Agriculture has always been around as far back as we can remember. While we have made advancements in technology and agricultural practices, it is also necessary to discuss and learn about the crops for the future. What can we grow in the coming years and what is the future of agriculture regarding crops, varieties, and yields.
There is an organization to this effect called Crops for the Future in Malaysia whose primary goal is to facilitate greater use of neglected and underutilized crops for enhanced diversification of agricultural systems and human diets. This is the only such known organization that is working diligently towards sustainably achieving food security using local agricultural biodiversity. Their primary mission is to increase the knowledge base for crops, create policies that do not discriminate against crop diversity, increase awareness of neglected crops and so on. What are these neglected crops? These are crops that were grown earlier, and their growth was reduced over time due to certain constraints. These crops are also called orphan crops and many other names and specify a variety of crops that were used for food and other uses on a larger scale.
Some examples of such crops are
Cereal crops –
Fruits and nuts –
Vegetables and Pulses –
Root and Tuber –
Oil Seeds –
Having discussed neglected crops, we can now discuss the crops of the future. We now know what are the issues affecting the future of agriculture.
Recap of issues affecting agriculture today –
Loss of minerals in soils
Increase in the number of diseases and weeds and affecting crops
Over usage of land
Lesser land available for cultivation of crops
Rise in population requiring more crops to be grown to meet demands
The rise in food prices
Rise in poverty and starvation
Overuse of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides affecting the health of humans and animals
Lack of rainfall
These are only some of the reasons. There are many more such pertinent issues not dealt with, and many more are increasing each day, each year as we head into the future. It is found that the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 1.3°F over the past century and is projected to increase even further in the coming years. To this effect, farmers in the United States have adopted technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions or at least help slow it down considerably. The factor of climate change especially increase in temperatures has lead farmers globally think about growing crops in accordance with this scenario.
Seed banks are created to preserve genetic diversity. Seeds are stored to have the genes that breeders need to increase yield, resist diseases, tolerate drought, increase nutritional quality, etc. It is also done to forestall the loss of genetic diversity in rare species. There are five seed banks currently namely, the Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project, Wakehurst, England; Navdanya, Uttarakhand, India; Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard, Norway; National Center for Genetic Resources, Fort Collins, Colorado; and Vavilov Research Institute, Russia. The Chairman of International Advisory Council at Svalbard says that “the fate of humankind depends on these genetic resources.” It is believed that when doomsday comes, it is probably these seeds that might save us and hence farmers and scientists are working hard towards ensuring there is enough food going ahead no matter what situations come our way.
Satellites and drones are being used to gather information such as crop health and productivity and how the weather affects certain crops. New crop varieties are being developed that will optimize the use of available resources and minimize environmental effects on farming. Farmers use computer models to assess the status of soils, crops, and farming systems being practiced. Farmers will use this information and decide when to sow their crops, when to apply fertilizers and how to manage pest control.
Climate is a major game changer for the future of agriculture and affecting crop growth. Some farmers across Australia are growing heat resistant variety of wheat to tolerate the weather conditions. Wheat is a cool season crop and grows a daytime temperature of 15°C. Wheat is a staple crop and grown widely in most countries. But with the rise in temperature levels, a genetic variety of wheat has been developed to tolerate the heat. Heat stress is bad for crops as it damages the cellular structure and affects various metabolic systems. High temperature affects photosynthesis in a number of ways.
The advent of this heat-resistant variety of wheat happened with the help of NASA discovering fluorescence in plants. Due to this, it is easy to discover how certain plants react to weather conditions and it is easier than to develop hardier crops. It also shows much heat the crops absorb. Newer technologies are being developed and adapted to grow better crops that are heat resistant and tolerant to water scarcity. Along these lines, heat-resistant variety of cereals is being grown. Similarly, tomatoes have been bred to be more disease resistant and withstand periods of heat. The World Vegetable Center is conducting trials in India to assess the performance of 15 tomato lines with resistance to the deadly disease called tomato yellow leaf curl virus. This is one of the most deadly diseases affecting tomatoes. This will benefit thousands of farmers in India. Rice is another major staple crop, especially in the Asian continent. Many years back, to save rice from floods, a flood-tolerant gene was developed in the traditional Indian Varieties of rice. The genetic code was used to breed varieties that continue to produce grain after being flooded for up to 2 weeks. In this endeavor, the IRRI has released flood-tolerant rice varieties in India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, and Nepal. Efforts are on to create more and newer varieties of heat tolerant and weather tolerant varieties of crops.