How microbes can help feed the world a report from the American Academy of Microbiology
According to the United Nations World Food Program, more than 870 million of the world's people are malnourished. Many of the hungry are children. In the developing world, malnutrition contributes to the death of 2.6 million children each year and one of six children is underweight. At the same...
American Society for Microbiology
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|According to the United Nations World Food Program, more than 870 million of the world's people are malnourished. Many of the hungry are children. In the developing world, malnutrition contributes to the death of 2.6 million children each year and one of six children is underweight. At the same time that more food is desperately needed, arable land and important resources like fertilizer and water are limited, and salinization and climate change limit the suitability of much land for agricultural production. Feeding a global population that is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require that agricultural yields increase by 70-100%. Yields of any given crop vary widely from place to place, even in the same region. Those who study global agricultural trends speak of the 'yield gap', which is the difference between the best observed yield and results elsewhere. Theoretically, if that gap could be closed -- if all farmers could achieve the highest attainable yield --
worldwide crop production would rise by 45-70%. Yield gaps can often be explained by inadequate fertilizer or water, or by losses to pests or disease, but vast increases in use of fertilizers, water, and pesticides are not only economically impractical, but would have many negative environmental consequences. Scaling up current high-input agricultural systems is simply not feasible. But what if the yield gap could be closed in another way, if yield could be increased with dramatically fewer chemical inputs? Producing more food with fewer resources may seem too good to be true, but the world's farmers have trillions of potential partners that can help achieve that ambitious goal. Those partners are microbes. In December 2012, the American Academy of Microbiology convened 26 experts in plant-microbe interactions to discuss how microbes could help feed the world.
The group included scientific experts on plant-microbe interactions of many different kinds: development experts who seek to introduce new technologies and practices in developing countries, representatives of companies that develop microbial products, and policy-makers from the public and non-profit sectors. Together, over the course of two days, the group explored the many ways that microbes and plants interact and developed a vision for how those interactions could be employed to boost agricultural productivity in an environmentally and economically responsible way. Their vision is described in this report. The Academy would like to thank the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture for supporting this colloquium
|"Report on an American Academy of Microbiology Colloquium, Washington DC, December 2012."
|1 PDF file (32 pages) illustrations, portrait