Varieties that are responsive to nutrients slowly released from organic matter by biological activity are needed to decrease the need for chemical inputs and increase the efficiency of nutrient cycling. Participatory breeding programmes are rapidly emerging to meet farmers’ needs, but such efforts require research support.

Soil fertility restoration. Soil scientists have long been aware that the soil has to be based on soil organic matter and a healthy population of soil organisms in order to cycle nutrients efficiently. More beneficial species are being identified and scientists are making progress in understanding their roles in nutrient cycling, disease suppression and crop health. These ecological webs are often site-specific, depending on soil type, crop, climate and other factors. Science has still a long way to go to fully understand and address the critical issues of desertification and declining soil fertility.

Biological pest and disease control.
Classical biological control – the introduction and augmentation of populations of beneficial organisms – has still not caught up with the amount of research that has gone into chemical control.