chapter
20 Pages

Sustainability Considerations in Wheat Improvement and Production

Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is the most widely grown and consumed food crop. It is the staple food of nearly 35% of the world population and demand for wheat grows faster than for any other major crop. The forecasted global demand for wheat in 2020 varies between 840 and 1050 million tons (Kronstad, 1998; Rosegrant et al., 1995). To reach this target, global production will need to increase 1.6 to 2 .6% annually from the present production level of 560 million tons. Increases in realized grain yield have provided about 90% of the growth in world cereal production since 1950 (Mitchell et al., 1997) and by the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, most of the increase needed in world food production must come from higher absolute yields (Ruttan, 1993). For wheat, the global average grain yield must increase from the current 2.7 to 3.81 ha-1 (Figure 1). The future increases in food productivity will require substantial research and development investments to improve the profitability of wheat production systems through enhancing input-use efficiency along with other important crops like rice, maize, millets, and tubers. A global targeting of wheat average yield of 3.8 t ha-1 by 2020 is a necessary step towards meeting the UN millennium goal.