Inaugural Lecture - Prof John Hickey
From Peter Crooks
Inaugural lecture of Professor John Hickey, Profesor of Animal Breeding
Breeding improves the efficiency, productivity, profitability and environmental impact of agriculture. Chickens in the 1950’s produced 330 kilograms of meat per tonne of feed. Chickens today produce 590 kilograms of meat per tonne of feed. This 79% improvement in efficiency has huge positive environmental consequences and makes animal protein available to a much greater proportion of the world population. Yields of maize in the US corn belt have increased 5 fold since the early 1930’s, with 50% of this improvement due to breeding.
While the gains from breeding have been spectacular, much remains to be done. Breeding programs need to double their rates of genetic gain, if agriculture is to meet the demand for food, fuel and fibre that the richer and more urbanised 9 billion people who will populate the planet in 2050 will require.
Although plant and animal breeding have similar objectives and have similar roots, the two fields, and their respective concepts and technology, have diverged over the past 100 or so years. However, the rebirth of an appreciation in data science, advances in genome sequencing and editing technology and advances in reproductive technology are driving a reconnection between plant and animal breeding.
In his inaugural lecture, John will discuss the convergence of plant and animal breeding and show how tools, methods, and technologies can be common to both fields and thus create the opportunity for synergy in research, training and implementation. He will argue that by integrating these two fields, disruptive innovations will emerge which will more than double the rates of genetic gain of breeding programs globally thereby enabling agriculture to play its part in societal and economic development and ensuring the planet is protected.