A rainbow revolution and participatory plant breeding
The adoption of new crop varieties by local farmers has been a key technological innovation for improving productivity and profitability. Plant breeding, carried out either by farmers or professional breeders, has been the main tool for the development and dissemination of these new varieties. Its role will continue to increase in importance over the coming decades in a time of major challenges for sustainable plant production due to factors such as global climate change, food insecurity and the degradation of natural resources. A successful example of an Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS) is participatory plant breeding which combines the local knowledge of traditional farmers and the scientific knowledge of modern scientists applied at a global level, thus allowing for efficient local innovation in the context of global challenges. The lessons learned and the future prospects of this participatory approach are analysed.
A Farmer's experience with biotech crops in South Africa
Demand for agricultural products is increasing, with most experts suggesting that food production will need to double by 2050 in order to meet food demand. To increase production, while improving the sustainability of agriculture, we need to adopt better methods, better management, tillage methods, better knowledge of resources, and better genetics. In the last two decades, the area planted with biotech crops has increased in the world to reach 10% of total arable land. The main traits are herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. In South Africa, yields have almost doubled with the adoption of biotech maize, which now accounts for a fourth of the area planted. Farm-level evidence in the Freestate Province of South Africa shows that biotech varieties are less dependent on rainfall, reduce production costs, and increase yield and profit margins (by up to 32%) compared to other varieties. Moreover, savings on herbicide and pesticide applications, and the resulting decline in fuel usage, have had positive impacts on the environment.
Latin America: Public agricultural advisory services
This section covers developments over the past ten years in selected Latin American countries. It covers the institutional innovations that have occurred, focussing on the decentralisation of service delivery, outsourcing of delivery, and co-financing by regional governments and beneficiaries. Farmers today are faced in this region with rapidly changing agricultural markets due to changing consumer demands and trade liberalisation, and thus the innovations needed are as much institutional as they are technical. This will require new partnerships, new rules and regulations and new forms of innovation. An innovation system perspective is called for, rather than a narrow Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) focus.
The Brazilian Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) System
There are many challenges related to environmental sustainability, social inclusion, globalisation and technological changes that are driving Brazilian organisations towards more dynamic modes of operation. Many government programmes are currently dedicated to improving infrastructure, research and development (R&D) strategies, communication and technology transfer in line with today´s realities and challenges. Embrapa, the Brazilian agricultural research organisation has been pursuing new ways to deal with these challenges for more than three decades. A semi-autonomous federal agency administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Supply, Embrapa is the largest agricultural R&D organisation in Latin America and a world leader in development of innovations for tropical agriculture. Embrapa is consolidating a management strategy designed to integrate and align its efforts in R&D, communication and technology transfer towards effective delivery of innovations to farmers and the Brazilian society. Embrapa is also developing new ways to share technologies developed for tropical agriculture with countries in Africa and Latin America. While this system is still evolving, it has helped Embrapa to move in the direction of more co-operative efforts, expanding its networking capabilities, and intensifying its efforts towards agricultural innovation in closer interaction with its stakeholders and with society as a whole.
Facilitating adoption and technology transfers
This section outlines the remarks and questions brought up by John Preissing, FAO and Thomas Schäfer, Novozymes, who were asked to discuss the presentations made during the session on "Facilitating adoption of innovations and technology transfers," reported under Sections 21 to 24 of these proceedings.
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