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Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World


Crop researchers will aim to improve wheat yields by 50 percent by 2034 to feed a growing world population, according to an announcement at a summit to mark Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Norman Borlaug’s birth.

The International Wheat Yield Partnership hopes to secure $100 million in funding over the next five years, the U.K.’s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the El Batan, Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or Cimmyt, wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

Wheat is a key source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion of Earth’s 7 billion population, according to Cimmyt. The World Bank estimates output of the grain will have to climb by 60 percent from 2000 and 2050 to meet rising demand, the researchers wrote.

“We need a collective global approach to make more wheat available,” Steve Visscher, chairman of the partnership’s board of founding members and deputy Chief Executive Officer of the U.K.’s BBSRC, said in the statement. “It’s the most widely grown staple food crop and new varieties with increased yield will be vital.”

Wheat demand is growing “much faster” than production, according to the statement. The partnership’s founding partners include the BBSRC and Cimmyt, as well as Mexico’s Agriculture Secretariat and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Increases in wheat yields have slowed in developed nations since 1990, and price spikes such as those of 2007-08 and 2011 “are likely to be repeated” should production fall short of demand, according to the statement.

Farmers across the world harvested an average 3.04 metric tons of wheat per hectare (2.47 acres) in the 2012-13 season, and that’s predicted to climb to 3.25 tons in 2013-14, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show. Wheat yields have climbed from 2.67 tons per hectare a decade ago and 1.15 tons at the start of the 1960s.

The partnership will allow for scientific breakthroughs currently out of reach, according to Visscher. One focus will be on improving wheat’s use of the sun’s energy, he said.

The partnership was announced at the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico. It marks the 100th birthday of Borlaug, an American crop researcher who died in 2009 and whose work on high-yielding wheat varieties helped avert hunger in Mexico, India and Pakistan. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1970.


13 Comments on "Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World"

  1. Makati1 on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:06 am 

    More BS. The last miracle from ag was the green revolution which only switched from natural fertilizers to chemicals. Genetic manipulation is only going to make things worse. Wait and see.

    As for the wheat crop in 20 years, we will be lucky if we can produce 50% of today’s crop in the new climate conditions…lol.

  2. Davy, Hermann, MO on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 4:03 am 

    Article said – Crop researchers will aim to improve wheat yields by 50 percent by 2034 to feed a growing world population, according to an announcement at a summit to mark Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Norman Borlaug’s birth. The International Wheat Yield Partnership hopes to secure $100 million in funding over the next five years

    Well now we know what it takes to gain some funding. If you aim for the stars you will be rewarded!! 100MIL wow that is some lobbying. I was engaged in production AG before I moved to permaculture style AG raising grass fed beef. I did not grow any wheat but many around me did. Around here we had winter wheat harvested early July and then if all went well they would put a crop of soybeans in. This was called double cropping and it worked if the weather cooperated. Back in 2000 when I farmed wheat was not paying well but if you timed a double crop right it was decent. I can tell you right here right now that there is no way in hell you can raise wheat yields by 50% ever let alone by 2034. If anything climate instability will lower yields. This is the type of talk that is an outright lie. It misleads the population. It is well known among farms that the whole biotech revolution is anything but a revolution. I used to plant roundup ready beans. It was convenient using roundup. I felt roundup was healthier for the environment because the other herbicides where really nasty stuff. The roundup ready seeds were much more expensive and I did not see any significant yield increase. Today several types of weeds are becoming resistant to roundup. Farmers are calling these weeds supper weeds. I think we have reach the peak of our hubris with biotech. We are playing with the very heart of life and we can’t even take care of ourselves. The other message the 50% wheat yield claim sends is “Houston we have a problem” plain and simple. Can you get any simpler than that folks? Reading between the lines I read overshoot, limits to growth, and diminishing returns. “IF” this article came out and said “we have to raise wheat yields by 50% by 2034 to cover a population growth rate we see today. We can’t raise wheat yields anymore. The only alternative is population management on a global scale.” If this was said I would sit up and listen to these people!

  3. rollin on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 4:20 am 

    Davy is quite correct, the weather and climate are moving toward diminished wheat production.

    As far as the super weeds go, that is a normal progression of forced selection. Nothing super about them (see Silent Spring).
    The part that causes the eye-brows to be raised is Monsanto claimed that weed resistance would not occur this soon.

  4. DC on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 5:47 am 

    Headline says:Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World

    DC Says: Good luck with that plan….

  5. Northwest Resident on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:45 pm 

    A fifty percent reduction in global population by 2034 is much more likely and much more in tune with nature than a 50% increase in wheat yield by 2034.

  6. Kenz300 on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:46 pm 

    Endless population growth is the worlds greatest environmental problem.

  7. Bob on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:52 pm 

    Never going to happen. The miracle of “technology”=fail. Best bet is to move to a higher yielding crop (calorie per acre) or find more land (Sahara? Siberia?) …

  8. Northwest Resident on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:54 pm 

    Speaking of climate change, the just released 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review clearly discusses the strategic threats posed to the U.S. Military in the coming years. It is a fascinating read, and provides a real insight into how the US Military is preparing for the future — a future which is chock full of danger, if you take this document seriously, which you should.

    www dot defense dot gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review dot pdf

  9. John D on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 3:21 pm 

    Why can’t these scientists understand that they’re chasing their tail? They hear of a projected population increase so they get busy monkeying with non-sustainable methods ‘to prevent a crisis’. Then their production increases provide the food for said population increase to happen. Rinse and repeat.

    It doesn’t make sense to keep providing more and more food in the hope that someday mankind will decide to control its population. We are just upping the ante on the coming disaster.

  10. Davy, Hermann, MO on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 3:33 pm 

    John, food growth is “DONE” period. You will see nothing but declines here on out with a few bumps so these folks will have no choice but to address population overshoot with widespread hunger.

  11. bobinget on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 5:07 pm 

    Wheat is a big nitrogen user. We are talking 20 to 30 lbs per acre. Thousand acres= average 25,000 lbs,
    a lotta natural gas to formulate the stuff. Now, add ‘P’ ‘K’ and ‘S’ then diesel to spread chemicals slowly turning land into concrete.

    One formula: the greater the mortgage payment the higher the application rate.

  12. chilphil1986 on Thu, 27th Mar 2014 4:34 am 

    I think the only possible counterstrategy to any food shortage will be a drastic rehashing of current agricultural practices along the lines of what Davy is suggesting. There needs to be less genetic modification research, which tends to be expensive, aggressive, and disruptive, and more ecologically sound farming practices that take entire biomes into account. It is possible to create systems which can feed people on the order of 5 to 8 people per year per acre, but it sure isn’t this stupid monocropping wheats, corns, and soybeans. You need multiple layers of photosythetic processes going on in the same space simultaneously. Chestnut trees, apple trees, berry shrubs, and nice veggie layers on the bottom. Not saying this would work in every ecosystem around, but it would do wonders in the US midwest. The breadbasket we know is really just an extremely inefficient use of space if monocropping is the MO.

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