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The potential of New Genomic Techniques in agriculture

Latest breeding techniques have emerged as a game changer in agriculture and food production. These advanced methods have the potential to revolutionise the industry by improving plants with greater precision and efficiency. Studies have shown that improved plant varieties can reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and promote sustainable resource usage.

One important way that new genomic techniques (NGT) contribute to sustainable pesticide use is through the development of pest and disease resistant plant varieties. By improving the genetics of seeds, humans have and  can enhance their resistance to pests and diseases.

How does this technology work?

Throughout history, humans have continually improved our grains, fruits, and vegetables through selective breeding. This practice, both deliberate and unconscious, has allowed us to create new varieties with desirable traits. Whether it’s choosing plants with better taste or seeds that don’t easily detach, early breeders laid the foundation for our agricultural advancements. Today, plant breeders carefully select similar plants to develop varieties with specific traits, such as edible flowers, leaves, or bulbs. This process has allowed us to start from one wild plant and create multiple beloved vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and kohlrabi. However, there are limitations to traditional plant breeding. While traditional plant breeding is responsible for virtually all food we eat today we know that its methods have their limitations. Sometimes, it is difficult to combine desired traits or certain traits like taste get lost when other traits such as disease resistance are introduced. While these limitations have not been an impossible challenge for breeders, it is important to consider the current climate conditions and the growing population’s need for food. In response, we must explore innovative tools to assist breeders and farmers in addressing these challenges.

This is where new genomic techniques come in

One technique which is relatively well-known is CRISPR-Cas9. This is a genome editing tool that has created a buzz in the science world, especially since it has received the Nobel Prize in chemistry back in 2020. New genomic techniques have the ability to precisely edit genes and introduce desirable traits into plants . in a very efficient way. This means that breeders can now target specific genes for editing, making it easier and faster to develop crop varieties with improved resistance to pests and diseases. For example, instead of cross-breeding and selecting desired traits over multiple generations, new genomic techniques allow for targeted editing of genes responsible for certain characteristics. This not only saves time and resources but also ensures that the final crop variety has the desired trait that addresses the needs of the farmers of today.

NGTs in research

There have been several successful research case studies of NGTs being used to develop plant varieties with improved traits. One such example is the development of blight-resistant tomatoes using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Blight is a devastating disease that affects tomato plants and can destroy entire crops. By using CRISPR-Cas9, scientists were able to introduce a gene from a wild relative of the tomato plant that confers resistance to blight into commercial tomato varieties. This resulted in the development of blight-resistant tomatoes without any loss of flavor or nutritional value.

Another example is the development of powdery mildew-resistant wheat using TALEN technology. Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease that affects wheat crops and can cause significant yield losses. By using TALEN, scientists were able to modify a gene in wheat plants that makes them more resistant to powdery mildew. This resulted in the production of healthier and more sustainable wheat crops, reducing the need for pesticides and promoting sustainable use of resources.

Lastly, I would like to address the potential for creating gluten-free plant varieties. With the increasing number of individuals suffering from gluten allergies, it would be immensely beneficial to utilize new genomic techniques to develop wheat and other gluten-containing products.

The future potential of NGTs in agriculture

As we enter a new era of global challenges such as climate change and food insecurity, the use of new genomic techniques in agriculture becomes increasingly important. These innovative tools not only have the potential to reduce environmental impacts and promote sustainable use of pesticides but also provide a means to develop crops that are resilient to changing climatic conditions. Furthermore, with advancements in technology, these techniques are becoming more affordable and accessible to all companies and research centres with the ability to improve agricultural practices and increase food production. The future potential of new genomic techniques in agriculture is vast, and any new regulations such as Sustainable Use of pesticides Regulation (SUR) need to acknowledge its potential. This is an exciting time for the agricultural industry as we continue to explore new tools in addressing global challenges.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn authored by Petra Kostolaniova.