Representative Subtheme Challenge:

FAI-02: Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability

Imagine a future where a visit to a local farm reveals fields of perennial crops flourishing on what was once considered marginal land. These crops, resilient to climate extremes, are a result of advanced biotechnological research, integrated precision agriculture, and robust plant breeding. They not only provide sustainable bioenergy feedstocks but also enhance soil health and biodiversity. This transformation, driven by interdisciplinary collaboration, signifies a major shift towards environmentally sustainable agriculture, contributing significantly to job creation and economic growth. Continuous investment in this innovative field has redefined agricultural practices, turning ideals of sustainability into tangible realities. It's a world where advanced biotech and ecological mindfulness synergize, making sustainable agriculture a cornerstone of the bioeconomy.

There is a critical need for resilient, systems-level approaches in diversifying agricultural production to withstand environmental stress. Challenges include efficient land use for biomass for bioenergy, growth of perennials as bioenergy feedstocks, improved use of so-called ‘marginal’ land for agriculture and establishing universal definitions and standards for 'marginal land' and sustainability. There's an urgent need to automate agricultural sectors using robotics and precision agriculture to buffer agricultural systems against climate-related extremes and to enhance sustainability. Environmental opportunities lie in utilizing marginal lands, improving soil health, and integrating clean energy and water conservation practices in agriculture.

CASA-Bio stakeholders representing government, industry, and non-profit sectors, identified areas of mutual interest where concerted effort among them may lead more quickly to the realization of the envisioned future. These are a few of their ideas. Research should focus on measuring carbon intensity for growers, better predicting crop yields, and reducing carbon footprints of farming. Improving soils and crop yield by incorporating use of microbes into farming practices should be explored. Growing strategies should explore and incorporate nitrogen-fixing oilseed crops, and new crops for controlled environments. Advancements in feedstock-agnostic processing and conversion technologies are also needed. Emphasis should also be placed on applied automation in agriculture, including for production, management, harvest, and non-chemical pest and disease control and leveraging technological advancements from other sectors like aerospace and defense. We emphasize that this list is not comprehensive; we need you to help us think deeper within this subtheme!

As a member of the R&D community, you too are a CASA-Bio stakeholder, and providing your insight on R&D projects that undergird this sub-theme and lead to solutions is critical. Your ideas will matter! Your individual project ideas and those developed as part of the collaborative Town Hall process will be combined to produce an aggregate view. This view will help us understand not only the interests of the R&D community, but also what they are willing to do to advance the bioeconomy. Topics among the R&D project ideas we receive will help government, industry, and non-profit stakeholders see the potential of the US R&D community to address critical future needs and help define topics for future exploration through workshops and roadmapping.

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CASA-Bio is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Contract No. 49100423P0058. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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