Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century

Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century

Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century

Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century


The astounding success of agricultural research has enabled farmers to produce increasingly more--and more kinds--of food throughout the world. But with a projected 9 billion people to feed by 2050, veteran researcher Gale Buchanan fears that human confidence in this ample supply, especially in the US, has created unrealistic expectations for the future. Without a working knowledge of what types and amounts of research produced the bounty we enjoy today, we will not be prepared to support the research necessary to face the challenges ahead, including population growth, climate change, and water and energy scarcity. In this book, Buchanan describes the historical commitment to research and the phenomenal changes it brought to our ability to feed ourselves. He also prescribes a path for the future, pointing the way toward an adequately funded, more creative agricultural research system that involves scientists, administrators, educators, farmers, politicians, and consumers; resides in one "stand alone" agency; enjoys a consistent funding stream; and operates internationally.


Agriculture is not just the most essential industry,
it is the only essential industry

—boysie f. day

Agricultural research has been a part of my entire life. I learned firsthand some of the problems and challenges associated with farming as I grew up on a small farm that produced an array of crops and livestock. The need for change, improvements, and the importance of new technology was apparent when I was a small boy. Controlling insects, diseases, and weeds as well as harvesting crops such as peanuts and tobacco without any mechanization validated this point. The importance of new technology became particularly evident when the first tractor arrived on our farm. While we kept the mules for a time, the tractor rapidly changed our approach to farming.

My father provided my first introduction to the concept of research because he was always trying a different rate of fertilizer, plant spacing or cultural practices. While these were quite simple “experiments” or demonstrations, they made an impression that there were other, perhaps better, ways of doing things.

After earning BS, MS, and PhD degrees, I was ready for my first assignment in research. I spent 15 years in weed science teaching and research. My research focus areas were control of weeds in crops, cropweed interactions, and basic weed biology. The following 25 years I was engaged in administering various agricultural research programs including serving as an experiment station director in two states and as dean and administrative head of agricultural programs at one land-grant . . .

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