How Biotechnology Helps in Agriculture

In agriculture, the application of biotechnology includes science technology such as GMOs, Bt cotton, and plants resistant to pestilence. It helps to change and increase the farming efficiency of plants, animals as well as microorganisms. Vaccine, tissue cultivation, genetic modification techniques also are employed. In this article, we will see how biotechnology helps in agriculture.

Agricultural Before Biotechnology

Thanks to the Green Revolution, food production worldwide increased tremendously between the 1930s as well as the 1960s. This revolution essentially included its use, enhanced uses of fertilizers, and improved irrigation strategies of high-yielding crop varieties. Even if the green revolution tripled nationwide food supply, the rising population still wasn’t enough.

Agrochemicals (fertilizers and plants) have also been used by farmers to boost crop yields. For farmers in developed countries, however, agrochemicals are just too costly. The use of such chemical products also contributes to the toxicity of the atmosphere. Furthermore, crop yields using established varieties and traditional breeding are challenging to raise further.

Is there really a possibility of using our plant genetics expertise to generate new species and increase yields? Do we have a more sustainable way to minimize its use of pesticides and fertilizers? Yes. Genetically engineered crops that address all of the above issues have come about from agricultural biotechnology.

Biotechnology in the Agricultural Field

The huge population growth has led to a growing demand for services and basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing. The development of land for crop production is another effect of population growth. This local cultivation is just a small region. We have to make a big effort to meet requirements with minimal resources. The face of this situation has been modified in agriculture with biotechnology.

Biotech technology is the technology used for the creation or modification of goods for a variety of purposes to alter or control some biological system or living system. It is commonly used in various areas, and agriculture has been one of them. Researchers have proposed various options to boost food production. Genetically engineered farming is a choice, with agriculture-focused on agrochemicals and organic farming.

The Green Revolution was indeed a start to increase food production, but it could not satisfy the rising demands. The concept of improving agricultural varieties was subsequently proposed. But farmers do not feel the agrochemicals feasible. Furthermore, their environmental problems limited their use.

GMO

You really should have heard every now and then the word “GMO” used during news or even in the people surrounding you. What does that mean? The term “genetically modified organisms” refers to GMOs. The genetically engineered genes of GMOs shall be plants, bacteria, animals, or fungi. The following methods shall be used for the use of genetically modified or GM crops:

  • It’s more tolerant to pressures like drought, heat, cold, and so on.
  • They are immune to pesticides and thus less reliant on chemicals.
  • Genetically modified crops contribute to reducing the losses after harvest.
  • They contribute to increasing plants’ use of minerals so that soil fertility is avoided early.
  • The nutritional value of genetically modified plants is improved. Example – enriched rice with vitamin A.

Genetic engineering also helps to build custom-made for industries such as oils, starches as well as pharmaceuticals aimed at providing alternative resources. Let’s all look at some examples of genetically modified plants and their usefulness.

Bt Cotton

This form of cotton is genetically engineered. ‘Bt’ seems to be the Bacillus thuringiensis microbe. This microbe creates a protein or an insecticide toxin which destroys other insects, like the cigarette, flies, mosquitoes, and kite, etc. Why is the Bacillus protein not toxic?

It remains inactive throughout the Bacillus as protoxin. Only after the alkaline pH in the intestine comes into contact is it triggered when it is ingested by the insect. The activated toxin then attaches to and produces pores throughout the surface of epithelial cells. The cells are then swelling and lysis causing the insect’s death.

Scientists isolated as well as introduced the Bt toxin genes from Bacillus thuringiensis into different plants, including cotton. ‘Bt cotton,’ however, is variety. As most Bt toxins are insect-based, it is the cultivation as well as the focused pest to decide which genes should be integrated. A gene called toxin protein cry codes, and a variety of such genes exist there. The cryIAc and cryIIAb genes, for instance, are used to encode cotton bollworms toxins while the cryIAb gene monitors the “grain borer” insect.

Plants that are Pest Resistant 

Many nematodes are living in many hosts such as animals, plants, and sometimes even human beings as parasites. A particular nematode, ‘Meloidogyne incognita, infects tobacco roots and leads to a significant reduction in production. A new strategy focused on the mechanism of RNA interference has been implemented to avoid this infestation.

In all eukaryotes, RNAi is a mobile defense tool. The complementary dual-stranded RNA silence of a certain mRNA which binds and inhibits the translation of such an mRNA. A virus that contains RNA genomes or genetic elements known as ‘transposons’ infections can result in other RNA.

This method was used by scientists, and nematode-specific genes have been inserted into host plants utilizing vectors of agrobacterium. The added DNA generates sensory as well as sensory strands in host cells. These additional strands then generate DSRNA and trigger RNAi, silencing the nematode’s basic RNA. The parasite cannot, therefore, live in the host expressing this RNA leading to resistance to just this parasite.

Improves Crops Yield 

One or two genes may also be transferred into some kind of crop using biotechnology techniques to give this crop a new characteristic. It is accomplished in the expectation that its production will increase. However, these yield rises were hard to achieve. Current techniques in genetics work much better with individual genetic effects – characteristics inherited simply from Mendelian. A large number of genes, each of which has a small impact on total yield, influence several of the genetic characteristics associated with crop yield, like enhanced growth. So there is still a lot of research being done throughout this area, particularly plant genetic research.

Final Words

So now you know how biotechnology has brought a significant change in the agricultural sector. These changes have enhanced production and helped in many other ways in agriculture.