Plant breeding vital for sustainable agriculture – ADAS study

18th Jun 2015

By developing crop varieties with higher yields, improved resource use efficiency and reduced environmental impact, plant breeding is a major contributor to meeting the goals of sustainability in agriculture, according to an independent review that has been published.

Agricultural consultants ADAS assessed the contribution of modern plant breeding to sustainability in agriculture. With a focus on UK and EU plant breeding in key food and forage crops over the past 10 years, ADAS conducted a systematic review of published scientific literature and other information sources – comprising more than 250 individual citations in total.

The study found that innovation in plant breeding provides a vital foundation to address multiple sustainability goals, and is a major contributor to raising yields, increasing resource use efficiency and reducing the negative environmental impacts of food production.

Presenting the ADAS study, lead author Rebecca Carter said:

“Our review found that the main focus of commercial plant breeding in the past 10 years has been on enhancing and protecting yield in major arable crops, so driving greater production from the same amount of land - a key requirement of sustainable intensification. Alongside selection for physical yield, the development of varieties with improved standing ability, better enduse quality and enhanced pest and disease resistance support this objective by reducing harvest losses and wastage in the supply chain. An emphasis on yield also contributes to sustainability objectives by improving the efficiency of land, input, nutrient and water use per unit of production, as well as delivering important environmental benefits such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and protection of soil health and water quality.”

Key findings of the ADAS review commissioned by BSPB are summarised in the full table (see link), which highlights breeding advances already delivering impact in the market place (blue boxes), as well as key areas of plant breeding where research is in the pipeline or where further R&D investment is required.

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