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New plant sciences key to meeting global crop demand

Agriculture.com Staff 08/22/2006 @ 8:23am

To meet the growing global demand for crops, public and private researchers must develop a more complete understanding of plant genes and their interactions, DuPont Vice President Bill Niebur challenged the International Plant Breeding Symposium today.

"We must make epic gains in crop production to meet the global demand for food, feed, fiber, fuel and materials in the years ahead," said Niebur, who leads DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development. "Science is up to the challenge."

Niebur noted that plant scientists helped increase corn production by 45% over the last 40 years while the area planted grew by just 4.8%. Looking forward, the world must double food production on the same amount of land by 2050. New and improving knowledge of plant genes will make it possible to do that, said Niebur.

"We have made incredible gains with plant breeding based on what we can see and measure. With the information we have today on the inner workings of those plants, we can continue to achieve increased productivity and better products, with fewer resources," said Niebur.

Specifically, Niebur said the improvements will be possible through molecular breeding, or understanding genes and their interactions; trait enhancements, both through native variation and biotech opportunities; increased knowledge of traits through new rapid evaluation tools; computer modeling; and plant breeding.

"With 98% of the population growth between now and 2050 expected to come from developing countries, it is important for scientists to improve crops by applying the latest plant technology," said Niebur. "The technology is size neutral and there is an incredible and growing wealth of publicly available information on plant genes."

For example, DuPont, through its subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., contributed corn and wheat genomics information to public databases. The company has also worked to advance public plant breeding capacity.

The International Plant Breeding Symposium brings together public and private plant scientists from developing and developed countries. The conference is organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Iowa State University and Pioneer among others.

To meet the growing global demand for crops, public and private researchers must develop a more complete understanding of plant genes and their interactions, DuPont Vice President Bill Niebur challenged the International Plant Breeding Symposium today.

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