Plant biotechnology is a technique used to adapt plants for precise needs or possibilities. Conditions that combine multiple needs and opportunities are conveyed. Discovering or devising suitable plants is generally a highly complicated challenge.
Plant biotechnology help develops new types and traits including genetics and genomics, marker-assisted selection (MAS), and transgenic (genetically engineered) crops. These biotechnologies permit researchers to see and map genes, find their functions, select distinctive genes in genetic resources and breeding, and transfer genes for specific characteristics into plants where they are required.
Agriculture Biotechnology and Its Applications In Crop Improvements
Agriculture Biotechnology uses scientific methods to alter the DNA of plants, animals, microorganisms, and other living beings used in agriculture. Their altered DNA makes them much more effective at producing high-quality agricultural yields than other non-biotechnological methods. The benefits of agriculture biotechnology are:
1. Resistant to pests and diseases
Because they are genetically modified, agricultural plants have better resistance to viral infections and pests. This helps farmers effectively manage crop damage.
2. Tastier yields
Biotechnology methods in agriculture can increase enzyme activity in plants, leading to a better taste and fresher produce.
3. Increased crop produce
Because they have a higher resistance to diseases and extreme weather conditions like floods and droughts, genetically modified plants, produce greater yields. It helps farmers reduce their agricultural losses.
Due to all these and many more advantages, biotechnology in agriculture has boomed. Some agricultural applications of biotechnology are;
1. Somatic Hybridization – Here, scientists manipulate the genomes of cells.
2. Micropropagation- This process involves the cloning of plants at the propagation stage. The clonal propagation process requires a controlled environment.
3. Embryo Nurturing- Here, biologists isolate plant embryos and take care of them under controlled conditions. This individual nurturing ensures their survival. We usually use this method to preserve plant seeds quickly becoming extinct.
Cell and Plant Tissue Culture Methodology
Plant and cell tissue cultures involve the removal of fragments of tissue from a plant. Researchers/biologists then place these tissue fragments in an artificially controlled environment. The design of the artificial environment helps the tissue fragments to continue growing and thriving. There are four main types of tissue culture methods. They are:
1. Seed Culture
In the seed culture method, tissues are taken from a plant produced in vitro, i.e., the plant was grown under laboratory conditions. The tissues have to be then placed in an artificial environment where they can continue to grow.
2. Embryo Culture
In this method, individual embryos are isolated and grown in vitro. Scientists usually extract embryos from ripe seeds. The fruit, seed, or ovule from which the embryo has to be extracted is first sterilized. Therefore, the embryo does not have to be sterilized again after extraction.
3. Callus Culture
A callus is an unorganized, dividing cell mass. A callus culture develops when plant cells grow supported by a medium. This medium is usually gel and is composed of macro and micronutrients. The nutrient requirements vary depending on the type of plant cell.
4. Organ Culture
Here, an organ of a plant is isolated and made to grow in vitro. Examples of plant organs include flowers, shoots, leaves, roots, etc. An organ culture helps the plant to retain its same natural characteristics.
Genetically Modified Organisms
A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) can be an animal, plant, or microorganism whose DNA has undergone artificial alteration by scientists in a laboratory. Methods of selective breeding and crossbreeding have been around for thousands of years. However, these methods often give us mixed results. They produce some undesired characteristics in an organism along with the desired traits. Scientists avoid this problem by directly modifying an organism’s DNA using biotechnology. Biotechnology allows us to obtain an organism with a close to ideal genetic makeup without undesired traits.
Most GMOs are produced either for research in laboratories or for human consumption. In laboratories, these organisms serve as a ‘model.’ Models are important for biologists to study how the structure of genes forms a link to health and disease. For example, genetically engineered salmon mature faster, allowing a continuous and regular supply of it as food.
Field Evaluation and Commercialization of GMO
Whenever producers develop food that results from genetic alteration of an organism, they call upon national food authorities to assess the safety of the food. The assessments mainly focus on:
How it directly affects the health of the person consuming it
It’s the potential in causing allergic reactions
The stability of the modified gene
How nutritious the modified gene is
Unintentional side effects from the altered gene
GMOs are currently in the market and involved in commercial transactions mainly due to three reasons:
Their resistance to damage caused by pests
Their resistance to damage caused by diseases
Their tolerance to herbicides
Possible Effects of Releasing GMOs Into The Environment
Environmental scientists have agreed that releasing genetically altered organisms could positively or negatively impact the environment. Several direct effects could result from the release of transgenic organisms into the environment. They include the transfer of the altered genes to wild relative species or conventional species, effects of the altered traits showing up in non-targeted species, and many other undesired effects.
The responsible organizations must assess environmental impacts for every individual case of release into the environment. After releasing a GMO into the wild, biologists and scientists must carefully monitor its behavior and interaction with ecosystems.
A fertilizer is a food substance for crops. Fertilizers supply the crops with nutrients that increase productivity. Most fertilizers contain chemicals. These chemicals damage the soil and cause damaging effects in humans through the food chain.
Bio-fertilizers are fertilizers made from natural substances or organisms. Microbes are an important element of bio-fertilizers. They promote the growth of crops through the supply of vital nutrients. The organisms commonly used in bio-fertilizers are fungi, algae, and bacteria. Bacteria are a critical source of nitrogen and ammonia. Nitrogen and ammonia are essential for healthy crops.
There are many different types of bio-fertilizers with various essential components. However, two of the most important among all of the different types are:
1. Symbiotic Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria
An important component of this bio-fertilizer is the bacteria Rhizobium. The Rhizobium bacteria depend on the plant for shelter and food. In return for this, the bacteria provide the plant with nitrogen.
2. Free-Living Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria
These bacteria do not depend on the protection provided by the plant for the production of nitrogen. They produce nitrogen freely, without interacting with other organisms. An essential component of this type of bio-fertilizer is the bacteria Azotobacter.
Bio-pesticides are pesticides that contain natural materials. We derive these natural materials mostly from plants, animals, bacteria, and some minerals. Bio-pesticides provide a non-toxic way of controlling pests. The three main classes of bio-pesticides are:
1. Biochemical Pesticides
Conventional pesticides contain chemicals that directly kill pests. However, biochemical pesticides interfere with the reproductive ability of pests. Biochemical pesticides contain naturally occurring substances.
2. Microbial Pesticides
These contain microorganisms as a key ingredient. An example is the use of fungi to control weeds. Some bacteria used in microbial pesticides have the ability to kill insect larvae.
This type of bio-pesticides includes pesticidal substances derived from plants themselves. For example, a scientist may introduce a pesticidal protein gene into a plant. Which will then produce a substance that will destroy that very pest.
Between 2014 and 2018, the number of biopesticides puts on the market increased. By 2029, economists expect the value and use of biopesticides to increase by 10% of the current day scenario.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.