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Laboratory Scientist

Agriculture  Research & Development 

Farmer's Pride International Investments has an Agricultural Research & Development  (ARD) project at its Global HQ in the USA, this is a crucial determinant of agricultural productivity and production and therefore food prices and poverty. Its work is on providing evidence of investments in public agricultural R&D worldwide as an indicator of the prospects for agricultural productivity growth over the coming decades. The agricultural R&D world is changing, and in ways that will definitely affect future global patterns of poverty, hunger, and other outcomes. The overall picture is one in which the middle-income countries are growing in relative importance as producers of agricultural innovations through public investments in R&D and have consequently better prospects as producers of agricultural products, although the important role of privately performed R&D gives a substantial innovative edge to the higher income countries where most of this R&D takes place.

Public investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) is important for global food security and environmental sustainability. Although public agricultural R&D projects are associated with high economic returns, they are characterized by long time horizons and temporal lags. The inherent lag, between when R&D investment takes place and when it comes to fruition, implies that its stability is critical. Existing studies on the stability of public agricultural R&D expenditure are restricted to Sub-Saharan Africa and find evidence of considerable volatility in these expenditures when compared to other developing regions.

Image by Lucas Vasques


In the late 19th century public agricultural research institutions were set up in the advanced industrialized nations of today. These paved the way for technological change and transformation in the agricultural systems of these countries (Ruttan, 1982). In the last 50–100 years, dramatic changes in agricultural productivity and production have taken place, driven in large part by investments in public and private agricultural research (Alston and Pardey, 2014). These increases in agricultural productivity have by and large occurred across the globe, encompassing high-income (Andersen and Song, 2013Khan et al., 2017Thirtle et al., 2008) as well as middle- and low-income countries (Adetutu and Ajayi, 2020Fan et al., 2000Suphannachart and Warr, 2011), and involving their respective public sector agricultural R&D organizations. Today, nearly all countries in some form or another have national agricultural research institutes (Fuglie, 2018).

Thus, public sector agricultural research and development (R&D) has played an important role in increasing agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) across countries (Fuglie, 2018Rawat and Akter, 2020). These past patterns of growth in agricultural productivity have had important implications for food security and poverty (Alston et al., 2009a). In current times the role for agricultural R&D has expanded further. From boosting agricultural productivity and improving food security, agricultural R&D is now also viewed as a powerful means to ensure environmental sustainability and tackle climate change (Acevedo et al., 2018). The former through interventions and innovations that can minimize ecological damage while increasing productivity (Swaminathan, 2017); the latter through research that focusses on combatting potential threats and adverse effects arising from a mean rise in temperature, and also by mitigating the effects of global green-house gases resulting from agriculture (Lobell et al., 2013).

According to the 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, in order to sustainably meet the needs of an estimated 10 billion people in 2050, global agricultural productivity would need to increase from the current average annual rate of 1.63% to a rate of 1.73% per annum (Steensland, 2019). Given the limited natural resources and degradation of the resources already in use (Fuglie, 2015), increases in agricultural productivity would need to accrue from intensification, i.e. by raising the yield per hectare. This makes the role of public agricultural R&D in raising agricultural productivity critical. Thus, stagnant or declining levels of public investment in agricultural R&D put future agricultural productivity growth at risk (Fuglie, 2015).



Funding for agricultural research and development (R&D), both public and private, has decreased over the years. The success of the Green Revolution may have resulted in a complacent attitude among funding agencies. Given the recognition of the need for food and the cost of research and development, most people now view this reduction in funding as a huge mistake. Several agencies, NGOs, and private sector firms are now reversing this trend. Private funding plays an important role in taking the new developments to the farmer. However, many of the breakthroughs in research happen in the public sector. An investment in the public sector is essential to create breakthroughs in helping the world meet the food demands of the future.


1. The state of public agricultural R&D today

2. A shift in the traditional bastions of agricultural research

3. Sustainable Food Systems and Agriculture

4. Cluster Farming in Agriculture

3. Agriculture in Fragile States 

4. Agriculture Production

5. Integrated Management of Soil Fertility

5. The benefits of Technology in Agriculture 

6. AR&D in fighting poverty and Hunger in Africa

7. Agroecology systems in Agriculture 



Agroecological approaches related to co-creation and sharing of knowledge support climate
change adaptive capacity (strong evidence, medium agreement). Multiple lines of evidence show
that engaging with local knowledge through participatory and education approaches are effective
at adapting technologies to local contexts and thereby delivering improved climate change
adaptation and mitigation.


Farmer co-creation and exchange of knowledge, community-based, participatory engagement,
localised solutions and social organising are the common components of field programmes for bringing agroecology to scale. Scaling agroecology systems, as opposed to practices, made
more use of participatory and farmer-to-farmer processes and the role of policy, according to the
research. Scaling also relied on market and policy measures that privileged local production.

Plant Biologist


We recommend Investment in the analysis of performance across multiple dimensions and trade-offs for approaches aligned with agroecology relative to other agricultural development approaches, at plot and farm levels, as well as beyond. This should include cost-effectiveness. Valuation of a range of agroecological benefits can be hard to quantify (e.g., environmental and social benefits), and
economics often reflects the current policy context and short-term horizons.

We recommend investments in an outcome-based approach to assessing the performance of agricultural development. This is to avoid contestation around what is encompassed by a specific label for an agricultural alternative, and instead, assess performance in terms of environmental services and climate change response.

Therefore, evidence-based priority investments is required that  include:

  • The diversification of products and practices at field, farm and landscape levels.

  • Processes that support farmer innovation, co-learning and adaptation of innovations to local contexts.

  • Move beyond contestation regarding what is agroecology and alternative labels. Focus instead on assessing outcomes of agricultural development approaches and building on indicator frameworks newly available (TAPE, Sustainable Intensification (SI) Assessment Framework).

To address urgent knowledge gaps, research priorities include:


  • Barriers and how to enhance opportunities for scaling out of diversification and local adaptation processes, across landscapes and regions, through multiple agricultural development pathways

  • Research in tropical and low-income countries on climate change adaptation to extreme weather
    and quantitative assessment of mitigation outcomes at multiple scales.

  • Scientific documentation of the effectiveness of agroecological approaches compared to
    alternatives, including performance in terms of environmental, social and cost-effectiveness, and
    the direction of impact on climate change outcomes.

  • South-South research collaboration that includes agroecology.

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