Action 16: Expanding development of agri-food systems

We are rethinking agricultural production and connecting up knowledge across system boundaries.

Where do we stand?

Agriculture, food and forestry systems are facing profound changes. Due to climate change, dwindling farmland and the steadily growing world population, maintaining a global food supply in sufficient quality and quantity is becoming an ever-greater challenge. Urbanisation, geopolitical instability and the decline in biodiversity further exacerbate the situation. It is becoming increasingly difficult for traditional forms of agricultural production to meet the changing requirements. In addition, agriculture and forestry must also make their contribution to climate neutrality. On the one hand, agriculture and animal husbandry release greenhouse gases – for example, through methane- producing cattle, sheep and other ruminants or fertilisers that release nitrous oxide – and on the other hand, sustainable agriculture and forestry can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, for example through reforestation, humus formation or rewetting of peatlands. Management practices determine whether soils, forests or grassland are long-term sources or sinks of greenhouse gases.

What are the research needs?

Future agricultural systems will rethink production and link up knowledge across system boundaries. In inter- and transdisciplinary teams, different disciplines and sectors will be brought together in systemic approaches. On the basis of these and other planned subsequent and follow-up measures, we will continue or even expand and develop the breadth of sustainable agricultural and food systems. Future technologies and digitalisation are important drivers for agricultural systems and modern plant breeding research (genome editing). A further goal of our research is to achieve more resilient agricultural operations that are more climate-neutral or even actively climate-protective and that extract more CO2 from the atmosphere than they release. The focus here is on innovative, transdisciplinary approaches in regions and fields of action that have a particularly high potential to contribute to climate protection effectively and in harmony with the other Sustainable Development Goals.

Implementation steps and milestones

  • The National Bioeconomy Strategy and the Climate Protection Programme 2030 will form our strategic and programmatic framework in the coming years. On the one hand, we will fund the development of sustainable agricultural, food and forestry systems – the main topics include agricultural systems of the future, plant breeding research for the bioeconomy, crops of the future, innovative plant breeding in the cultivation system, and the NewFoodSystems innovation space. On the other hand, we will expand development of climate protection in agriculture and forestry and contribute to the development of climate-friendly business operations, inputs and production chains.
  • We will develop systemic concepts for climate-friendly agricultural operations and production chains by 2027, which will also involve the retail trade and the demand and consumer side.
  • We will develop innovative key enabling technologies and integrate them into high-tech production processes in the areas of crop cultivation, smart farming, AI-based management systems and space-efficient production systems.
  • Coordinated through the Office for Agricultural Systems of the Future and its online offering, we will work on the topic of ‘Transformation of agricultural and food systems’ in Science Year 2020/21 and beyond and present it in a way that is comprehensible to the wider community.

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