AUSTRALIA'S languishing investment in agricultural research and development is jeopardising the push to become Asia's food bowl.
That was the recurring concern at the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economic Society's annual conference in Sydney last week.
The conference heard Australia has fallen from ninth to 16th in a global rank of public agricultural R&D spending, behind key trading partners including China, Japan and the US.
Prof Phil Pardey, a University of Minnesota economist and former AARES president, said R&D investment was a "crucial determinant of agricultural productivity and production".
But the professor said a lack of government spending meant the "die is already cast" for Australian agriculture in the near future.
"A revitalisation of R&D spending over the next 10-20 years could significantly shift the path of productivity and prices by mid-century," Prof Pardey said.
Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh said to become Asia's food bowl - an aim articulated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year - "Australian farmers will have to find ways to produce more, using the same or even less land and water than they currently use".
Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig insisted R&D investment was a priority for the Government.