Prof. Seishi Ninomiya, University of Tokyo, Japan
In the 20th century, the invention of chemical fertilizers by Haber-Bosch and the development of varieties that did not lodge under heavy use of fertilizers allowed humanity to greatly increase food production. The success of this massive increase in production saved many people from starvation. Research and development in areas related to CIGR contributed significantly to this success, as did the development of several technologies, such as agricultural machinery and irrigation systems.
However, by the end of the 20th century, the environmental impacts of agriculture became more apparent, including water pollution, impacts on biodiversity, increased emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, excessive water use, deforestation, and heavy dependence on fossil fuels. In addition, the frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change increases the threat to stable agricultural production. In addition to population growth, the rapid increase in grain demand due to increased reliance on animal products in growing economies requires increasingly efficient food production to increase supply. At the same time, however, sustainability must be achieved - a complicated problem to solve. Namely, a paradigm shift from simple maximization to optimization is necessary.
Such a shift is impossible with our current technology alone and requires dramatic scientific and technological innovations. CIGR shall significantly contribute to this goal through agricultural and biosystem engineering. Of course, each agricultural and biosystem engineering field must conduct research and development in their respective fields. However, sharing and collaborating among the many disciplines involved is most important in solving such complex problems. Of course, it is also important to encourage collaboration outside CIGR's area of expertise. The fastest way to solve problems is for the various disciplines to pool their knowledge and skills and work together. Fortunately, CIGR has been promoting collaboration between different fields through the organization of international conferences and the activities of its technical sections and working groups. In the future, we must further strengthen such activities to promote the creation of new scientific and technological values.
Another point I emphasize is the need to strengthen support for young researchers and students. The problems I mentioned at the beginning of this article are even more severe for young people. It is the role of CIGR to prepare a system that will allow them to take the lead in solving these problems. CIGR must also work to create a framework for this. It is also essential to promote cooperation between developing and developed countries. Science and technology must equitably benefit all humanity. CIGR must support research and development in regions lagging in research and development and promote cooperation with regions with technology.
The challenges we face are serious. CIGR hopes to use its position as a group of experts in agricultural and biosystems engineering, and sometimes beyond, to promote activities to solve these problems.