The demand for agricultural crops is expected to more than double by 2050. This is due largely to an increase in world population, which is anticipated to grow from about 7 billion people today, to well over 9 billion in 2050, but also reflects increasing consumption of meat and dairy products, and the use of biomass in the production of biofuels. Meeting the goal of doubling crop production by 2050 is a major challenge. Indeed, between 1985 and 2005, crop yields per acre increased only about 20% (Ray et al. 2012). If this increase alone were to continue until 2050, we would fall well short of demand. Moreover, the increases in yields for the major crops that feed the world—maize, rice, wheat and soybeans—have stagnated in many regions including locations within the U.S. (Ray et al. 2012; Grassini et al. 2013). In addition, we are in a period of climate instability (climate change) with an uncertain future, and the potential of having major negative impacts on crop productivity. What is needed is a “Second Green Revolution” that includes what the Royal Society has referred to a “sustainable intensification of global agriculture”. This goal, which will necessitate higher yields with less input of water, will require the development of crops that are more resistant to abiotic and biotic stresses including drought, high temperature, flooding, disease (bacterial, fungal, viral) and insect pests.
The Plant Resilience Institute (PRI) at Michigan State University (MSU) was launched in 2016 as part of MSU’s Global Impact Initiative that has a goal to hire 100 new faculty to accelerate solving grand challenges. MSU is the pioneer land grant university with a significant national and international agriculture research portfolio. The mission of the PRI is to enhance plant resilience to environmental challenges including extremes in weather and climate change becoming a “Center of Excellence” for foundational and translational plant research aimed at increasing the productivity and quality of food and energy crops.
PRI faculty, eleven currently with an anticipated expansion in 2018, include junior and senior faculty from diverse disciplines (biochemistry, genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, microbiology, and pathology), with expertise in both model and crop species, drought adaptation, microbial ecology, and nanotechnology. PRI faculty include members of the National Academy of Sciences, an HHMI Investigator, Endowed Professors, AAAS/ASPB fellows, and Distinguished Professors.