NREL science enables farmlands and the people that depend on them for food, fiber and livelihoods to thrive in a changing world.
Highly productive agricultural systems are a hallmark of the modern era, particularly in developed countries. But feeding our growing global population in the face of climate change and increased water scarcity is a daunting challenge. U.S. agricultural productivity has more than doubled since 1950, driven by revolutionary technologies, improved soil management, fertilizers, effective pest control, and crop breeding. But these advances have brought about threats to the environment and society: substantial greenhouse gas emissions, damaging nutrient and pesticide pollution, exacerbating soil erosion, salinization and degradation, and alarming pressure upon water resources.
Achieving food security, the state where everyone has reliable access to affordable, nutritious food, while protecting the natural resources upon which agriculture depends continues to be one of humanity’s principle obstacles. Despite worsening land and water scarcity, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global agricultural output must increase 70% over the next three decades to meet the demands of a growing global population, which shall surpass 9 billion by 2050, and also due to increasing affluence. NREL is working with colleagues from other institutions, corporations, NGO’s, and farmers, to develop new approaches to provide food security for a growing population while protecting soil, water, and air resources so that productivity advances can be sustained far into the future.
NREL scientists conduct studies evaluating long-term impacts of agronomic practices on crop yields and livestock forage, agro-ecological constraints to climate change adaptation and mitigation, and unique land and water management approaches in dynamic, global agricultural systems. Sustainable solutions for local and global food challenges depend upon practical synthesis of this research and engagement with agricultural communities and farmers large and small. This page provides some specific examples of food security research underway at NREL today.
Participant feedback from the 2013-2016 workshops showed the most important insights reflected the anticipated learning outcomes of the project which were to
- Explain key principles of Bayesian statistics
- Use basic statistical distributions in hierarchical Bayesian models
- Use Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods
- Understand and use JAGS and R software
- Develop and implement hierarchical models
- Evaluate strength of evidence in alternative models for ecological processes.