Komamine T Fujimura and K N Watanabe

The most serious problem which we, as human beings, will face in the early 21st century is whether or not we can overcome the crisis in the biosphere that will occur on this planet.

There are two reasons why we should anticipate a crisis in the biosphere. One is that we may be unable to achieve a sufficient level of agricultural production to support an explosively increasing population. If so, there will be rampant famines.

The other is that all life on this small planet will be jeopardized by destruction of environments caused by pollution, global warming and desertification of lands. Such global disruptions would happen in the course of increased industrial production for raising the standard of living, and excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides for promotion of crop production.

Plants and agricultural sciences are playing a leading role in the rescue of human beings from the crisis in the biosphere; plant biotechnology may improve crop functions to rapidly promote food production. Plant and agricultural sciences also may produce plants tolerant to environmental stresses such as drought, salinity and coldness, and thus would expand land available for cultivation. It is also possible to produce crops resistant to diseases and arthropods using plant biotechnology, suppressing the excess usage of agricultural chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. Woody plants will also play important roles in the suppression of CO2 increase in the atmosphere and in producing plant biomass. Plant biotechnology will improve the functions of woody plants and provide seedlings on a large scale to replace the destroyed tropical forests, to preserve environments and biodiversity.

The aim of this book is to discuss strategies for global food production and environmental problems associated with plant and agricultural sciences. With distinguished contributors from various disciplines around the world, we intend to discover research priorities for overcoming the crisis in the biosphere in the coming century.

Section II Introduction

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