Investment in new technologies key to boosting agricultural productivity in Asia
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Investment in new technologies will be essential in boosting agricultural development and in increasing farmers’ productivity in Asia, including the Philippines. This was shared by Yong Gao, Ph.D., Director of Corporate Engagement in Asia and Africa during his recent visit to the Philippines.
According to Gao, agriculture today faces multiple yet interconnected challenges: it has to produce more for an increasing population, while finding efficient ways to grow food and adapt to climate change. Gao shared that in Asia alone, the population is expected to grow from 4.2 billion today to 5.9 billion by 2050. As population and incomes rise around the world, so does the demand for livestock products and other high-value foods.
Gao cited a report by the Global Harvest Initiative (http:// www.globalharvestinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ GHI_2017-GAP-Report_FINAL.pdf) that compels global agricultural productivity (TFP) to grow by an average rate of at least 1.75 percent annually to double agricultural output through productivity by 2050. While the global average growth rate is close to the target (1.66 percent), the TFP growth rate in lowincome countries continues to decline from 1.5 percent (2015) to 1.24 percent (2017).
“Experts agree that we will need to grow as much food in the next 50 years as we did in the past 10,000 years combined. We believe however that the future growth of agriculture should be driven by science and technological innovations as farmers seek to optimize their harvests, while operating within a number of resource and climate related constraints.” In addressing the challenge confronting food systems today, Gao shared that developing countries such as the Philippines should continuously invest in agricultural research and development, such as developing drought and climate-resilient seeds, bringing crop protection technologies, and using best practices in fertilizer use and animal care.
Gao said that continuous investment in developing new seed products, more commonly known as GMOs, is especially crucial for the Philippines to improve the country’s food security. He noted that since the adoption of Bt corn more than a decade ago, the Philippines has become one of the largest corn planting countries in the world, attaining huge improvements in corn yield. From 2000 – 2011, the country recorded a 1.23 ton/ha national corn yield improvement, after agricultural giants Argentina (1.27 tons/ha), Brazil (1.55 tons/ha), the U.S. (1.77 tons/ha), and South Africa (1.88 tons/ha).
Aside from continuous innovation, Gao also encouraged the country to improve traditional farming methods by adopting modern growing tools. He shared some advanced field-tracking tools that can benefit the Philippines such as plant sensors and weather satellites that are already being used in some parts of the U.S. These instruments measure and analyze all the interactions happening in the field, including soil moisture, rainfall, plant health, temperatures, etc, which in turn help farmers make informed decisions.
Gao concludes that countries that embrace a more open and collaborative policy and regulation which attract international investment and collaboration will benefit their agriculture development and competitiveness. “The challenges facing us are too huge for any single country to tackle, hence, international collaboration and cross-border investment are becoming increasingly important to the sustainable development and prosperity of global agriculture.”
Dr. Yong Gao