Hunger; climate change; water scarcity – these are only a few of the complex and daunting challenges affecting our world today. Growing the food the world needs, sustainably and efficiently is only possible due to investment and innovation in agriculture. We’ve made great strides to date, but it can’t stop here. Population growth and a changing climate will continue to threaten global food production, challenging farmers and plant science researchers to innovate.
There is no “silver bullet.” We need innovative ways of working with existing agriculture tools as well as developing new technologies, and making them readily available to farmers. On the horizon is drought-tolerant corn that will save precious water resources, and plants with improved nitrogen-use efficiency, reducing the need for added fertilizer. Plus, new biotech crops are being developed to tolerate salinity and heat, and provide yield stability in extremely wet climates.
None of this, however, comes without significant investment and committed partnerships. By 2012, the plant science industry invested US$6 billion annually in crop protection and plant biotech R&D.
Science-led agriculture is instrumental in reducing hunger, poverty and malnutrition. During the past 50 years, agricultural research and technology development, combined with appropriate policies and investments, has fed an additional three billion people.
Plant science is one of the world’s most research and development-intensive industries. The process to create new products that benefit farmers, consumers and the environment is very detailed and demands significant time and investment. For instance, the cost to bring just one new crop protection product to market is approximately US$256 million and takes more than nine years from discovery to use in the field. And there is no sign of slowing this commitment – annual R&D investments in crop protection rise by 4.8 percent per year.
The private sector can’t achieve its commitment to improve global agriculture alone. Plant science companies collaborate with the public sector to share knowledge and technology.