In an op-ed to the Des Moines Register last Tuesday, National Association of Wheat Growers first vice president Brett Blankenship issued a call to action to expand the current level of wheat biotech research to match that of similar staple crops. 

“While wheat maintains its lead as the most planted commodity crop worldwide, corn and rice have surpassed wheat in production (tonnage) in the last 20 years. Since 1994, corn yields have increased approximately 67 percent in the United States alone, while spring and winter wheat yields have increased half that amount, approximately 35 percent, in the same time frame. For the world’s largest crop that is a staple nutrient resource for 30 percent of the world’s population, the production lag is astounding.” 
He also mentioned the potential far-reaching repercussions that could result from a continued slowdown, saying, “A decline in wheat production has obvious concerns down the food chain, too. Wheat farmers are not the only ones who will feel the effects of wheat getting pushed to marginal acres to make room for other crop commodities with greater investment returns. The milling, baking and food industries, for which wheat is an important ingredient, are well aware of the long-term implications of continued reduction in wheat production.” 

Invoking the name of the founder of the World Food Prize, held in Des Moines this week, Blankenship called on “wheat farmers, public researchers and private sector investors to strive to meet a 70-year-old dream that spans back to Norman Borlaug’s work in the wheat fields of Mexico: to solve production challenges through innovation and collaboration. In order to overcome this technological divide between wheat and other crops, it is critical to establish an international environment in which wheat innovation can thrive.”

To read Blankenship’s full op-ed, click here.