Bioenergy, Blogs

Bio Research Leads to Smarter Crop Yields

Nearly all fields, including agriculture, can benefit from the results of biological research. For example, scientists have recently been using bio research to study the development of crops. As scientists learn more about plant genetics, they can use biotechnology to manipulate these genetics so that planted crops produce a more efficient yield for farmers.

Recent Studies

An example of scientists’ hard work in the field of agricultural research can be seen in a study performed by the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. Armed with a biology degree and years of research experience, scientists at the Salk Institute analyzed the gene activity of thale cress, a small flowering plant. These scientists also analyzed thale cress protein structures to determine how the proteins regulated fatty acid production within the plant, as well as how the activity of the proteins was affected by changes in temperature and other environmental stresses.

Implications for Agriculture

Arguably the most promising implication of the Salk study is the ability to more densely group seeds in a given acreage to produce a higher yield. Discovering biological mechanisms for how plants grow in order to maximize exposure to sunlight – the process described as heliotropism and observed as the “bending” of plants and trees even at the expense of shading other plants – makes possible the ability to genetically manipulate plants to not compete with surrounding plants. Overcoming shade avoidance syndrome among crops has been an elusive goal of bioengineering for decades.

The results of this study provide scientists with a better understanding of the function of a plant’s key proteins in the development of desirable fatty acids. By altering these proteins through biotechnology, scientists can optimize a plant’s fatty acid profile for a smarter, more nutritious crop that is resistant to stresses, such as temperature changes or less than ideal soil conditions. As scientists perfect this method for all plants, farmers all over the world will be able to plant modified seeds that will produce each farmer’s desired crops with best possible yield.

Scientists can use the same biotechnology techniques to modify plants for biorenewable fuel production. Plants produce their fatty acid molecules by harnessing the energy of the sun, which means that these very molecules have the potential to become the most efficient and cost-effective biorenewable fuel source available. Furthermore, because scientists will be able to make these crops resistant to stress, farmers will be able to plant them in areas not suitable for food crops.

The Future

These studies, along with other advancements in biotechnology, point to a bright future for the field of agriculture. Genetically engineered crops that are more resistant to stress and produce a better yield will improve the life of the farmer, as well as the lives of those who consume his food crops. Modified crops with the potential to be used as a biorenewable fuel will reduce society’s dependency on more expensive, nonrenewable sources of energy such as fossil fuels. Furthermore, the creation of such a fuel may eventually lead to changes in the way automobiles and other fuel-dependent products are manufactured.

The studies performed by the Salk Institute also demonstrate the deep level of insight achieved by scientists working in the field of agriculture. By utilizing methods similar to those employed in this study, future scientists will be able to model all of a plant’s biological processes. Using these models, scientists can predict the results of altering each of the organism’s genes, and they can then determine which specific genetic profile will produce the ideal crop.

About the Author: Cameron Tyler is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about new and emerging green innovations in the field of biology. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to him at [email protected]