Outlooks bright for sunshine use
SUNSHINE is the one sustainable arable input, and the crop protection industry is about to help growers make much more of it, predicts a leading scientist.
David Evans, head of research and technology at newly-formed Syngenta, says the world is on the verge of a new alternative plant-based economy complementing fossil fuels.
The only snag is whether the scientists will be permitted to use the new technologies, such as genetically modified crops, which can make it happen, Dr Evans told delegates at the annual British Crop Protection Council conference.
"The fact that plants harvest daylight, which is a truly sustainable resource, is a powerful and compelling message which we have failed to tell."
Outlining the possibilities of the new technologies, he showed how advances in crop protection had already helped hugely to feed the growing world population.
"If we were still using 1950s technology we would have needed an extra area the size of the US, the EU and Brazil together just to keep pace. We should be justly proud that we have been feeding the world safely and sustainably."
Dr Evans said the ability to increase yield and allow crops to be grown in drought-prone areas and on salty land will be keys in feeding a population expected to grow 33% to 8bn in the next 25 years.
But scientists will have to change their ways to overcome hostile reaction to their endeavours, Dr Evans warned. "We must recognise that some of the blame for the furore rests with ourselves.
"We must not peddle our beliefs as facts." Exaggerated claims and premature publication confuse and alienate the public, he warned.
The way ahead is to return to true scientific method, he argued. "It is OK to have a belief, but until every step has been taken to prove or disprove it, it is not fact." *
Harvesting sunshine… David Evans vision is of enhanced crop varieties leading to more sustainable food production.
• Plants as daylight harvesters.
• Biotech route to full potential.
• Pesticides still complementary.
• True science to leap hostile hurdles.
IN THIS ISSUE
New agrochemicals p52
Potato storage advice p54
Scottish min-till talk p55
Grain assurance p56
Ditching winter crops p59
N Ireland barometer p58
Irrigation trends p59
Malt barley approvals p61
Winners and losers on the 2001 recommended lists for combinable crop varieties.