For Better Crops

For Better Crops

Jun 26
Germán Bollero, Head, Department of Crop Sciences

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that food production will need to increase by 70% to fulfill the requirements of 9.1 billion people by 2050. More importantly, food production will have to double in the developing world. Much has been said about these goals and the need to achieve them by reducing agriculture’s environmental impact. In synthesis, agriculture is challenged one more time to continue producing abundant and nutritious food while protecting the environment. 

Arguably the most exciting challenge for future generations of students interested not only in food production, but also in biology, environmental sciences, genetics, bioinformatics, and data analytics. If you want to make a meaningful impact that will benefit billions of people, join the Department of Crop Sciences. Through education, research, and outreach we have been solving the food production challenge locally and globally since 1867. Since then, a multidisciplinary group of scholars in plant sciences have been passionate about advancing our knowledge of crop improvement, cropping systems, and plant protection.

The history and future of the University of Illinois are intimately connected with our department. In 1870, Thomas J. Burrill became the first professor of botany and horticulture at the University of Illinois. Dr. Burrill was a pioneer in bacterial diseases of crops. In 1896, P.G. Holden was the first professor of agronomy in the United States. The oldest continuous research fields in the U.S. were established in 1876 by M. Miles, C.W. Silver, and G.E. Morrow. In 1896, Cyril G. Hopkins started the longest on-going genetic selection program in plants (The Illinois long-Term Selection Experiment) to modify levels of protein and oil in corn. These are just a few examples of forward-looking scholars that established basic and applied sciences as the foundation for improving agriculture. 

I invite you to investigate how scientists continue to look forward and work on the next challenges in food production. Today, our department is excited to be part of the latest scientific advances in genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, crop production, plant protection, water quality, and sustainable food systems. Our undergraduate and graduate programs prepare our students to lead the teams that will tackle tomorrow’s challenges. Our newest major, a combination of Computer Science and Crop Sciences, targets the increasing need to integrate data analytics into food production. 

In 1911, C. G. Hopkins and other scientists wrote the book entitled “For Better Crops” where the future of soil fertility, cropping systems, and crop genetics is presented. This title, “For Better Crops,” is why we passionately believe in continuing to build the future of research, teaching, and outreach in crop sciences.

Scientist in the lab