Study shows trends in public and private agricultural R&D

Nov 28, 2012

Analysis published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) in the most recent issue of the journal Science examine the relationship between public and private investments in research and development (R&D) and their importance in agricultural input industries. The Science article is drawn from a recent ERS study that provides new details on the rapid growth and changing composition of private investments in global agricultural R&D and traces the implications for agriculture.

"Agriculture is more dependent on scientific innovation than any other industry," said Catherine Woteki, USDA's Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "This study shows the great job that private industry is doing in research, much of which was built on the genetic technology USDA scientists have been working on for decades. It's crucial that we continue supporting this kind of R&D."

Research discussed in the article notes that globally, most of the increase in agricultural production over the past 50 years can largely be attributed to rising crop and livestock yields rather than to the expansion of acreage devoted to farming. As private sector investments comprise a greater and growing share of overall R&D spending, the findings from this study will help trace their influence on future productivity gains. The article also discusses how growth in private R&D helped to offset the sluggish growth in public R&D, describes how public research has provided many of the fundamental discoveries, and highlights overlooked research areas that consequently attract private R&D.

Reliable estimates of publicly funded agricultural research have previously been available, and studies have established strong links between these investments and the long-term growth of the productivity of American agriculture. But the ERS study is the first of its kind to provide comprehensive estimates and analyses of private sector R&D for agricultural input industries, even for global companies with R&D endeavors in different countries and sectors. The report defines agricultural inputs as animal genetics; animal nutrition; animal health; farm machinery; fertilizers; crop seed and biotechnology; and agricultural chemicals.

Findings reported in the Science article include:

  • Globally, about half or more of all private investment in food and agricultural have been devoted to food manufacturing, not toward input industries and other areas that directly increase agricultural production.
  • Recent increases in private agricultural input research have mostly centered on crops, including farm machinery and some biofuels investments; livestock-related research and crop protection chemicals have experienced less growth.
  • Research into biofuels has become increasingly important, with estimated global investments by private companies at approximately $1.47 billion in 2009.
  • In both crop seed and animal breeding, biotechnology research was an important driver of consolidation in these industries.
  • Private spending contributed to the overall growth in R&D for agricultural in the face of slowing or stagnant public R&D resources, but addressed a narrower set of research topics and input industries than publicly funded R&D.
  • Public policies have a major influence on private-sector incentives to invest in agricultural research. Intellectual property protection, regulatory frameworks, and especially, public investments in basic science that opens up new technological opportunities, have been important drivers of the growth of private agricultural R&D.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

More information: www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6110/1031.full

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ag firms outperform S&P 500

Apr 15, 2011

While the general economy has underperformed in the past several years, the crop farming sector has been not just stable, but profitable. A recent University of Illinois report comparing the returns from publicly traded ...

Is nitrogen the new carbon?

Sep 21, 2009

In looking forward to the next Green Revolution, researchers have been carefully examining the role of nitrogen fixation in delivering successful crops around the globe.

Projected food, energy demands seen to outpace production

Jun 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the caloric needs of the planet expected to soar by 50 percent in the next 40 years, planning and investment in global agriculture will become critically important, according a new report released today ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...