How can developmental biology help feed a growing population?

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Agriculture is challenged globally from a variety of fronts, including a steady increase in world population, changes in climate and a requirement to reduce fertiliser inputs. In the production of crops that are able to overcome these challenges, developmental biology can play a crucial role. The process of domesticating wild progenitors into edible crops is closely linked to modification of developmental processes, and the steps that are needed to face the current challenges will equally require developmental modifications. In this Spotlight, we describe the achievements by developmental biologists in identifying the genes responsible for domestication of some of the most important crops, and highlight that developmental biology is in a unique position to remain centre stage in improving crop performance to meet current and future demands. We propose that the explosive technological advances in sequencing, genome editing and advanced data processing provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to combine scientific disciplines and realise the continued potential of plants as the primary food source for generations to come.