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Chapter 23 : Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture

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Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, Page 1 of 2

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Abstract:

This chapter describes the goal of sustainable agriculture which includes the management practices that decrease the sustainability of modern agriculture, how an understanding of basic plant biology could lead to better agricultural products, the ways that the current group of transgenic crops encourages or discourages sustainable practices and the potential environmental impacts of transgenic crops. Biotechnology contributes to sustainable agriculture if it helps farmers maintain the quality and quantity of the biotic and abiotic resources they depend upon or decreases agriculture’s consumption of nonrenewable resources. All plants have at least some genetic infrastructure for tolerating water shortages, but only some plants survive droughts. Those that survive are more responsive to external changes in water levels. Perhaps their genetic regulatory mechanisms become activated by smaller changes in water availability, or maybe they have gene duplications for the drought resistance genes. Plant pathogens can be deterred by microbes that kill or outcompete them. Other insects and microbes can control weed populations. In addition, a form of biocontrol can be provided by the crop plant if it produces molecules for defending itself against herbivory and infections. The increased understanding of plant biology provided by biotechnology research applications may lead to products that promote sustainable agricultural practices, such as drought-resistant crops, crops that require less fertilizer, and biological methods of pest control.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23

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Symbiotic Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria
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Figures

Image of Figure 23.1
Figure 23.1

Energy use in agriculture. Agricultural practices use fossil fuels to power farm equipment and other vehicles, dry crops, and control the temperature in animal production facilities. Fossil fuels are also used in the production of chemical inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.2
Figure 23.2

Water pollution. The primary water pollution problem in the United States is sedimentation. The major contributor to sedimentation is water runoff from cropland and overgrazed pastures. (Photograph by Linda Betts, courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.3
Figure 23.3

Fungal pathogens, Bt corn, and mycotoxins. Because Bt corn provides better protection against insect damage, there are fewer holes in the plant that can be invaded by fungal pathogens, such as . In the study shown, researchers at Iowa State University measured both the incidence of infection and the amount of mycotoxins secreted by . Comparable results showing decreased levels of mycotoxins in Bt corn have been documented by scientists in other U.S. universities and in Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, and Turkey.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.4
Figure 23.4

Soil conservation. Low-tech forms of conservation that decrease erosion and increase the efficiency of water use include contour farming, strip farming, and terracing (upper right corner). The contours redirect water laterally, thus eliminating runoff. Interspersing thin strips of alfalfa (green) between large expanses of highly erodible cornfields (tan) creates a buffer, especially against wind erosion. Terrace farming helps prevent erosion and water runoff when the field is located on a slope. (Photograph by Tim McCabe, courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.5
Figure 23.5

Irrigated cropland. Approximately 40% of the world's food supply grows on irrigated croplands. The number of cropland acres that depend on irrigation has increased by approximately 70% in the past 25 years. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, only four countries account for 50% of the irrigated cropland: India, China, Pakistan, and the United States.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.6
Figure 23.6

Plant root hairs. Plants absorb water through microscopic root hairs that cover their roots. Like the microvilli in your intestine, root hairs greatly increase the surface area available for absorbing nutrients. Scanning electron micrograph of a single root hair showing clearly that it is an extension of root epidermal cells (red). The fluorescence stain the electron microscopist used reveals actin filaments (green) that are identical to those in animal cells. (Micrograph A courtesy of Nina Allen, North Carolina State University; micrograph B by Elison Blancaflor of the Nobel Organization, courtesy of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Okla.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.7
Figure 23.7

An open plant stomate. Plants acquire carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and release oxygen through highly specialized structures, the stomata. Leaves contain thousands of stomata per square inch. Unfortunately, when stomates are opened for gas exchange, water that has been absorbed by the roots is lost. (Photograph copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.8
Figure 23.8

Plant cell.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.9
Figure 23.9

Fertilizer application to cropland. Chemically synthesized fertilizers contain three essential plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The two most important elements that limit agricultural productivity globally are nitrogen and phosphorus.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.10
Figure 23.10

Mycorrhizae. The fungal threads, or hyphae, of the fungus species in mycorrhizal associations form a dense network around the plant roots. Some hyphae invade the root cells, which is similar to the first stage of nodulation exhibited by nitrogen-fixing bacteria that develop symbiotic relationships with plants. The dark-blue dots in panel B are nutrient storage vesicles of the fungus. (Photographs courtesy of Randy Molina, U.S. Forest Service, USDA [A], and Agricultural Research Service Eastern Regional Research Center, USDA [B and C].)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.11
Figure 23.11

Biological control. Predatory insects. Ladybird beetles are beneficial insects in agroecosystems because they prey on aphids, many of which are crop pests that transmit plant pathogens. Parasitoid wasps. A number of parasitoid wasp species lay eggs in lepidopteran larva, such as this tobacco hornworm. The wasp larvae feed on the internal tissues of the lepidopteran larvae and then emerge as pupae. The USDA scientist shown is examining species of fungi that may be useful in weed control. (Photographs A and C by Scott Bauer, courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.12
Figure 23.12

Triggering molecules for self-defense. Grapefruit leaves that were sprayed with naturally occurring molecules that trigger the plant's self-defense systems defended themselves against fungal diseases. Those that were not sprayed were infected. (Photograph by Keith Weller, courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.13
Figure 23.13

Recruiting parasitoids. When plants are attacked by herbivores, they secrete volatile compounds that trigger the self-defense systems of other plants and also alert parasitoid wasps and insect predators. This parasitoid wasp, which is only 1/4 inch long, is laying an egg in an insect pest. (Photograph by Scott Bauer, courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.14
Figure 23.14

Global area of transgenic crops. The amount of cropland planted in transgenic varieties has increased every year since the first transgenic crop became available for large-scale commercial use in 1996. One hectare is approximately 2.47 acres. Therefore, the total number of acres planted in transgenic crops in 2003 was 167.2 million acres.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.15
Figure 23.15

Figure 23.15Acres of transgenic crops grown by U.S. farmers.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.16
Figure 23.16

Figure 23.16Cropland acreage changes from 1700 to 2000. (Data courtesy of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.17
Figure 23.17

Corn and teosinte. In Mexico, the center of origin for corn (or maize), corn readily hybridizes with its wild relatives, the teosintes . (See Figure 1.6 for the relative sizes of modern corn and teosinte.) (Photographs copyright Klaus Ammann.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.18
Figure 23.18

Figure 23.18Many crop pests have become resistant to synthetic chemical pesticides. Over 500 insect pests are resistant to at least one insecticide, and over 100 weed species have evolved resistance to at least one herbicide.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.19
Figure 23.19

An adult corn rootworm feeding on corn silk. (Photograph by Tom Hvalty, courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.20
Figure 23.20

A corn rootworm larva. (Photograph courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.21
Figure 23.21

Corn rootworm control. For centuries, the agricultural management practices of Central American farmers prevented widespread outbreaks of the corn rootworm. Today's farmers in the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala continue the practice of growing small plots of diverse, regularly rotated crops.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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Image of Figure 23.22
Figure 23.22

The corn earworm also feeds on cotton bolls. (Photograph by Keith Weller, courtesy of Agricultural Research Service, USDA.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
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References

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Tables

Generic image for table
Table 23.1

Wind- and water-driven soil erosion from U.S. cropland

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.2

Examples of nitrogen-fixing bacteria are found in each of the major prokaryotic evolutionary branches

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.3

Countries that grew transgenic crops commercially in 2003

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.4

Number of hectares of transgenic crops grown in industrialized and developing countries from 1997 to 2003

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.5

Annual impacts of transgenic crop varieties on yields and pesticide use in the United States for 2001

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.6

Factors that affect the probability of cross-pollination

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.7

Probable centers of origin for some important food crops

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.8

Using pre-recombinant DNA genetic modification techniques to remove the noxious, long-chain fatty acids eicosenoic (20:1) and erucic (22:1) acids from species and to increase amounts of the healthy fatty acid oleic acid (18:1)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23
Generic image for table
Table 23.9

Gene flow between the oilseed species and some wild relatives

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2005. Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, p 591-626. In Biology and Biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816094.ch23

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