Plant Breeding for Harmony between Modern Agriculture Production and the Environment


The world population is estimated to be 9.2 billion in 2050. To sufficiently feed these people, the total food production will have to increase 60% - 70%. Climate models predict that warmer tem-peratures and increases in the frequency and duration of drought during the present century will have negative impact on agricultural productivity. These new global challenges require a more complex integrated agricultural and breeding agenda that focuses on livelihood improvement coupled with agro-ecosystem resilience, eco-efficiency and sustainability rather than just on crop productivity gains. Intensifying sustainability agro-ecosystems by producing more food with lower inputs, adapting agriculture to climate change, conserving agro-biodiversity through its use, and making markets to work for the small farmers are needed to address the main issues of our time. Plant breeding has played a vital role in the successful development of modern agriculture. Development of new cultivars will be required while reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment and maintaining sufficient production. Conventional plant breeding will remain the backbone of crop improvement strategies. Genetic engineering has the potential to address some of the most challenging biotic constraints faced by farmers, which are not easily addressed through conventional plant breeding alone. Protective measures and laws, especially patenting, must be moderated to eliminate coverage so broad that it stifles innovation. They must be made less restrictive to encourage research and free flow of materials and information. Small farmers have an important role in conserving and using crop biodiversity. Public sector breeding must remain vigorous, especially in areas where the private sector does not function. This will often require benevolent public/private partnerships as well as government support. Active and positive connections between the private and public breeding sectors and large-scale gene banks are required to avoid a possible conflict involving breeders’ rights, gene preservation and erosion. Plant breeding can be a powerful tool to bring “harmony” between agriculture and the environment, but partnerships and cooperation are needed to make this a reality.

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Dias, J. (2015) Plant Breeding for Harmony between Modern Agriculture Production and the Environment. Agricultural Sciences, 6, 87-116. doi: 10.4236/as.2015.61008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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