The Japanese agriculture is undergoing a profound transformation brought about by the declining and aging population in rural areas, the institutionalization of farm management, the emerging impact of climate change in crop production environment, and the diversification of consumer needs. As the world population is expected to reach about 9 billion by the year 2050, Japan in conjunction with the international community must contribute in securing a stable food supply despite the deterioration of farmlands due to climate change or as a consequence of economic activities. The NARO Institute of Crop Science (NICS), which is one of the core research institutes of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), is addressing this issue by developing new crop cultivars that will support Japanese agriculture in the future and the establishment of basic technologies to achieve this goal.
It goes without saying that the development of improved cultivars is the foundation of agricultural productivity. In particular, enhanced production in the rural areas and stabilization of income from agricultural activities can be achieved by breeding crops with highly desirable characteristics, such as cultivars that can be easily grown by farmers, or cultivars with qualities that appeal to consumers. So far, NARO has developed and released many crop cultivars which are now widely cultivated. On the other hand, crop improvement methods using DNA markers has been greatly accelerated with the recent advances in genome analysis. We will use these promising technologies towards the advancement of breeding methods, and the development of new breeding materials and novel cultivars of rice, wheat, barley, soybean and other crops.
Furthermore, in order to accurately respond to structural and other changes in the needs of consumers, it is important not only to strengthen our research capability and resources but also to pursue active collaboration with other research organizations in the public, private and academic sectors. The Advanced Genomic Breeding Section of NICS has been established to promote such research collaborations, and the Director of Applied Genomics Research is taking charge of the coordination of the needs and basic technologies among breeding projects within NARO to facilitate the advancement and promotion of crop breeding in Japan.
Agricultural productivity is increasingly becoming a mainstream challenge in both the domestic and the international front, and such initiative will depend more and more on the development of new crops. As a core institute in breeding crop cultivars, we will strive in strengthening Japanese agriculture through innovative research, and bringing the benefits to producers and consumers. We hope for your continuous support and cooperation in our future endeavors.
Masahiro YANO, PhD
NARO Institute of Crop Science