The University of Illinois hosted the special event “Feeding a Heating Planet” — the third and final edition of the PBS NewsHour series “Tipping Point: Agriculture on the Brink” on May 24, 2023.

During the 90-minute livestreamed event, Emmy-award-winning science journalist and Tipping Point Executive Producer Miles O’Brien interviewed industry leaders alongside experts from the University. Audience questions submitted were addressed.

The United Nations estimates the world population will reach 10 billion by 2060. As the world's population expands, so do concerns about how to sustainably grow enough food. Food production also takes a toll on the environment. A recent U.N.-backed study found that more than one-third of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions come from the way our food is processed and packaged.

The program delved deep into possible solutions, such as biotech approaches, to make farming more climate-resilient; the role remote sensing, data analysis, modeling, and artificial intelligence can play in planting smarter; crop diversification as a strategy for making agriculture carbon negative; erosion and water quality issues that can be addressed by relatively simple techniques like reduced or no-tillage and cover cropping; and the role the federal government could play in creating incentives for change in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Andrew Leakey, head of plant biology and professor of crop sciences, and head of the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), discussed research aimed at developing crops with improved water-use efficiency.

Stephen Long, professor of plant biology and crop sciences and director of the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project, delved into efforts to identify and intervene at the genetic level to enhance crop resilience to high temperatures.

Andrew Margenot, professor of crop sciences and affiliate faculty in the Program in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology, discussed how soil is an important factor to secure our food supply.

The program also featured university alumni, local farmers, experts from the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Triple Helix Institute, and U.S. Senator Debbi Stabenow.

The “Tipping Point” series is sustained by a generous grant from the principal funder, the Walton Family Foundation, which also supports Margenot’s research. Additional funding is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and John F. Swift.

Watch the Tipping Point special event on Youtube:

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