Brookings, S.D. - Spring is a season of hope. It is appropriate that the first day of spring occurs during National Agriculture Week, March 17-23. It is a time to recognize the abundance provided by agriculture, and celebrate the opportunity it holds for South Dakota and humanity.
As farmers once again move into the fields to plant crops, and also begin calving and lambing season, it's important to keep in mind the challenges ahead. The "Grand Challenge of the 21st Century" is to produce enough food, fiber and fuel for more than 9.5 billion people by 2050, using less land, less water and less energy than is used today, and to do it in a sustainable manner.
This challenge reaches beyond simply feeding 2.5 billion more people. Globally, the standard of living is increasing, and diets are improving in nearly all corners of the world. The higher standard of living means that more people globally are including animal protein in their diets, increasing demand for beef, pork and turkey that are grown and processed here in South Dakota. Yet ultimately, we must double food production to meet growing populations and higher demand from global consumers.
We've come a long way. In the 1960s, one third of the world's population was starving or near starvation. Each American farmer fed 25 people. From the tragedy of millions was born the Green Revolution. Brilliant agricultural scientists like Norman Borlaug dedicated their lives to unlocking the secrets of seeds, and ultimately increasing the production of basic foods of the world - like wheat, rice and maize (corn).
Tragically, hunger persists today, but on a smaller scale. One American farmer now feeds 155 people, and one-eighth of the world's population is starving or near starvation. By making tough decisions and focusing our precious and limited resources into agricultural science and food production, we have been able to address global hunger in a very meaningful way.
The drought of 2012 earned a place in history books as one of the hottest and driest on record in South Dakota and the Midwest. More than a quarter century earlier, the region experienced a similar drought of epic proportion. The drought of 2012 and 1974 were nearly equal in their potential for devastation.
But there is one critical difference: science. In 2012, science-driven changes in farming produced an additional $3.1 billion dollars in South Dakota crop yields that were not possible in 1974.
Research breakthroughs have made it possible to grow crops with substantially less water. It's a nearly equal combination of better crop genetics, and better science-driven management techniques. More than half of the scientific breakthroughs are in the form of management practices used by farmers, and are the product of SDSU's research efforts and that from our land grant university partners.