Food

Rapid delivery systems for future food security

To the Editor — The current world population of 7.8 billion is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2057 (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#pastfuture). Future access to affordable and healthy food will be challenging, with malnutrition already affecting one in three people worldwide. The agricultural sector currently provides livelihoods for 1.1 billion people and accounts for 26.7% of global employment (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.AGR.EMPL.ZS). However, our reliance on a small number of crop species for agricultural calorie production and depletion of land, soil, water and genetic resources, combined with extreme weather events and changing disease/pest dynamics, are already jeopardizing future food security1. Climate change–induced reductions in the global yield of major crops (for example, rice, wheat, maize and soybean) are more pronounced in low-latitude regions and thus affect farmers in developing countries2. As is evident from temperate cereal crops, a robust seed system that delivers improved cultivars to replace old cultivars is a plausible approach to adapting agriculture to climate change3. Here we provide an overview of how seed input supply systems and new production and harvesting technologies can generate increased incomes for developing world farmers and deliver better products to consumers.

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Fig. 1: Rapid delivery of new cultivars to farmer fields and better products to markets.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, The University of Western Australia, and Director General, ICRISAT for supporting an international workshop in Perth, Australia, to brainstorm topics in the article. R.K.V. acknowledges support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for undertaking research on seed delivery systems through the Tropical Legumes projects at ICRISAT.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Centre of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India

    Rajeev K. Varshney, Manish Roorkiwal, Rutwik Barmukh, Annapurna Chitikineni & Arvind Kumar

  2. State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Centre for Crop and Food Innovation, Food Futures Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia

    Rajeev K. Varshney

  3. The UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

    Rajeev K. Varshney, Manish Roorkiwal, Wallace Cowling, Janine Croser, David Edwards, Muhammad Farooq, A. Harvey Millar & Kadambot H. M. Siddique

  4. ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur, India

    Abhishek Bohra

  5. School of Life Sciences and Center for Soybean Research of the State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China

    Hon-Ming Lam

  6. Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia

    Lee T. Hickey

  7. School of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

    Janine Croser

  8. School of Biological Science, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

    David Edwards

  9. Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture & Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Al Khoud, Oman

    Muhammad Farooq

  10. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Heroica Veracruz, Mexico

    José Crossa

  11. Molecular Systems Biology (MOSYS), Department of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology and Vienna Metabolomics Center (VIME), University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

    Wolfram Weckwerth

  12. ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

    A. Harvey Millar

  13. John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK

    Michael W. Bevan

Corresponding author

Correspondence to
Rajeev K. Varshney.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Varshney, R.K., Bohra, A., Roorkiwal, M. et al. Rapid delivery systems for future food security.
Nat Biotechnol 39, 1179–1181 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-021-01079-z

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