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DuPont Exec Stresses Need for “Epic Gains” in Crop Production

To meet the growing global demand for crops, public and private researchers must develop a more complete understanding of plant genes and their interactions, according to DuPont Vice President Bill Niebur, who leads DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development.

Niebur noted that plant scientists helped increase corn production by 45% over the last 40 years while the area planted grew by just 4.8%. Looking forward, the world must double food production on the same amount of land by 2050. New and improving knowledge of plant genes will make it possible to do that, said Niebur in a speech to the International Plant Breeding Symposium.

We must make epic gains in crop production to meet the global demand for food, feed, fiber, fuel and materials in the years ahead. Science is up to the challenge.

We have made incredible gains with plant breeding based on what we can see and measure. With the information we have today on the inner workings of those plants, we can continue to achieve increased productivity and better products, with fewer resources.

—Bill Niebur

Specifically, Niebur said the improvements will be possible through molecular breeding, or understanding genes and their interactions; trait enhancements, both through native variation and biotech opportunities; increased knowledge of traits through new rapid evaluation tools; computer modeling; and plant breeding.

With 98% of the population growth between now and 2050 expected to come from developing countries, it is important for scientists to improve crops by applying the latest plant technology.

—Bill Niebur

DuPont, through its subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., has contributed corn and wheat genomics information to public databases. The company has also worked to advance public plant breeding capacity.

The International Plant Breeding Symposium brings together public and private plant scientists from developing and developed countries. The conference is organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Iowa State University, and Pioneer among others.



Inreased population along with climate change drought could require some major adjustments.


"the world must double food production on the same amount of land by 2050"

Wow. Nothing like an easy to achieve goal. I wonder if this even includes the use of food crops for fuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel) - I assume it doesn't. Seems like the more realistic options are either fewer people or more efficient use of food crops (i.e. much less meat). Also great timing given that the ocean fisheries are so severely depleted and getting worse. I guess the only positive spin is that global warming may open up vast areas of Canada and siberia to crop production...


Why dont nations work on population control? More people put more strain on the available natural resources both fossil and renewable making for a bigger strain on humanity? We should look to the ethanol industry for the lesson, what happens to all the yeast when the feed stock runs out...they all die and suffocate in there own waste and lack of resources. (ethanol is yeast poo for those who dont know) Management of what we have and what we are doing is the only clear answer I see.


What increases in crop production were directly related to genetic modification. That needs to be separated out from overall gaains, or otherwise the efficacy of GM is overstated -- which is, of course, DuPont's purpose.

Also, these gains are primarily a function of increased fertilizers, insecticides, and water. Given resource constraints, we have probably pushed that envelope as far as it can be pushed.

We have had deficits in grain production over the last several years. Therefore, why would we expect this to be reversed in the future, especially with population increases.

fyi CO2

DuPont has a plan for overpopulation:
more DuPont fertilizers & pesticides to the rescue!


Just remember, if you're counting on global warming to give us expanded croplands in Canada and Siberia, you need to discount for lost landcrop production from the currently fertile humid coastal plains in the American South, Southern and Central China, the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh and India... plus, a good chunk of Eastern Siberia is sufficiently low in elevation to flood, so won't be available for land crops. Come to think of it, that also applies to the Amazon Basin.

How useful these areas will be for aquaculture? Well, that remains to be seen. Maybe very, maybe not so useful for a while.

Another question is just how fertile the lands up north will actually be. Many of them should be very rich in carbon, but growing seasons may still be limited (temps going up, but not total amount of solar energy for photosynthesis). You'll also need to ask what types of crops will be actually grow there.

As for population, almost every region of the world is seeing birth rates go down. In the West and developed Asia, birth rates have now dropped below "replacement level". However, life spans are still increasing, so no one is expecting to see global population to start going down until late in the 21st century... meaning they're counting on it peaking around 2060 at 9 billion, then slowly heading down.

This doesn't take into account any projections for oil production peaking, nor any major breakthroughs in lifespan via biotechnology. Some optimists think the aging process should be sufficiently understood by about 2030 to actually slow, stop or even reverse aging... which would throw all the demographic projections about the window.

I think the one thing we can definitely count on is the unexpected.

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