Throughout the 20th century, improvements in agricultural productivity have alleviated poverty and starvation and fuelled economic progress. These productivity improvements have been closely linked to investments in agricultural research and development (R&D). However, in the past 25 years many countries have made major changes to the ways they fund and organise public agricultural R&D, and the incentives affecting private R&D. These changes raise questions about the prospects for sustaining productivity growth over the next 25 years and beyond. Early indicators suggest that a global slowdown in farm productivity may have already begun.