Food Crisis in 2050?

Wheat Ears Anthesis

Wheat Ears Anthesis by Pat Heslop-Harrison

A real­istic scen­ario, if the pro­duc­tion of major crops does not increase sig­ni­fic­antly. Estimated 9 bil­lion people will need 70% more food than today. In June 2011, The G20 Agriculture Ministers agreed on an “Action plan on food price volat­il­ity and agri­cul­ture”. As a first step of the G20 Action, an International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI) has been launched in Paris on September 15, 2011. This ini­ti­at­ive should pave the way to sim­ilar ini­ti­at­ives for other crops.

Wheat is the most widely grown crop world­wide and provides 20% of all cal­or­ies and 20% of all pro­tein. Despite the import­ance of wheat for food secur­ity, its pro­duc­tion has not met demand in 6 of the last 10 years. The yields are stag­nat­ing and the invest­ment in wheat research and devel­op­ment is dis­pro­por­tion­ally low. The first aims of IRIWI will be tar­geted towards gen­er­at­ing and shar­ing tools, meth­ods and res­ults that will enable breed­ers to take full advant­age of gen­om­ics assisted approaches.

A pub­licly avail­able high qual­ity annot­ated sequence of the wheat gen­ome is one of the much needed resources. In order to tackle the huge and poly­ploid gen­ome of 17Gb, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) adop­ted the chro­mo­some strategy, which relies on the abil­ity to dis­sect the gen­ome to 42 small parts rep­res­en­ted by indi­vidual chro­mo­some arms. These are phys­ic­ally mapped and sequenced. The strategy facil­it­ates divi­sion of labor and inter­na­tional collaboration.