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.