Farmers and Researchers: Growing Food for Life

By FFAR Staff

National Agriculture Day is a great opportunity to thank America’s farmers. It’s amazing to walk into any grocery store and know that much of the food available is produced by just two percent of Americans who work in agriculture. American farmers are the most productive in the world, driving economic growth and stability.

There is a broad network of American agriculture researchers supporting and driving this success. Through technological innovation, agriculture researchers are constantly discovering new ways to make farming more efficient and productive. Agriculture research has unlocked the vast potential of crops, leading to greater yields and increased resiliency against pests and adverse weather. Moreover, greater yields and resiliency means more food for more people.

In his acceptance speech for the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, now almost 50 years ago, Dr. Norman Borlaug celebrated the unprecedented increases in crop yields he and his Green Revolution achieved, saying, “When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee designated me the recipient of the 1970 award for my contribution to the ‘green revolution’, they were in effect, I believe, selecting an individual to symbolize the vital role of agriculture and food production in a world that is hungry, both for bread and for peace.” He cautioned, however, that, “The green revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space.” Dr. Borlaug knew that a growing human population necessitated new research and new green revolutions, more bread for more peace.

Today, agriculture researchers and scientists have taken up the gauntlet of Dr. Borlaug’s challenge to “double the world food supply by 2050” and liberate more people from chronic hunger. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is an important piece of this mission; by creating unique public-private partnerships, the Foundation channels resources to projects that will catalyze the next green revolution. Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is one such project that is already bearing fruit. FFAR partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development to find ways to make crop photosynthesis more efficient, and early results show that a 40% increase in plant biomass is possible. FFAR works with forward-thinking leaders in academia, industry and government to rapidly expand the frontiers of agricultural research, while training the next generation of innovative researchers and scientists. 

Dr. Borlaug is credited with saving over one billion lives from starvation, and it is imperative that we continue his mission. FFAR is proud to work with all stakeholders in American agriculture to help keep a growing population healthy and fed.

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

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Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

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About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

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Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

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The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.