Feeding the world has become harder and harder as the human population balloons. One of the ways that this problem is being tackled is through the use of technology to grow crops where they previously would not have been able to live. Drought resistant crops that can thrive where water is limited increase the ability of farmers to feed the world.
Drought-Associated Crop Issues
Water is not an unlimited resource, and it tends to be fairly unpredictable. All freshwater originally fell as rain, and tends to turn over fairly quickly. This means that if a given region has a dry winter, there’s less water in all of the rivers that drain from that region, potentially affected huge swaths area. Drought resistant crops are very helpful in these situations.
Farmers already plant crops that they think will grow well on their land whenever possible. However, sometimes the crop that sells the best is the one that is least likely to grow in a particular region. In these cases, people often have to make do with meager yields or switch to a less popular, less profitable crop. When the crop serves as a major food source, the situation is even more dire than loss of income.
The Development of Drought Resistant Crops
Drought resistant plants can either be artificially selected for or genetically engineered. Artificial selection is the same process that people have been using for thousands of years in order to create various different types of plants and breeds of animals. It simply involves selecting the most drought resistant plants and using their seeds for the next year. Genetic engineering involves changing the plant at the genome level through biotechnology.
Artificial selection is familiar, and most people are comfortable with it. However, it tends to be a slow process, working over many generations, and it has limitations. Crops that usually require large amounts of water are rarely able to be converted to versions that require little water. They may be selected to use less water, but in order to grow, they will still need a fair amount.
Genetic engineering tends to frighten people. However, genetically engineering plants to be drought resistant is the kind of result that biotechnology is all about. Many people have heard of introducing glowing jelly-fish genes into frogs, or something similar, and wondered what application that could possibly have. Well, probably none. Introducing a gene for water conservation from a desert plant into a commercial crop, though– that has a lot of practical applications.
Genetically Modified Crops
In the US, genetically engineered crops have been being grown and consumed for many years now. The majority of corn, soybean, cotton and sugar beet crops in the US are genetically engineered. GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) corn and cotton grown are mostly strains containing the Bt gene, which limits insect destruction of the plants and reduces the need for pesticide spraying.
There is little or no evidence that GMO crops are dangerous for humans. Most of the modern concerns regarding these plants is the unintentional hybridization with other plants, which could result in monster weeds. Although some believe the risks to be very low, no one can exactly predict what would happen were some of these transgenes introduced into wild plant lineages.
How Drought Resistant Crops Could Change The World
Drought resistant versions of major staple crops such as rice, corn and wheat would allow people in poorer regions of the world to increase their yields of these foods substantially during dry years. A gene has recently been discovered that causes rice crops to double production during drought years. Drought resistant corn results were less dramatic but still successful– 7% more corn was harvested from GMO plants during a drought than by their non-GMO cousins.
This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at rbauction.com. For those who need construction equipment for their farm, visit rbauction.com to see their great used construction equipment.