Scientists Discover Gene That Increases Wheat Harvest By 20%

Oxford University research scientists have formulated a crop spray which will increase a farmer’s wheat harvest by twenty percent. What’s unique about the formulation is that the spray does not require genetic modifying. A molecule discovered in plants, fosters efficient use of sugar fuel-like substance, during photosynthesis. With more of this fuel-like substance, plants can generate larger grains.


The sugar, in the plants, that has its capacity increases, to stimulate growth is sugar trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P). Trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P) regulates how wheat utilizes sucrose, a key component in wheat grain development. With such a beneficial discovery, the Great Britain Department of Environment is contemplating a closely monitored field trial. The trial would be for GM wheat grains in Hertfordshire.


Though the discovery is good news, this isn’t the first time agricultural crops are being modified or manipulated to produce greater yields. While greater yields are embraced, genetic modification has its share of controversy over the last 20 years. Opponents to genetic modification and manipulation can bring harm to the human body and disrupt the eco-system.


With the new technique discovered, as described in the journal Nature, proponents contend it is much safer and cost efficient for farmers. Farmers would apply the formulation with a crop sprayer. Field research demonstrated that crop yields increased after just one spray application.


Department of Chemistry at Oxford, professor Benjamin Davis, commented, “The tests we conducted show real promise for a technique that, in the future, could radically alter how we farm not just wheat but many different crops. By now developing new chemical methods based on an understanding of biology, we can secure our food sources and add to this legacy.”


Worldwide, rice, corn, and wheat are the three most popular staple crops harvested. With anticipated population growth, agricultural crop yields must increase 70%, in the next 35 years. While contemporary technology with fertilizers and plant breeding have stimulated an increase in harvest yields, scientists think natural growth capacity has reached its limit.


Dr. Matthew Paul, Plant Biology and Crop Science, Rothamsted Research, Senior Scientist, remarked: “This study is a proof of concept, showing us that it is possible to influence how plants use the fuel they produce for agricultural benefit.”


Commercially Growing Hydroponically in Australia

According to an article on New Scientist, people may soon be growing vegetables without soil, pesticides, fresh water, soil and fossil fuels on a commercial basis. Sundrop Farms has opened the first commercial growing facility to accomplish this feat in Australia’s dessert. The farm, which has been over six years in the planning, hopes to grow 17,000 tons of tomatoes annually. The tomatoes are currently on shelves throughout Australia.

The first step in accomplishing the feat of growing tomatoes in the dessert comes from piping water from the nearby Spencer Gulf to the facility. A 127 meter high tower that sits over the farm containing 23,000 mirrors provides the power to desalinate the water which is then piped onto the 180,000 tomato plants located in a greenhouse that was built over a five-year period of 20,000 glass panels.

During the warm summer months, the greenhouse is lined with seawater soaked cardboard to maintain temperatures within the greenhouse. During the winter, solar energy is used to maintain the right growing temperatures.

Salt water is also used to control conditions within the facility so that insects do not survive. The seawater also sterilizes the air on the 20 hectare farm. Instead of soil, the plants are grown in coconut husks.

The farm is very labor intensive. Therefore, the farm employs 175 workers. If any weeds grow among the plants, then they are pulled out by hand. All harvesting is also done by hand. Currently, the facility is sending eight large trucks to market each day.

This first of its kind facility was funded mostly by a private investment firm who believes that this example can help solve food shortages around the world. The Australian government also contributed a $5 million dollar grant.

While Sundrop Farms hopes that their facility is a success, there are some who do not think this project is necessary. They point out that there are many places in Australia where tomatoes grow very well using traditional farming techniques.

Agricultural Researchers Examine Hidden Costs of Food in United States

Agricultural researchers have recently conducted a study to find the hidden costs of food consumption in the United States. Although citizens are usually somewhat aware of the amount of money they spend per month on food costs, there are other costs associated with food consumption that Americans do not count. The purpose of the study on food costs was to determine whether agricultural standards are having a positive effect on the cost of food consumption in most modern societies. The study was conducted for several months and is currently being used to rectify obsolete farming and agricultural practices. The study is also being used to promote healthier lifestyles in the United States.

The researchers listed several hidden costs of food consumption in the United States in the study outline. Among these hidden costs were the cost of treating illness associated with poor diet and malnutrition. The study revealed that Americans were opting for cheaper food and fast food to avoid paying higher costs for healthier foods. The problem with this is that Americans pay up to ten times this amount in health care costs associated with diet related illnesses like type two diabetes, heart attacks, colon cancers, and several other costly diseases. By switching to healthier alternatives, Americans can drastically reduce health care costs and save money in the long run.

The agricultural study also revealed that one of the hidden costs associated with poor food consumption is the cost to provide for the families of the employees of fast food industries. The study shows that over 50 percent of families who are employed by fast food industries receive government assistance for support. This support includes food stamps, childcare vouchers and other government aid.

The ultimate point of this study was to show that Americans were not considering the ultimate costs when supporting poor food suppliers. Poor diets in the United States contribute to more than a third of the consumer debt in the United States. This problem can be rectified if it is treated as the serious problem that it truly is. The study listed more than 15 hidden costs associated with food consumption in the United States and is not meant to be exhaustive. More information regarding the agricultural research study can be found here.