USDA study explores trends in public and private agricultural R&D

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 - Analysis published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) in the most recent issue of the journal Science examines the relationship between public and private investments in research and development (R&D) and their importance in agricultural input industries.

Globally Positioned Agriculture

The Science article is drawn from a recent ERS study that provides new details on the rapid growth and changing composition of private investments in global agricultural R&D and traces the implications for agriculture.

"Agriculture is more dependent on scientific innovation than any other industry," said Catherine Woteki, USDA's Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "This study shows the great job that private industry is doing in research, much of which was built on the genetic technology USDA scientists have been working on for decades. It's crucial that we continue supporting this kind of R&D."

Research discussed in the article notes that globally, most of the increase in agricultural production over the past 50 years can largely be attributed to rising crop and livestock yields rather than to the expansion of acreage devoted to farming. As private sector investments comprise a greater and growing share of overall R&D spending, the findings from this study will help trace their influence on future productivity gains. The article also discusses how growth in private R&D helped to offset the sluggish growth in public R&D, describes how public research has provided many of the fundamental discoveries, and highlights overlooked research areas that consequently attract private R&D.

Reliable estimates of publicly funded agricultural research have previously been available, and studies have established strong links between these investments and the long-term growth of the productivity of American agriculture. But the ERS study is the first of its kind to provide comprehensive estimates and analyses of private sector R&D for agricultural input industries, even for global companies with R&D endeavors in different countries and sectors. The report defines agricultural inputs as animal genetics; animal nutrition; animal health; farm machinery; fertilizers; crop seed and biotechnology; and agricultural chemicals.

The full Science article is available here.

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