2016 Autumn - Switching on farm innovation

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FPJ1301D - Copeland, L (2016), Research Frontiers in Agrifood Systems

FPJ1301D - Copeland, L (2016), Research Frontiers in Agrifood Systems, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 25-33, Surry Hills, Australia.

This paper looks at research frontiers with potential to increase agricultural productivity. It considers how food production has benefited from agricultural innovations for thousands of years, with productivity gains achieved mostly by the accumulation of incremental advances in knowledge of the resource base, improvement of varieties and practices, and exploiting new enabling technologies not specifically targeted to agriculture and food production. The digital revolution has brought fresh and innovative approaches to answering fundamental questions about plants, animals and soils. Recent advances in biotechnology have opened up new ways to explore the genetic potential of food plants and animals, their response to stress, and the effects of genotype by environment interactions on complex traits such as yield, quality and plant-soil interactions. The massive increase in gene sequencing capacity has greatly improved the efficiency of identifying genetic variability for plant and animal breeding. Much excitement is being generated by the potential of CRISPR technology to deliver customisable gene editing tools that are easy-to-use, accurate and inexpensive. These tools are being adopted at a rate rarely seen before, with the recognition that current regulations may not adequately cover their use. The erosion of traditional discipline boundaries is providing greater flexibility for multidisciplinary, collaborative research. Yet, despite the enormous capacity for high-throughput data gathering, our ability to extract knowledge from the accumulated information is still limited by a rudimentary understanding of biology and the natural resource base. The key to capturing opportunities to boost productivity will be continuing to foster imaginative research leading to the discovery and adoption of new technology.

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