National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: Summary
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 13
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25059.
×
Page 21

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

1 Introduction 1. BACKGROUND For nearly a century, scientific advances have fueled progress in U.S. agriculture. As one of the most productive sectors of the U.S. economy, producers have achieved dramatic increases in output with simultaneously reduced inputs (such as land, labor, and chemicals) (Wang et al., 2018). Today’s farmers produce food for far more people using less land than in previous generations due to yield gains from ad- vances in plant and animal breeding, mechanization, agricultural chemicals, and irrigation, among other improvements to agricultural production (Clancy et al., 2016). These advances have been the direct result of sustained historical investments in food and agricultural research, providing substantial social return on public investment with an estimated marginal payoff of $32.1 per dollar invested (Alston et al., 2011). Food and agricultural innovations have enabled the delivery of safe and abundant food domestically and supported a trade surplus in bulk and high-value agricultural commodities (USDA-ERS, 2018). In the near future, the strength and responsiveness of the U.S. food and agricultural system will be tested. Recent analyses have warned that as a consequence of the growing world population, agricultural production worldwide will have collective difficulty in meeting global demand for food and fiber, which is estimated to increase by 59-98 percent by 2050 (Valin et al., 2014). Achieving the higher level of productivity needed—itself a formidable task—will not be sustainable without innovative solutions to challenges posed by shortages of arable land and water, the degradation of ecosystems, and the negative impacts of climate change. Several scientific groups have issued reports that describe these challenges in the context of the U.S. food and agricultural system and have identified opportunities to address them relative to the potential contributions of specific disciplinary or agency missions (see Box 1-1). This report builds on the opportu- nities identified in those reports and many others, including the White House report on U.S. Agricultural Preparedness and the Agricultural Research Enterprise (PCAST, 2012) and the National Research Coun- cil reports A New Biology for the 21st Century (NRC, 2009); Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century (NRC, 2010); Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond (NRC, 2014); and The Critical Role of Animal Science Re- search in Food Security and Sustainability (NRC, 2015). From the perspective of addressing the biggest problems facing the U.S. food and agricultural system, this report explores the availability of relatively new scientific tools emerging across all disciplines that could benefit the food and agricultural disciplines. This report identifies the most promising scientific breakthroughs with the potential to have the greatest impact on food and agriculture and that are possible to achieve in the next decade. 2. CHALLENGES TO THE U.S. FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM 2.1 Global Food System The United States is a critical player in the global food system and is expected to be competitive in the global marketplace. A major challenge for the future is the increasing worldwide demand for food, fuel, and fiber that comes with a global population expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030 and to exceed 10 Prepublication Copy

Introduction BOX 1-1 Highlights from Selected Recent Reports on Challenges in U.S. Food and Agriculture USDA-ARS National Program 301 Action Plan 2018-2022 (ARS, 2017) This report lays out a national program that addresses critical needs for providing crop plants with higher inherent genetic potential. The report notes the ultimate goal is in improving production efficiency, yield, sustainability, resilience, healthfulness, product quality, and value of U.S. crops. This would require continuous crop genetic improvement through more efficient and effective plant breeding. To do so includes the use of new genes and traits from the nation’s gene banks, leading-edge breeding methods, data- mining, bioinformatic tools, and incisive knowledge of crop molecular and biological processes. The Challenge of Change: Harnessing University Discovery, Engagement, and Learning to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security (APLU, 2017) This report from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities identifies grand challenges and “pathways” in meeting food security challenges and recommends actions to meet global food needs by 2050. Themes include increasing yields while maintaining profitability and environmental sustainability; de- creasing food waste; ensuring equitable food systems; and addressing the dual burdens of undernutrition and obesity. The report concludes by stating that food security should be a top priority for the nation and that transdisciplinary approaches will be needed to find solutions. Agriculture and Applied Economics: Priorities and Solutions (C-FARE and AAEA, 2017) The report identifies 10 priorities for agricultural and applied economics research and education over the next decade. Working across disciplinary boundaries, economic science related to human behavior, markets, and institution and business structures can result in new ways of using or managing plants, ani- mals, and even the environment, transforming risks into opportunities. Framework for a Federal Strategic Plan for Soil Science (NSTC, 2016) This report from the Soil Science Interagency Working Group (SSIWG) identifies the pressures caus- ing soil degradation, which include population growth and movement, an increasing urban footprint, and changing demands on water and land. The report concludes that lack of a full understanding of soil ecosys- tem services makes it difficult to establish targets and metrics for addressing those pressures. The report calls for research to advance fundamental knowledge of soil ecosystem services and to develop ways to track soil function under changing land-use scenarios. Phytobiomes: A Roadmap for Research and Translation (APS, 2016) This report concludes that the slowing of annual yield growths for essential food crops has put the na- tion at a critical juncture. The report envisions that crop management would be based on systems-level knowledge of interacting components rather than management of individual components. An examination of the phytobiome would include plants, their environments, and associated organisms within the community. Examination of the phytobiome could inform plant and agroecosystem health, soil fertility, crop yields, and food quality and safety. American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) Grand Challenges (ASAS, 2015) Predicting that increases in efficiency of animal production will need to be greater during the next 40 years in order to meet the increased global demand for animal-based products, the ASAS put out five Grand Challenges in animal science. Themes include protection of human health, environmental sustaina- bility, climate change, control of food contaminants, animal well-being, and sustainable use of water. Unleashing a Decade of Innovation in Plant Science: A Vision for 2015-2025 (ASPB, 2013) The report notes the stagnation of investment in plant-related research in the United States and the need to leverage new technologies to transform biology and accelerate the pace of discovery. The report calls for an effort to improve the ability of plant scientists to understand, predict, and alter plant behavior. Grand Challenges for Engineering (NAE, 2008) This report lays out the biggest challenges that engineers need to solve over the 21st century. The list features two challenges that apply to the U.S. agriculture and the food system: managing the nitrogen sys- tem and providing access to clean water. The report highlights the need for clever methods for remediating the nitrogen cycle. Agricultural irrigation consumes enormous quantities of water, often exceeding 80 per- cent of total water use in developing countries. This calls for improved efficiency in water use. Prepublication Copy 11

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 more than 9.8 billion people by 2050 (UN DESA, 2017). World food production will have to at least dou- ble by 2050 to meet that demand (Ray et al., 2013; Valin, 2014), and total production of meat products will need to increase worldwide by 70 percent to meet the needs of a growing global middle class with an increasing desire for animal-source foods (Robinson and Pozzi, 2011). The United States has expanded agricultural and food production and exports to help meet the demand for increased food production. Many U.S. farmers depend on export markets to expand the demand for products and support production at scales sufficient to cover costs. Similarly, the ability to export animal products, which requires freedom from reportable diseases, opens markets for U.S. production. Expanded markets for plant and animal products allow for increased scale and specialization to take advantage of new market opportunities, both of which can have a positive effect for agricultural and food producers and consumers and the overall economy. At the same time, the expanding global economy calls for increased preparation to address pos- sible threats from abroad, including foreign animal diseases, plant pathogens, invasive pests, and trade disruptions. Increased trade and changes in the agricultural and food sector are likely to have winners and losers. It will be essential to understand the increasingly global markets, account for costs of transitions to markets and new technologies, and develop appropriate mechanisms to account for changes to support a sustainable and resilient food and agricultural system. 2.2 Plateau in Productivity Worldwide demand for agricultural products will continue to increase, but it will become increas- ingly more difficult to meet those demands in the future due to an impending U.S. productivity plateau (Andersen et al., 2018). Improvements in yield potential for grain are already near their theoretical upper limit (Ort et al., 2015). Yield curves (particularly of cereal crops) are beginning to level off in some re- gions: approximately 30 percent of global rice, wheat, and maize production might have reached their maximum possible yields in farmers’ fields (Grassini et al., 2013), and yields for rice, wheat, maize, and soybeans across 24-39 percent of the world show yields that never improve, stagnate, or collapse (Ray et al., 2012): For example, yield stagnation is occurring in the main cereal-growing areas across China, with rice yields stagnating in 53.9 percent of the counties tracked in the study, followed by 42.4 percent for maize, and 41.9 percent for wheat (Wei et al., 2015). The stagnation of productivity growth of the world’s major crops (Ray et al., 2012; Grassini et al., 2013; Ort et al., 2015) serves as a warning sign that current methods for increasing crop productivity can only be exploited to a certain point, and new methods will be required to address the need for increased productivity. 2.3 Food Waste and Food Safety On the flip side of productivity concerns is the problem of food waste. Refrigeration is considered one of the most important historical breakthroughs in agriculture because it reduces food spoilage and waste and it enhances food safety. However, further innovation to reduce and repurpose food waste is needed because the United States wastes approximately $278 billion annually, which is enough to feed nearly 260 million people (Buzby et al., 2014; Bellemare et al., 2017). Accounting for resource use and efficiencies within a systems context can help to identify opportunities for optimal waste management. Producers also need to focus on food safety, given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 47.8 million illnesses, more than 125,000 hospital- izations, and about 3,000 deaths in the United States each year (Scallan et al., 2011a,b). 2.4 Resource and Environmental Constraints Available land, water, and fertile soil are increasingly limited resources that will constrain the ability to improve productivity using today’s production methods. Pushing resources past their limits risks per- manent damage to the resources and to the surrounding ecosystem. The use of resource-intensive, high- input farming across the world has caused soil depletion, water scarcities, widespread deforestation, and 12 Prepublication Copy

Introduction high levels of greenhouse gas emissions (FAO, 2017). Groundwater pumping for agriculture in California has caused land sinkage, aquifer compaction, and earthquakes (Sneed and Brandt, 2015; Kraner et al., 2018). If current water use continues, the Ogallala Aquifer, which serves 30 percent of U.S. irrigation needs, will be 60 percent depleted by 2060 (Steward et al., 2013). Although some farm practices, such as conservation tillage and no-till cropping, have been partly ef- fective at reducing erosion (Nearing et al., 2017), soil loss continues. In 2012, an estimated 6 tons per acre of soil (roughly 1 percent of soil per acre) were lost from Iowa cropland alone, polluting rivers and streams with sediments and fertilizers. Sediment removal from waterways alone costs more than $40 bil- lion dollars per year (ASPB, 2013). Biotic natural resources are also at risk. The loss of native pollinators for reasons not entirely understood, together with the problems facing managed colonies of European honeybees, is estimated to cost $24 billion in lost yields annually (White House, 2014). Global climate change adds to the challenges for the U.S. food and agricultural system. For most crops and livestock, the effects of climate change on U.S. agriculture will be increasingly negative as var- iable and extreme weather events, elevated temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, prolonged dry periods, and other climate changes affect yields, with impacts varying depending on location and crop (Hatfield et al., 2014). In 2017, climate-related disasters in the United States included droughts, floods, freezes, wild- fires, and hurricanes, which resulted in more than $5 billion in agricultural losses (NCEI, 2018). Climate stresses along with the recent emergence of new pests and diseases—such as citrus greening and new strains of viruses affecting swine and poultry—are imposing new demands on the nation’s scientific ca- pacities. 2.5 Changing Consumer Needs Domestically, consumer food preferences are changing. Consumers are more acutely aware of food choices impacting their health and the environment, and large retailers are responding by distinguishing their products in the marketplace and emphasizing values such as sustainability, animal welfare, and treatment of labor in their supply chains. There is a national interest in creating market opportunities for producers to increase healthful, diverse, and affordable food choices. Consumer advocates in public health seek healthier food, citing the poor diets of Americans as one of the preventable causes of chronic disease that accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in annual health care costs (CDC, 2017). 2.6 Declining Public Funding The success of U.S. agriculture to date is in large part attributable to a foundation of basic and applied knowledge built in the past century by the land grant university system, USDA, and other federal agencies. Publicly funded research, which has produced many significant advances in agriculture, has diminished in the past 10 years due to sharp declines in the share of public investments in food and agri- cultural research. From 2003 to 2013, U.S. agricultural research and development (R&D) fell from $6.0 billion to $4.5 billion (Clancy et al., 2016). During the same period, private sector funding increased by 64 percent, overtaking publicly funded research in 2010 dollars (see Figure 1-1). Both public and private funding would show even slower growth since 2009 (and even a decline for public investment) when dol- lars are indexed to account for the real costs of research (Heisey and Fuglie, 2018). Historically, public funding to the agricultural sector has tended to focus on advances in science and innovation, while private sector funding has aimed at commercially useful production processes and products (Clancy et al., 2016; Heisey and Fuglie, 2018). Evidence today indicates that the two funding streams are to be viewed as complementary in the U.S. agricultural innovation system and private sector investment does not crowd out public investment, especially in the United States (Wang et al., 2013; Fuglie and Toole, 2014; Clancy et al., 2016; Heisey and Fuglie, 2018). There is evidence, however, that public and private investments tend to go toward different sectors in research. Private research and development spending has leveraged the public research and focused on areas of commercially useful technologies that are easy to patent and Prepublication Copy 13

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 FIGURE 1-1 Annual spending on public and private sector research, with dollars adjusted for inflation. NOTE: R&D = research and development. SOURCE: Clancy et al., 2016. protect with intellectual property protection and offer greater profit opportunities for investors. Sectors with relatively high private investment in research include food and feed manufacturing, plant systems and crop protection (especially genetically modified crops, agricultural chemicals), farm machinery and engineering, and animal health (especially veterinary pharmaceuticals) (Clancy et al., 2016). Interest in growing consumer demand for new and diverse products, in applications of biotechnolo- gy and information sciences, and in intellectual property right protection has spurred more rapid increases in private investment (Heisey and Fuglie, 2018). However, recent mergers in some agricultural industries (e.g., seed and agricultural chemicals) have led to concerns about the potential for placing farmers at a disadvantage through higher input prices, reliance on existing supply networks or technical ties to related products from the input suppliers, and for dampening incentives for the private firms to innovate (Wang et al., 2013; MacDonald, 2017). The trend of declining public research funding is concerning because it has negative implications for generating foundational research that is critical for science breakthroughs. 3. OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FUTURE Major scientific advances in the past decade have paved the way for new opportunities in food and agriculture. For instance, molecular biology has provided substantial advances over the past two decades that enable more precise and diverse changes in crops. These capabilities allow for the development of new food sources and traits that increase resistance to a broader array of insect pests and diseases; in- crease yields, nutrient-use, and water-use efficiencies; and the ability to withstand weather extremes. Knowledge of plants and their associated microbes at the ecosystem level (the phytobiome) also holds promise for innovation. New technologies, innovations, and insights from fields outside of mainstream agricultural disciplines are also empowering producers. In 2016, farmers accounted for approximately 19 percent of commercially used unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as drones), because they are seeking cost-effective ways to identify disease and weeds and determine field conditions (Hogan et al., 2017; Hunt and Daughtry, 2017). Nanotechnology offers improved capabilities to (1) sense and monitor physi- 14 Prepublication Copy

Introduction cal, chemical, or biological properties and processes (to ultimately improve the sustainability of food pro- duction); (2) control microbes (to improve food safety and minimize food waste); and (3) create new ma- terials (to monitor and improve animal health) (Rodrigues et al., 2017). Poultry producers are implement- ing computerized approaches such as artificial intelligence to fine-tune their strategies for feeding chickens and monitoring their health while reducing labor and feeding cost (Ahmed, 2011; Hepworth et al., 2012). Certified-organic lettuce is being grown in soil-free systems in urban and peri-urban environ- ments (Dewey, 2017), and the numbers of local farmers’ markets across the nation continue to grow (Low et al., 2015). Food and agricultural research advances will need to integrate innovations to simultaneously address water scarcity, soil health, food waste, pests and diseases, climate variability, and overall system sustainability. The research directions described in this report depend on assimilating cutting-edge developments from allied fields—such as computing, information science, machine learning, materials science and elec- tronics, genomics and gene editing, and behavioral and cognitive science—to achieve solutions to over- arching and complex problems faced by agriculture. Leveraging the advances from other disciplines im- plies a need for the food and agricultural sciences to attract and train research talent in those areas. Some of the research approaches identified focus on systems-level discovery that will require regional or na- tional cooperation and planning, in addition to a multidisciplinary effort. If successful, these systems ap- proaches will produce essential information that will be the basis for new knowledge to inform decision making at different scales and tools to implement those decisions. 4. PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY The trends described in the foregoing section set the stage for the interest of the Supporters of Agri- cultural Research (SoAR) Foundation, in partnership with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Re- search (FFAR), along with professional societies, commodity groups, and farmer organizations to propose the need for a strategic vision from the agricultural science community that articulates the greatest oppor- tunities within the field, and the potential pathways that will lead to a new generation of scientific ad- vancement. The USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy all agreed to support an endeavor of this nature in conjunction with the SoAR Foundation, FFAR, and their other partners. There has been a collective interest in an exercise that might begin a tradition of a “decadal survey” for food and agriculture in laying out research priorities, a long-standing practice used in some fields of science to guide the programmatic focus of federal re- search agencies in 10-year increments. With decadal surveys being instrumental to fields such as space studies in prioritizing research needs for the next 10 years, the intent is that a study such as this would be useful in informing strategic planning and discussions on food and agricultural research. Responding to the call for such a study, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Med- icine (the National Academies) convened an ad hoc study committee to provide a broad new vision for food and agricultural research by outlining the most promising science breakthroughs over the next dec- ade (see the Statement of Task in Box 1-2). 5. APPROACH TO THE TASK 5.1 Committee and Information-Gathering Meetings The National Academies convened a committee of 13 experts with collective expertise and experi- ence in various disciplines. The collective expertise of the committee allowed it to address plants, ani- mals, microbes, food science, food safety, human nutrition, soil, water, climate, ecology, pests, pathogens, as well as landscape and/or watershed systems, agricultural economics, and transdisciplinary fields (sus- tainability, biodiversity) and emerging technological applications at the frontiers of agriculture (nanotech- nology, biotechnology, remote sensing, data mining, machine learning, modeling, robotics) (see Appen- dix A for the committee biographical sketches). Prepublication Copy 15

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 BOX 1-2 Statement of Task An executive committee, assisted by science panels, will be appointed to lead the development of an innovative strategy for the future of food and agricultural research, answering the following ques- tions: 1. What are the greatest challenges that food and agriculture are likely to face in the coming dec- ades? 2. What are the greatest foreseeable opportunities for advances in food and agricultural science? 3. What fundamental knowledge gaps exist that limit the ability of scientists to respond to these chal- lenges as well as take advantage of the opportunities? 4. What general areas of research should be advanced and supported to fill these knowledge gaps? In the process of addressing these questions, the committee will gather insights from scientists and engineers in the traditional fields of science in food and agriculture, seek ideas from scientists in other disciplines whose knowledge, tools, and techniques might be applied to food and agricultural challenges, and organize interdisciplinary dialogues to uncover novel, potentially transformational, ap- proaches to advancing food and agricultural science. At the end of its exploration, the executive committee will produce a consensus report recom- mending future research directions in food and agriculture. The committee will frame its recommenda- tions in the context of the importance and relevance of the science to the public’s interest in the bene- fits of catalyzing knowledge creation—a sustainable food and fiber supply, better public health, a strengthened natural resource base, and the creation of new economic opportunities and jobs. Prior to its finalization, the report will be anonymously peer-reviewed, and revised by the executive committee before release to the sponsors and the public. The committee held several meetings and webinars as part of the information-gathering process (see Appendix B for the Open Session Meeting Agendas). A broad solicitation was initially sent to scientific societies and stakeholder groups asking individuals to identify research that would advance science and promote solutions and opportunities in food and agriculture, with the responses viewable on Ideabuzz, an interactive online discussion platform (see Appendix C for the Ideabuzz submission contributors and a summary of the ideas submitted). Based on some of those responses, the committee identified focal areas of research and invited a large panel of experts to assist the committee at a 3-day public meeting in de- scribing major opportunities to advance science, identify knowledge gaps, prioritize research barriers to overcome, and articulate a strategy for moving forward (see Appendix B for the “Jamboree” agenda and meeting participants). It was recognized early on that a transdisciplinary approach was needed to address the complexities and interdependencies of the food and agricultural system; thus a diverse community of scientists were invited from both the traditional agricultural disciplines and allied fields. As part of its charge from the sponsors, the following criteria were provided to assist the committee in identifying the most promising scientific breakthroughs in food and agriculture: 1. An emphasis on identifying transformational research opportunities to address key challenges in food and agriculture; 2. Recognition that the complexity of most food and agriculture challenges requires transdiscipli- nary and integrated approaches to the development of lasting solutions; 3. The value of harnessing insights from the frontiers of scientific disciplines and communities not traditionally associated with food and agriculture; 4. The importance of involving stakeholders of all kinds in the process and of raising public aware- ness of the meaning and significance of this scientific discussion; and 16 Prepublication Copy

Introduction 5. A compressed time frame (relative to typical decadal surveys) to draw together diverse communi- ties, explore ideas, analyze proposed goals, and produce consensus recommendations for the strategy. 5.2 Scope of the Charge The committee recognized early on that it had to place limitations on the scope of its study. The food and agricultural system encompasses everything from production through processing and distribu- tion, and it would have been impossible to examine and address all aspects of the system in this report. Instead, the committee focused its efforts on parts of the system that require attention and are challenging yet hold the most promising opportunities for scientific breakthroughs in the near future. This report is not intended to provide a roadmap to span the entire spectrum of food and agricultural research, but rather to suggest a strategy to capitalize on several key potential science breakthroughs for transformational change. By identifying the most challenging issues in food and agriculture, the committee delineated bound- aries for the study and determined that certain areas were outside the scope of consideration for science breakthroughs. These include topics such as biodiversity, biofuels, food distribution and equity, food ac- cess and insecurity, and fundamental human nutrition science. For areas such as human nutrition and obe- sity, the committee did not attempt to address those topics because other groups have already described strategies and roadmaps for nutrition research (ICHNR, 2016); however, the committee acknowledges that a diverse, nutritious food supply is an integral goal of the food and agricultural system. Also, the committee recognizes that the U.S. food system exists in a global context, but limited its focus to U.S. issues for determining priority areas and targeting its recommendations to U.S. researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders. 6. GOALS FOR 2030 In the next decade, the committee identified major goals for food and agricultural research to in- clude (1) improving the efficiency of food and agricultural systems, (2) increasing the resiliency of agri- cultural systems to adapt to rapid changes and extreme conditions, and (3) increasing the sustainability of agriculture. Efficiency (specifically, technical and allocative efficiency) refers to the ability to obtain a maximum level of output from available inputs (resources such as energy, water, labor, and capital) and at lowest possible cost (Wang et al., 2015; Shumway et al., 2016). Resilience is defined as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and successfully adapt to adverse events” (NRC, 2012). It may refer to the viability and adaptability of individual plant and animal species that are cultivated and consumed by human populations, and it may also describe certain properties of the food system as a whole. Sustainability refers to the ability to meet society’s need for food without compromising the abil- ity of future generations to meet their needs (UC Davis, 2018). More specifically, USDA defines sustain- able agriculture as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific appli- cation that will over the long-term: (1) satisfy human food and fiber needs; (2) enhance envi- ronmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy de- pends; (3) make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; (4) sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and (5) enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103). Integrating approaches and technologies across various disciplines is essential, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality and increase the quantity of food to sustainably meet our needs. To achieve the major goals of efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability, improvements are needed to address the most challenging issues across the food system. The most challenging issues were derived Prepublication Copy 17

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 from the common nature of important research challenges identified by food and agricultural scientists and reiterated by the committee, and include the following:  increasing nutrient use efficiency in crop production systems;  reducing soil loss and degradation;  mobilizing genetic diversity for crop improvement;  optimizing water use in agriculture;  improving food animal genetics;  developing precision livestock production systems;  early and rapid detection and prevention of plant and animal diseases;  early and rapid detection of foodborne pathogens; and  reducing food loss and waste throughout the supply chain. 7. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT This report identifies opportunities to boost the performance of the U.S. food and agricultural sys- tem, reduce its impact on the environment, help it expand in new directions, and increase its resilience in the face of environmental uncertainty. Based on the previously noted challenge areas, the committee ex- plores seven specific areas in which such advances could be made: 1. Crops (Chapter 2)—The advent of more precise gene-editing technologies opens new avenues for achieving the goals of increasing crop productivity while decreasing inputs and improving resilience. The chapter discusses the need for new traits, facile transformation technology, and dynamic crops where responses to environmental challenges can be turned on or off. 2. Animal Agriculture (Chapter 3)—Decades of R&D have dramatically improved the efficiency of animal production over the past century, but additional investment is critical to sustainably address the expected twofold increase in animal products. The chapter also examines issues re- lated to animal health well-being and animal-source food alternatives. 3. Food Science and Technology (Chapter 4)—The postharvest food sector ensures that raw agri- cultural products are converted to a safe, nutritious, sustainable, and affordable food supply that is readily available to all. This chapter examines issues related to protecting and enhancing food quality, safety, and appeal while simultaneously reducing food loss and waste. 4. Soils (Chapter 5)—Maintaining and properly managing fertile soils is a critical need to ensure agricultural productivity. This chapter discusses soil sustainability, soil quality, nutrient availa- bility, and the soil microbiome. 5. Water-Use Efficiency and Productivity in Agriculture (Chapter 6)—Fresh water is a finite resource. Meeting increasing demands for food, fuel, and fiber can only be accomplished with increased water efficiency. This chapter examines opportunities to improve the use of data ana- lytics, improve plant and soil properties, and capitalize on the use of controlled environments for agriculture. 6. Data Science (Chapter 7)—Data science can be better harnessed to improve aspects of the food system. This chapter examines the opportunities and advancements in data science and infor- mation technologies on the horizon for the food and agricultural sectors. 7. Systems (Chapter 8)—The food system operates in the context of a complex system with many actors and components. This chapter examines the need for better understanding of the various systems and components as they relate to a functional food and agricultural enterprise. The final chapter (Chapter 9) presents the strategy for 2030 along with the five breakthrough are- as and the overarching study recommendations. Chapter 9 also discusses crosscutting issues for future consideration, including research infrastructure, societal dynamics, and education and workforce needs. 18 Prepublication Copy

Introduction REFERENCES Ahmed, H. 2011. Egg production forecasting: Determining efficient modeling approaches. Journal of Applied Poul- try Research 20(4):463-473. Alston, J. M., M. A. Andersen, J. S. James, and P. G. Pardey. 2011. The economic returns to U.S. public agricultural research. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 93(5):1257-1277. Andersen, M.A., J.M. Alston, P.G. Pardey, and A. Smith. 2018. A century of U.S. farm productivity growth: A surge then a slowdown. Amer J Agr Econ 0(0): 1–19; doi: 10.1093/ajae/aay023. APLU (Association of Public Land-Grant Universities). 2017. The Challenge of Change: Harnessing University Discovery, Engagement, and Learning to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security. Washington, DC: APLU. Available at http://www.aplu.org/library/the-challenge-of-change/file (accessed May 8, 2018). APS (American Phytopathological Society). 2016. Phytobiomes: A Roadmap for Research and Translation. www.phytobiomes.org/roadmap. St. Paul, MN: American Phytopathological Society. Available at https://www. apsnet.org/members/outreach/ppb/Documents/PhytobiomesRoadmap.pdf (accessed May 8, 2018). ARS (Agricultural Research Service). 2017. National Program 301: Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics and Genetic Improvement: Action Plan 2018-2022. Available at https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/np301/ NP%20301%20Action%20Plan%202018-2022%20FINAL.pdf (accessed May 8, 2018). ASAS (American Society of Animal Science). 2015. ASAS Grand Challenges. Available at https://www.asas.org/ about/public-policy/asas-grand-challenges (accessed May 8, 2018). ASPB (American Society of Plant Biologists). 2013. Unleashing a Decade of Innovation in Plant Science: A Vision for 2015-2025. Available at https://plantsummit.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/plantsciencedecadalvision10-18- 13.pdf (accessed May 8, 2018). Bellemare, M. F., M. Cakir, H. H. Peterson, L. Novak, and J. Rudi. 2017. On the measurement of food waste. Amer- ican Journal of Agricultural Economics 99(5):1148-1158. Buzby, J. C., F. W. Hodan, and J. Hyman. 2014. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States. Economic Information Bulletin No. EIB-121. Washington, DC: USDA Economic Research Service. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub- details/?pubid=43836 (accessed May 10, 2018). CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2017. Chronic Disease Overview. Available at https://www.cdc. gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm (accessed July 3, 2018). C-FARE and AAEA (Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics and Agricultural and Applied Eco- nomics Association). 2017. Agricultural and Applied Economics Priorities and Solutions Report. Available at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/598b4450e58c624720903ae6/t/59a76b8012abd9e692d6d623/150414426 9634/PrioritiesandSolutionsReport04-06-2017-LOW_v2%282%29.pdf (accessed July 3, 2018). Clancy, M., K. Fuglie, and P. Heisey. 2016. U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding. U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2016/ november/us-agricultural-rd-in-an-era-of-falling-public-funding/ (accessed May 4, 2018). Dewey, C. 2017. Pioneers of organic farming are threatening to leave the program they helped create. The Washing- ton Post. November 2. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/11/02/pioneers-of- organic-farming-are-threatening-to-leave-the-program-they-helped-create/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ddd4e9 48a7e3 (accessed May 11, 2018). FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2017. The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6583e.pdf (accessed June 13, 2018). Fuglie, K. O. and A. A. Toole. 2014. The Evolving Institutional Structure of Public and Private Agricultural Re- search. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 96(3):862-883. Grassini, P., K.M. Eskridge, and K.G. Cassman. 2013. Distinguishing between yield advances and yield plateaus in historical crop production trends. Nature Communications 4:2918. Hatfield, J., G. Takle, R. Grotjahn, P. Holden, R. C. Izaurralde, T. Mader, E. Marshall, and D. Liverman, 2014: Ch. 6: Agriculture. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 150-174. doi:10.7930/J02Z13FR. Heisey, P.W., and K.O. Fuglie. 2018. Agricultural Research Investment and Policy Reform in High-Income Coun- tries. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/89114/err-249.pdf?v=43244 (accessed June 11, 2018). Prepublication Copy 19

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 Hepworth, P. J., A. V. Nefedov, I. B. Muchnik, and K. L. Morgan. 2012. Broiler chickens can benefit from machine learning: Support vector machine analysis of observational data. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface 9(73):1934-1942. Hogan, S., M. Kelly, B. Stark, and Y. Chen. 2017. Unmanned aerial systems for agriculture and natural resources. California Agriculture 71(1):5-14. Hunt, E. R. Jr., and C. S. T. Daughtry. 2017. What good are unmanned aircraft systems for agricultural remote sens- ing and precision agriculture? International Journal of Remote Sensing https://doi.org/10.1080/01431161. 2017.1410300. ICHNR (Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research). 2016. National Nutrition Research Roadmap 2016- 2021: Advancing Nutrition Research to Improve and Sustain Health. Available at https://www.nal.usda.gov/ sites/default/files/fnic_uploads/2016-03-30-%20ICHNR%20NNRR%20%282%29.pdf (accessed June 26, 2018). Kraner, M.L., W.E. Holt, and A.A. Borsa. 2018. Seasonal non-tectonic loading inferred from cGPS as a potential trigger for the M6.0 South Napa earthquake. Journal of Geophysical Research. Available at https://doi.org/10. 1029/2017JB015420 (accessed June 11, 2018). Low, S. A., A. Adalja, E. Beaulieu, N. Key, S. Martinez, A. Melton, A. Perez, K. Ralston, H. Stewart, S. Suttles, S. Vogel, and B. B. R. Jablonski. 2015. Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress. Administrative Publication No. AP-068 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Janu- ary. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/42805/51173_ap068.pdf?v=42083 (accessed June 11, 2018). MacDonald, J. 2017. Mergers and Competition in Seed and Agricultural Chemical Markets. Amber Waves, US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. April 03. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/ amber-waves/2017/april/mergers-and-competition-in-seed-and-agricultural-chemical-markets/ (accessed June 11, 2018). NAE (National Academy of Engineering). 2008. NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering. Updated 2017. Available at https://www.engineeringchallenges.org (accessed June 11, 2018). NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information). 2018. U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Table of Events. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017-2018 (accessed May 9, 2018). Nearing, M. A., Y. Xie, B. Liu, and Y. Ye (2017), Natural and anthropogenic rates of soil erosion. International Soil and Water Conservation Research 5(2):77-84. NRC (National Research Council). 2009. A New Biology for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. NRC. 2010. Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Acade- mies Press. NRC. 2012. Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. NRC. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineer- ing, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. NRC. 2015. Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. NSTC (National Science and Technology Council). 2016. The State and Future of U.S. Soils: Framework for a Fed- eral Strategic Plan for Soil Science. Available at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/ microsites/ostp/ssiwg_framework_december_2016.pdf (accessed June 11, 2018). Ort, D. R., S. S. Merchant, J. Alric, A. Barkan, R. E. Blankenship, R. Bock, R. Croce, M. R. Hanson, J. M. Hibberd, S. P. Long, T. A. Moore, J. Moroney, K. K. Niyogi, M. A. J. Parry, P.P. Peralta-Yahya, R.C. Prince, K.E. Redding, M.H. Spalding, K.J. van Wijk, W.F. J. Vermaas, S. von Caemmerer, A.P. M. Weber, T.O. Yeates, J.S. Yuan, and X. G. Zhu. 2015. Redesigning photosynthesis to sustainably meet global food and bioenergy demand. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(28):8529-8536. PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology). 2012. U.S. Agricultural Preparedness and the Agricultural Research Enterprise. Ray, D. K., N. Ramankutty, N. D. Mueller, P. C. West, and J. A. Foley. 2012. Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation. Nature Communications 3:1293. Ray, D. K., N. D. Mueller, P. C. West, and J. A. Foley. 2013. Yield trends are insufficient to double global crop production by 2050. PLoS ONE 8(6):e66428. Available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066428 (ac- cessed June 11, 2018). Robinson, T. P., and F. Pozzi. 2011. Mapping Supply and Demand for Animal-Source Foods to 2030. Animal Pro- duction and Health Working Paper No. 2. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/i2425e/i2425e00.pdf (accessed June 11, 2018). 20 Prepublication Copy

Introduction Rodrigues, S. M., P. Demokritou, N. Dokoozlian, C. Ogilvie Hendren, B. Karn, M. S. Mauter, O. A. Sadik, M. Sa- farpour, J. M. Unrine, J. Viers, P. Welle, J. C. White, M. R. Wiesnerde, and G. V. Lowry. 2017. Nanotechnol- ogy for sustainable food production: Promising opportunities and scientific challenges. Environmental Sci- ence: Nano 4(4):767-781. Scallan, E., R. M. Hoekstra, F. J. Angulo, R. V. Tauxe, M.-A. Widdowson, S. L. Roy, J. L. Jones, and P. M. Griffin. 2011a. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases 17(1):7-15. Scallan, E., P. M. Griffin, F. J. Angulo, R. V. Tauxe, and R. M. Hoekstra. 2011b. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—unspecified agents. Emerging Infectious Diseases 17(1):16-22. Sneed, M., and J. T. Brandt. 2015. Land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley, California, USA, 2007–2014. Pro- ceedings of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences 372:23-27. Steward, D. R., P. J. Bruss, X. Yang, S. A. Staggenborg, S. M. Welch, and M. D. Apley. 2013. Tapping unsustaina- ble groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (37) E3477-E3486. Shumway, C.R., B. M. Fraumeni, L. E. Fulginiti, J. D. Samuels, and S. E. Stefanou. 2016. U.S. Agricultural Produc- tivity: A Review of USDA Economic Research Service Methods. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 38(1):1-29. UC Davis (University of California, Davis). 2018. What is sustainable agriculture? Available at http://asi.ucdavis. edu/programs/sarep/about/what-is-sustainable-agriculture (accessed June 20, 2018). UN DESA (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division). 2017. World Popu- lation Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. ESA/P/WP/248. Available at https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2017_KeyFindings.pdf (accessed June 20, 2018). USDA-ERS (U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service). 2018. U.S. Agricultural Trade at a Glance. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/international-markets-us-trade/us-agricultural-trade/us- agricultural-trade-at-a-glance/ (accessed June 20, 2018). Valin, H., R. D. Sands, D. van der Mensbrugghe, G. C. Nelson, H. Ahammad, E. Blanc, B. Bodirsky, S. Fujimori, T. Hasegawa, P. Havlik, E. Heyhoe, P. Kyle, D. Mason-D'Croz, S. Paltsev, S. Rolinski, A. Tabeau, H. van Meijl, M. von Lampe, and D. Willenbockel. 2014. The future of food demand: Understanding differences in global economic models. Agricultural Economics 45:51-67. Wang, S. L., P. W. Heisey, W. E. Huffman, and K. O. Fuglie. 2013. Public R&D, Private R&D, and U.S. Agricul- tural Productivity Growth: Dynamic and Long-run Relationships, American Journal of Agricultural Econom- ics 95(5):1287–1293. Wang, S. L., P. Heisey, D. Schimmelpfenning, and E. Ball. 2015. Agricultural productivity growth in the United States: Measurements, trends, and drivers. Economic Research Report No. (ERR0189). 78pp. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=45390 (accessed June 22, 2018). Wang, S. L., R. Nehring, and R. Mosheim. 2018. Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: 1948-2015, ERS. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2018/march/agricultural-productivity-growth-in- the-united-states-1948-2015/ (accessed June 20, 2018). Wei, X., Z. Zhang, P. Shi, P. Wang, Y. Chen, X. Song, and F. Tao. 2015. Is yield increase sufficient to achieve food security in China? PLoS ONE 10(2):e0116430. Available at http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116430 (ac- cessed June 20, 2018). White House, Office of the Press Secretary. 2014. Fact Sheet: The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollina- tor Populations. June 20, 2014. Prepublication Copy 21

Next: 2 Crops »
Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 Get This Book
×
Buy Prepub | $69.00 Buy Paperback | $60.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

For nearly a century, scientific advances have fueled progress in U.S. agriculture to enable American producers to deliver safe and abundant food domestically and provide a trade surplus in bulk and high-value agricultural commodities and foods. Today, the U.S. food and agricultural enterprise faces formidable challenges that will test its long-term sustainability, competitiveness, and resilience. On its current path, future productivity in the U.S. agricultural system is likely to come with trade-offs. The success of agriculture is tied to natural systems, and these systems are showing signs of stress, even more so with the change in climate.

More than a third of the food produced is unconsumed, an unacceptable loss of food and nutrients at a time of heightened global food demand. Increased food animal production to meet greater demand will generate more greenhouse gas emissions and excess animal waste. The U.S. food supply is generally secure, but is not immune to the costly and deadly shocks of continuing outbreaks of food-borne illness or to the constant threat of pests and pathogens to crops, livestock, and poultry. U.S. farmers and producers are at the front lines and will need more tools to manage the pressures they face.

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 identifies innovative, emerging scientific advances for making the U.S. food and agricultural system more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. This report explores the availability of relatively new scientific developments across all disciplines that could accelerate progress toward these goals. It identifies the most promising scientific breakthroughs that could have the greatest positive impact on food and agriculture, and that are possible to achieve in the next decade (by 2030).

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!