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APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE

APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE

Crop yield

  • Using the techniques of modern biotechnology, one or two genes may be transferred to a highly developed crop variety to impart a new character that would increase its yield.
  • However, while increases in crop yield are the most obvious applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture, it is also the most difficult one.

Reduced vulnerability of crops to environmental stresses

  • Crops containing genes that will enable them to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses may be developed. For example, drought and excessively salty soil are two important limiting factors in crop productivity.
  • Biotechnologists are studying plants that can cope with these extreme conditions in the hope of finding the genes that enable them to do so and eventually transferring these genes to the more desirable crops.                                              APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE
  • One of the latest developments is the identification of a plant gene, At-DBF2, from Arabidopsis thaliana, a tiny weed that is often used for plant research because it is very easy to grow and its genetic code is well mapped out.
  • When this gene was inserted into tomato and tobacco cells, the cells were able to withstand environmental stresses like salt, drought, cold and heat, far more than ordinary cells.

Increased nutritional qualities

  • Proteins in foods may be modified to increase their nutritional qualities.
  • Proteins in legumes and cereals may be transformed to provide the amino acids needed by human beings for a balanced diet. For example, Golden rice.

Improved taste, texture or appearance of food

  • Modern biotechnology can be used to slow down the process of spoilage so that fruit can ripen longer on the plant and then be transported to the consumer with a still reasonable shelf life. This alters the taste, texture and appearance of the fruit.                                APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE
  • More importantly, it could expand the market for farmers in developing countries as due to the reduction in spoilage. For example, engineering soybeans to resist spoilage makes them less suitable for producing tempeh which is a significant source of protein that depends on fermentation.

Reduced dependence on fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals

  • Most of the current commercial applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture are on reducing the dependence of farmers on agrochemicals. For example, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a soil bacterium that produces a protein with insecticidal qualities.
  • Crops have also been genetically engineered to acquire tolerance to broad-spectrum herbicide. The lack of herbicides with broad-spectrum activity and no crop injury was a consistent limitation in crop weed management.                                                APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE
  • The introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops has the potential of reducing the number of herbicide active ingredients used for weed management, reducing the number of herbicide applications made during a season, and increasing yield due to improved weed management and less crop injury.

    Production of novel substances in crop plants

  • Biotechnology is being applied for novel uses other than food. For example, oilseed can be modified to produce fatty acids for detergents, substitute fuels and petrochemicals.
  • Potatoes, tomatoes, rice tobacco, lettuce, safflowers, and other plants have been genetically engineered to produce insulin and certain vaccines.
  • If future clinical trials prove successful, the advantages of edible vaccines would be enormous, especially for developing countries.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

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