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What is the 'grand challenge' facing the future of agriculture?

The American Society of Agronomy seeks to define the 'grand challenge' facing agriculture and outlines a list of key questions and outcomes for success

American Society of Agronomy

MADISON, WI, FEBRUARY 22, 2010 -- What are the top research questions facing agriculture? Earlier this year, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) sought out the opinions of its members and leadership to develop a Grand Challenge statement, key questions, and expected outcomes.

ASA Grand Challenge

The Society -- through a process involving its members, staff, and leaders -- identified a "Grand Challenge" statement that encompasses the future of agriculture:

Double global food, feed, fiber, and fuel production on existing farmland within the 21st century with production systems that:

  • enable food security;
  • use resources more efficiently;
  • enhance soil, water, and air quality, biodiversity, and ecosystem health; and
  • are economically viable and socially responsible

At the core of ASA's Grand Challenge statement is the creation of topics that include key questions along with expected outcomes.

According to ASA President Francis J. Pierce of Washington State University, the top research advances in global food security, sustainable biofuels, nutrition, and climate change, can all point to ASA's 'Grand Challenge' statement as the basis for the future of agriculture.

"We are excited about the advances that are taking place in agriculture," says Pierce. "Our scientific Society and our members as agronomists have a tremendous role to play in meeting this 'grand challenge' of doubling global food, feed, fiber, and fuel production within the 21st century. Our Grand Challenge brings new insight and ideas and renewed focus to the Society."

A team of ASA members had primary responsibility for formulating the Grand Challenge statement, Key Questions, and Expected Outcomes for the Society. This team included the following ASA members:

  • Shabtai Bittman, Agriculture & Agri-Food, Canada
  • Kenneth G. Cassman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Achim Doberman, CGIAR, International Rice Research Institute
  • Tom Doerge, John Deere Company
  • Dean Fairchild, Mosaic Company
  • Paul Fixen, International Plant Nutrition Institute
  • Cynthia Grant, Agriculture & Agri-Food, Canada
  • Quirine M. Ketterings, Cornell University
  • Raj Khosla, Colorado State University
  • Rob Mitchell, USDA-ARS, Lincoln, NE
  • John Spargo, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, MD
  • Mark Alley, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, Chairman

According to Pierce, ASA's Grand Challenge statement was prompted by a request from the Obama administration to think critically about identifying the top research questions that would result in advances to overcome the challenges of achieving global food security, sustainable biofuel feedstock production, meeting human nutrition requirements, and mitigating and adapting to global climate change.

To view the six-page booklet containing the ASA Grand Challenge statement, including each of the Key Questions, and Expected Outcomes, please visit the American Society of Agronomy's Science Policy Grand Challenges page: www.agronomy.org/files/science-policy/asa-grand-challenge-2010.pdf.

"We hope that this exercise will allow cohesive, cross-discipline progress toward meeting the challenge identified by the membership and elected leaders of the Societies," Pierce concludes.

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The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

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