Chemistry in Our Daily Life

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The role of chemistry in feeding the world
David Lawrence SCI, 30th November 2010

12/8/2010

DKL SCI talk Nov 10

1

Assumptions
● Land available for agriculture will stay ~ constant ● Climate warming is broadly neutral on global yields ● CO2 raises water‐use efficiency, some yields; H2O limits others;  pests flourish

● World population will grow: 8bn by 2025, 9bn by 2050 ● Affluence drives demand for meat, cereals, edible oils ● Current energy use, GHG emissions unsustainable ≥50% more food required on same land area,  with improved sustainability 12/8/2010 DKL SCI talk Nov 10 2

Feeding the world is possible

● 50% more food possible in each of 4 ways 
● ● ● ● raise poor yields to the average by crop eliminate food waste stop eating meat raise ocean productivity to ¼ land productivity

● Outcome likely to be a blend of these

12/8/2010

DKL SCI talk Nov 10

3

Climate change creates work for breeders

● More heat units
● longer maturities

● Higher night temperatures
● reduced respiration rate

● More extreme events
● stress tolerance

● More pests, shifting spectrum

12/8/2010

DKL SCI talk Nov 10

4

Biologists have some “grand challenges”, e.g.

● Nitrogen fixation ● More efficient nutrient use ● More efficient water‐use ● Immunity to disease ● Convert C3 to C4 photosynthesis ● Plant biomass to replace fuels ●… 12/8/2010 DKL SCI talk Nov 10 5

Where are the chemistry “grand challenges?”

● Nitrogen fixation ● More efficient nutrient use ● More efficient water‐use ● Immunity to disease ● Convert C3 to C4 photosynthesis ● Plant biomass to replace fuels ●… 12/8/2010 DKL SCI talk Nov 10 6

Where are the chemistry “grand challenges?”

● Nitrogen fixation ● More efficient nutrient use ● More efficient water‐use ● Immunity to disease insect and weed pressure Sensors to reduce food waste ● Plant biomass to replace fuels ●… 12/8/2010 DKL SCI talk Nov 10 7

Reducing nitrogen fertilizer impacts

12/8/2010

DKL SCI talk Nov 10

8

Making nitrogen fertilizer use more sustainable

● New catalysts and/or processes
● energy 250GJ/t N in 1903 reduced to 
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