A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies the most promising scientific breakthroughs that are possible to achieve in the next decade to increase the U.S. food and agriculture system’s sustainability, competitiveness, and resilience.
1. Progress, the report states, is only able to occur when the scientific community begins to more methodically integrate science, technology, human behavior, economics, policy, and regulations into biophysical and empirical models. Enticing and enabling researchers from different disciplines to work effectively together on food and ag issues is the objective, but this will require incentives in support of the collaboration.
2. The development and validation of highly sensitive, field-deployable sensors and biosensors will enable rapid detection and monitoring capabilities across various food and agricultural disciplines and continuously monitoring several characteristics at once is the key to understanding both what is happening in the target system and how it is occurring.
3. Move faster, the report says. The ability to more quickly collect, analyze, store, share, and integrate heterogeneous datasets will vastly improve understanding of the complex problems, and ultimately, lead to the widespread use of near-real-time, data-driven management approaches.
4. The ability to carry out routine gene editing, not GMOs, of agriculturally important organisms will allow for precise and rapid improvement of traits important for productivity and quality.
5. Understanding the relevance of the microbiome. A transdisciplinary research effort focused on the various agriculturally relevant microbiomes and the complex interactions between them would help modify and improve numerous aspects of the food and agricultural continuum. For example, understanding the microbiome in animals could help to more precisely tailor nutrient rations and increase feed efficiency.