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Theme 0. Crop science for a diverse planet

Humankind is totally dependent on crops for most of our food and feed, as well as for many other important plant materials. Currently crops occupy nearly one fifth of the planet’s vegetated surface, by far the biggest imprint of man upon the planet and its landscapes. Cropping is also the world’s largest source of employment and livelihood, with well over 1 billion small farmers in developing countries. This massive and vital human enterprise is the target of crop science.

Crop science has driven huge progress in crop productivity in the last 50 years, but demand for all crop products, will increase for many years to come, a challenge crop science must continue to meet. Besides, our diverse planet and its diverse society are placing other often conflicting requirements upon cropping, agricultural landscapes, and crop science. Equity under globalization appears to be at the heart of this. Thus the opening session will canvass the biggest and broadest of these issues and should interest all crop scientists and other concerned observers. Subsequently the Congress will look in detail at four major challenge themes, namely water scarcity, sustainable management of the soil and environment, crop genetic improvement in all its guises, and finally, crop scientists and farmers together effecting desirable change by farmers.

Our opening speaker, an eminent Asian crop scientist, will assess the global situation with respect to the supply and demand of crop products, the persistence of malnutrition, the natural resource base of cropping, and the role of crop science. Following this, two speakers who will examine globalisation, cropping, and crop science. One, closer to the WTO, will explore the implications of more liberal trade in crop products and crop-related technologies, and of non-tariff trade barriers, these days potentially impinging on all aspects of crop production and commerce. Despite the growing importance of trade and agribusiness, most crops are produced by family farmers, albeit farms reflecting great diversity of scale, degree of commercialisation and level of technology. The other speaker, a prominent expert in rural development, will examine the future impact of crop science and new technologies upon these family farms, and upon farmers' livelihoods and rural poverty.

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