How have we tried to solve the immediate problem of feeding people? A major approach has been something called the "green revolution" (not to be confused with "greens" political party).
The green revolution has involved the simultaneous development of
It is now a worldwide agricultural movement, but it began in Mexico in 1944.
The Rockefeller foundation and the Mexican government established a plant-breeding station in NW Mexico, with a goal of boosting grain yields in a world that was already in trouble with food supplies and rapid population growth.
The project was headed by Norman Borlaug, a plant breeder from the University of Minnesota who developed a high-yielding wheat plant and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this area. (He passsed away in 2009, but worked hard right up to the end.)
The effort was tremendously successful, as the data below indicate:
1944 Mexico was importing half its wheat
1956 Mexico was self sufficient in wheat production
1964 Mexico exports 1/2 million tons of wheat
This wheat was also successful when grown in some areas of Asia and Africa. In India, wheat production increased four times in 20 years (from 12 million tons in 1966 to 47 million tons in 1986). At present, over 3/4 of the wheat acreage in India is planted to these new high-yielding varieties.
The successes in Mexico with wheat led to the establishment of another plant breeding center in Philippines for rice.
By now, breeders have produced high yielding varieties of most major crops grown in the world , including sorghum, maize, cassava, and beans, and there are about 16 such plant breeding centers worldwide. There are some gaps, however. For example, yams and plantains are staple foods in many of the poorer countries of sub-Saharan Africa, yet there are fewer than six plant breeders/geneticists in the whole world working on each of these crops! In fact, while Green Revolution crop varieties and crop practices have boosted production greatly in most regions of the world, the increases are lowest in Africa, partly because of the particular crops grown there and partly because of the unique circumstances limiting production (particularly, infertile soils). (See Science 2002, (295): 2019.)
The Green Revolution has been important in the US and other developed nations as well as in the lesser developed nations of the world. For example, corn yields in the US more than quadrupled from 20 bushels/ha ("ha" = hectare, which = 2.47 acres) to 100-250 bu/ha in the last 60 years, owing to the development of high yielding varieties and changed agricultural practices.
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