Multiple approaches needed to solve world’s food problems

Saturday, February 19, 2011

WASHINGTON - A Penn State biologist has said that researchers need to use all available resources in an integrated approach to put agriculture on a path to solve the world’s food problems while reducing pollution.

“Using resources more efficiently is what it will take to put agriculture on a path to feed the expected future population of nine billion people. We especially need to do a better job using the nutrients, water and energy needed to produce food,” said Nina Fedoroff, Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and Willaman Professor of Life Sciences, Penn State.

Integrating various sectors of agriculture is one way to conserve and recycle resources. Using wastewater from freshwater aquiculture or fish ponds to irrigate and fertilize fruit and vegetables in a green house and returning the cleaner water to the pond keeps the excess nutrients out of the groundwater, cleans the pond and provides plants nutrients.

“We should ask how we can grow food with a minimum of water, maximum of renewable energy and closest to where people are living,” said Fedoroff.

“We need to expand our ability to farm on land not considered farmable because it is eroded or desertified, using water not considered suitable for farming because it is wastewater or saltwater. We need to adapt current crops to higher temperatures and less water and we need to domesticate plants that have evolved to grow at high temperatures and in salty soils,” he said.

He also said that one of the first things in domestication is that plants are chosen that retain their seeds and do not experience seed shatter.

“As a result of decades of genetic and genomic analysis, we gave a good idea of the genetic changes involved in domestication,” he said.

The findings were discussed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. (ANI)

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