CSIRO Plant Industry
One of the key quotes from the conference that struck me as interesting was that 70 % of the world’s food is produced by small landholders. I couldn’t help but think every little bit helps.
The Crawford Fund conference this year was a very interesting event due to the diverse mix of experts present and their ranging perspectives on the topic of “More food, less land?” It was fitting that Senator Bob Carr (Minister for Foreign Affairs) should open the event and note that the projections for the world’s population in 2030 are expected to be 9 billion and that 1 in 7 people in the world are hungry. He emphasised that International Agricultural Development research would remain important on the Australian government’s agenda.
Over the course of the conference I was able to gain a further understanding of the work of international organisations involved in agricultural research in the developing world. Frank from CGIAR highlighted that there are still great improvements to be made in some countries in reaching yield potentials and quoted an example of rice yield differences between research trials on-station having a 20+ t/ha yield difference with farmer averages in the region. Biotechnology and the IT revolution were the two main areas that Frank highlighted as being important in the future direction of CGIAR research efforts. Trevor from CABI emphasised the importance of effective extension of research findings. The plant clinics set up as part of CABI’s Plantwise program appeared to be a good example of an effective extension project. IFPRI and of course the Crawford fund were another couple of organisations that discussed their involvement in developmental agriculture.
Selected speakers provided insight on their area of speciality with topics covering: environmental, economic and social perspectives that influence global food supply and demand. Jonathon provided a concise summary on measures that would better balance food distribution. Biofuels, changing diets, ending deforestation, re-distribution of nitrogen use, reducing waste and delivering more from existing lands were all worthy points. They also overlapped well with many of the highlights of other speakers.
Derek, Chris, Xuemei and Christine provided good reasons for the necessity of land use for purposes other than food production. Derek spoke about the ‘global land grab’ that was triggered by record food prices which showed how responsive markets can be and how little land there is left to develop. Chris made a fair point about mining taking up a less significant amount of land compared to alternatives such as biofuels for energy use. Xuemei talked about the changing dynamics of population distribution and the competition for small but often productive lands. Christine’s discussion on the importance of putting a value on ‘natural capital’ was of particular interest but it was well noted as being difficult to measure.
The discussions throughout the conference with other delegates including students from both Australia and Africa were very inspiring. So much so that it has motivated me to pursue post-graduate study in agricultural science. Talking to various people highlighted the incredible amount of potential there lies in the career of a research scientist for the hardworking and able. One of the key quotes from the conference that struck me as interesting was that 70 % of the world’s food is produced by small landholders. I couldn’t help but think every little bit helps.