a1 Centre for Crop Genetic Improvement, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK
Food production and security will be a major issue for supplying an increasing world population. The problem will almost certainly be exacerbated by climate change. There is a projected need to double food production by 2050. In recent times, the trend has been for incremental modest yield increases for most crops. There is an urgent need to develop integrated and sustainable approaches that will significantly increase both production per unit land area and the resource use efficiency of crops. This review considers some key processes involved in plant growth and development with some examples of ways in which molecular technology, plant breeding and genetics may increase the yield and resource use efficiency of wheat. The successful application of biotechnology to breeding is essential to provide the major increases in production required. However, each crop and each specific agricultural situation presents specific requirements and targets for optimisation. Some increases in production will come about as new varieties are developed which are able to produce satisfactory crops on marginal land presently not considered appropriate for arable crops. Other new varieties will be developed to increase both yield and resource use efficiency on the best land.