In 2021 one in ten of the global population suffered starvation for a substantial portion of the year, a number that has been rising steadily since 2014.
Many of those afflicted are small-holder farmers and their families in the Global South. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO) project a worsening situation with global demand for our major crops rising 60% by 2050.
In the last Century the Green Revolution addressed this by providing farmers with seed with greater genetic yield potential and agronomy to realise that potential. However, the steady increases in yield seen over the second half of the last century are now stagnating, or even reversing, under global climate change. In part, this is because the approaches of the Green Revolution are reaching their biological limits, and new innovations are urgently needed if we are to insure against future shortages.
In this talk Dr Steve Long, Ikenberry University Chair of Plant Biology, University of Illinois, will suggest that improvement of photosynthetic efficiency is the largest remaining opportunity to increase genetic crop yield potential. Photosynthetic efficiency in crops falls well below the theoretical maximum, suggesting considerable head-room for improvement, yet has been improved little by centuries of selection and breeding; the reasons for which will be explained.