Investments in Crop Development

As climate change pushes regional climates outside of historical experience, development of crop varieties better suited to these new climates will be an important component of adaptation. Chapter 9 reviews the breeding challenges associated with developing crops for new climates. Throughout much of the world, these challenges will mostly be met by the private sector. In high-income countries, the private sector accounts for 55% of total agricultural R&D expenditures, and many companies are actively publicizing their efforts to develop varieties well suited to changing climates (see, for instance, Monsanto's efforts with drought-tolerant maize).

But private sector investment will likely not be enough in many developing countries, where input markets are more poorly functioning and poor farmers represent limited economic demand for new varieties. Public-sector expenditures currently account for 94% of agricultural R&D in the developing world (Pardey et al. 2006), and historically these investments have yielded extremely high social returns (Alston 2000). Unfortunately, inflation-adjusted public sector spending on agricultural R&D in developing countries has been roughly stagnant since the 1980s, and key sources of external aid to developing country agriculture have fallen dramatically over the same period (Pardey and Beintema 2002). At the same time, however, large recent investment in agricultural development by foundations such as the Gates and Rockefeller are beginning to fill some of the public-sector void, particularly in Africa.

More broadly, given the decade or more it typically takes to develop and release new varieties, breeding programs face the difficult task of identifying regional and global priorities in the context of rapidly warming temperatures and continued uncertainty about the relative impacts of climate change on yields of different crops (Lobell et al. 2008). Supplying breeders with better information on the conditions and constraints that climate change will pose for future agricultural systems is therefore a major research priority.

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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