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NAS identifies scientific advances for agricultural system's sustainability

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was released July 18. The report identifies the most promising scientific breakthroughs that are possible to achieve in the next decade to increase the U.S. food and agriculture system's sustainability, competitiveness and resilience. 

“In the coming decade, the stresses on the U.S. food and agricultural enterprise won't be solved by business as usual – either in the field or in our current research efforts,” said Susan Wessler, the Neil and Rochelle Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovations in Science Education and distinguished professor of genetics at UC Riverside, who was a co-chair of this important new study.

Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis, served on the Committee on Science Breakthroughs 2030: A Strategy for Food and Agricultural Research, and other UC academics were involved in reviewing content for the 200-page book.

The urgent progress needed today, given challenges such as water scarcity, increased weather variability, floods and droughts, requires a convergent research approach that harnesses advances in data science, materials science, information technology, behavioral sciences, economics and many other fields.

The committee identified five breakthrough opportunities that take advantage of a convergent approach to research challenges and could potentially increase the capabilities of food and agricultural science dramatically:

  1. A systems approach to understand the nature of interactions among the different elements of the food and agricultural system can be leveraged to increase overall system efficiency, resilience, and sustainability. 
  2. The development and validation of highly sensitive, field-deployable sensors and biosensors will enable rapid detection and monitoring capabilities across various food and agricultural disciplines.
  3. The application and integration of data sciences, software tools, and systems models will enable advanced analytics for managing the food and agricultural system.  
  4. The ability to carry out routine gene editing of agriculturally important organisms will allow for precise and rapid improvement of traits important for productivity and quality. 
  5. Understanding the relevance of the microbiome to agriculture and harnessing this knowledge will improve crop production, transform feed efficiency, and increase resilience to stress and disease. 

They include recommendations for a range of federal agencies, as well as federal and private funders and researchers.

“It is very gratifying to see a strong recommendation for enhanced support to the Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension systems as vitally important infrastructure!” VP Glenda Humiston said.

Humiston and other UC ANR leaders are considering how UC ANR might best use the ideas presented in the report.

The report is available for free download at



Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 1:14 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Innovation

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