Challenges for Agricultural Research

image of Challenges for Agricultural Research

As the world has changed during the past 50 years, so has agriculture. And so has agricultural research, which continues to confront new challenges, from food security to ecological concerns to land use issues. Indeed, as Guy Paillotin, the former president of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has noted, agricultural research “has reached new heights in biology and is exploring other disciplines. It is forever changing, as are the needs of the society”.

The changing challenges faced by agricultural research were examined in depth at a conference organised by the OECD’s Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, together with the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture. Participants came from all agricultural sectors and included farmers, industry, scientists and decision makers, as well as other stake holders.

This publication presents the twenty papers delivered at the conference. They highlight recent major progress in agricultural research outcomes and address the challenges that lie ahead.



Challenges and Opportunities for Further Improvements in Wheat Yield

Wheat is one of the most critical food crops. Globally wheat yield has been growing slower than wheat demand. Further improvements in yield are required. Due to environmental concerns, much of these improvements must come from genetic gains. As wheat yield potential is expressed across a wide range of environments, breeding cultivars of higher-yield potential than that of most modern cultivars is critical. The challenge is that the main physiological avenues for improving yield in the future must be different than that on which past breeding (including the “green revolution”) was based. Major improvements in yield potential were achieved by increased harvest index based on plant height reduction, but any further reductions in plant height would bring about yield penalties rather than gains. In this paper I will discuss alternative opportunities for future improvements beyond modifications in height or partitioning of dry matter.


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