Increasing agriculture productivity to meet growing global demand for food must be accompanied by an intense, innovative effort to enhance the environmental imprint of farming to be sustainable, according to DuPont executive vice president Jim Borel.
“We face the daunting challenge of nearly doubling agriculture production to meet the demands of the estimated 9 billion people expected by 2050,” Borel says. “Success in this endeavor will require new and sustained levels of innovation, such as improvements in drought tolerance, to increase productivity of the global food supply without increasing the stress upon our natural resources or the environment.
“Drought tolerance technologies are part of the next great wave of agricultural innovation that will improve agronomic characteristics of plants so they more efficiently use available resources,” Borel says. “They will further empower farmers with better product choices to meet growing demand while reducing their environmental footprint.”
Many environmental factors can reduce agriculture productivity, but drought is by far the most damaging. In 2009 alone, drought cost farmers $14 billion worldwide. Eighty-five percent of the U.S. corn crop is affected by drought stress at some time during the growing season each year, and just four days of severe drought stress during the peak of summer can cut yields in half.
The drought research facility in Woodland, CA, is one of two managed stress facilities DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred uses to evaluate crop performance under targeted drought or nutrient stresses. It receives little or no precipitation during the growing season, allowing researchers to control the amount of water applied through precision irrigation.