Major challenges lie ahead for farmers growing the world's tropical crops, particularly the fruit and nut crops. These include the difficulty of delivering increasing quantities of better quality, safer, food while using fewer resources of land, water and inputs. Biotechnology, in the broadest sense, has been applied to the improvement of plants and plant products since their first selection for agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Tropical and subtropical fruit and nut crop species represent 30% of the 150 primary food crops distinguished by FAO, and together provide more than 15% of the world's human food supply. The major commodity crops, wheat, rice and maize, are critical to providing energy in diets.
Progress in the crop sciences can both increase the range of options available by providing crop varieties suitable for different agricultural systems, and can also define the medium-term outcomes of different strategies. Biotechnology must impact the quality of diets and safety. Biotechnology is now making contributions to the development of fruit and nut crops ranging from the propagation of planting materials, through development of disease-free (particularly virus-free) stocks, to the directed breeding of new cultivars. These deliverables can increase production and sustainability of crops, and provide defined quality and safety characteristics: new developments in fruit and nut crops will play an increasing part in increasing the quality of life of the world's population.