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the foundation
of civilization

Plant breeding:
the foundation
of agriculture

Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee

Subcommittee - Globally Collaborative Agricultural System

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This is the report from the subcommittee on a Globally Collaborative Agricultural System. It met as part of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee in Des Moines, Iowa on June 16-18, 2008.

This report was prepared by: Jodi Scheffler

  • Officers
    • Rob Bertram, Past chair (
    • Abdullah Jaradat, Chair (
    • Tom Blake, Vice chair (
    • Jodi Scheffler, Secretary (Jodi.Scheffler@ARS.USDA.GOV)
  • Format for the White Paper
    • Introduction
    • Problems faced today
    • Opportunities
    • Consequences of success
    • Consequences of doing nothing
    • The White Paper will be written by Ken Byrnes, Michael Kovach, Tom Blake and Abdullah Jaradat
      • It will then be sent to the officers and then the other committee members for comment.
      • The Cornell grad students will meet as a group meet and give comments.
      • July 1st for the first draft
      • July 15th deadline
  • Problems faced
    • Global grain supply hit new lows
    • FAO says many countries facing a food crisis
    • Rice exporting nations restricting exports because afraid it will affect their domestic markets
    • Farmers rioting in Argentina because govt restricting exports
    • The increased inter-connection of crop prices, supplies, weather conditions world-wide
    • Perception that Bio-fuels are contributing to the world food shortage crisis
    • Commodity prices are rising but the input costs are rising faster
  • Actions and Possible Solutions
    • Need to find ways to decrease the inputs required
      • lower water usage, lower nitrogen required
    • Breed for less input management practices
      • no-till, less passes across the field to apply pesticides
    • Need to identify Global and potential pathogens that may become a problem and start breeding now. Test in countries where already a problem before it gets here
    • Organize ourselves so we can take advantage of funds that become available to combat specific crises
    • Provide more alternatives for types of crop varieties for the farmer
      • Drought Tolerant
      • Salt Tolerant
      • High Yield types
    • Also need to concentrate on vegetable and fruit crops and if the problems and solutions may be different
      • For example the cost of transporting grapes from Chile may become prohibitive. Do we re-introduce grapes here?
      • Tomatoes grown here in the greenhouse, increasing energy costs for running the greenhouse versus the cost of transporting it from California or overseas.
    • As plant breeders there is always a lag time between problem identification and finding a solution.
      • EMPRAPA has increased investment in public sector breeding and increased their market share and exports
      • We may need to determine which crops will no longer be grown here because of economics and think about what new crops may successful in future.
    • For fresh market strawberries they can be purchased any time of year because of the global market.
      • Strawberries
      • Grapes
    • Help other countries develop better crops that we cannot grow here
      • Need international cooperation so we can have access to germplasm in the future. Use both in situ and collections that are stored in the USA.
    • Action point: support the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
    • Organize ourselves so we can take advantage of funds that become available to combat specific crises.
      • Gates Foundation gave $27 million to help fight stem rust
      • Lines from Nebraska helped fight rust in Turkey and South Africa
    • We have under-estimated the growth in demand. We need to think about more than feeding the most mal-nourished. As economies grow the people want more food and different food. For example more meat. Even if the population did not grow the demand for food will increase.
      • Need to start now because it will take time to meet our goal
      • Need to consider GMOs and highlight some benefits of specific transgenes. Talk to the opponents of GMOs. Keep them engaged.
  • Partners
    • Global Initiative for Plant Breeding
    • Plant Breeding Companies Worldwide
    • Economists, Ag engineers, Nutritionists etc
    • Conservation groups and Advocacy groups like Greenpeace, WWF, Union of Concerned Scientists
    • Micro-finance organizations
    • NGOs - ECCO, Catholic Relief Services, Center for Rural Affairs
    • DEA – ask for funding to provide alternatives for illegal crops like poppy and cocaine
    • Universities and Agricultural Institutes in foreign countries
    • CIGAR
  • Comment from the Audience
    • He felt that competitive was not a “bad” word and that it would resonate better with the people in congress and the grower groups etc.
  • Note 1
    • Perhaps we need to think about who our audience is for the white paper versus who we will be working with to fulfill our actions.
  • Note 2
    • A good point was made in the presentation of reports that we have 11 seconds to convince the reader to continue slogging through our White Paper. The first few sentences should be compelling.
  • Participating attendees in this workgroup:
    • ?


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Page citation: Wehner, T.C. Global Plant Breeding, 30 March 2005;
design by C.T. Glenn; send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 30 September, 2009