Over the last few years, there has been much fretting about the ability of farmers to feed and clothe a booming world population, expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. One solution to keep bellies full: share knowledge now that will, hopefully, drive new agronomic methods and technological breakthroughs in coming years.

Towards that end, following up on earlier commitments, the G8 countries (France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada) are now providing open access to government-funded research that impacts agriculture. This week, the countries – along with representatives from Africa – met to kick-start the process.

The countries involved “are interested in making (agriculture research data) available so useful applications can be developed,” said USDA Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki on Tuesday (April 30). “We’ve been meeting for the last two days at the World Bank. We’ve heard a series of presentations on all the different kinds of data that are being made available through the use of the Internet.

“The United States made a big announcement: we’ve created a new community for data that relates to food, agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. There are now 350 data sets available.”

The site and data can be accessed at www.data.gov.

More on the conference here.

Woteki said already there’s been an “enormous amount of interest” in the project and “a lot of excitement about applications already being made with these data – helpful to farmers, helpful to decision makers, helpful to policy makers.”

One example of how technology is aiding developing countries is increasing cell phone use by African farmers. The information the farmers are able to access – such as weather reports and market prices – provide a much better chance for a successful cropping season and healthy bottom line.

More on cell phone use by farmers in developing nations here.