Crop-Innovations logo
University of Bath logo
tree cutting

The challenge

food supply projectionsWith the world's human population rapidly expanding, producing enough nutritious food for everyone is a major challenge. At the same time, housing more people increases competition for space and pressure on our natural resources. The final report of the Commission on sustainable agriculture and climate change summarised the challenge in the graph featured here. The black line shows our increasing demand for food while the red line represents loss of yield over time due to new pests, climate change and landuse change. Obviously there will be a huge shortfall in the amount of food that will be produced relative to the amount we need. To overcome this shortfall we must reduce our losses, increase production and reduce food demand. Therefore, future agriculture must produce larger yields from a smaller area of land and with fewer inputs.

 

Finding a Solution

At present, fewer than twenty of more than 13,000 known food plant species provide the bulk of our food needs. Not only does this limit the availability of nutrients obtained from a varied diet but leaves many species under threat of extinction. Because these few standard crops are genetically uniform and are not necessarily adapted to the local environment, plants are more vulnerable to pests and disease or climatic variation. Local production of food utilising greater genetic diversity will make vital nutrients readily available to more people worldwide. Using indigenous crop species that are able to grow in different climates or on marginal lands creates more robust yields and farming communities better able to cope with climate change. However, crop diversification needs to be supported by enabling value chains that ensure consisten production of high value produce and sufficient market access. Unfortunately agricultural research has, to-date, focussed on improving seed of only the main food crops, and far less is known about indigenous species and varieties. In addition, technology readily available to large crop development companies has never been adapted to benefit small-scale production. Crop Innovations aims to redress this balance by research and technology development to understand problems and ensure profitable value chains for a diverse range of crops. Find out more about us.