Food security has determined the history of mankind. The global population will increase to about 9 billion during the next four decades. Food and feed demands have been projected to double in the 21st century, which will further increase the pressure on the use of land, water and nutrients. Clearly, there are gaps in our knowledge regarding the global capacity for a sustainable plant-based production to meet the demands of a bio-based economy, while maintaining food security. Complexity in the demand and supply of food, feed and fuel at local, regional and global scales asks for tailor-made solutions. The rapidly growing demand for food, feed and fuel will require transitions in land and water management, improving crop productivity and resource-use efficiencies. The present review discusses achievements and short-comings in meeting food security at a global and regional scale. Next, the avenues for future research in agronomy to enhance food production are presented. Progress should be made in: - Improving yield security and closing yield gaps by plant-soil-crop management practices based on knowledge-based support systems for contrasting conditions in land use and climatic conditions. - Making cropping systems adaptive to climate change and to biotic and abiotic stresses by genetic improvement of crops and increasing agro-diversity. Carrying out integrated assessments of biophysical and socio-economic constraints and opportunities to improve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems. - The ultimate objective is to achieve food security, sustainability and ecosystem services at regional and global scale on a cost-effective way. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.