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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Plant Production Biotechnology

There is scarcely any aspect of plant production that will not undergo profound changes as a result of the application of biotechnology. Commercial applications of plant genetic engineering have not yet occurred. At the present time, more traditional aspects of biotechnology such as tissue culture have had an important impact, especially in the acceleration of the breeding process for new varieties and in the multiplication of disease-free seed material.

Provision of seeds: Plant breeding has been enhanced considerably by in vitro development of improved varieties which are better adapted to a specific environment. The application of tissue culture has several advantages, including rapid reproduction and multiplication, availability of seed material throughout the year etc. Since the application of tissue culture does not require very expensive equipment, this technology can be applied easily in developing countries and can help to improve local varieties of food-crops. For example, using traditional methods for propagating potatoes.

Reduced use of agrochemicals: Biotechnology can help reduce the need for agrochemicals which small farmers in developing countries often cannot afford. A reduction in the use of agrochemicals implies fewer residues in the final product. This is expected to enhance the productivity and land fertility as well as reduction in toxic elements in crops.

Increased production: Biotechnology can be used in many ways to achieve higher yields; for example by improving flowering capacity and increasing photosynthesis or the intake of nutritive elements. Productivity increases may lead to lower prices¸ which is a vital policy objective in many a developing nation.

Improved harvesting: The cloning of plants can help to reduce the work necessary for harvesting. When individual plants show more uniform characteristics, grow at the same speed and ripen at the same time, harvesting will be less laborious. A reduction in the workload is not only an objective in highly industrialized countries, it can also be very important for small farmers in developing countries.

Improved storage: Food shortages would not exist in many countries if the problem of post-harvest losses could be solved. In the future, genetic engineering may be used to remove plant components that cause early deterioration of the harvest. For instance, a technique to reduce the presence of a normal tomato enzyme involved in the softening of ripe tomato fruit has been patented and would be found very useful for enhancing the shelf life of crops of various varieties.

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