Features

We are proud to present the 2016 Annual Report.

I have been thinking a lot recently about technology and how it has evolved in agriculture over our lifetimes. Many with whom I speak ask, why do we even need technology in agriculture? The answers are fairly straightforward.

Without technology developed since 1960, the year I was born, we would need twice as much farm land - an additional 900 million acres - because agriculture today yields over twice as much product per acre. We would also need nearly twice as much irrigation water from lakes, rivers and groundwater sources, because technology has given us far better ways to use and manage water. And without innovations in plant breeding since 1960, allowing much faster development of climate-resilient and disease-resistant crops, we would have had decades of instability in production of most of our crops and livestock.

As human populations increase and consumer expectations for better diets rise around the world, technology that has yet to be invented will be needed to sustainably increase food supplies by nearly 70% after one more generation.  Our Grand Challenge is not just providing food security for a growing, changing world, but rather, doing so while also preserving environmental health around the planet.

The Danforth Plant Science Center is here to meet this challenge, through the creative and purposeful use of plant science, and I am proud of recent achievements highlighted in this report.  But meeting this challenge will also require aggressive investment in the private sector, including innovative start-up companies, and implementation of high-yielding, nature-compatible technologies that grow and maintain yields while also building soil, preserving water, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To this end, we are excited that the Danforth Center helps anchor 39 North, the innovation district encompassing nearly 600 acres around the Center (see p. 25). The district shines a bright light at the intersection between technology, the environment, and the farm.

Thank you to all of our scientists, staff, volunteers, partners and supporters for your hard work and dedication, and for contributing to a community that is changing the world.

I thank all who have joined us on a remarkable journey.
James C. Carrington
January 1, 2017