Biotechnology has brought a revolution in the field of agriculture. It is now not enthralling to hear about genetically modified fruits, vegetables available in any season and offering you specific nutritional value. ‘Trans-genetic plants’ modified for increased resistance to pests and diseases, improved flavour and enhanced growth in adverse weather conditions have started occupying place in our refrigerators. Not just this, but there is much more that green biotechnology also known as Plant Biotechnology has done especially alleviating the pains of farmers. Main research areas and applications include:
Plant tissue culture:
It is a technique that allows whole plants to be produced from minute amounts of plant parts like the roots, leaves or stems or even just a single plant cell under laboratory conditions (in vitro) and to preserve the genetic resources too. The technique thus allows the production of clean, disease free planting material and that too at a rapid pace.
Plant Genetic Engineering:
The technique of selective, deliberate transfer of genes to produce new improved crops has made it possible to grow genetically engineered crops for enhanced features as in cotton, sweet potato etc. Also, crops that can withstand environmental stress may be developed. Genes with characters to cope with draught, salty soil and other conditions may completely solve the problem of spoilage of crops.
There are now seen to be three generations of genetically modified plants. The first contains genes with required traits that are significant from the standpoint of cultivation, such as herbicide tolerance or resistance to insects and disease. Cultivation of such plants brings benefits to farmers in the form of lower use of pesticides or labour. The second generation consists of plants whose improved traits manifest themselves in the final stage of their use. Such plants will be a source of improved food products. The genes introduced into them may alter the function of certain proteins. For instance, an improved amino acid composition or an increased content of a certain vitamin (such as in the modified “Golden Rice,” with an increased provitamin A content) may improve food quality and help prevent dangerous diseases, such as childhood blindness caused in Asia by vitamin A deficiency. Genetic modification may also contribute to improving the flavour of fruits and vegetables, or to reducing allergen content in foods. Such modification therefore generates direct benefits for consumers. The third and latest generation consists of GM plants that function like bio-factories, producing concrete substances utilized in various industries.
Plants with an altered fatty acid synthesis pathway are finding applications in the production of industrial oils and can also produce biopolymers to replace petroleum-derived compounds. Altering the properties of many kinds of crops genetically to get some special features and proteins has helped a lot, mainly for crops with industrial and medicinal values.
Bio fertilizers and bio pesticides:
Insects and pests are no more a headache for farmers if they employ biotechnological methods to make their crops immune to them. Another way offered by biotechnology is bio fertilizers and pesticides. The use of bio fertilizers not only save a big amount of money spent on chemical fertilizers but also help to avoid the ill effects of chemical fertilizers on crops.
‘Hybridization’, ‘Molecular marker assisted breeding’ are some of the various applications of green biotechnology aimed to create crops with specific traits and yielding better quality.
Filed Under: Articles