“The question of whether science can supply the world’s growing appetite for grain can be answered with a resounding ‘yes’ if we tap all of the talent and tools that are available,” Niebur said. “Public and private sector players must collaborate using cutting-edge science and top talent on a global scale to maximize the productivity of the world’s farmers.”
Niebur stressed that for global science and talent to be fully used, transparent and science-based policies and regulations must be in place on a global scale to ensure more efficient adoption of new products and technologies and increase access to safe, nutritious food.
Global Science, Scale and Talent
“Historically, increases in agricultural productivity have been achieved by inventing and adopting new technologies and management practices in North America and Europe, then rolling them out to other countries,” he said. “Progress has been made with this approach, but we must leverage science-based knowledge and innovation on a global scale to develop the local solutions that will help meet the increased demand for grain.”
Improved genetics, advanced management practices and new technologies have helped U.S. maize growers increase average corn yields 40 percent in the last 20 years – reaching 154 bushels per acre in 2008. However, maize yields in many parts of the world lag far behind the United States. In China and Brazil, the world’s second and third largest maize markets, average maize yields are 50 percent and 38 percent of average U.S. yields respectively. Meanwhile, standards of living continue to improve and populations continue to increase, creating even greater demand for grain and protein.
“Global science networks are essential to delivering the needed productivity increases to meet demand,” said Niebur. “We are combining our expertise and resources with scientists from some of the best public institutions around the world to address issues facing farmers globally.”
Through complex trait improvement, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred is working to solve growing global challenges related to temperature, wind, water and nutrients, as well as insects, diseases and weeds. Further, they are seeking to enhance output traits such as protein, starch, oil, fiber and nutritional content.
Niebur explained that thanks to its global research efforts, Pioneer is on track to increase corn and soybean yields by 40 percent by 2018, more than doubling the annual rate of gain.
“These productivity gains will be generated by scientists from our global network of research facilities who are working with public sector scientists to accelerate the product development process and identify improved traits from native species and biotechnology approaches that will enhance the performance of our products. The enormous benefit of a global network of talent is that there is always someone somewhere in the world thinking about and working on ways to increase agricultural productivity. Whether it’s Iowa, India, China or hundreds of other locations around the globe, we’re all connected and we’re all working toward one common goal.”