Yabba Dabba Rabba Dopsis: A Coming Revolution in Crop Yields during Times of Drought?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) …Here we are, some 30+ years into the era of genetic modification of crops. The primary breadbasket of the world, the United States, is experiencing its most severe drought conditions in decades, and you might well ask how many new drought-resistant genetic traits are in commercial release around the world?
That would be zero.
…So, where are the drought-resistant crops? Where, for that matter, are super yields, salt tolerance, super efficient use of, say, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus – and so on and so on?
Not that much depends on the outcome. Only yields – the key to biomass as an energy platform. And, the fate of virtually every biofuels company, the availability of food amidst rising populations, land grabs in the South by worried nations from the North, the general availability of potable water, and agricultural productivity as the fundamental and abiding technology that powers advanced civilization.
…Part of the problem lies with one of the most useful plants ever discovered, and that is arabadopsis. Much of the rest of the problem lies with the tools that have been available to date to understand how plants work, as a total system, when it comes to system-wide responses such as the stress response to drought.
… But last week in Missouri, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a five year, $12.1 million grant to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and their collaborators at the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University to develop a new model plant system, Setaria viridis, to advance bioenergy grasses as a sustainable source of renewable fuels.
As the DOE explained, “to engineer bioenergy grasses with the desirable traits needed for large scale production, it is necessary to develop model plant systems that are closely related to bioenergy feedstocks, but which are more amenable to genetic analysis. One of the most promising model species is the grass Setaria viridis. READ MORE