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The Green Revolution: Lessons for the Future


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Presentation delivered by Sir Gordon Conway (Imperial College London, UK) at Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security. March 25 - 28, 2014, Ciudad Obregon, Mexico.

Published in: Science
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The Green Revolution: Lessons for the Future

  1. 1. Borlaug 100 Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico March 26, 2014 Sir Gordon Conway
  2. 2. The Green Revolution • Yield ceilings of staple crops increased dramatically • Especially in well favoured, well irrigated lands • Production grew faster than population • The real price of staple foods decreased
  3. 3. Wheat Yields in Mexico, India and Pakistan FAO. 2010. FAOSTAT
  4. 4. Real Food Prices
  5. 5. Teething Problems “India had produced so much grain over the next few years that there weren’t enough people to harvest the crop! There weren’t even enough bullock carts to haul the wheat to threshing floors. There weren’t enough jute bags, trucks, rail cars or grain storage facilities. Some towns closed schools temporarily to house the grain.”
  6. 6. The Limitations • Focused on ‘ideal’ environments • Heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers • Not all the poor benefited • Passed Africa by
  7. 7. Pesticides in rice fields Brown planthoppers caused $300 million in damage up to late 1970s R.C. Saxena IRRI
  8. 8. Fertiliser Pollution Widespread 30-60% overuse of nitrogen fertiliser in China N inputs by main river catchments
  9. 9. Chronic Undernourishment has persisted in Africa
  10. 10. Where we are today: Global Hunger Index (2010)
  11. 11. The Global Crises Financial Civil Strife Energy Environmental Services Climate Change Water ‘A Perfect Storm’ Food security
  12. 12. Challenges to food security Increasing and more volatile food prices
  13. 13. About 1 billion people are chronically hungry In Africa 40% of children under 5 are malnourished
  14. 14. We have to increase food production by 70 – 100% by 2050 Demand Population Growth Changing Diets Biofuel Demand Supply Rising Fuel and Fertiliser prices Climate Change Land and Water Scarcity
  15. 15. Population Growth to 2050 World Africa Roughly half of the extra people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa
  16. 16. Rise in Meat Consumption Meat consumption rises with per capita income World Bank, 2010. World Development Indicators FAO, 2009 More meat requires more feed
  17. 17. Changing Climate: Increasing Stress Length of Growing Period Changes to length of Growing Period to 2050 Source: ILRI, 2006, Mapping climate vulnerability and poverty.
  18. 18. Changing Climate: Extreme Events Russia • Severe heat wave in 2010 • 30% of grain crops lost to burning Pakistan • Worst floods in 80 years • Submerged 14% of cultivated land
  19. 19. Land and Water Scarcity • Physical scarcity • Overuse • Degradation • Pollution • Salinisation
  20. 20. We must produce more with less! • More food and other agricultural products • More nutritious foods • Higher farm incomes • Greater diversity of production On the same amount of land or less With the same amount or less of water
  21. 21. We must Intensify
  22. 22. Wheat Yields Plateauing Globally? …and in Europe
  23. 23. Intensification must be Sustainable • With efficient and prudent use of inputs • Minimising emissions of Greenhouse Gases • While increasing natural capital and environmental services • Reducing environmental impact • Strengthening resilience
  24. 24. Precision Farming in the UK Tractor with GPS system Phosphorus Deficiency
  25. 25. Precision Farming in Africa Microdosing in Niger
  26. 26. Wheat and Greenhouse Gases: Gorgan, Iran GHG Emissions Kg eq-CO2 per ha
  27. 27. Innovation for Sustainable Intensification • Focuses on multiple benefits • Engages with multiple partners • Utilises multiple approaches • Works at multiple scales
  28. 28. Multiple Approaches Agro- ecology Socio- economics Genetics
  29. 29. Sustainable Ecological Intensification Use ecological principles to design agricultural practices: • Agroforestry • Integrated Pest Management • Conservation Farming • Organic Farming Emphasis on Greater Biodiversity
  30. 30. Agroforestry and Wheat in France Wheat and Walnuts Wheat and Poplar
  31. 31. No-till Wheat Production UK Kazakhstan
  32. 32. Rice-Wheat Systems in Asia 26 mHa
  33. 33. Sustainable Genetic Intensification Conventional Breeding Selection Hybridization Biotechnology Tissue Culture Marker Aided Selection Recombinant DNA Developing plants with a combination of traits promoting sustainable yield increases
  34. 34. Rothamsted’s 20:20 Challenge Increasing wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years
  35. 35. Gene sequencing in wheat About 95,000 genes
  36. 36. Wheat Rusts
  37. 37. Drought Tolerant Maize: Chaperone Genes • Genes from bacterial RNA that help to repair misfolded RNA molecules resulting from stress • Plants rapidly recover • DroughtGard maize released in 2013 • African field trials in progress • A Resilience Gene
  38. 38. Nitrogen Fixation
  39. 39. Sustainable Socio-economic Intensification Strengthening the links between farmers and between farmers and markets
  40. 40. Input Markets
  41. 41. Output Markets Farmer Associations Cooperatives Contract Farms Outgrowers
  42. 42. Ethiopian Commodity Exchange
  43. 43. Multiple Scales • Region • Country • Landscape • District • Community • Farm
  44. 44. Wheat Landscapes – Sussex c. 1250 BC
  45. 45. Wheat Landscapes – Sussex 2014
  46. 46. Thank You t: @ag4Impact e: #1billionhungry