IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE SECTOR

Over the years, plant breeding has led to major improvements in the sector.

Increases in plants productivity

The most direct effect is the increase in yields (food and other products) using the same surface area, which contributes to providing a solution for one of the greatest demands of population growth, which is the challenge of feeding the world.

Between the 1960’s and the year 2000, there were spectacular increases in all crops, which grew between 1% and 3% annually. This means, for example, that in the case of cereals, productivity increased during this period between 100% and 200%, depending on the crops. Other essential crops, like potatoes, have increased almost 80% (Pingali&Rajaram. World wheat facts and trends. 1999. CIMMYT Institute. Mexico DF). Some crops, such as tomato, have increased up to 1,000%

About 40% of this increase in productivity is directly attributable to plant breeding (Responding to the challenges of a changing world: the role of new plant varieties and high-quality seed in agriculture. Second World Seed Conference. FAO. 2009).

To give some examples, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, in just over 25 years, the productivity of olive trees has doubled, and that of vineyards has tripled.

Increasing economic yield

Due to improvement in productivity and in quality of the products obtained, the economic value of crops has also shot up in 25 years, according to information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture.

For example, the financial return has increased 270% for wheat, 1200% for tomato, 110% for corn, 300% for olives and 200% for vineyards 200%

This means a significant increase in income for farmers.

Increase in the efficiency of water consumption

In a country like Spain, improvements designed to get more product without increasing water consumption are particularly important. In this sense, optimising the use of this scarce resource is particularly significant.

The value obtained by yield per cubic metre of water used has increased in just over 30 years by 19% in the case of wheat, 63% for tomatoes, 75% for oranges, 215% for olives, etc.

Reduction in CO2 emissions

The tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere per kilo of product have dropped substantially in the last 30 years. In the case of corn, it went down 34%, while oranges went down 40%, 42% for olives, and 24% for tomato.

Energy savings

There have also been important energy savings in the last thirty years. In the case of wheat, wheat production per mega joule of energy consumed went up 57%, 50% for corn, 70% for olives, and 35% for tomato.

Less loss of land

Regarding the increases in food production per ton of ground lost, the indicators are also favourable. With the same loss of land, more food is produced: 60% in wheat, 225% in olive trees, and 75% in tomatoes.

  • Reducing the height of certain crops, which avoids loss due to lodging (falling from wind and rain), is very important for cereals.
  • Sturdier skin, which helps prevent losses during harvesting, storage, and transportation, like in the case of melons and other fruits.
  • Fresh products that last longer, such as aubergines and tomatoes.
  • Processing is favoured, facilitating the industry’s response to the demands of consumers (oils, fabrics, sugar contents, etc.).
  • Inputs use has been optimised (fertilisers, phytosanitary products, water, etc.).
  • Farmers’ work is facilitated, whether directly or using machinery.
  • Commercial quality of products are improved.
  • Improvements in health-related features in products, like certain nutritional values.
For example, the case of golden rice for Asian countries with vitamin deficits, or gluten-free cereal varieties suitable for celiac.

Plant breeding contributes to creating higher-quality, long lasting and safer food.