A two-day conference about the future of wheat production in the world was held in Brussels, Belgium, under the sponsorship of Bayer CropScience on Feb. 11 and 12. The “Cereal Future Forum 2015” was held at The Hotel Brussels with about 230 participants from 30 countries.
As AgProfessional editor, I was part of the U.S. contingent of 12 professionals and three Bayer CropScience business representatives. I was the only media from the U.S. present although information was being gathered by a couple European media with U.S. connections.
The Bayer CropScience host was Steve Patterson, global crop manager cereals. The moderator for the forum was Kim McConnell, president of Adfarm, which has advertising agencies in Canada and the U.S.
Alan Tracy, president, U.S. Wheat Associates, was the initial speaker. With 17 offices worldwide, Tracy has a pulse on what is happening in terms of production, marketing and trade. He mainly provided a perspective on issues and opportunities related to the U.S. wheat business.
Following Tracy was Yelto Zimmer, Ph.D., head of agri benchmarking of the cash crop team with Thunen Institute of Farm Economics. He compared the economics of wheat production country to country in the world and the outlook for the future in his presentation topic of “Economic challenges for wheat production from a global perspective.
Matthew Reynolds, wheat physiologist, CIMMYT, presented on the topic of “what can we learn from crop physiology to help increase wheat yield.” He talked about plant selection related to many area including examples related to wheat plant canopy, lodging resistance and drought resistance.
Joachim Lammel, vice-president research and development global initiatives for Yara international ASA, had the topic: “What can we learn from crop nutrition to help increase wheat yield?” He suggested appropriate nitrogen application for wheat ground has to be based on a modeling approach of multiple applications of N and good understanding of the N not applied but leftover in the soil for the next crop. He also explained Yara research into wheat seed population as a holistic approach of growing wheat.
Kyle Tapley, senior ag meteroligist, MDA Weather Service, talked about a “review of data on impacts of drought and heat on wheat yield.” He talked about agreement in climate change and the projections for heat and drought, which affects wheat yield. He suggested who will likely be the losers and winners in crop production with changes in climate.
The head of integrated weed management for Bayer CropScience, Christine Brunel-Ligneau, talked about “how advance integrated weed management practices can help protect wheat yield.” A main focus of her presentation was about Bayer’s global effort to educate farmers to diversify their operations in many ways including the switching of crop protection products. Bayer has its “Diversity is the Future” program in the world except North America. In the U.S., the program is called “Respect the Rotation.”
Three farmers explained their farming operations—Chris Reichstein in western Australia wheatbelt, Doreen Riske in northern Germany and Philippe Heusele in northern France. Each has their own limitations and opportunities as well as government restraints.
Professor Curtis Pozniak, wheat breeder, University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Center, made a presentations titled: “Technology meets the field—a wheat breeder’s perspective.” He referenced the inexpensive DNA sequencing, but also noted that wheat is the only major crop that doesn’t have a completed genome sequencing. He referenced hybrid wheat and gene editing in separate mentions.
Steve Patterson following all these presentations stepped up to talk about “Bayer CropScience investing to meet the challenges in cereals.” He explained the company’s investment in wheat research with an eye toward integrated systems for wheat production. The effort of Bayer CropScience research currently is toward developing high-yielding hybrid wheat and generally increasing yields by wheat seed that the company can offer for sale.
Sir Peter Kendall, chairman of Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in the United Kingdom, spoke about a “farmers perspective on future wheat technology needs and how can research be leveraged for their benefit.” He spoke about precision agriculture for wheat production and also focused a good amount on technology in farming not being seen as good by the general public, which is an irrational point of view that needs turned around.
Professor Kevin Kephart, vice-president for research and economic development, South Dakota State University, spoke about “a century of revolution in wheat: insight, talent, persistence and innovation.” The title outlines the way that Edgar S. McFadden worked continuously to crossbreed wheat for rust resistance, which eventually had McFadden working along side of Norman Borlaugh to initiate the “green revolution.”
Professor Rob Lewis, honorary fellow at South Australia Research and Development Institute and director of Science Without Bounds Pty Ltd. In Australia provided a presentation titled: “Understanding the future demands for wheat, the challenges we face—how can we bring together the right politics and technology to enable this?”
The perspective from the European Commission was presented by Michael Fluh, acting director, DG Sante. He talked about the adoption of new agricultural technology being a hard thing to accomplish in the current atmosphere in Europe. He had no doubt that the first “green revolution” would never have occurred with the current attitudes of today. Farmers are such a small share of the population, and the general public does not understand agriculture or really have the ability to understand the technology possibilities. In Europe, Fluh said the regulators are given the responsibility of enforcing the laws that are passed and not to become involved in the politics of what is right or wrong in those laws.
Liam Condon, chairman and CEO of Bayer CropScience, spent one day with the group and spoke about how Bayer has combined agriculture and health research under the same division. The concept is “feed and heal the world.” He also mentioned the need for “climate-smart technologies” that are in place as the world’s weather changes. He also said we have to determine how to achieve “acceptance of true innovation in agriculture.” He suggested what good is innovation without the ability to introduce it for the betterment of the world.
The two days ended with a visit to the University of Gent VIP Institute and Bayer CropScience Gent Innovation Center on the VIP campus. The molecular, DNA, genetic and biotechnology research in wheat and other crops was shown to the group.