Rockey stresses importance of ag research during Heuermann Lecture

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April 27, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, said advances in agricultural research have played a significant role in improving life expectancy and quality of life and will be critical to feeding the world's growing population.

Sally Rockey
Sally Rockey speaks on food and agriculture research during the Heuermann Lecture Tuesday afternoon at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Rockey, who has devoted her career to improving people's lives through research, delivered the final Heuermann Lecture of the 2015-16 season April 26 at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

According to Rockey, controlling foodborne pathogens and the growth of nutritious foods have been critical in improving people's lives.

"At least 50 percent of our increased life expectancy is due to agriculture," she said.

Rockey said that with the introduction of new technologies, science is advancing at a pace never before seen. To meet the demands of feeding a growing population, she said it's critical for research to keep up with advances in science.

To drive research in food and agriculture, Rockey is developing partnerships between the public and private sectors. This type of partnership offers incentives for both sides to engage, including direct access to important research for the private sector and the opportunity to address real-world problems for the public sector. The result is research that can be transferred quickly to the economy.

"The outcomes of precompetitive research have the potential to positively impact all parties equally," Rockey said. "It allows resources and data to be readily shared."

How that data is shared is another area of focus of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. There are a lot of differences in opinion in the agricultural industry, Rockey said. Scientists tend to believe the public doesn't agree with their way of thinking because they don't have enough information on a given topic, she said. Therefore, they continue to share more data, which does not resonate with the public or convince them to change their minds.

"There's a great disconnect between scientists and the public," Rockey said.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is looking at ways to better work with the public to understand how this disconnect can be diminished in agriculture. Major focus areas of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska¬-Lincoln, such as water for food, food for health, soil health and plant phenotyping align with the foundation's priorities and the two are working closely together in these areas.

The lecture was the closing keynote of the seventh annual Water for Food Global Conference, which focused on the powerful impact of public-private partnerships in water for food research, technology and product development. The international conference was organized by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources are possible through a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips. The Heuermanns are longtime university supporters with a strong commitment to Nebraska's production agriculture, natural resources, rural areas and people. Lectures stream live and are archived here. They also air on NET2 World at a later date.

Jessie Brophy
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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