Ecosystems, Food Crops, and Bioscience: A Symbiosis for the Anthropocene
Abstract, Asian Biotechnology and Development Review, 2016
Changes in Earth’s climate at the end of the last ice age brought about seasonal conditions that favoured the cultivation of annual plants like wild cereals, helping to launch the agricultural revolution. Earth’s climate is changing again, mainly through the effects of human actions on the biosphere. To feed a projected population of 9.6 billion people by 2050 while reducing agriculture’s carbon, nitrogen, and environmental footprints requires a revolution in food crop productivity and a deeper understanding of the interplay between sustainable food production and natural ecosystems. These goals cannot be achieved without making appropriate use of advanced technologies. Genome-wide association studies, marker-assisted selection, and genomic selection of orphan crops in developing countries can help enhance yields, nutrition, disease resistance, and crop resilience in the face of climate change. With major cereal crop yields stagnating or in decline, successful C4 photosynthesis engineering of rice and wheat and nitrogen fixation engineering of rice, wheat, and maize would have enormous consequences for crop productivity, environmental remediation, and land, soil, and water conservation. Next-generation DNA sequencing, genome editing, synthetic biology, and molecular modeling provide the tools needed for these ambitious efforts to succeed. Innovative food crop bioscience and healthy ecosystems constitute a symbiosis for the Anthropocene.
Keywords: Climate, Crops, Ecosystems, Genomics, Genome editing, Synthetic Biology