Food production has increased dramatically over the past century. Breeding of improved crop varieties with higher yields played a central role in increasing outputs which also rose as a result of use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and mechanization. As much as 20%-40% of increased yields between 1945 and 1990 are estimated by some to be attributed to plant breeding (Pimentel and others 1997).
In the future an increase in agricultural yields will continue to be necessary. Just satisfying the expected food and feed demand will require a substantial increase of global food production of 70 percent by 2050 according to projections made by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Additionally new crop varieties will need to help decrease pressure on the environment by being less demanding on water and soil nutrients while being adapted to a changing climate.
Conservation of crop diversity by genebanks can play a key role in helping breed improved agricultural varieties to bridge the yield gap to meet future global needs for food.