Improved crops can double agricultural production, providing future generation with food and resources

Wageningen University & Research is working on a road-map to future-proof crops as part of EU-project CropBooster-P. Future crop yields will increase with optimal use of water and minerals. In addition to that nutritional value and crop quality are high on the list of targets. To feed a future population of 10 billion people and alleviate climate change these new crops need to eventually double the total world wilde food production. The great news that has been scientifically proven to be possible.

Feeding the world in 2050

To be sure that there is enough food in the world in 2050, agricultural production needs to increase drastically. An increase in yield of 70 to 80 percent is necessary. According to the program developer of Wageningen University & Research and coordinator of the CropBooster-P-project, René Klein Lankhorst, this is a hefty task. He s states that cutting down rainforests for more farmland is not an option as the ecosystem of the world would be damaged by doing so.

From non renewable to biobased resources

Climate change is forcing the world to switch from non renewable resources to biobased resources. This is also easier said than done as there is a need for an additional 30% of agricultural production to realize this. Klein Lankhorst states that we will need enormous quantities of biomass to supply industries with alternative resources. At the request of the EU, 18 European partners led by Wageningen University & Research will create a road-map to develop these new crops.

Doubling European agricultural production is technically feasible

According to René Klein Lankhorst it is technically feasible to double the total European agricultural production in 2050. The key will be photosynthesis optimization. René Klein Lankshorst goes on to state that current crops convert a surprisingly low percentage of sunlight to biomass: approximately 0.5% to 1%. If we succeed in doubling this amount to 1% to 2%, we are already there. The good news is that it is scientifically proven to be possible. However photosynthesis is not the only key factor; improved crops wil need to be able to be economical with water and minerals like nitrogen and phosphorus. And of course higher yield should not come at the expense of nutritional value. A lot of additional research will be needed to be able to realize such an outcome.

Together with social partners

CropBooster_P is supposed to clear the way for long term research. To get this done the road-map needs toe be as wide as possible with all current and future possibilities to increase crop yield. To ensure the successful development and introduction of improved crops, broad support in Europe is a necessity.

According toe Klein Lankhorst a few social partners are opposing the use of modern technology for plant breeding. He hypothesizes that those people do not feel heard in their doubts and concerns regarding technological developments.

CropBooster-P will therefore involve society from day 1 in creating the road-map to future-proof our crops. To realize this the plan is to organize workshops in which consumers, industrial partners and farmers will be able to discuss possible solutions to provide future generations with sufficient, high quality food. CropBooster-P predicts that the end result will be a road-map that can expect support from the community. The European Commission will subsequently be able to use this road-map to carry out necessary research to safeguard our future food supply.

Source: Wageningen University & Research press release - Further Reading: Photosynthesis, the green engine of life on Earth

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