CfP: The history of crop science and the future of food

Since the turn of the twentieth century, crop science has pushed agricultural productivity to unprecedented levels, while expanding production frontiers worldwide. These achievements have been widely celebrated for averting famine and sustaining economic development even as global population expanded dramatically.

However, a dominant narrative of science-driven agricultural growth over this period has at times obscured the persistence of hunger, emergence of environmental problems, and contributions of scientific research and technological interventions to inequality despite the best intentions of those working in crop science and related fields. Historical accounts of agricultural change have been crucial in forging new understandings of the (uneven) contributions of crop science to sustaining human communities and cultures at local, regional, and global scales.

This special issue of Plants, People, Planet will bring new voices and perspectives to the ongoing project of understanding the history of agricultural science and development, with the goal of better informing research and policy of the present and future.

Contributions will offer historically informed accounts that chart how and with what consequences various kinds of knowledge, labour, techniques and tools within crop science and allied fields were used to advance agricultural production in specific times and places. They will reflect especially on how historical perspectives help us to understand the relationships among crop science, environmental change, food security and, ultimately, human well-being.

In bringing together geographically diverse and historically rich perspectives, the special issue will seek to offer new insights into the changing role of plant scientists and other researchers in shaping the conservation, utilization and cultivation of diverse crop varieties and communities’ experiences of food security and sovereignty – during a period in which scientists aimed to address these as increasingly pressing, and increasingly global, concerns.

We welcome contributions that adopt historical methods and materials to explore the development of crop science and allied fields in the period since 1900 and assess the contributions of crop science knowledge, labour, tools or techniques to social, agricultural, or environmental change in particular times and places. We are particularly interested in archive-based case studies and studies that highlight the voices and contributions of figures marginalised or missing in existing studies.

Contributions may include (but are not limited to) historical accounts of:

  • The knowledge, labour, tool and/or techniques imagined or used as means of creating or disseminating new crop varieties
  • The development of specific commodities or crop varieties
  • The development of particular institutions or programmes for crop science
  • The role of the state, economy and society in shaping research programmes
  • The effect of conflict or (post)colonial conditions on crop selection and production

Please submit your manuscript by 31 March 2023. Contact the Editorial Office if you have any questions, or a potential manuscript that you would like to discuss.