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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Technology in agriculture

Technology has played a big role in developing the agricultural industry. Today it is possible to grow crops in a desert by use of agricultural biotechnology. With this technology, plants have been engineered to survive in drought conditions. Through genetic engineering scientists have managed to introduce traits into existing genes with a goal of making crops resistant to droughts and pests.
  •  Use of machines on farms. Now a farmer can cultivate on more than 2 acres of land with less labor. The use of planters and harvesters makes the process so easy. In agriculture, time and production are so important; you have to plant in time, harvest in time and deliver to stores in time. Modern agricultural technology allows  a small number of people to grow vast quantities of food and fiber in a shortest period of time.
  • Modern transportation: This helps in making products available on markets in time from the farm. With modern transportation, consumers in Dubai will consume a fresh carrots from Africa with in the same day that carrot lives the garden in Africa. Modern transportation technology facilities help farmers easily transport fertilizers or other farm products  to their farms, and it also speeds the supply of agricultural products from farms to the markets where consumers get them on a daily basis.
  • Cooling facilities: These are used buy farmers to deliver tomatoes and other perishable crops to keep them fresh as they transport them to the market. These cooling facilities are installed in food transportation trucks, so crops like tomatoes will stay fresh upon delivery. This is a win-win situation for both the consumers of these agricultural products and the farmers. How? the consumers gets these products while still fresh and the farmer will sell all their products because the demand will be high.
  • Genetically produced plants like potatoes, can resist diseases and pests, which rewards the farmer with good yields and saves them time. These crops grow very fast they produce healthy yields.  Since they are resistant to most diseases and pests, the farmer will spend less money on pesticides, which in return increases on their (RIO) return on investment.
  • Development of animal feeds. This has solved the problem of hunting for grass to feed animals, now these feeds can be manufactured and consumed by animals. The price of these feed is fair so that a low income farmer can afford them. Most of these manufactured animal feeds have extra nutrition which improve on the animals health and the out put of these animals will also increase. In agriculture , the health of an animal will determine its output. Poorly feed animals are always unhealthy and they produce very little results in form of milk, meet , or fur.
  • Breeding of animals which are resistant to diseases. Most of these genetically produced animals will produce more milk or fur compared to normal animals. This benefits the farmer because their production will be high. Cross breeding is very good in animal grazing, cross breed animals are more strong and productive.
  • Irrigation of plants. In dry areas like deserts, farmers have embraced technology to irrigate their crops. A good example is in Egypt, were farmers use water pumps to collect water from river Nile to their crops. Most of these farmers grow rice which needs a lot of water, so they manage to grow this rice using irrigation methods enhanced by advanced technology. Advanced water sprinklers are being used to irrigate big farms and this helps the crops get enough water which is essential in their growth. Some farmers mix nutrients in this water, so also improves on the growth of these crops.

Biotechnology: issues and prospects

Biotechnology promises great benefits for both producers and consumers of agricultural products, but its applications are also associated with potential risks. The risks and benefits may vary substantially from one product to the next and are often perceived differently in different countries. To reap the full potential of biotechnology, appropriate policies must be developed to ensure that the potential risks are accurately diagnosed and, where necessary, avoided.

What is the current role of biotechnology?

For thousands of years, human beings have been engaged in improving the crops and animals they raise. Over the past 150 years, scientists have assisted their efforts by developing and refining the techniques of selection and breeding. Though considerable progress has been achieved, conventional selection and breeding are time-consuming and bear technical limitations.
Modern biotechnology has the potential to speed up the development and deployment of improved crops and animals. Marker-assisted selection, for instance, increases the efficiency of conventional plant breeding by allowing rapid, laboratory-based analysis of thousands of individuals without the need to grow plants to maturity in the field. The techniques of tissue culture allow the rapid multiplication of clean planting materials of vegetatively propagated species for distribution to farmers. Genetic engineering or modification - manipulating an organism's genome by introducing or eliminating specific genes - helps transfer desired traits between plants more quickly and accurately than is possible in conventional breeding.
This latter technique promises considerable benefits but has also aroused widespread public concerns. These include ethical misgivings, anxieties about food and environmental safety, and fears about the concentration of economic power and technological dependence, which could deepen the technological divide between developed and developing countries.
The spread of genetically modified (GM) crops has been rapid. Their area increased by a factor of 30 over the 5 years to 2001, when they covered more than 52 million ha. Considerable research to develop more GM varieties is under way in some developing countries. China, for instance, is reported to have the second largest biotechnology research capacity after the United States.
However, the spread so far is geographically very limited. Just four countries account for 99 percent of the global GM crop area: the United States with 35.7 million ha, Argentina with 11.8 million ha, Canada with 3.2 million ha and China with 1.5 million ha. The number and type of crops and applications involved is also limited: two-thirds of the GM area is planted to herbicide-tolerant crops. All commercially grown GM crops are currently either non-food crops (cotton) or are heavily used in animal feeds (soybean and maize).
Biotechnology: potential benefits, risnks and concerns
Potential benefits
  • Increased productivity, leading to higher incomes for producers and lower prices for consumers
  • Less need for environmentally harmful inputs, particularly insecticides.Scientists have developed maize and cotton varieties incorporating genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) which produce insecticidal toxins. Virus and fungus-resistant varieties are in the pipeline for fruits and vegetables, potato and wheat.
  • New crop varieties for marginal areas, increasing the sustainability of agriculture in poor farming communities. These varieties will be resistant to drought, waterlogging, soil acidity, salinity or extreme temperatures.
  • Reduced dependence on management skills through built-in resistance to pests and diseases.
  • Enhanced food security through reduced fluctuations in yields caused by insect invasions, droughts or floods.
  • Higher nutritional values through higher protein quality and content as well as increased levels of vitamins and micro-nutrients (e.g. iodine or beta-carotene enriched rice).
  • Better health value and digestibility. Scientists are developing varieties of soybean that contain less saturated fat and more sucrose.
  • Production of valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals at lower cost than is possible at present. Products envisaged range from speciality oils and biodegradable plastics to hormones and human antibodies.
Risks and concerns
  • Products are tailored largely to the needs of large-scale farmers and industrial processing in the developed world, with the result that resource-poor farmers in developing countries will fail to benefit.
  • Market concentration and monopoly power in the seed industry, reducing choice and control for farmers, who will pay ever higher prices for seed. One company alone controls over 80 percent of the market for GM cotton and 33 percent for GM soybean.
  • Patenting of genes and other materials originating in the developing countries. Private-sector companies are able to appropriate without compensation the products resulting from the breeding efforts of generations of farmers and from research conducted in the public sector.
  • Technologies that prevent farmers re-using seed. These require farmers to purchase seed afresh every season and could inhibit adoption by poor farmers. In the worst case, ignorance of this characteristic could result in complete crop failure.
  • Food safety. This has received added attention after a potentially allergenic maize variety that was not registered for food use entered the food chain in the United States.
  • The environmental impact of GM crops. There is a risk that inserted genes may spread to wild populations, with potentially serious consequences for biodiversity, or contaminate the crops of organic farmers. Genes for herbicide resistance could encourage the overuse of herbicides, while those for insect resistance could generate resistance in insects, forcing the use of more toxic products to kill them.

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