Population growth, climate change, and bioenergy crops are worldwide trends that are increasing the importance of using science to improve agriculture. Add to that land degradation, biodiversity loss, and slowing growth in crop yield, and the pressures on science are greater still.
The United Nations (UN) (department of economic and social affairs, population division) estimates that by 2050 the global population will grow 47% to 8.9 billion. Other scenarios predict growth as high as 10.6 billion. Just last week the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its second in a series of reports due out this year outlining the causes, effects, and solutions to global warming. Food security is an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice, and wheat are all affected in the run up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses greater than 25%.
Future food security relies on the development and production of plant and animal crops that are both robust and resilient. Research activities centering on the genomics, bioinformatics, and computational biology of plants and animals — as well as their pathogens — have been transformative, enabling scientists and organizations to better feed the world and improve the quality of food and animal crops.