To meet the increasing global demand for food, feed, fibre and other plant-derived products, a steep increase in crop productivity is a scientifically and technically challenging imperative. The CropBooster-P project, a response to the H2020 call ‘Future proofing our plants’, is developing a roadmap for plant research to improve crops critical for the future of European agriculture by increasing crop yield, nutritional quality, value for non-food applications and sustainability. However, if we want to efficiently improve crop production in Europe and prioritize methods for crop trait improvement in the coming years, we need to take into account future socio-economic, technological and global developments, including numerous policy and socio-economic challenges and constraints. Based on a wide range of possible global trends and key uncertainties, we developed four extreme future learning scenarios that depict complementary future developments. Here, we elaborate on how the scenarios could inform and direct future plant research, and we aim to highlight the crop improvement approaches that could be the most promising or appropriate within each of these four future world scenarios. Moreover, we discuss some key plant technology options that would need to be developed further to meet the needs of multiple future learning scenarios, such as improving methods for breeding and genetic engineering. In addition, other diverse platforms of food production may offer unrealized potential, such as underutilized terrestrial and aquatic species as alternative sources of nutrition and biomass production. We demonstrate that although several methods or traits could facilitate a more efficient crop production system in some of the scenarios, others may offer great potential in all four of the future learning scenarios. Altogether, this indicates that depending on which future we are heading toward, distinct plant research fields should be given priority if we are to meet our food, feed and non-food biomass production needs in the coming decades.