Nearly 150 scientists from dozens of different fields have joined together to identify five major research subjects – including gene editing and advanced data analysis – critical for the future of food and agriculture.
Their report, Breakthrough 2030, was produced by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, which released it today.
“Agriculture is confronting a crisis no less epic than the dustbowl of the 1930s,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation (SoAR), one of the sponsors of the NASEM study. “The American scientific community has now mapped out how we can transform food production, answering many of the challenges that have emerged to getting dinner on the table every night. It’s on us now to implement this blueprint.”
The list of critical research initiatives that need to be tackled was put together after the National Academies canvassed 146 researchers over the past year through a series of live events and webinars. The “breakthroughs” are:
- The potential of microbiomes – primarily in the animal gut and in soil – to increase efficiency and overcome obstacles in production;
- Advancements in genetic evaluation and editing, including making the most of CRISPR and other technologies to accelerate the evolution of food production:
- Expanding and analyzing many pools of data involved in growing and producing food;
- Developing and improving sensors and biosensors across all agricultural sectors to increase productivity and better target interventions; and
- Examining, through transdisciplinary collaborations, entire systems in food production and finding the keys to adapting and transforming them to overcome challenges and increase production.
Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a co-funder of the study, said the report provides “a clear rallying point for the food and agriculture research community to focus on areas of greatest impact that will directly affect American farmers in the next 10 years.”
FFAR said over 20 sources in the university, public health, and agricultural sectors as well as federal agencies contributed to the $1.12 million cost of the report. Besides FFAR and SoAR, major funders included USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“Farmers have always embraced innovation, no matter how small, in our struggles to stay afloat,” said Richard Wilkins, a soybean and corn farmer from Greenwood, Del., and SoAR board member. “But now it’s time for big changes. Incremental progress cannot hold back the flood of challenges confronting us.”
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