In­vest­ment in new tech­nolo­gies key to boost­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity in Asia

Agriculture - - News -

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.glob­al­har­ves­tini­tia­­tent/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

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