Crossing borders – why we need a transnational approach to plant, crop and agricultural science

A Borrell1 and M Reynolds2

  1. University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), Hermitage Research Facility, Warwick
  2. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) Int Apdo Postal 6-641, 06600 Mexico, DF, Mexico

Humanity faces significant challenges in the coming decades. A number of these challenges relate to food, nutritional and water security. For example the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), address the eradication of poverty and hunger along with the attainment of clean water, sustainable communities and climate action. Achieving these goals will require action from the plant, crop and agricultural science communities. The developed and developing world face common challenges (as stated in the MDGs and SDGs), common environments (e.g. rain-fed crops in northern Australia, sub-Saharan Africa and central-western India frequently experience drought), common crops of interest (e.g. maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, barley, tubers, legumes etc), and a common planet (combating climate change is a universal issue). Single crop-focused research still achieves economically significant genetic gains, but given the transnational nature of many agricultural problems, it is generally accepted that to maintain global food security, crop research will benefit from a more internationally oriented approach to achieve better leverage of technology, expertize, and infrastructure. Important outcomes have already been achieved in less developed countries through their national agricultural research programs in collaboration with international entities such as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (, and various advanced research institutes. These collaborations can be further developed by fostering an environment where productivity constraints of a transnational nature are routinely investigated from a global perspective, integrating research across crops and agro-ecosystems, with routine sharing of data and other resources. Some potential actions over a range of timescales (short-, medium- and long-term) will be discussed.