Grand Challenges

ASA Grand Challenges

Double global food, feed, fiber, and fuel production on existing farmland within the 21st century with production systems that:

  • enable food security;
  • use resources more efficiently;
  • enhance soil, water, and air quality, biodiversity, and ecosystem health;
  • and are economically viable and socially responsible.

Read more details about key questions and outcomes for each challenge.

Food Security

Food security is critical to overcome poverty and achieve peace among nations. Future populations need access to adequate, safe, and nutritious food. Yet, population growth and rising incomes will require doubling of crop yields on existing farmland. Putting even greater pressure on agriculture will be a requirement that agriculture mitigate climate change and promote good land, air, and water stewardship. In order to achieve global and regional food security, solutions must be found to the following key questions.

Resource Use Efficiency

Agricultural crops which convert air, sunlight, water, and available plant nutrients into food, feed, fiber, and fuel, remove nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and water from soil. These same nutrients, if not applied according to agronomic principles can negatively impact the environment, affecting air, soil and water quality. Nitrogen, P, and K are also limited in supply because of high energy requirements in the case of N or because they come from finite geologic deposits (e.g. K and P). Water resources for irrigation are also often limited. Therefore, future food security and environmental quality will depend on achieving a large increase in nutrient- and water-use efficiency, while also enabling a continuation of rapid increases in crop yields on land currently in production.

Enhancement of Ecosystem Services Provided by Agriculture

Agriculture is multifunctional; it is both dependent on and can be complementary to ecosystem functions that produce goods. The study of natural and managed ecosystems, including agroecosystems, has shown that these systems provide services that generate goods essential to life. Ecosystem goods include clean air, water, soil, diverse plant and animal species, and wildlife habitat. Through agricultural and plant production, soil can provide multiple services that include not only food, feed, fiber, and fuel production, but also carbon storage, erosion control, plant growth, nutrient cycling, and water filtration and storage. Improving and maintaining soil quality through proper management and care of soil is critical for the production of these goods. While ecosystem services are difficult to value monetarily, they have intrinsic value because they produce goods that support our health and economy. As society realizes the value of these services and goods, new ecosystem service markets are developing. To ensure that these markets are based on sound science, it is critical to understand the multifunctional relationships occurring in major agroecosystems. In this way, the services provided can be enhanced.

Agriculture as an Economically Viable and Socially Responsible Sector

Agricultural systems are the foundation of human health, economic development and political stability. Productive and sustainable agricultural systems will be achieved through high-quality, interdisciplinary, and integrated research, education, and extension.