Paul Schickler, DuPont Pioneer president, said there's no doubt that grand challenges face production agriculture in the future to meet the needs of an expanding global population.
"The challenge is significant and you could say overwhelming," Schickler said in a recent visit to Texas A&M University for the Blue Bell Lecture Series.
To meet these challenges, Schickler said it will require the use of "all capabilities when it comes to modern science, technology, people and policy. All of them will have to come together."
It is projected that there will be 2 billion more people to feed globally in the coming decades and the challenge lies in the hands of students of agriculture.
"It's up to them and they need to be part of this," he said. "What we need is their enthusiasm and commitment not only dedicated to the field of agriculture, but getting others interested."
Schickler said students need to "open up their eyes" and broaden their interests of study.
"They may have an academic area they are focused upon or a hobby they have been focused upon. That's great. But they need to look a bit more broadly," he said. "Maybe take a double major or at least get interested in some other aspect of agricultural food science so that you've got different perspectives."
He said it might even be as simple as, 'I'm going to focus on plant improvement in rice,' but take a foreign science to go with it, or molecular biology with a computer background. Those kind of combinations are great."
Schickler said there's not a better combination than an agriculture background with an international business interest. He said students or individuals interested in pursuing a career in agriculture should consider "broadening their lens."
"We need skills across the spectrum – we need marketing and sales people. We need agronomists, biologists, pathologists; we need patent experts, financial experts – any career whether agriculture or food science or traditional disciplines, we need all of them. And all of those careers can find a home in agricultural and food production," Schickler said.
Schickler encouraged students of agriculture need to bring public awareness about the merits of agriculture and its critical implications to human life.
"For students studying agriculture, I say 'spread the word' about getting into this industry and how agriculture improves lives throughout the world," he said.