Australia’s young grain producers were urged to lead the world in doubling global food supply using half the water at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern Updates recently.
Professor Julian Cribb, Julian Cribb and Associates told the GRDC Updates at Dubbo, NSW and Goondiwindi, Queensland that Australia’s production efficiency put it in a good position to lead global food production advances.
“In coming decades the world faces the risk of major regional food crises leading to conflicts and mass refugee movements,” Professor Cribb said.
“This is driven primarily by emerging scarcities of all the primary resources required to produce food – water, land, energy, nutrients, science, fish and stable climates.”
Professor Cribb said the challenge facing the coming two generations of farmers was to double the global food supply using half the water, on far less land and with increasingly depleted soils, without fossil fuels, with scarce and costly fertiliser and chemicals, under the hammer of climate change.
“But it also represents huge opportunity for efficient and flexible farming countries like Australia,” he said.
“It is a chance for us to be a world leader in something we are really good at.”
Professor Cribb said the solution lay in knowledge, re-using water, urban permaculture, biocultures, education, a vegetable-dominant diet and more expensive food.
“We need to redouble the global investment in agricultural science and lift the total agrifood research and development spend to at least $80 billion, twice what it is today,” he said.
“Then, for every research dollar we need to spend another dollar getting the knowledge into the hands of the world’s 1.8 billion farmers and food processors.
“We must generate the greatest knowledge sharing effort in history – to reach not only farmers, but also all consumers, because farmers alone will not be able to solve this challenge.”
He said modern mass communication and media systems made this task achievable.
“Agricultural science is defence spending. Just ten per cent of the world’s current defence budget would secure both a sustainable food supply and enhance the prospects of peace everywhere.”
GRDC northern panel chairman James Clark, said the Updates enhanced industry knowledge by bringing growers and advisers together with researchers.
He said the new data, practical advice and locally-focussed information were directly aimed to address issues raised by local advisory committees.
“It is a chance to understand how research levies are being invested by GRDC, which manages a northern region-specific research program of more than $25 million per year,” Mr Clark said.
“This research is not only scientifically valid, but responsive to current needs and issues of producers, and is directly influenced by local and regional grower priorities.”
Caption: GRDC northern panel chair, James Clark (centre) welcomes keynote speakers science communicator Professor Julian Cribb (left), and Professor Gordon MacAulay, BRI Australia principal economist at the GRDC Update at Goondiwindi recenty.
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