EPSO working groups
Opportunities Beyond Present Crops WoGr
Opportunities Beyond Present Crops - lead Bruce Osborne
Arguably, agricultural production is facing a number of unprecedented challenges associated with the supply of food and materials that are required to meet the demands of an ever-increasing global population that should reach 9 billion by 2050. This challenge is likely to be exacerbated by a number of other factors, most notably climate change, but also including stricter environmental legislation and restrictions on the use of essential resources, particularly water. The focus also is towards more sustainable production systems. Whilst these challenges are well documented, our understanding of how to meet them is less well understood, particular our ability to address the issues solely by using traditional crops or currently under-utilised species. Furthermore, new crops, as well as existing crops, need to be more widely assessed given agricultural diversification into the production of biofuels, materials and pharmaceutical products.
To provide an in depth assessment of how existing crop germplasm, together with new/novel crops might be used to address the challenges facing future agricultural production, a working group called ‘Opportunities Beyond Present Crops’ was set up after some provisional discussion. The group held its first meeting in Brussels on the 22 February 2011.
The discussions centred on three major areas, the need for new crops, how we can meet these needs and the development of novel cropping systems. Particular points that arose during the discussions included a requirement for a better understanding of functional diversity and the significance of genetic erosion in existing crop plants, the need for enhancing productivity per unit area from existing land, including the introduction of multi-functional crops and the potential importance of beneficial interactions between crops and soil microorganisms. A theme running through the discussions was the need for major improvements in crop resource-use, including land area as a limiting resource.
The objective of the group is to produce an EPSO white paper on this topic, with a review-type journal publication as an ultimate goal. It is intended that a further meeting of the group could take place around the EPSO General Meeting in June.
We would like to encourage further participation in the group, so if you are interested in contributing information or ideas, and would like to contribute to the discussions please contact the Group Leader, Bruce Osborne, School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.