Agriculture comes into pure science

Sustainable agricultural production

Agricultural systems will have to face many challenges in the future. In order to feed up to ten billion people, the production of food must increase significantly. At the same time, we need more bio-based raw materials and energy. However, the areas for agriculture are limited. In order for us to leave intact environmental resources such as pure air, clean water and fertile soil behind for future generations, as well as a decline in biodiversity and climate change, agricultural production must become more sustainable. Even if it is currently contributing to environmental and climate problems, it also has great potential to establish itself as an innovative industry of the future.

Novel agricultural systems make agriculture fit for the future

With innovative agricultural systems and space-efficient forms of production, sustainable and efficient solutions can be developed and conflicting goals in the production and use of food and biomass can be avoided as far as possible. The focus is on sustainability and efficiency criteria. The future agricultural economy stands in the field of tension between globalization, regionalization and urbanization. But the various socio-economic forms in agriculture, the various consumer needs and demographic change also have a major influence.

Modern agricultural research has a key position. In the agricultural systems of the future, innovative, sustainable and resource-efficient agricultural systems will be developed with the help of modern key technologies. The agricultural systems of the future mediate between different competing interests and integrate economic, ecological and social perspectives.

In order to recognize important interactions and to find solutions to conflicting goals, science has to look at agricultural production as a whole. The aim is sustainability on an economic, social and ecological level. Agricultural systems of the future will go beyond conventional ways of thinking in holistic approaches. You will rethink agricultural production, generate and network knowledge across system boundaries. The most diverse disciplines, fields of activity and industries are brought together in interdisciplinary teams. Innovative future technologies (smart and high-tech), artificial intelligence and digital transformation are important drivers here.

The world needs new plants - innovative plant breeding

Most of the food and biomass we use comes from plants. Plant research is therefore a central field of agricultural research. It is important to know as much as possible about our crops. An international team of researchers, supported by the BMBF, recently deciphered the genome of barley. In this way, science can specifically improve this cultivated plant using modern methods.

What allows plants to thrive optimally? To what extent does she need nutrients, water or light? The German Plant Phenotyping Network (DPPN) is researching the interplay between genetic makeup and environmental influences. Automated systems measure thousands of plants and record their external appearance, the so-called phenotype. For example, you can determine how plants react to nutrient deficiencies or flooding.

Ever since mankind has been farming, it has changed plants through breeding. This made them bigger, tastier and easier to grow. For example, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage all come from the same wild plant. Today, the variety of varieties offers us variety - and the opportunity to practice arable farming under different conditions.

New varieties can produce higher yields and grow with less fertilizer or water. They are better able to withstand pests, floods, or heat. In addition, plants can provide renewable and innovative raw materials for industry. The funding initiatives "Plant Breeding Research for the Bioeconomy" and "Crop Plants of the Future" contribute to this.

Risk research in genetically modified plants

New breeds must not pose any danger to humans or nature. The BMBF has been funding research projects on the possible risks of genetically modified plants for over 25 years. The influence on bees, butterflies and soil organisms, for example, was investigated in many experiments. Even if it is controversial, genetic engineering opens up many new avenues. During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, a new type of antibody was identified as the basis of a therapy. Genetically modified plants produced this antibody - a process that was partly developed in Germany.