DailyDirt: Feeding A Growing Population…
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Modern farming is evolving yet again as technology makes growing crops more efficient with increasingly clever tricks. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to mess with plant DNA to insert interspecies genes, but maybe there’s no reason for increasing crop yields or produce quality, anyway. Biologists are messing around with gene expression pathways instead, so they don’t need to change the DNA present — just when or how the genes are (or aren’t) activated. And better fertilizers could be on the way, too. Check out a few of these farming developments.
- There’s a way to grow 50% more corn by taking advantage of a newly-discovered regulatory pathway in the plant that controls the stem cell growth of corn (and possibly other crops as well). The resulting ears of corn don’t look all that pretty, but significantly more kernels per ear of corn increases crop yields without necessarily using more land or other resources. The researchers are still just exploring this new way to boost corn growth, and if you like eating corn on the cob — these mutant ears of corn might make you lose your appetite. [url]
- Maybe you’ve never heard of the Haber-Bosch process, but it’s essential for farming since it’s been used to create fertilizer (ammonia from nitrogen gas) for about 100 years now. It’s an energy intensive process, so the Department of Energy is looking for alternatives that are scalable, more sustainable and don’t require fossil fuels. [url]
- Pesticides and GMO crops may be replaced with RNA interference sprays that can kill bugs or alter plant genetic expression. Genetic sprays wouldn’t necessarily require GMO crops at all since a sprayed-on solution of RNA could effect desirable results without needing to change any plant DNA. Genes could be turned off at will with a spray, making plants more drought tolerant or poisoning insects by crippling their natural development. [url]
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