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Genetics may lie at the heart of crop yield limitation - EurekAlert (2017) 

Genetics may lie at the heart of crop yield limitation - EurekAlert (2017)  | Biotech | Scoop.it

You might think that plants grow according to how much nutrition, water and sunlight they are exposed to, but new research... shows that the plant's own genetics may be the real limiting factor.

"This could have potentially big implications for the agricultural industry... Our model plant is in the same family as cabbages, so it's easy to imagine creating giant cabbages or growing them to the desired market size faster than at present."

It was previously assumed that plant growth was generally resource-limited, meaning that plants would only grow as large and fast as they could photosynthesise. However, Dr Pullen and his team present evidence that plant growth is actually "sink-limited", meaning that genetic regulation and cell division rates have a much bigger role in controlling plant growth than previously thought: 


"We are proposing that plant growth is not physically limited by Net Primary Productivity (NPP) or the environment, but instead is limited genetically in response to these signals to ensure they do not become limiting."

By genetically altering the growth repressors in Arabidopsis, Dr Pullen and his team were able to create mutant strains. They identified the metabolic rates of the different plant strains... as well as comparing the size and weight of the plants... also grew the mutant plant strains at different temperatures to see if this changed their results: "When grown at different temperatures we still find a difference in size"...  

The impact of these results is wide-reaching, and... it may even change how we think about global climate data: "Climate models need to incorporate genetic elements because at present most do not, and their predictions would be much improved with a better understanding of plant carbon demand." 


https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/sfeb-gml070117.php



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Increasing grain size, weight may improve wheat yields - SD State (2017) 

Increasing grain size, weight may improve wheat yields - SD State (2017)  | Biotech | Scoop.it

Larger, heavier wheat kernels... to increase wheat production... Li is collaborating with Yang... to increase wheat grain size and weight using a precise gene-editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9... to develop new wheat varieties as part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) Program... to enhance the genetics related to yield and develop varieties adapted to different regions and environmental conditions.  


The goal of IWYP... is to increase wheat yields by 50 percent in 20 years. Currently, the yearly yield gain is less than 1 percent, but to meet the IWYP goal, wheat yields must increase 1.7 percent per year... “We need a lot of work to reach this.”
 
Humans consume more than 500 million tons of wheat per year... However, United States wheat production is decreasing because farmers can make more money growing other crops... increasing the yield potential will make wheat more profitable.
 
First, the researchers will identify genes that control grain size and weight in bread wheat using the rice genome as a model.
 
The CRISPR editing tool allows the researchers to knock out each negatively regulating gene and thus study its function... “CRISPR is both fast and precise... The end products are not genetically modified organisms,” Li emphasized... researchers... screen the plants to select those that carry the desired mutations. “This is null transgenic”... USDA has approved this process in other organisms... 


https://www.sdstate.edu/news/2017/05/increasing-grain-size-weight-may-improve-wheat-yields




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New Zealand: A new world record for wheat yield set by a NZ farmer

New Zealand: A new world record for wheat yield set by a NZ farmer | Biotech | Scoop.it
A new wheat crop yield world record is eight times higher the average Australian wheat yield.

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Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra to carry out field trial with GM wheat plants - Rothamsted (2017) 

Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra to carry out field trial with GM wheat plants - Rothamsted (2017)  | Biotech | Scoop.it

Rothamsted Research... submitted an application... for permission to carry out GM field trials on the Rothamsted Farm between 2017 and 2019. The risk assessment was reviewed by the independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), and a 48-day public consultation was carried out... ACRE is satisfied that all scientific issues raised by the public with respect to this application have been addressed... Scientists... developed wheat plants that can carry out photosynthesis more efficiently i.e. convert light energy into plant biomass more efficiently. This trait has the potential to result in higher yielding plants. The purpose of the proposed trial is to evaluate the performance of the engineered plants in the field. 


Ensuring food security is a major challenge given the projected need to increase world food production by... 70% by 2050. Wheat is one of the major grain crops worldwide and provides approximately one-fifth of the total calories consumed globally. However, wheat yields have reached a plateau in recent years and predictions are that yield gains will not reach the level required to feed the 9 billion population... Traditional breeding and agronomic approaches have maximised light capture and allocation to the grain. A promising but as yet-unexploited route to increase wheat yields is to improve the efficiency by which energy in the form of light is converted to wheat biomass... 

“The efficiency of the process of photosynthesis integrated over the season is the major determinant of crop yield. However, to date photosynthesis has not been used to select for high yielding crops in conventional breeding programmes and represents an unexploited opportunity. But there is now evidence that improving the efficiency of photosynthesis by genetic modification is one of the promising approaches to achieve higher wheat yield potential... In this project we have genetically modified wheat plants to increase the efficiency of the conversion of energy from sunlight into biomass. We have shown that these plants carry out photosynthesis more efficiently in glasshouse conditions”... 

During the field trial, we will measure the photosynthetic efficiency of the plants in the field and we will determine total aboveground plant biomass and grain yield on an area basis at full maturity. We will also measure the number of wheat ears on an area basis and the grain number and weight per ear. From these data we will estimate the harvest index, which is the proportion of biomass allocated to the grain”...  

“This trial will be a significant step forward as we will be able to assess in ‘real environmental conditions’ the potential of these plants to produce more using the same resources and land area as their non-GM counterparts. These field trials are the only way to assess the viability of a solution that can bring economic benefits to farmers, returns to the UK tax payer from the long-term investment in this research, benefits to the UK economy as a whole and the environment in general”...  


http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/news-views/rothamsted-research-granted-permission-defra-carry-out-field-trial-with-gm-wheat-plants



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Kansas State University scientists to help identify genes that control wheat yield

Kansas State University scientists to help identify genes that control wheat yield | Biotech | Scoop.it
Kansas State University is among 19 groups that have joined forces to identify the genes that affect wheat yield.

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UF/IFAS study: People who know about genetically modified food agree with science: They’re safe - Univ Florida (2016) 

People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon... Furthermore... some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.” 


Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods... Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior... 


McFadden cited in his paper a... survey of scientists and the U.S. general public. Most of the scientists (88 percent) agreed that GM foods are safe to eat, compared to 37 percent of U.S. adults. The survey also found that most scientists (87 percent) agree that human activities cause global warming, compared to 50 percent of American adults.

McFadden wanted to know more about the reasons for the gap between public opinion and scientific consensus. In a study... McFadden surveyed 955 people online to measure their actual and perceived knowledge about genetically modified food and human-caused global warming... 

“Intuitively, it would seem that greater knowledge would be associated with being more agreeable with science,” McFadden said. “Indeed, individuals with greater knowledge are more agreeable with science in general; however, people with greater knowledge become less agreeable when the issues are contentious.” 


http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2016/11/ufifas-study-people-who-know-about-genetically-modified-food-agree-with-science-theyre-safe/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166140


Public perception that diverges from the scientific community may decrease the effectiveness of scientific inquiry and innovation as tools to solve these challenges. The objective of this study was to identify the factors associated with the divergence of public opinion from scientific consensus regarding the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods and human involvement in global warming (GW). 


Results indicate that the effects of knowledge on public opinion are complex and non-uniform... Political affiliation affects agreement with science; Democrats were more likely to agree that GM food is safe and human actions cause GW. Respondents who had relatively higher cognitive function or held illusionary correlations about GM food or GW were more likely to have an opinion that differed from the scientific community. 



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Could wild mangoes solve the world's chocolate crisis?

Could wild mangoes solve the world's chocolate crisis? | Biotech | Scoop.it
A little-known fruit could provide an alternative to cocoa butter.

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AgriGenomics: A Hungry World and the Hunt for Higher Yield Wheat

AgriGenomics: A Hungry World and the Hunt for Higher Yield Wheat | Biotech | Scoop.it
With global wheat production down and human populations up, better insight into wheat - improving yields along with drought and pathogen resistance - is cr

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Is organic agriculture really better for the environment? - Washington Post (2016) 

Is organic agriculture really better for the environment? - Washington Post (2016)  | Biotech | Scoop.it

There are lots of techniques organic farmers employ to improve [soil]. They use compost and manure, rotate their crops and grow many kinds of plants. They do use pesticides, but only certain ones (mostly non-synthetic, with a few approved synthetics), and often only when other pest-control methods fail. But plenty of conventional farmers do a lot of those things, too. 


When you pony up the extra money to buy organic produce, are you supporting environmental benefits? … There’s never a clear-cut answer to a question like that when you’re talking about something as complicated as farming… all conventional is not the same, and all organic is not the same… Nevertheless, some important differences… the organic systems… Have more-fertile soil. Use less fertilizer and much less herbicide. Use less energy. Lock away more carbon in the soil. Are more profitable for farmers. The conventional systems: Have higher yields. Are best at reducing erosion (when a no-till system is used)… 


Some tools that mitigate environmental harm aren’t available to organic farmers; one of them is genetically modified crops. Although reasonable people disagree about how the advantages and disadvantages of those crops balance out… many scientists and farmers [say] that both major types of GMOs – the kind that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate and the kind that have a built-in organic insecticide – can help cut pesticide use. Also, it’s difficult for organic farmers to implement no-till. Without herbicides, the best weed-killing tool is tilling, and that can lead to erosion, nutrient runoff and the disruption of the microbial community that organic farmers work so hard to foster… 


But there’s a problem. The environmental advantages generally are not why consumers are willing to pay extra for organic products…. consumers buy organics primarily because they believe the products are better for their health: either more nutritious or safer. So it’s not surprising that organic food purveyors and advocates often promote a product by implying it’s more nutritious or safer, a claim not supported by most of the evidence… Labels for some organic products use the word “toxic” to describe the pesticides they’re not using, despite the fact that some toxic pesticides… are allowed in organic agriculture. Although… the evidence indicates that trace amounts of pesticides in food are not dangerous to human health…. 


Unfortunately, you can’t believe organic food is more nutritious and safe without believing conventional food is less nutritious and safe, and that infuriates advocates of conventional food… I’ve noticed some schadenfreude at food-borne illness outbreaks pegged to organic foods… Conventional food is as safe and nutritious as its organic counterparts, and if consumers are told otherwise, they’re being deceived, and conventional producers are being harmed. 


And misinformation does nothing to improve the quality of the public debate… there is value in having farmers employ and improve all kinds of practices…. Sometimes it seems as if every column I write has the same conclusion, but it’s an important one. If we’re going to make progress on food, we need a whole lot less of us vs. them. The USDA’s certified-organic program – from its inception a marketing program, not an environmental initiative – has given organic farmers a way to make a living… by connecting with like-minded consumers willing to pay a premium for a product that is grown in a way that is often labor-intensive and lower-yielding, and produces some bona fide environmental benefits… 


https://www.washingtonpost.com/e9996dce-17be-11e6-924d-838753295f9a_story.html



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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, May 16, 2016 5:37 PM
I’m not sure the arguments in the article are entirely coherent. It says that plenty of conventional farmers employ a lot of the good techniques used in organic farming – whereas it says that some good tools that conventional farmers use aren’t available to organic farmers. The article then goes on to say that there is value in having farmers employ and improve all kinds of practices – which, given the preceding statements, seems to indicate that only conventional farming fits that bill, as only conventional farmers can actually employ all kinds of practices. (Whereas the options open to organic farmers are limited to those permitted under their restrictive marketing-driven certification program.) However, the article then concludes that we need also organic ways of feeding our growing population (thus expanding the scope of the article beyond the environmental focus of the headline), highlighting organic’s positives rather than its restrictive practices and – in the context of feeding a growing population – its lower yields. 

And even if one could agree that it’s legitimate for organic farmers to cater to the demands of like-minded consumers who are willing to pay a premium for what are only bona fide environmental benefits (and the question is if the farmers are indeed like-minded or simply exploit a business opportunity), if the concern is feeding a growing population, and doing so safely and sustainably, is organic the best option? To what extent do the lower yields in organic farming reverse the fertiliser, herbicide and energy savings if the same output is produced as in a conventional system? (Which then needs to be done on more land, which is also problematic as it necessarily reduces the land that’s available to natural ecosystems.) How relevant is it that organic farming has more fertile soil if it produces nevertheless lower yields? How is the use of manure accounted for? (Or the use of other “organic” fertilisers such as soybean meal or fish meal – from GMOs and overfishing…) To the extent that such fertiliser is imported from the conventional system, this means organic farming is not self-sustaining and thus not sustainable, at least not at the already lower current yields. 

Why is organic farming more profitable? If there is indeed so much more money to be made in organics, is it realistic to assume that over 90% of US farmers are too stupid to realise this as business opportunity? How accurately can results from field trials (where arguably more knowledge, effort and care is applied) be extrapolated to real-world farming? Or do organic farmers in real life self-select (because they know from experience that the pest-pressure on their fields is lower, because they have access to cheap labour (or less scruples to pay lower wages), or because their operation is suited for other reasons)? Or is it simply because market demand grows faster than organic certification expands, thus creating a temporary seller’s market (that’s not sustainable once supply catches up, or if all farming should convert to organic – which would again be an example for organic only being possible because of conventional agriculture)? Is the up-front cost of the certification properly taken into account? And are the costs really comparable, as the Figure suggests? 

When it comes to food safety (which is also part of feeding our growing population), the article mentions incidents of food-borne illnesses in the organic sector, while affirming that trace amounts of pesticides in (conventional) food are not dangerous to human health. To this one could add that in organic farming not only are food-borne pathogens perhaps more frequent (relatively speaking), but to the extent that pest control is less efficient probably also natural toxins (from fungi that infest insect-damaged crops or from weeds that may end up in the harvested crop) are more common in organic food. And relating more to nutrition than to food safety, the higher price of organic food can also have a negative impact on people’s nutrition if people could afford a healthy and varied diet with lots of fruits and veggies if they opted for conventional produce but instead, with the same budget, can only buy a more limited range of organic staple foods. 
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Comparative evaluation of nutritional compositions between transgenic rice harboring the CaMsrB2 gene and the conventional counterpart - Cho &al (2016) - Food Sci Biotechnol

Comparative evaluation of nutritional compositions between transgenic rice harboring the CaMsrB2 gene and the conventional counterpart - Cho &al (2016) - Food Sci Biotechnol | Biotech | Scoop.it

As a part of a safety assessment of new transgenic crops, compositional equivalence studies between transgenic crops with non-transgenic comparators are almost universally required. This study was conducted to compare nutritional profiles of proximate composition, and fatty acid, amino acid, mineral, and vitamin contents, and anti-nutrients, between transgenic drought-tolerant Agb0103 rice... and the parental rice cultivar, ‘Ilmi’ as a non-transgenic control. Both transgenic and non-transgenic rice were grown and harvested in 2 different locations. 


Proximate compositions of moisture, starch, protein, lipid, and ash content of Agb0103 rice were similar to parental non-transgenic rice. There were no differences between transgenic and non-transgenic rice with respect to the whole nutritional composition, except for minor locality differences for a few nutritional components. Agb0103 rice with improved resistance to drought is nutritionally equivalent to the parental rice cultivar. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10068-016-0007-9



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Global science team rescues rare wheat seed from the Fertile Crescent

Global science team rescues rare wheat seed from the Fertile Crescent | Biotech | Scoop.it
With Syria torn apart by civil war, a team of scientists in Mexico are rushing to save a vital sample of wheat’s ancient and massive genetic diversity, sealed in seed collections of an international research center formerly based in Aleppo but forced to flee during 2012-13.

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New wheat genetic advancements aimed at yield enhancement

New wheat genetic advancements aimed at yield enhancement | Biotech | Scoop.it

The title of a recent paper published in the Crop Science journal, “Validation of Chromosomal Locations of 90K Array Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in US Wheat,” may leave some dazed and confused.


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Wheat Genome Sequencing Gets Major Boost / Press releases / News / Home - IWGSC

Wheat Genome Sequencing Gets Major Boost / Press releases / News / Home - IWGSC | Biotech | Scoop.it
International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium
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Fertilizing growth: Agricultural inputs and their effects in economic development - McArthur & McCord (2017) - J Dev Econ

This paper estimates the role of agronomic inputs in cereal yield improvements and the consequences for countries' processes of structural change. The results suggest a clear role for fertilizer, modern seeds and water in boosting yields. 


We then test for respective empirical links between agricultural yields and economic growth, labor share in agriculture and non-agricultural value added per worker... 


Half ton increase in staple yields generates a 14 to 19 percent higher GDP per capita and a 4-6 percentage point lower labor share in agriculture five years later. The results suggest a strong role for agricultural productivity as a driver of structural change.


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2017.02.007




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Sat nav for bread wheat uncovers hidden genes

Sat nav for bread wheat uncovers hidden genes | Biotech | Scoop.it
Scientists have created the most accurate navigation system for the bread wheat genome to date—allowing academics and breeders to analyse its genes more easily than ever before.

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Quinoa genome sequenced 

Quinoa genome sequenced  | Biotech | Scoop.it

Knowledge of supergrain’s genetics could improve cultivation and production


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Australia: Research targets early season wheat varieties

Australia: Research targets early season wheat varieties | Biotech | Scoop.it
Wheat germplasm is being sourced from around the world by Western Australian scientists for a new pre-breeding research project to develop new varieties that germinate and establish in very low soil moisture.

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USDA finds ‘no GE wheat in commerce’

USDA finds ‘no GE wheat in commerce’ | Biotech | Scoop.it
In an anticlimactic ending to what was initially a fairly high-profile story, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found no evidence of geneticall

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UK: Wrestling genes out of the giant barley and wheat genomes

UK: Wrestling genes out of the giant barley and wheat genomes | Biotech | Scoop.it
How do you locate a gene associated with a specific trait when there are several billion base pairs to search through? This is the problem researchers working with barley and wheat genomes face. To tell us more about this and his recently published article in Genome Biology is wheat geneticist Brande Wulff.

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Crop breeding is not keeping pace with climate change

Crop breeding is not keeping pace with climate change | Biotech | Scoop.it
Crop yields will fall within the next decade due to climate change unless immediate action is taken to speed up the introduction of new and improved varieties, experts have warned.
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Genetically modified (GM) plants: questions and answers

Genetically modified (GM) plants: questions and answers | Biotech | Scoop.it
The Royal Society commissioned Ipsos MORI to find out what people want to know about GM plants, and then drew on a panel of expert, independent scientists to answer your questions.

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Rebecca Dray's curator insight, June 1, 2016 8:29 PM
Great debate topic.
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Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe and Possibly Good for Climate Change

Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe and Possibly Good for Climate Change | Biotech | Scoop.it
The National Academy of Sciences reaffirmed GMO safety and pointed to the potential for future improvements
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Unlocking the genetic diversity of Creole wheats

Unlocking the genetic diversity of Creole wheats | Biotech | Scoop.it
Climate change and slow yield gains pose a major threat to global wheat production.
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Mexico/Tamaulipas: Se Preparan Productores Para Siembra De Maiz Transgenico

Mexico/Tamaulipas: Se Preparan Productores Para Siembra De Maiz Transgenico | Biotech | Scoop.it

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Enzymes with the potential to increase wheat yields

Enzymes with the potential to increase wheat yields | Biotech | Scoop.it
Wheat yields could be significantly increased thanks to varieties with a superior form of a common enzyme, according to new research.

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