Research from the past to the future

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Future gains in plant science and crop production are considered from two perspectives. The first is a disciplinary overview of the history of crop improvement, one that considers examples of 'great leaps forward' along with the prevailing pattern of incremental progress in plant breeding. The second perspective is a consideration of the constraints that occur beyond the technology of plant breeding, constraints that include the future availability of resources such as land, nutrients, energy, scientists, funds and facilities. The recent history of plant breeding includes successes such as the 'green revolution' and marker assisted selection, along with disappointments like the limited impact of GM crops and the difficulty of enhancing the stress tolerances of plants. Future benefits from plant breeding could occur unevenly from region to region, depending on the impact of climate change on local food production systems; the availability of fertilizer and water resources; the interests of governments, institutions, agribusiness and communities; and the level of collaboration that occurs, both between scientists and from scientists to farmers. Although crop yield potentials will continue to move incrementally upward, it is probable that knowledge barriers, political inertia and the impacts of climate change will constrain the rate of crop improvement to a level that is insufficient to feed the world, unless there are concomitant reforms in food distribution and utilization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrop adaptation to climate change
EditorsHermann Lotze-Campen, Shyam S Yadav, Robert J Redden, Jerry L Hatfield, Anthony E Hall
Place of PublicationChichester
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9780470960929, 9780470960905, 9780470960912
ISBN (Print)9780813820163
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Biotechnology
  • Ecosystem complexityclimate change
  • Plant breeding
  • Plant improvement
  • Plant science

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