Taking Root: Global Trends in Agricultural Biotechnology

Nearly two decades of experience have shown that agricultural biotechnology has the potential to address some of the world’s pressing challenges. Its potential, however, cannot be addressed in isolation. Instead it should be part of a larger effort to expand the technological options needed to address persistent and emerging agricultural challenges.

The aim of this paper is to review the evidence on global trends in the application of agricultural biotechnology and identify some of their salient benefits. The paper is cognizant that biotechnology alone cannot solve the world’s agricultural challenges. But even though it is not a silver bullet, it should still be included in the package of technological options available to farmers. The evidence available today suggests that public policy should appeal more to pragmatism and less to ideology when seeking solutions to global agricultural challenges.


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Why Nigeria Matters to the World

“Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and 26th in the world. Its GDP stands at $510 billion with immense growth potential. A stable and peaceful Nigeria will contribute to Africa’s rise and integration into the global economy. On the other hand, an unstable, stagnant and conflict-driven Nigeria will be a threat to regional and global stability.”


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Ancient wisdom boosts sustainability of biotech cotton

Combining computer modeling and field research on cotton pests, a UA-led study suggests that biotechnology and traditional agriculture can be compatible approaches toward sustainable agriculture.

Advocates of biotech crops and those who favor traditional farming practices such as crop diversity often seem worlds apart, but a new study shows that these two approaches can be compatible. An international team led by Chinese scientists and Bruce Tabashnik at the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences discovered that the diverse patchwork of crops in northern China slowed adaptation to genetically engineered cotton by a wide-ranging insect pest. The results are published in the advance online edition ofNature Biotechnology. Read more

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Agricultural revolution in Africa could increase global carbon emissions

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Productivity-boosting agricultural innovations in Africa could lead to an increase in global deforestation rates and carbon emissions, a Purdue University study finds.

Historically, improvements in agricultural technology have conserved land and decreased carbon emissions at the global level: Gaining better yields in one area lessens the need to clear other areas for crops, sidestepping a land conversion process that can significantly raise the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Read more

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Using technology to decrease the knowledge gap between Ugandan men and women

URBANA, Ill. – If an in-the-flesh Extension specialist isn’t available to provide training, is a video of the specialist’s presentation or a video of a new agricultural practice a good substitute? The answer, according to a University of Illinois study with farmers in rural Uganda, isn’t simple, particularly when gender is factored into the equation.

“The literature in the field says communication materials like videos work best to support face-to-face communication,” said U of I agricultural communications professor Lulu Rodriguez. “But if you don’t have an Extension specialist available in a certain locale, a video is the next best thing. The two modes of presenting information work well, particularly for African women learners. It follows the African penchant for having a live presenter, someone to talk to, and their affinity for visuals. Those are important components to how they learn. If situations get dire, a video is a viable option, particularly if there is a live facilitator.” Read more

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Insights into plant growth could curb need for fertilizers

New insights into how plants regulate their absorption of an essential nutrient could help avoid pollution caused by excess use of fertiliser.

The findings could lead to the development of crop varieties that need less of the primary nutrient – nitrogen – than conventional crops. It could also inform how much nitrogen should be added to plant feed.

This would allow optimum plant growth without producing excess nitrogen in run-off from fields, which is a major source of water pollution. Read more

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Getting more out of nature: Genetic toolkit finds new maximum for crop yields

An array of gene variants provides ‘breakthrough benefits’ in tomato yield for breeders; other crops next

Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced a new way to dramatically increase crop yields by improving upon Mother Nature’s offerings. A team led by Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, in collaboration with Israeli colleagues, has discovered a set of gene variations that can boost fruit production in the tomato plant by as much as 100%.

CSHL scientists have identified a set of genetic variants that can dramatically increase tomato production. On the far left is the average yield from a plant that grows standard canning tomatoes. The next three piles were produced by plants with mutations found in the toolkit. The combination of genetic mutations on the far right produces twice as many tomatoes as the standard variety.

Plant breeders will be able to combine different gene variants among the set to create an optimal plant architecture for particular varieties and growing conditions. The set of mutations will enable farmers to maximize yield in tomatoes and potentially many other flowering plants, including staple crops like soybeans. Read more

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