Global agriculture’s challenge to feed two billion more people by 2050 on Planet Earth would have made a sensational episode of the 1960s-1970s hit drama television series Mission Impossible.
Agricultural technology innovations could have been the ultimate mission for lead actor Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) who amazingly accomplished a myriad of seemingly impossible missions.
Agriculture faces a daunting task to feed and clothe a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. The current population is about 7.1 billion people. Over the last decade, the global population increased by 12 percent.
To fill 2 billion more mouths, worldwide agricultural productivity must increase by 70 percent to 100 percent, according to the United Nations. Making the challenge even more…challenging…. is that agriculture will have to produce more food with less land and water.
DuPont Crop Protection President Rik Miller says global agriculture is up to the challenge. Technological innovations will lead agriculture to achieve significant yield increases.
(See related Peak Farmland grinds against cropland expansion)
DuPont is a farm chemical company, but also involved in nutrition, transportation, safety and protection, apparel, home and construction, plus electronics and communications. About 40 percent of its business is in agriculture.
“I believe agriculture is on the cusp of a critical era,” said Miller, a keynote speaker at the 7th annual Southwest Ag Summit held in Yuma, Ariz., this spring. The event was attended by about 600 growers, pest control advisers, and other industry members.
Miller says feeding and clothing 9 billion people will require major technological breakthroughs and the collaboration of people and organizations worldwide.
“The growing demand for food can only be met by unprecedented technical and agronomic knowledge sharing across the globe,” the DuPont leader said.
Collaborative sharing will involve growers, agricultural support companies, academia, policy makers, government agencies, and many others. Miller says technology born from these relationships can deliver food solutions for tomorrow. Innovation will deliver the tools to help growers succeed at the local level.
“These pressing needs will challenge the way we think, act, and plan,” Miller stated. “We must develop new tools to help growers around the world increase the quality, quantity, and safety of the global food supply.”
He says crop protection materials (farm chemicals) must be "safer, greener, and more sustainable."
“New inventions in insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and nematicides are needed to enhance productivity at the local level,” Miller said. “New technologies will set a new bar of performance.”
Reinvented products are also essential to the plan. Miller discussed Rynaxypyr, a DuPont insecticide mode of action on the commercial market for the about five years. This ingredient, and others, on the commercial farm chemical market are under refinement since resistance can occur over time.
Looking across agriculture, companies are creating a wide range of products with higher yields as the end goal.
“The answer to feeding the world is to get more yield from every acre,” Miller said. “Research and development (R&D) will deliver the answers.”
The DuPont company invests more 60-plus percent of its annual R&D budget to improve food production; more than $1 billion per year.
New crop protection products
What new technology is coming down the pike in crop protection and other agricultural products? Expect lower use rate technology, Miller says, which will create a smaller environmental footprint.
Seed treatment technology will help crops generate the “strongest biological yield and crop quality” ever. Crop technology will deliver improved drought- and saline-tolerance to allow growers to farm in harsher growing environments.
Of the two billion new residents on Earth, Miller says about one billion will live in Africa. One-half billion will be Chinese. The remaining half billion will live around the world.
While the population is increasing so is personal income. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), global income rose 32 percent over the last decade. People have more money available and want to put more protein in their diet.
EIU data says meat consumption increased 17 percent higher overall. Chicken consumption increased 32 percent, pork was up 15 percent, and beef increased 2 percent.
On the grain side, worldwide consumption is 26 percent higher over the last decade – corn up 39 percent, soybean 37 percent higher, rice climbed 15 percent, and cotton use rose by 8 percent.
Export data confirms that fresh fruits and vegetables – once considered a delicacy to many – are becoming a food staple.
Vegetable grower Steve Alameda, who farms in California and Arizona, asked Miller how growers should respond to consumers who may have negative views of pesticides. Miller responded that growers should state the facts.
“Growers should explain why they use crop protection products,” Miller told the crowd. He said, “Be well versed in ‘Where Your Food Comes From 101,’ and share the facts about agriculture.”
Miller concluded, “We need to get the public out of the 1960s mentality of DDT and talk about the new crop protection materials in 2013. It is a ‘better-safer-greener message’.”
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