Published on 06/01/17

Former UGA ag dean, USDA undersecretary Gale Buchanan pens second book

By Sharon Dowdy

Gale A. Buchanan, retired dean and director of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and former U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics, has penned his second book, “Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century.”

His latest book, published by Texas A&M University Press, details his ideas on how increased agricultural research can lead to a more efficient food production system, one that can provide food for a projected population of more than 9 billion people by 2050.

Agricultural economists have shown that the sum total of land, labor and capital inputs employed in agriculture has hardly changed since 1948. However, by 2009, the output of crops and livestock had risen over two-and-a-half times,” Buchanan said. “That increase in output, then, is almost entirely due to knowledge-based productivity gains. Agricultural research is essential to increasing output while holding inputs constant. This is, indeed, a challenge, but it is possible if we maintain robust support of agricultural research.

Buchanan’s book covers the grand challenges he sees that, if successfully addressed, would bring about a “new paradigm” in agricultural productivity. These challenges include improving soil quality and energy efficiency, eliminating animal diseases and breeding crop plants that are productive in unpredictable climates and have “greater water, nitrogen and other nutrient efficiencies."

Almost a billion people do not have adequate food, and many more do not consume the proteins, fats and minerals necessary for normal human development, he said.

“For a secure and peaceful planet, all people must have a reasonable level of food security. We are fortunate to live in a country with an abundant food supply. All people on this planet are not so lucky,” Buchanan said. “Our system has been phenomenally successful with even meager funding for agricultural research. However, to meet the challenges that lie ahead, agricultural research must be better supported.”

Buchanan sees agricultural research in the future that is adequately funded, internationally cooperative and based on research that involves scientists, administrators, educators, farmers, politicians and consumers.

Agriculture has been an integral part of Buchanan’s life since childhood, when he hoed weeds in peanuts on his family’s farm in Madison County, Florida. He left the farm to earn undergraduate degrees in agronomy from the University of Florida and traveled to corn country to earn a doctoral degree in plant physiology from Iowa State University. He then focused on research related to the reduction of weed pressure in agronomic crops.

In 2013, Buchanan co-authored “Leadership in Agriculture: Case Studies for a New Generation.”

“Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century” is available through Texas A&M Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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