More crop per drop 2012

29 Jan 2013

The inaugural More Crop Per Drop conference was organised by SCI's BioResources; Environment, Health and Safety; and Science and Enterprise Groups on 29 November 2012 at SCI headquarters in London. The event was held in collaboration with Aqua Enviro and supported by Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining (Biofpr), Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture and Pest Management Science, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. We hope that this will become an annual conference dedicated to raising water use efficiency.

A panel of experts presented a wide range of fascinating talks. The morning session, introduced by Dr Alan Baylis (Nuvistix), began with Prof Trevor Tanton (University of Southampton) explaining the complexities of increasing crop yields. Chris Perry, advisor to the World Bank, United Nations Food and Africulture Organisation (FAO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), then spoke of the importance of understanding the correct terminology involved with water use, explaining that, perhaps counter-intuitively, more efficient irrigation will normally mean more water consumption.

Prof Amir Kassam, from the University of Reading, and advisor to UN FAO, presented the issue of devastating soil erosion caused by tillage. Lancaster University's Prof Bill Davies stated the dilemma: we need to grow more food with less water. He spoke of alternative ways of reducing the yield gap, such as manipulating root growth and functioning, using genetics and crop management. David Warner from DuPont Pioneer, examined the impact of the vast drought in the US in 2012; speaking of innovative ways to improve drought tolerance, using advanced crop genetics technologies.

The morning session was concluded by Dr Kevin Moran, IFA Corresponding Member, speaking about the importance of crop nutrition optimisation in improving water productivity. During lunch, delegates were able to peruse the poster competition that also featured. From the particularly high-quality entries, the judges chose the recipients of a £250 cash prize: congratulations to L Evangelou, C Tsadilas and S Stamatiadis for their winning poster, Increasing water efficiency by precision agriculture in cotton cultivations of central Greece.

The afternoon session, chaired by Dr Stewart Neal, of Stewart Neal Associates, was kicked off by Prof Peter Cooper, from the University of Reading, who spoke about the need for evidence-based adaptions to climate change in East Africa. Dr Paul Hendley, from Syngenta Crop Protection then encouraged us to 'Think globally - act locally', talking about intensive agriculture and strategies to reduce its environmental footprint.

The final talk was from Dr Ragab Ragab, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who summed up the overriding message of the day nicely when putting out a call for a 'Blue Revolution'. The series of presentations was followed by a lively debate from the audience as to whether we will be able to meet the global demand for food in 50 and 100 years' time. We'll have to wait and see..

Simon Lightfoot

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