Feeding Our World: Seminal Genetic Gain in Sustainable Crop Productivity

Impact:

SCSCTexas A&M University, through its Land Grant Mission, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research are charged with the genetic improvement of plants for the benefit of humanity, and the development of knowledge based production and management systems. During the past century, improved cultivars and germplasm lines with improved genetics have contributed substantially to the economic well-being of individuals, the state, and the nation; to the health and well-being of consumers; and to the beauty and health of our environment.

New discoveries in genetics have improved the economic status and physical health of people worldwide, and the future will require even greater genetic improvement of plants to provide food, feed, fiber, greenspace, and bioenergy for an expanding population. Today, the UN estimates that approximately 1,000,000,000 people suffer from chronic hunger or food insecurity. Furthermore, an astounding 1 in 6 people in the US do not have sufficient access to food or are malnourished.

This Grand Challenge to feed the world and provide the essentials of human existence can be met only by continued and expanded efforts in the genetic manipulation of plants for man’s benefit and the optimum production of those plant products. This optimum production must be achieved on less land, using less water, less fertilizer, and fewer pesticides.

Description:

Transformational breakthroughs are needed in breeding technology that will propel improvements in productivity to meet the challenge of feeding, clothing, and sheltering nine billion people by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100. This Grand Challenge Team  focuses on the following four basic technology areas.

  1. Gametic Cycling
  2. Genome Wide Breeding
  3. Genome Editing
  4. High Throughput Phenotyping

Application of these transformational technologies will lead to improved crop cultivars with much needed traits such as biotic and abiotic stress resistance and nutritional enrichment.

There will also be a focus on nutritional improvements through genetics. Genetic improvement of nutritional aspects of horticultural and agronomic crops is relative new on a scientific crop improvement time scale. The ability to measure amino acid concentration, specific proteins, total protein, vitamins, biochemical precursors of vitamins, etc. in a genetic selection usable speed scale has accelerated in the past 20 years.

This Grand Challenge Team recognizes that the responsibility of Feeding Our World will lie with the next generation of scientists and thus the training of future plant improvement scientists is a major component of this project. Through seed money provided by the Grand Challenge Grant, this integrative faculty team offered the following workshops in 2015:

  • High-Throughput Plant Phenotyping and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Agriculture Workshop
  • Symposium: The Use of R/qtl, MAGIC QTL Populations and Genomic Selection in Plant Breeding

For more information:

Wayne Smith, PhD – associate department head of soil and crop sciences – cwsmith@tamu.edu

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