green Revolution and from the development of genetically engineered crops that may guide us to meet this expectation.

The plan starts with a vision of how the crop management system could change, and I give a few examples of innovations that are very much in their infancy but have significant potential. The opportunities need to be conceptualized on a regional basis for each crop to provide a target for change.

The plan gives an overview of how the tools of plant biotechnology can be used to create the genetic diversity needed to implement the envisioned changes in the crop management system, using the development of drought tolerance in maize (Zea mays L.) as an example that has led recently to the commercial release of new hybrids in the USA.

The plan requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates and coordinates research on plant biotechnology, genetics, physiology, breeding, agronomy, and cropping systems to be successful.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.