[ASC-media] Media release:Yield should be the focus for achieving global food security [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Mandy.Gyles at aciar.gov.au Mandy.Gyles at aciar.gov.au
Tue May 6 20:46:24 PDT 2014


Yield should be the focus for achieving global food security

The most effective way to advance food security and protect the environment from now is through continuing progress in crop yields across the globe. This is the key finding in a new book launched tomorrow (Thursday, 8 May) and written by world renowned agricultural scientists. It provides some answers and considers the opportunities for future yield prospects through lifting potential yield and closing yield gaps to 2050.

Crop yields and global food security: will yield increases continue to feed the world?,<http://aciar.gov.au/publication/mn158> written by Drs Tony Fischer, Derek Byerlee and Greg Edmeades, has just been published by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).   It provides some answers and considers the opportunities for future yield prospects through lifting potential yield and closing yield gaps to 2050.

"The debate around food security includes argument around trade policy, lagging research, water shortage, land degradation, biofuel cropping and climate change, and ways to reduce demand including changing diets and reducing food wastage. However, the most effective way is through ongoing yield increase," said Dr Fischer. "Increasing yield saves land, reduces prices and encourages trade, upon which a growing proportion of the world depends, while for those rural poor disconnected from trade, yield increase directly alleviates hunger and poverty. "

Dr Fischer, who will attend the book's launch at the annual conference of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology in Brisbane on Thursday 8 May 2014, is the former head of the Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico. In Australia, he headed ACIAR soil and crops program, was on the board of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and is an Honorary Researcher at CSIRO Plant Industry.

He said that after years of research put into the book, he and his colleagues find

*         Contrary to doom and gloom reports, progress in potential yield, when the best management practices and varieties are used, continues , with the average for the staples around 0.7% p.a.

*         Yield gaps between potential and actual farm yields vary greatly across crops and regions, with the developing world experiencing gaps over 100% for some crops such as maize due to the lack of adoption of known technologies.



*         Closing the large yield gaps in developing countries would seem the quickest and most feasible intervention for lifting progress. Research can deliver better solutions, especially in pest and disease control, but also substantial public investment in rural infrastructure and institutions is needed.

*         There are technological prospects for raising rates of potential yield progress, for example through increasing photosynthesis, utilising untapped diversity in crop gene banks, low-cost molecular markers for desirable genes and genetic engineering.


"Crop yield successes in areas such as Western Australia, one of the driest wheat regions with the poorest soils in the world, has been due to the widespread adoption of new agronomy including conservation agriculture and direct seeding, earlier seeding, increased use of nitrogen fertiliser, better crop rotations and better-yielding varieties have all contributed."

Dr Fischer says boosting investment in agricultural research, development and extension, including new approaches like genetic engineering, are essential for future yield growth,  but so too are huge investments in better institutions, infrastructure and policy, especially in the developing world. "I continue to be astounded by the debate around genetic engineering. Of course it's no silver bullet, but we need to consider all the technologies that are available and so much has been achieved already in the area of pest and weed control."

CROP YIELDS AND GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY: will yield increases continue to feed the world? was published with assistance from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
The 640-page book can be viewed in a fully accessible format on ACIAR's website http://aciar.gov.au/publication/mn158 or purchased from ACIAR via the website (A$85, incl. GST, plus postage).


Mandy Gyles
Public Affairs Officer
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
38 Thynne St, Bruce, ACT, 2617 | GPO Box 1571, Canberra, ACT 2601
P  02 6217 0500
M  0408 332 374
W  aciar.gov.au<http://aciar.gov.au/>

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