Can Agriculture Meet the Global Food Demands for a Food-Secure World?

Sunday, 15 February 2015: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM
Room LL20A (San Jose Convention Center)
Jerry Hatfield, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ames, IA
Global food demands are projected to significantly increase over the next 35 years to feed the projected 9 billion population; however, there are questions about the ability of agriculture to produce these quantities of food. These concerns rise from the projected trends in grains and oilseeds and the observation that yield trends are reaching a plateau. One aspect which will also limit the ability to produce food will be the continual reduction in the available arable land resource base and the variability in the climate, especially the temperature and precipitation patterns.  The potential production of agriculture and horticultural crops can be thought of as the yield potential and the yield gap as the difference between the potential and actual yield. Yield gaps have been observed to range from 20 to 80% and one factor which contributes to the yield gap is the ability of the soil to supply water and nutrients.  The challenge will be to close the yield gap by considering the genetic resources, soil resource, and management inputs.  This challenge can be addressed by considering how efficient crops are at capturing solar radiation and utilizing water and nutrients. This intersection of genetic resources with the climatic and soil resources offer the potential for achieving a maximum production level; however, the limitation is to begin to consider the interactions of these components across the a large variety of cropping systems. Achieving the quantity of food and feed production to supply the population needs will require the next agricultural revolution.  World food needs tends to focus on quantity; however, the emphasis should be on quality and the nutritional aspects of the produce. We need to understand how the production systems can meet the quality and quantity of future food needs and agriculture can deliver these demands if we begin to lay the foundation of integrative science that considers all of the interactions of the agricultural system.