With the world’s population estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, finding ways to rapidly increase the food supply is one of society’s greatest challenges. This is a global problem requiring a collaborative effort by the scientific community on a global scale. Connectivity to the AARNet network is making it possible for Australian scientists to participate in global interdisciplinary efforts to improve the yields of staple crops and other initiatives aimed at addressing threats to food security.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, food security exists when “alll people at all times, have physical, social and economic access to suficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs for and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
In the world today, there are three interconnected threats to food security: the human population and per capita consumption of food is on the rise; land, water and other agricultural resources are in limited supply; and environmental conditions are increasingly unpredictable.
Australian scientists are contributing to developing plants that are able to efficiently obtain the resources provided by nature and by farmers, particularly in harsh and changing environments, to generate greater yields. For example, they are focusing on wheat, one of the most important staple crops, providing a fifth of the daily calories in human diets.
Raising the yield potential of wheat
Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology researchers at the Australian National University, University of Western Australia and University of Adelaide are participating in a project to address a key component of a global future food security solution by attempting to increase the energy efficiency of wheat. This research forms part of the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) plan, a collaboration between G20 nations, to raise the genetic yield potential of wheat by up to 50% by 2020.
Working with ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis researchers and scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico, the team is using a novel approach that combines cutting edge molecular techniques with traditional breeding. They are aiming to exploit the energy systems of wheat plants to dramatically improve their yield.
Connecting researchers across the globe
AARNet’s trans-Pacific interconnect to the global network of research and education networks removes the barrier of distance for researchers working on the IWYP project and other collaborative initiatives.
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