Coppock Travels to Scotland to Talk Wheat Yields, Biotech

November 13, 2009 Bookmark and Share

NAWG CEO Daren Coppock traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, this week to participate in the British Crop Production Council (BCPC) Congress.

The importance of a continual flow of new technology in wheat production was emphasized at the meeting, at which Coppock presented twice on behalf of U.S. producers.

In a plenary session on Monday, Coppock showed the production and yield trends on a global basis for wheat and made the point that current trajectories will fall far short of the oft-cited need to double production by 2050.

This level of need was projected by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in 2008, when global wheat production was about 700 million metric tons. Doubling that number by 2050 would require production of 1.4 billion MT in 2050, but current growth in wheat production globally will lead only to a production number of just over 1.0 billion MT. Without some sort of changed paradigm – most likely from new technology – global wheat production will fall 380 million MT below the anticipated need in 2050.

Coppock went into detail on declining production and acreage trends and relatively flat yield curve in United States wheat production, pointing out that these trends will make hitting the target even more difficult from a U.S. perspective.

“Improvements in productivity have always come from new technology,” he said. NAWG’s strategic goal of a 20 percent improvement in yields in the decade leading up to 2018 “will not be achieved by any single technology, but by a combination of technologies that will certainly include biotechnology.”

Coppock was joined on the general session panel by Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Crop Protection Association; Dr. Mark Avery, director of conservation with the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; and Dr. Julian Little, chairman of the UK Agricultural Biotechnology Council.

The general question posed to the panel was whether agricultural science and technology is the only solution for long term food supply sustainability. Julian Little’s response summed up a majority of the afternoon’s discussion: “Will new technology be the only answer? Probably not. But without it we don’t stand a chance.”

For more about the need for biotechnology in wheat and NAWG’s work on this issue, please visit www.wheatworld.org/biotech.