Supplies of rice and wheat – the world’s two major crop staples – are likely to undershoot demand by millions of tons within the next decade, according to agri giant Bayer CropScience – unless ongoing research generates rapid and significant productivity enhancements.
Speaking at the company’s annual press conference in Monheim, Germany, Bayer CropScience ceo Sandra Peterson said that rice demand is expected to grow by 30% in the decade from 2010 to 2020, resulting in an ‘under-supply of some 10mt despite all current efforts to raise production’. World demand for wheat is expected to grow by 17% over the same period – with supplies projected to be several million tons short by 2020.
While rice is the staple crop of the East, wheat ranks at the top of the western diet and is grown across a larger area than any other crop. Around 450m t of milled rice and 650m t of wheat are now produced globally, and any future shortfalls in supply could have serious consequences particularly for the world’s poorest people for whom food prices could become unaffordable.
‘At Bayer CropScience we have made rice a top priority in our portfolio, and we aim to supply farmers in growing regions of the world with a complete package of solutions,including Arize hybrid rice seeds with superior germplasm and novel traits, as well as all necessary crop protection products,’ Peterson said. The company is currently engaged in a ‘Much More Rice’ project to implement many of these technologies in Vietnam – the world’s second-largest rice exporter – which is already seeing 10% yield enhancements, according to Bui Van Kip, head of technical, development & regulatory affairs.
An improved understanding of wheat genetics will also be helpful in plugging the gap between supply and demand, says Peterson. The company is exploring both GM and non-GM approaches to improve wheat productivity and has entered into collaborations with partners in Australia, Israel, France, Ukraine and US in an effort to speed progress. It expects to release the first new wheat varieties by 2015, Peterson reported.