Ag scientists call for new global crop alliance

Network to take worldwide approach to crop research to support food security.

A global group of leading crop scientists, including the principal and chief executive of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), has called for a worldwide crop network to systematically tackle threats to global food security.

The July 28 edition of the journal Science outlines the recommendation for a Global Crop Improvement Network (GCIN) to take a worldwide approach to crop research.

Encompassing most staple food crops, GCIN would "revolutionize" the ability to understand crop performance in different environments and speed up the adoption of vital technologies, the crop scientists said. It would achieve this by providing access to well-controlled "field laboratories" that are essential for translating scientific breakthroughs to improved crop yields, by harmonizing international research practices and by sharing data.

GCIN would work with existing national crop research systems and could be supported through public/private partnerships.

According to SRUC, the proposed model for GCIN is based on the successful International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN). Established in the 1960s, IWIN is part of the CGIAR-affiliated group of agricultural researchers.

SRUC principal and chief executive Wayne Powell is a past chief scientist with CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) and a co-author of the GCIN model.

Powell said, "Through the international research collaboration and data sharing that underpins IWIN and the recommended GCIN, we have a huge opportunity to tackle in new ways the big global challenges of food and nutrition security while delivering new knowledge efficiently and providing value for money for those investing in research."

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