The ‘Grand Challenges’ for Agriculture and Future Food and Nutritional Security
Free Public Lecture
The Craig Auditorium
The Gateway Building (Next to University of Melbourne Sports Centre)
Trinity College, Tin Alley
T: (03) 8344 2071
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Can we get the right balance between short-term productivity/profitability and longer-term social and environmental impacts? This lecture by Professor Timothy Reeves will define and focus on the 'grand challenges' that agriculture must urgently address for this to be achieved over the coming decade and beyond.
Global population is growing at about 150 people per minute with the result that by 2050, planet Earth will be inhabited by around 10 billion humans, compared to around 7.5 billion now. All of these people will need to eat and have access to enough nutritious food and clean water to lead meaningful lives. The reality may be very different however, as many are being born into regions of the world that are already struggling to provide these basic needs.
Every day nearly one billion humans go to bed hungry. An additional billion are undernourished, lacking access to vital vitamins and trace elements in the food available to them. At the other end of the spectrum, there are now over one billion people who are malnourished, through over-consumption of energy-dense foods, with resultant obesity and metabolic diseases prevalent.
Producing the extra food required to feed the 10 billion – nearly a doubling of current food production – will not be easy. It will have to come from less land, with less water, less reliance on energy-rich inputs and from agricultural systems that are already being constrained by increasing climatic variability and extreme events, and other associated perturbations. All of these factors and others, including those around, infrastructure; trade; energy and other policy settings, will seriously challenge agricultural sustainability globally and nationally, over the coming decades.
The overriding question, including here in Australia, will continue to be whether we can get the right balance between the need for shorter-term productivity/profitability gains and undesirable social and environmental impacts in the longer-term – doing so is fundamental to sustainable agriculture, future food and nutritional security and the well-being of humankind.
Achieving sustainability in the medium and longer terms will require substantial investment and commitment – including in research, development, education, infrastructure development and policy making - that will need to be visionary, more risk-taking, more durable and by definition, of a longer term in nature. In a world that is increasingly consumed by short-termism and popular ‘want it now’ decision-making, will the 'grand challenges’ for agriculture be adequately addressed and resourced with the appropriate and timely investments that are urgently required?
This lecture is part of the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences Dean's Lecture Series.
Professor Tim Reeves is a graduate of the University of Nottingham (UK) and the University of Melbourne and has worked for over 45 years in agricultural research, development and extension, focussed on sustainable agriculture in Australia and overseas. At the Rutherglen Research Institute, he was a pioneer of no-till/conservation agriculture research.