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 and to preserve environments.

The aim of this international conference and the Proceedings was to discuss strategies for global crop production and environmental problems from the aspect of plant and agricultural sciences. With distinguished speakers and delegates from various areas of the world, we intended to discover research priorities toward overcoming the crisis in the biosphere in the coming century.

The conference encompassed the following topics:

1. Prospect of supply and demand for food and research strategies for the coming century.

2. Improvements of plant functions with conventional methods and biotechnology.

3. Environmental adaptation and generation of resistant plants.

4. The present situation of biological production and an approach to sustainable production in arid lands.

5. Conservation and contribution of plant genetic resources.

6. Biotechnology of woody plants.

It is my great pleasure to publish this book as the Proceedings of the 12th Toyota Conference, "Challenge of Plant and Agricultural Sciences to the Crisis of Biosphere on the Earth in the 21st Century", which contains 29 articles on the subjects mentioned. I trust that these proceedings may make a great contribution to rescue human beings from the biosphere crisis of the upcoming 21st century.

Atsushi Komamine

Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of the 12th Toyota Conference

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