Anticipating a world population of 9 billion people by 2050, global agriculture faces the daunting challenge of increasing food production by 70 percent to 100 percent in the next four decades, without significantly increasing prices.

To better focus on the overwhelming task at hand, a multidisciplinary team of 55 agricultural and food experts from the world’s major agricultural organizations, scientific societies and academic institutions recently identified the top 100 questions that must be answered to achieve such a dramatic increase in global food production. Among this group was Thomas P. Tomich, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis.

Those 100 key questions for the future of global food production appear this month in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

The top 100 questions cover 13 priority themes and are intended to help frame the research, policy and funding agendas for global agriculture. They were selected from an initial list of 618 questions that had been identified by a core group of experts representing universities, United Nations agencies, research institutes, non-governmental organizations, foundations and regional research secretariats in 23 countries.

Tomich, one of the paper’s co-authors, predicts that global agricultural and food systems will have to change substantially to feed the world, especially in light of looming issues such as climate change, water stresses, energy insecurity and dietary shifts.

“California is a hub for technological and scientific innovation, and we can set the pace for a transition to a more sustainable food system, providing inspiration and insights for the world,” Tomich said. “Indeed, if we cannot pull this off in California, who can?”

He noted that it is imperative for the scientific research agenda to keep abreast with the challenges of global food production.

“For California agriculture to stay at the cutting edge in a competitive food system that is facing increasingly complex challenges worldwide, our researchers need to be engaged globally,” he said.