Recent trends in farm productivity and food prices raise concerns about whether the era of global agricultural abundance is over. Agricultural R&D is a crucial determinant of agricultural productivity and production, and therefore food prices and poverty. In this paper we review past and present agricultural production and productivity trends and present entirely new evidence on investments in public agricultural R&D worldwide as an indicator of the prospects for agricultural productivity growth over the coming decades. The agricultural R&D world is changing, and in ways that will definitely affect future global patterns of poverty, hunger and other outcomes. The global picture is mixed. In the world as a whole crop yield growth has slowed. In high-income countries productivity growth has slowed significantly, and real spending on agricultural R&D is being reduced. In China, and other middle-income countries, spending on agricultural R&D is being ramped up and productivity growth has not slowed. The overall picture is one in which the middle-income countries are growing in relative importance as producers of agricultural innovations through investments in R&D and have consequently better prospects as producers of agricultural products.