ABOVE: From left, Dr Tadesse Wuletaw, wheat breeder International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco, Ms Sandra Micallef, Sydney University, co-ordinator of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT ) and Australia- ICARDA Germplasm Evaluation (CAIGE) project, Dr Hans Braun, Director, CIMMYT wheat program Mexico, Dr Meiqin Lu Australian Grain Technologies wheat breeder, Dr Amer Dabadat, pathologist, CIMMYT, Turkey,Prof. Richard Trethowan, director IA Watson Grains Research Centre, Mr Jim Watson, chairman WRF and Prof. Peter Sharp, director Plant Breeding Institute, Sydney University.
A visit to Narrabri on Sunday by world leaders in wheat research underlined the significant role of Narrabri Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in international programs to underpin global food security.
The group of 60 scientists was hosted by the PBI following last week’s 9th International Wheat Conference in Sydney.
Food security, challenged by population growth, crop diseases and climate change has been identified as ‘one of the biggest risks to global society over the next 10 years.’
Food production must double by 2050 to meet demand and wheat is the world’s second most important food crop in the developing world.
As a major wheat producer, Australia is a key player and Sydney University’s Narrabri PBI is an important, globally linked research institute.
At Narrabri, the visiting scientists discussed the PBI programs and inspected trials at the Narrabri research farm and at Drew Penberthy’s Edgeroi property.
Food security was a focus of last week’s international wheat conference.
By 2050, the current global population of 7.3 billion is projected to grow 33 percent to 9.7 billion, the United Nations predicts.
Demand for food, driven by population, demographic changes and increasing global wealth will rise more than 60 percent, according to a recent report from the Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.
Despite the tremendous strides made in agricultural research since the ‘Green Revolution’, global food production must still double by 2050 in order to meet demand.
As recently outlined by a panel of experts in a Lloyd’s Emerging Risk report, ‘the growing pressure on the world’s agricultural capacities is increasingly putting the ability of the global food system to feed the poor at risk.’
The 2014 World Food Prize laureate and the conference keynote speaker, Dr Sanjaya Rajaram, who began his career at the PBI and visited Narrabri the previous week, presented his views on how to increase annual wheat yield gains to the 1.7 percent scientists project will be needed to feed the world by 2050.
“Governments and the private sector must more fully support research efforts into developing new wheat varieties or face the risk of further global insecurity related to price instability, hunger riots and related conflict,” Rajaram said.
Private and public sector funding for wheat research was vital.
A conference brief revealed that ‘investment in agricultural research has an annual benefit between $2.8 billion to $3.8 billion a year, and funding renewal was a vital investment to create a more resilient agrifood system.’